Best Fire Starters Reviewed & Rated
Fire starters are meant to provide a way for anyone to start a fire when they don’t have the usual tools. There is a sense of bravado that comes with using these tools, which can easily be replaced with a normal cigarette lighter. But when the fuel runs out, which product do you think would be the most reliable?
- Light My Fire Original
- Good for 12,000 strikes
- Survival Spark Fire Starter
- Rod measures 5.5 inches
- Exotac Fire Starter
- Tungsten carbide
It’s not so much branding when it comes to fire starters, and is more about the people who tested it beforehand. The best fire starters in the industry come from Special Forces or other approved organizations that specialize in emergency situations and survival. Fire starters should have the ability to be used in adverse conditions and with minimal effort.
You don’t need to worry much about cleaning a fire starter, but maintenance starts with use. Beginners will often take huge strikes when smaller ones are necessary. This aggressive striking lowers the lifespan of the fire starter, so practice short and concise strokes. It will turn a one-year product into a multi-year one.
10 Best Fire Starters
1. Light My Fire
This is an approval that shouldn’t be taken lightly, and it means that this product is solid from the ground up. Consumers that want the best of the best can rest assured that their money is going towards a high-end fire starter.
Features and Specifications
Sparks up to 2,980 degrees in any weather
Good for 12,000 strikes
There is nothing extraordinary about the low price of this product, and it is average in that regard. But when it comes to value, then you can count on it being the best available fire starter you can get.
The best fire starter on the list was always going to come from a proven Special Forces group. They know better than anyone what it takes to survive in adverse conditions where the fire is needed.
- Comes in either black or red
- Easiest striker/rod combo to use
- Striker is smaller than industry average
2. Survival Spark
With an unstoppable lifespan of 15,000 strikes, this may turn out to be the only fire starter you ever need. It completely dwarfs the competition in terms of usage, while still having some of the biggest sparks available for its size.
Features and Specifications
Magnesium fire starter with a large scraper
Rod measures 5.5 inches
With a lot of fire starters having a low strike count, this is an unstoppable product at a low price. You simply can’t beat 15,000 strikes with one fire starter.
Getting stuck with only one fire starter for life wouldn’t be so bad if this was your choice. There is a lifetime of use in this one product, with several hikers rating it high for that purpose.
- Large rod and scraper for more efficient strikes
- Comes with a built in compass, whistle and lanyard
- Built in whistle is weak
3. Exotac nanoSTRIKER XL
Being able to take off and replace the rod when it has reached the end of its life is a big deal. The bigger deal is that this rod is not low quality, and has some of the best materials on the list.
Features and Specifications
¼ Ferrocerium rod lasts for 3,000 strikes
Collapsible self-contained waterproof fire starter
Exotac kept their product at a low cost, yet it is still one of the more expensive fire starters on the list. With the ability to replace the rod, the potential value of this buy is limitless.
A replaceable rod is only one of the many great things about this compact fire starter. There are plenty of colors to choose from, and the materials are just the right quality to keep you coming back for more.
- Comes in black, blaze orange, olive drab and gunmetal
- Striker is made of tungsten carbide
- Takes some getting used to for beginners
4. Genuine Issue
Out of all the products on the list, this genuine issue fire starter stands out as having the highest quality possible. It can take the most the most punishment without breaking due to wear and tear.
Features and Specifications
Magnesium shaving edge
Can be used in adverse weather conditions
With the amount of life you get from this one product, the value doesn’t go down. It is low cost and requires very little effort to get a fire started.
There is something special about the style and look of this product. Buyers will find that putting this on their keychain is a much more attractive option than carrying around a separate one.
- Starts a fire on the first attempt
- Barebones, compact and proven fire starter materials
- Doesn’t come with a striker
5. Ultimate Survival Technologies
One of the downsides to getting a fire starter that has an automated mechanism is that the strike number is usually low, probably in the hundreds. BlastMatch gets past that with no trouble, allowing for thousands of strikes.
Features and Specifications
Sparks are three times hotter than a match
Spring loaded rotating flint bar
Low in cost and providing a lot of strikes, buyers should load up on these for personal use and for gifts. One-handed strikers don’t get much more valuable than a BlastMatch.
When BlastMatch first came out, it was in a league of its own. Now with more competition, it still stands as a big-time innovator in the fire starter industry and is definitely worth a buy.
- One handed operation
- Can be used in all weather conditions
- Plastic casing is weak
6. Outdoor & Sporting Goods
Available colors are black, army green and red. When it comes to sizes, this fire starter comes in small or large. There is a little bit of something for everyone and that is why it is so highly regarded.
Features and Specifications
Magnesium flint with an iron scraper
Weighs only 25g
Buyers that are looking at the 5 piece set will get the best value and price per piece. It is low cost overall, but buying the bulk set definitely helps to keep costs down.
This little-known brand is a great purchase depending on which set you go with. Customers have been handing in good reviews about their effectiveness, and the price is just right.
- Big sparks with little effort
- Best version comes with 5 pieces
- Smaller than advertised
7. UST Sparkie
Being able to use a modern fire starter with one hand is great for the customer. It also takes the complexity out of other fire starters with rods that may be a little troublesome for some users.
Features and Specifications
Generates 3x the heat of matches
Weighs less than an ounce
For the low price of a couple of matches, this fire starter could be the best purchase you’ve made in years. This USA made product is an incredible value that is only limited by its low usage count.
Simplicity is a great thing when it doesn’t compromise the quality of the product. UST went all in with the Sparkie and came out with one of the best on the list.
- The easiest fire starter on the list to use
- Flint based bar produces powerful sparks in seconds
- Only good for 100 strikes
8. Gerber Bear Grylls
A lot of thought went into the design of this compact Firestarter, right down to its two-piece design and paracord lanyard. You can place it anywhere without fear of it coming apart at the worst time possible.
Features and Specifications
The cover is made out of anodized aluminum
Weighs 8 ounces
The price seems just right for what Gerber is offering. And the value is immense for any fans of Bear Grylls since his show is one of the main inspirations for this fire starter.
There is a lifetime warranty attached to this product, so there are no worries about it wearing out too quickly. Buyers will get as much use out of it as they want, even if it is used mainly as a backup.
- Fire sparks are high quality and easy to produce
- Textured rubber grip keeps your hands steady
- Rod is too small to use on a regular basis
9. Überleben Kräftig
A lot of heat comes off this thing with sparks up to 5,5000F able to ignite fires in at any altitude. This is the all-weather fire starting champ that everyone loves to bring along.
Features and Specifications
5 inch 20,000 strike ferrocerium rod
6 function multi-tool scraper
Consider this another one of the low costing fire starters with tremendous value. Buyers will have no time adapting to all of the functions it offers out of the box.
With a monster 20,000 strikes before you have to consider purchasing a new one, there will be a lot of life in this products even years after using it. And in many cases, this will be the only fire starter you’ll ever need to buy.
- 3mm shock cord lanyard is included
- High quality rod will last for years without wearing out
- Multi-tools seem like an afterthought
10. Newsfana EDC
Available in green, black and orange, colors matter a lot when pairing with the rest of your gear. The offered colors are different enough to make a difference to a wide range of buyers.
Features and Specifications
Waterproof magnesium flint stone
Compact and light
You really can’t get a lower priced fire starter that isn’t just cheap and flimsy. As a quality item, buyers will be pleased with their purchase.
This item pays for itself within the first few uses, so consider it an indispensable tool in your camping arsenal. At such a low price everyone should have at least one on hand for emergency situations or other times of need.
- Uncomplicated way to start a fire
- Casing is durable enough to protect enclosed stone
- Dulls pretty quickly
How To Make The Best Decision When Choosing A Fire Starter
Finding out whether you want two hand or one hand operation is going to make the purchase choice pretty easy. Some users can’t be bothered to use a striker, and there are even situations where an injury would make it difficult for two handed operation. There are plenty of one handed fire starters on the list, so make sure to purchase the one you feel most comfortable with 100% of the time.
Criteria Used in Choosing the Best Fire Starters
Type of Fire Starter
Most fire starters will fall into one of four different categories. The categories are ferrocerium rods, ferrocerium rod with magnesium block, steel and flint, and friction based fire starters. You will notice that each kind of fire starter is made differently and will, therefore, work differently from the other kinds of fire starters. Since all of the different fire starters tend to act and perform differently, you should look for a fire starter that will give you the best success when it comes to lighting a fire when you are outdoors. The type of fire starter will become an important factor in your choice, so you will want to consider each of the different kinds of fire starters prior to picking one.
The ferrocerium rod type, also called fire steel, is a fire starter that is made primarily from an alloy of iron, cerium, and magnesium. You use this kind by gathering kindling and then scraping the fire starter against some sort of hard surface such as a hunting knife. As you scrape against the surface, sparks will fly away from the fire starter that can reach temperatures of up to 5,000F. This high-temperature spark will light your fire and can be useful when you have to try and light damp or wet kindling, which makes it useful during a rainy season where it is hard to find dry kindling. You may see this kind marketed as “Fire Steel” which is a trade name for this kind of fire starter.
There are also fire starters that are made with ferrocerium rods and also have a block of magnesium. Magnesium is useful when you have to light a fire in damp and wet conditions. To use this category of fire starter, you first scrap shavings of magnesium from the block and gather them into a pile that is around the size of a quarter. Then you scrape the ferrocerium rod to create sparks and aim the sparks at the magnesium. The sparks will ignite the pile of magnesium shavings which will generate heat and ignite your tinder. This ideally will cause a fire to start so that you can start feeling warm. Ferrocerium rod and magnesium block starters are great for when the conditions are wet and you are unable to find dry tinder to start your fire because you can use the magnesium shavings as an accelerant to get your fire going.
You will also see fire starters that are made from natural steel and flint. This category was commonly used before ferrocerium was invented and it is a proven solution to start a fire. Like the ferrocerium rod fire starters, you use a flint and steel fire starter by rubbing the steel against the flint to create sparks. You should aim the sparks at your kindling so that the kindling catches on fire and ignites the fire. The sparks produced from flint and steel are not as hot as the sparks that are created by ferrocerium rods, but they will be hot enough to ignite a fire with enough effort. However, since the sparks are not as hot, you will need to make sure that you are using dry kindling or some other material that catches on fire easier as it will be harder to light the fire if you kindling is wet. It is for this reason that common fire starters have been replaced by ferrocerium rod ones.
Finally, there is the friction based fire starters. Most people are familiar with the bow drill and when combined with a fire starting solution, you can start a fire using friction. Using friction to start a fire is difficult in any situation and it should only be considered as a last resort solution. You will find it to be much easier and quicker to start a fire using any of the three previously mentioned fire starter solutions. However, this style can be used when you lose your primary starting fire solution. There are special solutions that you can pour into your kindling or you can drain your lighter and try and use the lighter fluid to light your kindling.
The above solutions are the most common categories of fire starters. You will notice that some of them are easier to use to light a fire than other kinds. When you are picking out a fire starter, you should be aware of how it works and how you should use it. Some of these fire starters can work better in damp conditions than others. You may also find that some of them are suitable as a primary fire starting tool while other ones are meant for emergency use. Being familiar with the different categories is an important part of picking out a fire starter so you should consider the type before you purchase one.
Ease to start a fire
The easier it is for you to use a fire starter, the quicker you will be able to get your fire going when you need a fire. For some people, this can be a matter of saving time and convenience. After all, the faster you get your fire lit, the sooner you can move on to other tasks such as cooking dinner or setting up your camp. On the other hand, this can also be a matter of life and death because you may need to get a fire going quickly to warm someone up from hypothermia. When you are picking out a fire starter, you will want to think about how easy it is to start a fire with a particular one. Even after you have purchased your fire starter, you will want to practice with it in order to make sure that you know how to use it when you need it.
A magnesium fire starter is one of the most popular kinds but can take a little bit of practice to become familiar with how to use it. To use this kind of fire starter, you need to create a pile of magnesium shavings by scraping the magnesium with a hard surface such as a knife. Once you have a large enough pile of shavings, you can strike your flint or ferrocerium rod in order to create sparks that will light the magnesium. Once the sparks hit the magnesium it will catch fire and hopefully light the rest of your kindling. Since magnesium burns hot, you should be able to light damp or even wet kindling which can be useful when you are outdoors in wet or damp conditions. It is for this reason that magnesium fire starters are popular since you never know when it might rain when you are outdoors.
If you are looking for something that is easier to use, then you will want to consider a rod fire starter. This can either be a ferrocerium rod or regular flint. In both cases, you will gather kindling for your fire and then build a fire before you use the fire starter. It is best to use dry kindling if it is available and many people will keep tinderboxes with them so that they have a source a dry kindling in the event that they are unable to find some in the wild. After you have built your fire, you will strike your rod with a knife or some other hard surface to create sparks. You will want to direct the sparks at your kindling so that they land on your kindling and light the fire. Many people will find this easier to use when you aren’t used to starting a fire in the wild, but once again, you will want to practice with them ahead of time prior to going out.
The friction based solutions are the most difficult solutions to use. Rather than relying on sparks, you will rub pieces of wood together in order to generate heat and light your kindling. There are several ways that you can do this, but many people use a bow drill since it can be made with a stick and a piece of string. You may also want to purchase an accelerant that you can pour into your kindling which is more likely to light and start a fire at a lower heat than what dry wood could do on its own.
In order to use the friction based method, you will need to find a source of friction. Once again, you will build a fire and prepare some dry kindling to use with your fire. You may want to carry a tinderbox with you and purchase a solution based fire starter than you can pour onto the kindling. This will make it easier for you light a fire using friction. Once you have everything prepared, you will start by rubbing two pieces of wood together quickly in order to generate heat which will light the fire. This method takes considerable practice and it can take a while to start a fire. However, it is a good skill to know in case you do not have access to another kind of fire starter.
You will want to look for a fire starter that makes it easy for you to light a fire when you need one. The easier it is for you to start a fire, the better the fire starter will be for you. Once you have purchased a fire starter, you will need to make sure that you practice with it so that you are familiar with how to start a fire. The ability to start a fire quickly can not only be convenient, but it may also spell the difference between life and death, so you should consider ease of use when picking out one.
You will want to consider the overall lifetime of the fire starter when you are picking out one. The ability to light a fire can quickly turn into a matter of survival in an emergency situation so you need to know that you can count on your fire starter when you need it. Even when it is not a matter of life and death, a low-quality product that wears out quickly can become a headache and sort of frustration. For these reasons, you will want to think about the overall lifetime of the fire starter.
One of the things that you can look at is how many times you can strike the fire starter before it has worn out. Some fire starters can only be struck around five hundred times while high-quality fire starters can be struck fifteen thousand times. The higher strike fire starters will last much longer than ones that can only be struck for a few times before they have worn out and sometimes you will need more strikes to get a fire lit. This can really become the case when it is raining out and your firewood and kindling is damp or wet. For these reasons, you will want to look for a fire starter that allows the most amount of strikes before it is worn out.
Corrosion is another issue that you need to consider. Both ferrocerium and magnesium are subject to corroding over time, especially when they have been exposed to moisture. As they corrode, the striking rod can be weak and brittle which can cause it to break when you strike it. They will also produce fewer sparks as they corrode because the corrosion changes the chemical makeup of the fire starter. You will want to look for a fire starter that resists corrosion and you may even want to find one that has a waterproof case so that it is protected when you are in the rain.
If you are looking at the magnesium block style fire starter, then you will have to consider how long the magnesium and striking rod will last. Most of the time, the magnesium block will outlive the striking rod so you may need to look for a replacement striking rod when this happens. Once again, the magnesium can corrode, which can make it harder for you to start a fire with the shavings that you make from the magnesium block so you will want to protect all pieces from water and moisture so that they are not corroded when you need them. A larger magnesium block will last longer than a smaller magnesium block, so if you want a fire starter that has a longer lifetime, then you will need to look for a larger block. The size of the striking rod will also make a difference in how long this style of fire starter will last you as well.
When you are looking at the flint and steel kind of fire starter, then you should look at the quality of the steel and the size of the flint. This style of fire starter works by rubbing the steel against the block of flint so that larger the flint, the longer it will last. You will also want to protect the steel from corrosion so that it continues to work with the flint and make sure that it stays sharp. This will help make sure that the flint and steel fire starter has a longer lifetime.
The final means of starting a fire is the friction method. The friction method can be constructed from materials found outdoors, but you may purchase accelerants that make it easy to start a fire. When you are looking at accelerants, you will want to consider the size of the bottle since a larger bottle will provide you with more accelerant. In order to get the maximum lifespan out of the accelerant, you should make sure that you follow the directions properly so that you are not using too much or too little accelerant. This will help make sure that you get the maximum amount of life from your accelerant purchase.
A long-lasting fire starter is more likely to be dependable so you will want to look for ones that last for a long time. All fire-starters will last longer when you use them less and protect them from corrosion. However, if you plan on starting a fire on a regular basis, then you should look for fire starters that resist corrosion and can be used on a frequent basis. The number of times that you can strike your fire starter will determine how long it will last so you should go for a fire starter than you can strike thousands of times if you are concerned about the lifetime of the product.
Size and Weight
The size and weight will determine how much room the fire starter takes in your gear. A smaller one will take up less room in your pack which will allow you to carry additional gear, and a larger one will naturally consume more room and will weigh more. There are situations where this is more critical than other situations. For example, some people do not need to care about how much their gear weighs when they are picking out a fire starter. Other people need to be conscious of how much their total gear weights and will, therefore, look for any reason to reduce weight. For these reasons, the size and weight of the fire starter can be an issue for some people.
Most fire starters do not weight much and they do not take a lot of room. You will typically see fire starters that weigh less than three ounces which mostly depends on the size of the rod. Heavier fire starters are easier to use than smaller ones and they are less brittle so you should generally consider a larger one. However, if you are backpacking or are in some other situation where you are looking for every way to reduce the size and weight of your pack, then you will want to think about a smaller fire starter as this can be a small way to save on space and weight.
On the other hand, you may not even have a reason to care about the size and weight of your fire starter. For example, if you are camping near your vehicle and can leave most of your gear in your vehicle, then there is no good reason to favor a small fire starter just because of size and weight. This can also be the case when you are camping in a single area and you only need to move your gear to your campsite and again when you tear down your campsite. Once again, you should not need to be concerned with the size of your fire starter in either situation since they are relatively small when compared to the rest of your camping gear and are an essential tool for survival. It is better to err on the side of caution and pick a fire starter that you can trust and count on rather than packing a smaller one to save on a small amount of space.
The final kind of fire starter that you might carry with you is the accelerant based fire starters that are used for friction fires. The bottles that the fire starters are sold in can vary in their size and weight so you will need to consider how much of the accelerant that you will need when you are packing. You do not want to find yourself in a situation where you do not have enough starter fluid to make a fire and then end up running out. On the other hand, if you pack too much starter fluid, then you will end up carrying extra bulk and weight with you. This can turn into an issue when you are backpacking and will be moving from one location to another. It is less of an issue when you are camping near your vehicle or plan on staying in one place while you are camping. In these situations, it will not hurt anything if you end up packing more fire starter than you might think that you need.
Kindling is something that you will need to think about when you are packing a fire starter. Some fire starters only tend to work on dry kindling in which case you may need to carry a timber box with you so that you have a source of dry kindling. On the other hand, you may be able to find kindling in the wild so you may not need to pack any kindling. If size and weight are a concern and you will need to carry kindling with you, then you will want to think about what kind of fire starter you pack with you. A fire starter of any kind will have no value if you are unable to start a fire with it.
Although they do not weight much and are small, you may need to think about the size and weight of the fire starter in some situations. For example, backpacker may want to favor a smaller one since they have to carry all of their gear with them. Most of the time you will want to look for a fire starter that is larger so that it works better and is less brittle. You may also need to pack a tinderbox, so this is something you should also think about when picking out a fire starter.
It is common to see fire starters that are combined with additional features so that they are set apart from their competitor’s products. There is nothing wrong with having features and you may find that a fire starter is more useful when it has a few extra features that are sold with it. However, it is important for you to keep in mind that the primary purpose of the fire starter is to start fires. If it does not start any fires, then no amount of features will make it have any value. However, once you have established that a fire starter does start fires, then you may want to look for a few extra features that might make it more useful or last longer.
A carrying case is one such feature that you might want to look for. Almost all fire starters can fail due to corrosion so you should make sure that yours is protected when you are not using it. If the fire starter gets exposed to water, rain, or even extreme humidity, the oxidation can change the chemical makeup and cause it to not work. A good carrying case for a fire starter should do the job of making sure that it is protected from moisture so that it does not corrode between uses.
You will also find that the carrying case can make it easier to pack and store the fire starter in your gear because it puts everything into a single place. This will make it much easier for you to find it inside of your backpack or other gear when you need it. You may even be able to hold the fire starter on the outside of your backpack if it has the proper carrying case. Finally, some carrying cases also double as tinderboxes so that you can always have a dry source of kindling in case you end up in wet or rainy conditions and are unable to forage for dry kindling in the wild.
Some fire starters also double as a compass which you can use for navigation purposes. You should keep in mind that such a feature is intended to be used as a backup compass only. It is highly unlikely that you will find a compass on a fire starter that will perform as well as a high-quality compass that is designed specifically for accurate navigation. However, having a backup compass is always a good idea since there is always the chance that you could lose or break your compass and will be lost without any sort of a backup compass. For this reason, you might find it to be a good idea for you to get a fire starter that has a backup compass so that you stay safe in such an emergency.
There are also fire starters that have a built-in whistle. Whistles are an essential tool for you to have while you are in the wilderness as they allow you to signal other people. It is much easier for people to hear someone who is blowing a whistle from a long distance than it is for someone to shout. As with the compass, you should not use your fire starter whistle as your main whistle. It is much better for you to have a high-quality main whistle that you can use to signal people when you need to get their attention. A whistle on a fire starter should only be used in the case of an emergency where you no longer have access to your main whistle. This will help you in a survival situation because you will not be without a whistle when you need it.
A final feature that is common for fire starters is to build them into bracelets. A bracelet fire starter will fit over your wrist and will keep the fire starter accessible when you need it. One advantage of this feature is that you will still have your fire starter in the event that your pack is lost or stolen.
Features can be an important part of owning a fire starter so you should always try and find one that has the right set of features for your needs. Some of the more common features include a carrying case for the fire starter, compass, whistle, or a bracelet. In the event that your fire starter has backup features like whistles and compasses, then you should keep in mind that they are not completely reliable and should be used for emergency purposes only.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Are The Strike Amounts Guaranteed?
A: It depends heavily on how consistent a striker the user is. Taking huge strikes won’t get you the 12,000 strikes a product promises. With the way the rods are built, it is more likely that you will get more strikes than what is listed if you use it correctly.
Q: What Makes Good Alternative Tinder?
A: Beyond the usual options, cotton balls with Vaseline, crushed leaves, sawdust or even dryer lint. The key is to always look for anything dry, fine and aerated.
Q: Are Replaceable Rods Cheaply Made?
A: Replaceable rods seem too good to be true for some people, but rest assured they are not cheaply made. Top tier products like the ones on these list use rods that are the same quality as their non-replaceable competitors.
Q: How do I use a magnesium fire starter?
A: A magnesium fire starter is used by shaving magnesium into a small pile of shavings that is about the size of a quarter or larger. Once you have a pile of shavings, you will use a strike rod to create sparks and direct the sparks at the magnesium. The sparks will light the magnesium and hopefully, your kindling which will in turn light your fire. Magnesium burns hot so can be used on wet kindling or windy weather.
Q: Why not use a regular lighter rather than a fire starter?
A: Many people do use regular lighters but there are few things that you should consider when using a regular lighter. A regular lighter needs a source of fuel and will not light any fires if it is out of lighter fluid. They can also break and stop working if the tank for the fluid breaks or the mechanical parts stops working and the lighter no longer produces a spark. For these reasons, you should at least carry a backup fire starter.
Q: Do I need to carry tinder with me?
A: It is recommended, but not totally necessary, for you to carry tinder with you when you are packing your gear. Fire starters work best when they have a dry source of tinder and most of the time you can find dry tinder in the wild. However, if it happens to rain or you are in the wet season, then it can be harder to find it so having a tinderbox will help ensure that you have Tinder.
Q: What is Fire Steel?
A: Fire Steel is an industry term for ferrocerium rods. These rods are made from a combination of magnesium, iron, cerium, and other materials. The sparks from fire steel burn hot and can reach temperatures that are as high as 5000F. This makes fire steel an ideal choice for a fire starter since the hot sparks are more likely to start fires on tinder that is damp or moist which makes it easier to start a fire.
Q: Will a fire starter work when it is wet?
A: Fire starters are designed to work when they are wet which is why they serve as good backup tools. Since most fire starters involve some sort of rod that is struck to create sparks, there is nothing that will prevent it from working when it is wet. However, you should be mindful of corrosion, which can cause the fire starter to not work as well when it is struck to due changes in the chemical composition of the fire starter.