Since the beginning of time, man has had a fascination with fire. For millennia it was the only way humans could stay warm and it kept away the savage beasts before us mere mortals had solid homes and lockable doors. It didn’t take long for man to discover the benefits of using fire to cook their food and the culinary arts were born.
Fast forward a few million years and humans still love a good fire. No matter how much we enjoy our cushy homes and modern lifestyle, we still love the idea of spending weekends out in the wild, camping out around an open fire, cooking obscene amounts of meat over a flame. Sounds pretty perfect, doesn’t it?
Getting the fire started is easy enough. You need something to get a flame going, a little bit of tinder and a few branches, and you’re good. So you throw in a box of matches or a lighter and you’re ready to go. Problem!! Matches can get wet, making them useless and lighters can run out of fluid … again, useless. Fortunately, the Ice Age has caught up with technology and now we have some excellent fire starters that won’t fail you when you need to get a fire going. The best fire starters are reliable and compact so we checked out some really great ones for you.
The Best Fire Starter
No matter how well you plan your next camping trip, the unexpected can happen and the weather can get cold without notice. This Ralix Fire Starter will get your campfire started giving you that much needed warmth. It is windproof and weather resistant so you can light your fire in any conditions and it has the added assurance of a compass and a whistle in case you get lost. It will strike up to 15,000 times so you will be using it to start your fires for years.
Windproof & weather resistant
Strikes up to 15,000 times
Magnesium fire starter with added features
Compact and convenient
- Weight1.6 ounces
If you’ve ever watched an episode of Bear Grylls’ survival guide you’ll know this guy is all about survival in the wild. That doesn’t mean you can use the occasional gadget, and men love their gadgets. Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter features a ferrocerium rod and a metal striker to get the flames going fast. The compartment is waterproof so you can keep a bit of tinder dry until it’s time to get your fire started. It is compact and lightweight and it will become the most important part of your backpacking backpack and survival kit. It even comes with an emergency whistle so you can be located if you get into trouble.
Ferrocerium rod and metal striker
Lightweight & portable
Waterproof storage compartment
Lanyard cord & emergency whistle
Bear Grylls’ priorities of Survival pocket guide
- BrandGerber Blades
- Weight5.8 ounces
Some campers like to keep it simple and prefer a basic firestarter such as a good old match. However, ordinary matches aren’t very reliable. That’s when a UCO Stormproof Match Case Kit is essential to take with you when you head out to the great outdoors. These matches are windproof and waterproof so you can get your fire started in any conditions and the case is also waterproof so your matches won’t get wet, even if you fall into the lake. These are the matches you want to take with you, even if you have other fire starting devices. Make sure you also check our guide to the best large camping tents.
Waterproof container includes 25 matches and spare strikers
Integrated striker located on outside of match container
Matches burn for about 15 seconds
Matches burn despite wind or rain
Matches will burn underwater
- Weight0.16 ounces
Exotac nanoSTRIKER XL Ferrocerium Fire Starter is simple, convenient and compact. That’s pretty much all you want or need in a fire making kit. You can attach it to your key ring making it easy to take with you anywhere and the replaceable ferrocerium rod strikes up to 3000 times. You can use this firestarter in any weather, and as long as the tinder is dry enough, you should be able to get a nice, cozy fire going in no time at all. If you love camping, check out our guide to the best sleeping bags.
Ultra-portable for key ring, pocket and neck carry
Replaceable 1/4″ ferrocerium rod works when wet
Up to 3000 fire-starting strikes
Collapsible self-contained waterproof fire starter
- Weight0.6 ounces
One of the most reliable firestarters is the magnesium fire starter and this one from Fire-Fast Trekker fire starter is about as reliable as they come. It features a military grade magnesium rod that is durable and produces high heat in any weather conditions. The striker/scrapes is made from hardened steel so you can be sure it will last and get those flames started. The wooden handle is easy to grip which is so crucial when you’re trying to hold everything together on a chilly mountain. Be sure to also check out our list of the best camping stoves for more great items like this.
High heat and durability
Military grade magnesium rod
Sure grip hardwood handle
Striker/Scraper made of hardened steel
- Brand Fire-Fast Survival Gear
- Weight4.8 ounces
Ferro rod and striker. That’s it. Fire starters just don’t get any simpler than this überleben Kräftig Fire Starter. The only other extra is the shock-cord lanyard that keeps everything together. The ferrocerium throws a 5,500ºF shower of molten sparks on to your tinder that gets your fire started fast. When you’re done with the hard work of starting your fire, the striker also doubles as a bottle opener so you can relax by your fire with your favorite brew. Our handy guide to the best tent heaters features more great products like this.
Extreme dependability, in every situation
Ferrocerium sparks in any weather (waterproof), at any altitude
Easily starts up to 20,000 strikes
Shock-cord lanyard keeps everything together
Striker is also a bottle opener
Whether you’re looking for a fireplace starter or a valuable piece of survival equipment, you need this Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel fire starter. This one has been designed for the Swedish Department of Defense by Lars Falt who is a survival guide so you can be sure it won’t let you down when you need it the most. You can light your fire in any weather and it has a built-in emergency whistle making you easier to locate if you find yourself lost. Small, light and compact, this is the take anywhere survival fire kit you simply must have. Love camping? Check out our review of the best camping showers for our top picks.
Compact fire starter designed to light fires in any conditions Includes built-in emergency whistle
Provides 2,980-degree C spark in any weather
Durable, lasts for approximately 12,000 strikes
Army 2.0 model features improved stainless steel striker and ergonomic handle
Bright spark – can be used as emergency signal
- BrandLight My Fire
- Weight1.76 ounces
When you venture out in the wild you need to be prepared. That’s when you’ll really love a multi-purpose tool like this survival fire kit. Light My Fire Swedish FireKnife Fixed Blade Knife includes a sturdy fixed blade knife that you can also use to scrape off the magnesium alloy you need to start your sparks and the rod hides neatly in the knife’s handle until you need to get your fire started. Find more great products like this by checking out our guide to the best camping blankets.
Fixed blade knife with hardened Sandvik blade
High-friction, anti-slip TPE rubber handle
Made from a magnesium alloy produces a 3,000 deg C spark
Works when wet and lasts approximately 3,000 strikes
Color-matching plastic sheath with belt clip
- BrandLight My Fire
- ModelS-FK Black
- Weight3.36 ounces
Anything is bearable when you’re not cold and that includes camping in the middle of winter. Don’t let a little drop in the mercury spoil your weekend. Get yourself this camp fire starter from bayite and you can chase the chill away in minutes. This bayite Flint Steel fire starter is made from tool grade HSS steel and sets off a shower of hot sparks in any weather conditions. Windproof and weather resistant, it’ll never let you down. Don’t forget to also check our guide to the best camping mattresses.
Lasts for approximately 12,000 strikes
- Weight5.6 ounces
A good magnesium fire starting tool is the ultimate must have tool when you are hiking or camping. SE FS374 2-in-1 All-Weather Magnesium Firestarter Kit is compact and fits neatly in your pocket and the solid magnesium fuel bar with flint will get those warm flames chasing away the chill in a matter of minutes. It is waterproof and weatherproof with a single-sided serrated striker and it includes a compass in case you need to find your way out of the forest.
Compact pocket size
Waterproof and weatherproof
3″ x 1″ solid magnesium fuel bar with flint
Single-sided serrated striker
Includes compass and detachable ball chain
- Weight1.6 ounces
Fire Starter Buying Guide & FAQ
Features To Look For In Fire Starters
Type – Fire starters come in many different shapes, sizes and forms. Even the humble cigarette lighter is technically a fire starter. However, when we are looking at the types of fire starters we take camping with us, we can generally break them down into three types. Magnesium, ferrocerium and matches. Of course, there are also other different types. Some come with accelerants, such as lighter fluid. Then too, you can go really low tech and simply use a magnifying glass to direct the sun’s rays into your tinder to get a fire started. The ones in this list tend to use a striking method to get sparks started. When these sparks hit the tinder and the shavings of magnesium or ferrocerium, the fire starts.
Weight – When you are packing for an entire weekend away, you want to keep the weight of your gear to a minimum. Small, compact and light is more practical and desirable. The best fire starters are those that can fit into a tiny compartment in your backpack or, better yet, in the pocket of your hiking jacket or the back pocket of your pants. Most fire starters weigh very little so in terms of packing, you’ll barely notice them.
Ease Of Use – When you are camping or hiking you want all of your equipment to be as simple to use as possible. The climate in the mountains can get cold quite quickly and without warning. When you’re in the middle of this weather shift, you want to get a fire started fast. An easy to use fire starter can make all the difference. Most of the fire starters in our selection are quite simple to use. You simply scrape off some of the magnesium or ferrocerium, add some tinder and strike some sparks towards this little pile. Once you get this basic fire started, you can add larger sticks or logs to get a nice fire going.
Strikes – When you’re out in the woods, you need a reliable fire starter. It’s not something you’re going to rush out and buy every single time you head out so you want one that has lots of strikes. The minimum amount of strikes you should look for should be upwards of 3,000 strikes. However, many will also perform up to 20,000 or more strikes.
Ergonomic Grip – If you’ve ever been caught out in the cold, you know how difficult it can be to move your fingers. If a particular piece of equipment is bulky and awkward, you may find even the simplest tasks almost impossible. A fire starter that fits comfortably in your hands will make the job of starting the fire a lot easier, particularly on chilly fingers.
Weather Resistance – When you’re faced with a chilly wind and freezing rain, you need a fire starter that will work quickly and efficiently in any weather. A good fire striker will send out a shower of sparks no matter how windy it may be so you can get your fire going. They should also be waterproof so you don’t need to worry about your fire starting kit getting a little wet.
Type Of Fire Starters
Ferrocerium Rods – These rods are made from a synthetic pyrophoric alloy that produces hot sparks. These sparks can reach temperatures of up to 3,000 °C when struck so you can get your fire starting in a flash. Ferrocerium rods are generally considered fail safe when used as fire starters so you can be sure you have a very reliable tool to start those all-important camp fires.
Magnesium Blocks – Magnesium is a highly flammable substance and this makes it ideal for starting fires. That is why many fire starters are made with a magnesium block. You start by scraping or shaving some magnesium into a pile of tinder, such as sawdust and then you strike the rod to produce sparks. When these sparks make contact with your tinder and magnesium shavings, you get the start of your fire. Simple and very effective.
Waterproof Matches – If striking style fire starters aren’t your thing, you can also go for simple matches. However, ordinary matches aren’t really practical for hiking and camping. The box and the matches can get wet making them impossible to light so the better option is to choose waterproof matches. These are designed to light and stay lit even in wet conditions. Some are even capable of maintaining a flame when the tip of the match is submersed in water. They usually also come in waterproof containers making them super-efficient in all types of weather conditions.
Fire Starter FAQ
Q: How do I use a magnesium fire starter?
A: Starting a fire with a magnesium fire starter is quite simple. Using the striker or scraper that comes with your fire starter, you shave off some slivers from the magnesium rod into a small pile. You then add some tinder to this pile. The tinder can be sawdust, paper, dry grass or leaves. Basically anything that can quickly catch on fire can be used as tinder. Once you have a small pile of tinder and magnesium slivers, you apply the striker in quick, sharp strokes to produce sparks. Once these sparks make contact with the pile, you should see the first signs of your fire starting.
Q: Why not to use a regular lighter rather than a fire starter?
A: A regular lighter is cheap and it’s a great way to start a fire. However, there are a number of reasons a regular lighter is not practical to take camping with you. A regular lighter is not very reliable. When brand new, they may work fine, but the lighter fluid can deplete quite quickly. The mechanism that produces the flame can corrode making the lighter useless and if you’re lighter gets wet, you can pretty much throw it away. A fire starter can produce sparks in wind and rain and they are usually water-resistant and windproof making them more reliable in leaps and bounds over a regular lighter.
Q: Do I need to carry tinder with me?
A: As a general rule, you don’t need to carry tinder with you whenever you go hiking or camping. The forest is usually full of flammable materials like dried leaves, grass and dry pieces of bark. However, traditional forest tinder tends to be damp in the early morning or evenings when you really need to get your fire going. Damp tinder is extremely difficult to start a fire with so to be on the safe side, it’s always a good idea to bring a little bit of tinder with you. Things like twine fibers or even cotton balls can be great to get fires started but you can also rely on plain old sawdust or wood shavings. Some fire starters have a chamber in the handle for keeping small amounts of tinder which is convenient. However, tinder isn’t heavy and you generally don’t need a lot to get a fire started so you can always bring extra with you just to be sure.
Q: Will a fire starter work when it is wet?
A: Starting a fire in wet conditions is always going to be your greatest challenge when you’re camping. The good news is, most magnesium or ferrocerium fire starters work perfectly well even when they are wet. To be sure it will work, it’s best to avoid getting your fire starter wet, however, you would expect the best fire starters to work even if they do get wet. Choosing a fire starter that comes in a waterproof container is always a good insurance policy for you that will ensure you can get your fire started.
Q: What is the safest fire starter?
A: Ferrocerium and magnesium fire starters are amongst the safest fire starters you can use. Until you hit the striker against the rods, a flame is not possible. Matches can be hazardous and if you’re not careful, you can burn your fingers. Regular lighters can leak and explode burning anything they come into contact with. Stick to the ones you need to strike and you shouldn’t have any problems. However, if you are lighting a fire on a hot summer’s day, keep an eye on where the sparks are flying because one stray spark can ignite an entire forest.
A good camp fire is essential when you’re out in the wild, particularly at night. It is a necessity for keeping warn, and for a camp side cooking. Just remember that any time you light a fire, you need to exercise a little bit of caution. Use any rocks you can find to create a fire pit to keep your fire contained and keep an eye on those sparks. Don’t forget to completely extinguish your camp fire before you move on.