Fire: it’s been an essential part of human civilization and existence forever. Today, unless you are an avid camper who needs it for cooking and warmth, most Americans live lives disconnected from the necessity of fire. We cook with gas or electricity and many of our homes are heated by a furnace.
Still, you never know when you will find yourself in a situation where you need to build a fire, which is why having the best fire starter can be a life saver.
Even if you don’t anticipate being stranded in the woods with no way to stay warm or prepare food, a fire starter is handy for all kinds of situations from quickly lighting a grill to starting up a wood burning stove with a spark that will give you more heat than a spark produced by a match.
Our top picks
|Bushcraft Essentials Piston||4.8 oz||4.9 x 0.8 in||Ferrocium||Check price on Amazon|
|Epiphany Outdoor Gear Kit||2.4 oz||10 x 10 in||Steel||Check price on Amazon|
|Ezyoutdoor Magnesium||1 oz||0.3 x 2.6 x 4.2 in||Magnesium||Check price on Amazon|
|Ultimate Survival Technologies Blastmatch||2.7 oz||4 x 1.25 x 1 in||Ferrocium||Check price on Amazon|
|Exotac Nanostriker Xl||1 oz||0.4 x 0.4 x 3.7 in||Ferrocium||Check price on Amazon|
|Gerber Bear Grylls Starter||1.9 oz||11.8 x 2.8 in||Ferrocium||Check price on Amazon|
|Aurora Fire Starter||0.3 oz||6 x 1.2 in||Ferrocium||Check price on Amazon|
|Boker Plus Fire Starter||3.5 oz||1.25 x 4.75 in||Magnesium||Check price on Amazon|
Things to Consider Before Buying a Fire Starter
Size of the Fire Starter
You certainly do not want to have anything that is going to way you down and take much of your space. A good fire starter is one that is not only lightweight but also compact. Most of them will range between 3 – 6 inches long. This is a perfect size to fit properly in the backpack of a hiker.
Period of burning
The process of starting a fire using wet wood, charcoal or coal is most certainly painstaking. You could take forever to kick start your project. Fire starters, which are highly flammable, will speed up this entire process by giving you a persistent flame.
In order to have this done, the fire starter must be able to burn long enough so as to have a well established fire. It is thus important that you go for one that burns in the longest period of time. A great fire starter is one that burns for about 10 to 30 minutes to establish your fire.
We all want to make the earth a better place to stay. Going for fire starters that use noxious chemicals will not just do you some good but also the entire world. A great fire starter is one that uses flammable materials that are environment friendly.
The good news is that you do not have to look so hard as a good number of them in the market actually have no waste or by products. The reason behind this is that the paper packaging burns up with the fire starter. Also using a fire starter brings about a faster and more complete ignition and thus cutting down the emissions of particulate matter as well as carbon monoxide.
Smell of the Odor
Back in the days when people started using fire starters, they would produce a terrible smell. This is because they were made with fire inducing chemicals. Thank goodness as a good number of the fire starters in the market today are almost odorless. Therefore when shopping for one, do not go for the traditional ones with terrible odors, save your nose the torture.
Material of the Flint
A flint is a material that burns at high temperature. The best is one that is either made of ferrocerium or magnesium. Ferrocerium works because when it is struck with a piece of steel, small shavings are removed from it quickly and ignite when they oxidize. Therefore, the sparks you see are actually pieces of burning metal.
Ferrocerium produces sparks that are hotter than 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Since it works by shaving small pieces of ferrocerium off of the rod, you can create a spark by striking it with any material that is harder than the ferrocerium rod. Ferrocerium is also used in lighters, and it’s an alloy of iron (hence the “ferro”) and cerium.
Magnesium creates sparks that burn at a high temperature. Before the advent of friction matches, flint and steel systems were the most common way to start fires.
Best products on the market
Price: Approx. $50
Weight: 4.8 ounces
Dimensions: 4.9 x 0.8 inches
Specific features: Made from precision CNC, includes 4 replacement gaskets, char cord and ferrocerium rod
Best use: Camping and hunting
The Bushcraft Essentials Fire Piston is a reliable tool for lighting tinder to start a fire outdoors. The fire piston works much in the same way as a diesel engine does.
You insert tinder materials into the fire piston, and the compression of the piston heats the air so much that the material will catch fire. The fire piston comes with 4 replacement gaskets, which are made of nitrile rubber and are resistant to abrasion, heat and cold.
For best use, it’s important to lubricate the gaskets, which can be done with Vaseline although they are compatible with a wide variety of lubricants. While it is relatively easy to start a fire with this piston, you still need to know how to build a fire.
The goal of this product is to start an ember in the tinder you insert into the fire piston, but be sure to have the rest of your fire building materials on hand, like a small nest of more substantial fuel where you can insert the ember.
- Has several seals
- Great ferro rod inside the piston shaft
- High quality
- The O rings need to be fabricated initially
- One needs to get enough knowledge before using it first
- Bigger than usual fire piston
Related: Customers also buy the Epiphany Outdoor Fire Tool. This important gadget is a must have in your next outdoor adventure. It has been molded into a telescopic hand tool. With this in hand, you can start rolling fires with either wet or dry firewood in couple of minutes. Only be careful to keep some distance as you add oxygen.
Price: Approx. $20
Weight: 2.4 ounces
Dimensions: 10 x 10 inches
Specific features: Includes steel, steel striker and tinder fuses
Best use: When you are strapped for time and need pre prepared tinder
The Epiphany Outdoor Gear Fire Starting Kit is a lightweight, simple kit that contains the essentials for starting a fire. One convenient feature of this kit is that it includes a small waterproof container with “Baddest Bees” tinder fuses.
They look like little pieces of rope but to get the best use out of them, increase their surface area and the amount of air in them by pulling them into small fluff balls. The kit also includes fire steel and a steel striker.
The best feature of this kit is that it is weatherproof. It does a great job of starting fires in wet climates, and the tinder fuses hold a flame for a long enough time to give you some wriggle room when it comes to taking the time to build up the fire around the tinder fuses.
- Fast starting
- Iinstructional video does not emphasize the needed preparation
- Fire fuses are too small to make the fire work without other tinder gathered
Related: Customers who buy this product also buy the Epiphany Outdoor Gear Fire Fuses. These fuses are locally made and so you can totally trust them. They are 100% cotton tinder pressure infused with long burning bees wax and olive oil based low flash temperature waterproofing formula.
Price: Approx. $11
Weight: 1 ounce
Dimensions: 0.3 x 2.65 x 4.17 inches
Specific features: Includes serrated striker, black magnesium flint, iron toothed scraper
Best use: Portable and convenient to keep in a purse, car or pack
The Ezyoutdoor EDC Magnesium Fire Starter is an inexpensive fire starting that is great for camping and casual use. The flint itself is made of magnesium and the scraper is iron. A magnesium stick is a very basic flint material for starting fires.
Magnesium has a very high combustion temperature and is commonly used as a fire starter as well as having uses in pyrotechnics, flash photography and flares. This is a very basic, no frills fire starter. It’s waterproof and can still be relied on in bad weather.
It also comes with a lanyard for carrying. Because magnesium is such a great material for starting fires, you can shave off magnesium from the serrated edge and use it as part of the fire you’re building. This fire starter is very small and lightweight so it is easy to slip in a pack when you need a lightweight option.
- Great quality
- Easy to use
- Instructions come in Chinese
- No vintage color or appearance
Price: Approx. $16
Weight: 2.7 ounces
Dimensions: 4 x 1.25 x 1 inches
Specific features: Ferrocerium rod, spring loaded rotating flint bar, one handed design
Best use: Backpackers, cross country skiers, mountaineering
The UST Blastmatch Fire Starter is unique because it has a design that makes it capable of one handed use. This is especially useful if you’re injured or tired, and it makes it just plain convenient.
It contains a spring to fully extend the steel before the user squeezes the scraper and applies pressure to the ferrocerium rod, which creates a spark that is three times hotter than the spark created by a match.
At only 2.7 ounces, it is light enough to bring with you on backpacking or cross country ski expeditions where you are trying to conserve weight. The part of this fire starter that contains the striker is made of ABS plastic, which has no true melting point and has a high resistance to heat and impact.
The striker itself can undergo 4,000 strikes and can be rotated 360 degrees so that wear is evenly distributed across the striker. The sparks from the Blastmatch can also be targeted in any direction.
- Has a big and thick fire steel rod
- Starts fire easily
- A little flimsy
- A solid surfaces is needed to strike the match onto
- The catch can be a little difficult to operate one handed
Price: Approx. $25
Weight: 1 ounce
Dimensions: 0.43 x 0.43 x 3.7 inches
Specific features: Replaceable ¼ – inch ferrocerium rod, collapsible
Best use: Camping and backpacking
The Exotac Nanostriker XL Fire Starter is another very small and portable fire starter that’s great to take along on camping and backpacking trips. The rod is made of ferrocerium, which is a material that when scraped against another metal produces very hot sparks that burn at over 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
The striker for the Exotac is made of tungsten carbide, which is twice as hard as steel.
The fire starter is waterproof, but it is important to remember that in order to keep a ferrocerium striker in the best condition you should store it in an airtight container to prevent corrosion from the air, which will happen over a long period of time being exposed.
The ferrocerium rod on this fire starter is replaceable and it can take 3,000 strikes for fire starting. The body of the striker is made of 6061 aluminum, which helps keep it lightweight. You can also buy the Nanostriker that isn’t the XL model, but the XL is wider although they are the same length.
- Starts faster
- Produces hot sparks
- Threads and rubber gaskets fit nicely
- If not stored in an airtight container, the rod rusts
- The lighter is a bit small for some users
- Tiny handle
Related: To complete the entire pack, customers who buy the Exotac fire starter also buy it together with the Exotac Refil Kit and the Exotac Match Case. The refill kit comes with 2 replacement O-rings and ¼” thread ferrocerium rod. It has been locally made meaning you can totally trust it to serve your needs. The match box case on the other hand is waterproof and its scalloped body one to easily remove a match or any other item.
Price: Approx. $13
Weight: 1.9 ounces
Dimensions: 11.8 x 2.8 inches
Specific features: Ferrocerium rod and metal striker, emergency whistle, lanyard cord, includes pocket survival guide
Best use: Damp environments
The Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter is part of the line of gear produced when Bear Grylls and Gerber brand teamed up to produce a series of survival gear. The fire starting unit is self contained and is waterproof, and includes a ferrocerium rod and metal striker.
It also includes a waterproof storage compartment for the purpose of storing tinder to keep it dry. It also comes with a lanyard that features a survival whistle and a Bear Grylls pocket survival guide.
The survival guide details information on land to air rescue and other information about survival basics. Gerber is a respected brand best known for knives and multitools, so for approx. $9 this fire starter actually includes a lot.
The most useful feature of this fire starter is the waterproof container for tinder because it’s a smart idea to keep tinder with the fire starter in case you find yourself in a situation (wet, windy, etc.) where good tinder is not readily available on the landscape.
- Produces long and very hot sparks
- Easy to use
- Starts quickly
- Poor quality
- The lack of longer cord to wear the device around the neck
Related: Customers who buy the Gerber Bear Fire Starter also often buy the Lifestraw Personal Water Filter. This is an award winning product that has been used world over by millions of people. It removes a minimum of 99.99% of waterborne bacteria and surpasses EPA standards for water filters.
Price: Approx. $19
Weight: 0.3 ounces
Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 inches
Specific features: Magnesium ferrocerium rod, stainless steel striking blade
Best use: Camping, hiking, home use
One of the company claims to fame about the Aurora Fire Starter is that it has climbed Mount Everest, and it is definitely a quality fire starter that has many notable components.
The rod is ferrocerium, but has magnesium mixed in which makes it unique from other fire starters reviewed here. It also includes a stainless steel striking blade that can be sharpened as well. There is also the option of purchasing a super alloy blade which does not dull as quickly.
The cylinder is made of lightweight aircraft aluminum and the rod can do double duty as a knife sharpener. The aluminum is also cross hatched to help improve grip.
- Easy to use
- Has good grip
- Good construction
- The scrapper is not as effective
- Knowledge is needed before use
Price: Approx. $12
Weight: 3.5 ounces
Dimensions: 1.25 x 4.75 inches long
Specific features: Threaded aluminum body with non slip checkering
Best use: Basic home use, camping, hunting
Boker is based in Germany and is a company typically known for manufacturing quality knives. All of the components of this Boker Plus Fire Starter are housed within an aluminum body that has non slip checkering.
As a bonus, the aluminum body has a built in compass on the top. Inside the body, there is a magnesium fire rod as well as a scraper. It also comes with a ball chain, but you can replace that with paracord as a more reliable cord for carrying this tool.
One benefit of a magnesium rod for a fire starter is that it produces flakes or chips that can fall into the tinder and improve the quality of the fire.
The scraper has a serrated end that is curved to fit perfectly around the magnesium rod for maximum surface area while scraping, and it also has a small ruler engraved along the blade.
- Great packing
- Fairly priced
- Produces hot sparks
- Takes time before starting
- Needs some knowledge before operating it
Related: Any survival situation will require that you be properly prepared. That is why customers who buy the Boker Plus fire starter also frequently buy the Sahara Sailor Survival Kit. It comes with a water proof flint rod glass breaker keychain.
As you can see, it is very smart to keep more than one method to create fire with you when you are spending an extended amount of time in the outdoors.
While the modern amenities of matches and lighters are great, nothing beats the tried and true flint and steel method, which has been modernized into useful tools like the fire starters we have reviewed here. Choosing the one that will work best for you depends upon the conditions you expect that you will be using it in the most.
The major benefit of having a fire starter is that it creates a very hot spark quickly, which gives you an advantage in damp and cold weather. Weight and bulk of the fire starter are important considerations when you think about how you want to use the fire starter.
One that stays in the home or is used for car camping can be bulkier and have more surface area than one for backpacking or other outdoor recreation where you are trying to keep the weight down.
The fire starters listed here are only a sampling of the various kinds you can find, but we want to hear from you. What type of fire starter do you like to use best?