Any survival kit needs to have a fire starter, it is one of the most important items you will take on a hike. When the night is drawing closer and you want to set up camp, being able to make a fire quickly and conveniently is a massive relief. Thankfully, there are plenty of neat products that are compact enough to throw in your bag when you go for a hike and when you buy a quality product, it can make a big difference.
Not only do some come with added extras to make life even easier but the best fire starters are reliable enough to work every time. To help you find one that won’t let you down, we have created a list of the best fire starters on the market.
Quick Summary of the Best Fire Starters
- Editor’s Choice: Exotac nanoSTRIKER XL Ferrocerium Fire Starter (Amazon) – Review
- Best In Damp Conditions: Light My Fire Swedish FireKnife Fixed Blade Knife (Amazon) – Review
- Best Kit: Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter (Amazon) – Review
- Best Long Lasting Flame: Zippo Emergency Fire Kit (Amazon) – Review
- Best Matches: UCO Stormproof Match Kit with Waterproof Case (Amazon) – Review
- Best Value: UST BlastMatch Fire Starter with One-Handed Operation (Amazon) – Review
Editor’s Choice: Exotac nanoSTRIKER XL Ferrocerium Fire Starter
For those in the know, the Exotac nanoSTRIKER is one of the most reputable products and a popular one. This is partly down to the convenience of being able to attach it to your keys or store it in your pocket but also because the replaceable fire rod can reach temperatures of 5,500 degrees F when you’re pointing the sparks at the kindling. What also impresses is that the 1/4 inch ferrocerium rod works well even when it is wet and gives you up to 3,000 fire-starting strikes which will last you for many fires.
It is collapsible and easy to assemble to make a quickfire striking against the tungsten carbide, working best with dry grass, dry leaves, clothing lint, and other materials with a larger surface area. In the 6061 aluminum build it is one of the sturdiest fire starters and able to withstand more punishment than most.
- Easy to use and reliable
- Provides up to 3,000 strikes
- Compact and made from quality materials
Best In Damp Conditions: Light My Fire Swedish FireKnife Fixed Blade Knife
For an all in one fire starting kit, this includes the useful fixed blade knife that has an anti-slip rubber handle. It is the unpolished spine of the blade that makes for an excellent fire starter as the square edge creates reliable sparks when you run the fire starter along its surface.
This twist locks into the handle to keep everything together and the fire starter itself is made from magnesium alloy to create sparks of 5,400 degrees F and is fine for around 3,000 strikes. It works in both wet and dry conditions and comes with both a belt clip and a 1-year warranty. The convenience of being able to use a quality knife that stays sharp for a long time, saving you space in your bag.
- Includes stainless steel blade
- Fine for up to 3,000 strikes
- Works when wet
Best Kit: Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter
From the man who knows everything there is to know about survival comes Gerber’s Bear Grylls Fire Starter. As you might expect, it is reliable and is made up of a ferrocerium rod with a metal striker that when combined, can quickly start a fire using the included tinder that can be stored in the waterproof compartment.
There is a lanyard that makes it easy to transport between camps and it even comes with an emergency whistle as well as a pocket survival guide and land to air rescue instructions with SOS. The device might be compact but the handles are bulky enough for you to maintain a firm grip when striking.
- Includes tinder and a waterproof compartment
- Easy to strike
- Lanyard makes it easy to keep at the ready
- Includes emergency whistle
Best Long Lasting Flame: Zippo Emergency Fire Kit
Zippo lives to ignite a fire, whether that is whilst using one of their lighters to light a cigarette or this emergency fire kit. Although the design is a little bulkier than others on our list, it creates a longer-lasting flame when used with any of the 5 included cotton spark tinders that are coated in paraffin.
They burn for up to 5 minutes which makes it a lot easier to start a fire and the water-resistant storage keeps everything dry including the flint spark wheel. You can attach it to a lanyard to make sure it is always at the ready and a lot of people find that the sparks are reliable.
- Reputable brand
- Included tinders burn for up to 5 minutes
- Water resistant storage
Best Matches: UCO Stormproof Match Kit with Waterproof Case
For something a little different, these 25 stormproof matches can help to get you out of a difficult spot and make a fire in no time. They come with a waterproof case and three strikers to get the match ignited. They burn for around 15 seconds each and can relight after being submerged in water so they are about as robust as you can hope a match will be.
The case itself floats and the striker can be fixed to the side for a firm surface and is easy to replace. Even a firm wind or constant downpour won’t put them out once lit so when the conditions are fierce, they are a great option to have in your bag.
- Each match burns in adverse weather for up to 15 seconds
- Good value
- Includes waterproof case
Best Value: UST BlastMatch Fire Starter with One-Handed Operation
It might not look like much more than a USB stick but this convenient fire starter can be used with one hand, making it easy for you to hold the dry glass or tinder. Using a flint based system it makes it easy for the user to point the sparks in the right direction and has a comfortable handle with a safety button to make sure you don’t start creating any of the red hot sparks when you don’t want to.
It managed to create 3x the heat of ordinary matches and can be used in adverse weather including rainy conditions. You can rotate the flint bar 360 degrees to make sure it wears evenly and it will be fine for around 4,000 strikes.
- Easy to direct the sparks
- Includes a safety button
- Works for up to 4,000 strikes
Fire Starter Guide
When it comes to making a fire you either need to do it quickly when the light is dying or you need to know the product you use is reliable enough to work in a good time. The better products are known for creating a lot of scorching hot sparks and when you get your hands on a quality fire starter it makes life easier.
Because of the importance of a fire starter, it is the sort of purchase that you cannot take any risks with. This is why we have created the following buyer’s guide, to make sure you end up with a product that will help to get the flames burning, and fast.
What To Look For In A Fire Starter
– Storage For Tinder
Although you can find your way of making use of the sparks that your fire starter creates, having tinder to hand can make lightning the fire a lot quicker. If there is dry grass, leaves or any other useful resources around then great, but if you have a place to store tinder in your fire starter then even better. That way, it doesn’t matter what the surroundings offer, you can stay warm.
– Easy Grip
Although you want the materials to be reliable, the grip on the fire starter also needs to be comfortable enough so it doesn’t slip as you strike. The device will need to be compact but thick enough for you to maintain a good grip and if it is made from rubber or has grooves to keep your grasp true then even better.
– Convenient Weight and Size
The whole point of using a fire starter is convenient as when you’re hiking or camping, space in your bag can be minimal. Not only that, but you don’t want the thing to weigh you down – lugging a tent and everything else is hard enough as it is. The best fire starters are those that can fit into your pocket and won’t weigh you down.
With plenty of products shaped like a pen or a USB stick, they are easy to transport between camps.
– Ease of Use
There is no point in buying a fire starter that requires a long list of instructions to get to grips with. Sometimes, you need to build a fire ASAP and when this is the case you will need a fire starter that is easy to use. Thankfully, most products follow the simple strike to spark method and need very little explaining although it is a good idea to know how to use them around tinder before you need to make a fire from scratch and it matters.
You don’t have to be crossing a river for there to be enough water to ruin a cheaply made fire starter. Even a bit of rain can make the sub-par products unusable. This is why it is best to opt for a product that is fine when the weather is not and there are plenty of great fire starters that work even when they are wet.
Some products come in a waterproof container or casing to make sure that any tinder is kept dry and some even float.
Some products are built to last a long time such as ferrocenium rods that are fine for 1,000’s of strikes. Others are not as durable or long-lasting such as stormproof matches that are limited to how many you have left.
Different Types of Fire Starters
We’ve taken a look at some of the most common types of fire starters in our overview of the best products but here is a closer look.
– Ferrocerium Rod Strikers
Otherwise known as flint and steel, these rod strikers make up a large part of the fire starter market and are easy to use. They work in both wet and dry conditions making them ideal for camping although it is always a good idea to practice before using them for the first time.
We all know about matches, they represent one of the cheapest ways of starting a fire but they aren’t all made the same. Regular matches can blow out easily which is why it is a good idea to buy stormproof matches as they work even when they have been submerged in water.
Much like matches, they need no introduction but out of all the fire starting methods they can be the most temperamental. They don’t work when wet and can run out of gas but are affordable and lightweight.
– Fire Piston
These are a little bulkier so aren’t as convenient as the other types of fire starters but in terms of generating a flame, they are worth considering. They work by lighting a char cloth but can be a little tricky compared to other methods.
How To Use A Fire Starter
The exact method will depend on the type of fire starter you use but some basic steps are easy to follow.
First of all, prepare the fire by finding a suitable spot that is close to a source of fuel but out of the way of an area that can cause the fire to spread. Also, you will want some protection from the wind.
Then, clear the ground of debris and collect the materials to start the fire but also keep it going. You won’t only need small and large dry wood, but also dry leaves and grass and small twigs.
Now it is time to use the fire starter but let’s assume you are using flint and steel. Strike the flint over the tinder or dry grass directing it where you want it to go. This will either create an instant flame or start to smoke. If the latter happens, blow gently to try and encourage a flame to develop.
Now you will need to maintain the fire once the flames grow, use larger branches but not so big that they suffocate the flames.
Before you leave the area, make sure to put out the fire properly, using water to be certain that it cannot spread.