Fresnel Lens Fire Starter For Your Wallet

A Fresnel lens, unlike a traditional glass or plastic magnifying lens, is flat. In fact, most are fairly flexible. Fresnel lens design enables a substantial reduction in thickness and they are often made of plastic.

Recently I bought a small pocket size Fresnel lens to be used as a fire starter. It’s actually the size of a credit card – making it perfect to fit in my wallet. Here’s why I bought it:

(Updated) Newer version:

Pocket Fresnel Lens
(view on amzn)

It makes for a good fire starter (when the sun is fully shining).

Not only might it be convenient for magnifying small print (aging eyes as one gets older) but it serves a purpose as another means to start a fire. Given it’s small size – it presents no additional weight or bulk to what I carry around for every-day-carry.

You could also include it in your fire kit along with your other ways to start a fire.

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Testing my wallet Fresnel lens fire starter

I decided to give my small Fresnel lens a test the other day – under less than ideal conditions. Except for the fact that the sun was fully shining (necessary for this to work), the season was the real test. During December in the northern hemisphere, the sun does not rise very high in the sky – especially at northern latitudes. Since I’m within the 44th parallel, it’s a pretty good test. Plus, the temperature was in the teens.

I gathered up a bit of dead grass and a few shavings of birch bark. While I didn’t go through the process of building a full-on fire, I simply wanted to see if this Fresnel lens would focus enough December sunlight to set some tinder to smoking with glowing red embers – which could then in turn be utilized to blow into a real fire.

It was a near immediate success. While holding the Fresnel lens at a focal distance which optimizes (pinpoints) the intense spot of light onto the tinder, it only took a few seconds for the dead grass to begin smoldering and smoking.

The key to a fire is not only having a means of ignition, but to have good dry tinder.

Since there was snow on the ground, I also found it uniquely convenient to stick the Fresnel lens into the snow (to hold it up) and I could then play with the distance and positioning of the tinder pile itself.


It worked!

I was pleasantly surprised with the result, and now keep this small credit-card size Fresnel lens in my wallet.

This one came with a protector – which I trimmed a bit with scissors to fit better in a wallet sleeve. Be aware that these inexpensive Fresnel lenses are typically made of soft plastic and will scratch after awhile and presumably diminish some of it’s effectiveness (which is why a sleeve protector is a good thing).

Anyway – I thought I would share my experience with this neat little fire starter.

[ Read: Pocket Magnifying Glass For Your Fire Starting Kit ]

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  1. A must have in any EDC kit or for the wallet in everyday carry due to its compact size and weight!

    I’d suggest getting several in at least 4x magnification and practice in both Winter and Summer to see just what a difference there can be. Just like most anything, you have to practice hands on.

    Always good to have a variety of means to fire starting!

  2. This card is one of the options you can use if you have nothing else. But what constitutes “nothing else?”

    Do you wear glasses? You can use the lens to start a fire and don’t have to make sure you pack them if you wear them.

    You can start a fire polishing the bottom of an aluminum soda can if concave, but you have to hold it towards the sun and bring a small tinder to it to make the smallest concentration of sun on the tinder, holding it up to catch fire.

    Ever hear of making fire with water and ice? Sounds like it is against the laws of physics, but it can be done several ways. Using clean water in clear plastic water bottles can start fires the way a lens does.

    Same with water filled in plastic bags then squeezed and shaped to make the best lens, or pour water in plastic wrap and tie it off to make a round ball.

    Lastly, if you find yourself in freezing temps without fire starter equipment, you can make a round as possible frozen water ball in plastic (with no small air bubbles)and tie it off to freeze, until almost frozen and the inside is liquid. You can remove the ice ball and carve it with a knife and using warm hands to make your spherical clear lens. If plastic is not available, use clear water poured in a cupped hole in ice lined in foil. Take it out before it completely freezes and trim it with a knife and using warm hands to make a smooth sphere. The sun will penetrate ice and the water inside like a glass lens. This is more of a trick to enlighten your friends who don’t know how to make fire with ice, but in winter survival conditions, a round bag of water would take less time.

  3. AFAIK rear projection TVs have a huge fresnel lense inside (the size of the screen), which can be used to create rediculously high temparatures at the focus spot. You can get these TVs for cheap and many owners are just happy if someone picks them up.

    Here is what you can do with a huge fresnel lense:

    1. I watched another youtube video about a year ago, using the huge lens from a tv——it looked extremely dangerous and easy to burn up things you didn’t intend (such as your hand). It produced such intense heat, instantly, that anything in front of it ignited. It would take extreme caution to use one that large.

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