A fire starter and water are two of your most valuable resources the moment you step away from your comfortable concrete existence. Add a full tang fixed blade knife and you have the three things you need to survive just about anywhere.
A regular box of matches and a Bic lighter may work the majority of times, but it’s those few times they don’t work that make it worthwhile to do some quick research and make sure you truly are prepared for what lies ahead.
A dollar store lighter can run out of butane and matches get wet – a quality fire starter is worth it’s weight in well …just about anything should you ever need it.
One thing we will stress is to test out your new fire starter before trudging off into the woods; some of them take a little practice and there’s a whole science to actually building the fire itself. Just because you can produce flames, doesn’t mean you can build a sustainable fire. You will need to gather the proper materials to keep a flame large enough to keep you warm at night, cook food or even signal for help.
Our suggestion: throw one or two of these top-rated fire starters in each of your bags and call it a day. Your life could literally depend on it.
Exotac NanoStriker XL
An updated version of the original, this new addition boasts a slightly larger fire starter. High quality and small in size, this is a completely self-contained fire starter that has been field tested numerous times. It comes with everything you need. Obviously, you will have to find tinder material such as wood shavings, cotton balls, leaves, grass or even dryer lint. The Exotac NanoStriker XL produces a hot spark and could easily be considered the best keychain fire starter. The Exotac NanoStriker XL is one of the best survival fire starters of 2020.
UST BlastMatch One-Handed Fire Starter
You can spit mad sparks with just one hand with this flint-based Firestarter. Generating intense hot sparks with minimal effort is the name of the game and this fire starter plays it well. One-handed operation comes in handy while dealing with unruly tinder. Raise your hand if you’ve had your material blow away while trying to get your Firestarter to work. The UST BlastMatch operates in the rain if you find yourself in that uncomfortable position while trying to start a fire. Great for survival, emergency preparedness, camping or just starting fires in your back yard.
Put one of these in your bug-out bag and vehicle and they will last a long time. You could literally start four fires a day and these things would still probably last years. Conclusion: normal folk will never wear out one of these in a lifetime of carrying it as your everyday carry.
Coleman Magnesium Fire Starter
Sometimes old-school works best. In this case, it’s definitely the most affordable fire starter you can get your hands on. Small size for easy carrying and it even includes a knife. To use, you just shave slivers from the magnesium block to build a mound. Run the included blade alongside the flint and voila! You now have a hot spark to light the shavings. Be sure to have your tinder on hand before creating your spark. You don’t want to have to search and chance your spark going out. The Firestarter is waterproof and will last you a good while. This is the one most people grew up using. They’re cheap enough to literally buy multiples and stash them in easy to reach places just in case.
Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter
You don’t have to drink your own piss to use this one. But, if you’re looking for a high-quality fire starter with a compact rod and striker that can fit in your pocket, look no further. This best rated Firestarter has been tested to spark more than 8,000 strikes according to the manufacturer. Obviously, we haven’t sat there and blazed it 8,000 times to test their claims, but I’m sure you can take them at their word. If you have the time to test it out that many times, let us know if they’re telling a fib.
Zippo Emergency Fire Starter Kit
You get much more than just a rod and striker with this emergency and survival kit from Zippo. We all know the classic lighter and how cool they look striking with one hand while trying to light a smoke. This emergency fire starter kit is perfect for your go-bag or even in the glove box of your car. We all know the best trips are spontaneous with zero preparation. This Firestarter allows you to grab the essentials before you and your friends bail off into the unknown with a beer in your hand. This kit comes with water-resistant tinder sticks and a flint-wheel ignition system that will work in harsh conditions. This is one of the best survival fire starter kits on the market.
It also helps that it comes in bright orange.
Swiss Safe 5-in-1 Fire Starter for Emergency Survival Kits
Want to go for the all-in-one fire starter? This versatile fire starter comes with a 16,000 rates strike magnesium rod, scraper/striker so you don’t have to dull your knife, built-in compass in case you don’t know where you are going, emergency whistle and 450 lb 8-core paracord because ….paracord is on everything these days and for good reason.
This Firestarter not only received high ratings due to its versatility and quality, but heck, you get two fire starters per package! If that wasn’t enough, the Magnesium Ferrocerium rod is more dependable and better rated than matches, lighters and even flint fire starters when it comes to sparking a flame in a pinch.
Use the paracord to sling this beauty around your neck and you have a pretty much rounded out your everyday carry, that is, as long as you have a knife.
PRO TIP: Buy one and give the other to a friend since there are two in a package.
Lightning Strike Fire Starter by Holland
This fire starter can carry a large amount of tinder! It may seem too big at first, but you will quickly realize how much tinder this fire starter tool can keep dry. This is a much better plan that trying to find tinder on the go, especially if it had rained earlier that day. Eliminate that problem and place the tinder directly into this survival Firestarter.
Worried about your fire starter not throwing enough sparks to light that stubborn tinder? Not with this bad boy. The concentration of sparks is so dense that you may have to take care not to catch your sleeves on fire. Yes, it is that good! Many people say this is the best survival gear they have ever purchased.
Light My Fire Firestarter Campkit
What do you get the person who has everything? The fire starter that has everything, of course. This camping survival kit comes with the Swedish FireKnife and FireSteel, Tinder on-a-rope and spork. Looks like they practically thought of everything with this one. The Tinder-on-a-rope is a novel idea and lights when wet and is probably a better alternative than what you would find on the go. The knife isn’t too shabby itself – 3.75-inch stainless steel blade with a high friction handle for grip. It even comes with a sheath and belt clip.
We always preach that you need the three basics to survive: water, fire and a knife. You get all that and more with this fire starter tool. The Firestarter boasts 3,000 strikes, which is a little lower than other strikers, if you’ve been paying attention. However, it comes with a handy knife! That makes it perfect for someone interested in a one-stop shop.
HOW TO USE A FIRE STARTER
- Prepare. Choose a dry spot that is sheltered from the wind to start your fire.
- Collect. Search your area for dry tinder such as grass, small twigs, bark or other wood. Start small and build larger. Get some bigger pieces to throw once the fire grows. Or, if you purchased a fire starter with tinder, you won’t have to search.
- Shave. Using either your pocket knife or the blade that came with your fire starter, shave the magnesium block into a small mound and be ready to add tinder. Block off your area from wind as it can easily blow it away at this stage.
- Spark. Run your blade along the rod to create sparks. Remember, some fire starters work differently and you may not have to follow these steps exactly.
- Build. The spark will land on the magnesium, causing a small fire to form. You must be diligent in quickly building the fire using your materials that you collected. It will burn quickly, so you don’t have time to mess around. You can begin to put larger pieces of wood now that your fire is growing.
While the written word may be King, a how-to video sometimes does the trick.
Tough decisions call for tough research, but don’t let yourself get caught without a dependable fire starter in a dire situation. We suggest you choose one and try it in your back yard to make sure you understand how it works. As always, test your gear before embarking on a journey.
Fire Starter FAQ
What is the Best Survival Fire Starter?
The best survival fire starter is the one you have with you when you need it. In all seriousness, most fire starters will get the job done, you jus thave to be sure that you understand your tool and how to gather the right materials to start a fire. You have to take a few steps beyond just dropping a fire starter in your pack and you have to know what materials to use and where to find them.
How Long Does a Fire Starter Last?
Most flint or magnesium fire starters can last upwards of 3,000 hits or strokes. High quality versions can sometimes last for over 10,000 strikes depending on how you care for your fire starter. How many fires does that start? It all depends on how efficient you are at starting a fire and using your tinder properly. Just because a fire starter can produce 10,000 strikes doesn’t mean you can start 10,000 fires with it. You will have to use multiple strikes to start a fire and you will need to start over occasionally depending on weather conditions. Sure, it takes practice to master the art of starting a fire with a fire starter, but you can get good at it with a few attempts over the course of a weekend. I wouldn’t worry too much about how many strikes a fire starter can produce as most good fire starters will last an extremely long time if you take great care of them. Put a few in your bug-out bag, hiking pack and vehicle and you should be covered.
What are the Two Most Effective Items to Have in Your Kit for Fire Starting?
There is literally an endless supply of things you can put in your bag to help you start a fire. You need either a lighter or a fire starter and something to catch fire. Most campers or hikers bring their own tinder such as dryer lint, paper or char cloth. You can put it in a Ziplock bag to keep it dry. You can also scavenge for dry leaves, grass, make wood shavings and small branches for natural tinder, however, you could face problems if it’s wet outside or raining. We’ve used dryer lint on multiple occasions since you can pack it in abundance and it catches fire easy.
What is the Best Fire Starter Material?
There is literally an endless supply of materials you can bring from home to start a fire. We recommend putting together a small waterproof bag of material each time you go into the woods just in case you are unable to find dry material and need to start a fire for emergency reasons. Rain can put a damper on your ability to scavenge and find dry leaves and grass to start a fire with. Train yourself to bring homemade back-up fire starters. Here are a few items you can use from home to start a fire: dryer lint, egg cartons, charcoal, dryer lint wrapped in waxed paper, hand sanitizer, duct tape, chips, cotton balls, etc. We prefer to use dryer lint as it is easy to pack and you can bring a lot of it in a Ziplock bag.
What is the Best Fire Starter Tinder?
If the ground is dry, you can find a ton of great materials to use for fire starter tinder such as pine needles, grass, dry leaves, fungus, tree bark, cattail fluff, small twigs, etc. Basically, anything that you can bundle up to create the base of your fire will work. Be sure to gather your tinder before striking your fire starter or you will waste your sparks and won’t be successful in starting your fire.
It helps to wear gloves while starting a fire. Check out these tactical gloves that protect your hands while allowing you to perform intricate tasks such as starting fires, cutting and other camp duties.
Jerome is an avid outdoorsman who moonlights as an attorney when he’s not creating the world’s greatest online content.