Firestarters are a must-have for your outdoor survival kit. After all, fire can be your closest anchor to life in the outdoors, especially in wet and cold conditions.
Start a fire in the rain. Start a fire in the snow. Start a fire after your gear gets dunked in the river. And start the fire with a firestarter that is capable of working through the most difficult scenarios.
There are various firestarters to choose from, and part of getting the best one is getting the right one. We’ve poured over the research and testing that’s been done to create a buying guide that will steer you to the best firestarter for you.
Outdoor survival is just as much about outsmarting the elements as it is using them to your advantage. Packing the right firestarter is one of the best ways to outsmart any of the difficulties the outside world tries to throw at you, whether you’re camping, hunting, backcountry skiing, or stranded on the side of the road.
Check out our fire starter comparison chart at the bottom of the list for a quick comparison, or follow our buyer’s guide to figure out the best firestarter for your pack. Then, get your burning questions answered in our FAQ.
Also, feel free to scroll through to see all of our recommended buys, or jump to the category you’re looking for:
- Best Overall
- Best Budget
- Best Natural Firestarter
- Best Firestarter Knife
- Best Firestarter Flashlight
- Hassle-Free Car Camping Firestarter
- Best of the Rest
The Best Firestarters of 2023
Best Overall: Wolf & Grizzly
Wolf & Grizzly ($23) made a compact and lightweight ferrocerium rod and striker to cut down on weight and get a straightforward, easy-to-use design. This little firestarter packs a real punch with 20,000 strikes, even though you’ll probably only need two to get a fire started.
One of the main issues with compact firestarters is the small surface area that makes it challenging to strike on. Wolf & Grizzly has found the fine line between too small and too big with a 4.9-inch length and a width of just 0.8 inches.
The striker is made of steel that’s used for knives, so it sharpens in the same manner. Sharpen the striker when your sparks stop flying and watch them come back to life.
In an emergency, the striker is connected to a paracord that can be taken apart to use the inner jute as tinder. The simplicity of this firestarter makes it the best firestarter on the market. It doesn’t boast a crazy number of features but performs well when put to the test.
- Material: Ferro rod, steel striker, paracord with jute core
- Lifespan: 20,000 strikes
- Size: 4.9” x 0.8”
- Other Features: Emergency tinder, can be sharpened and stacked on the rod
- Lightweight and compact
- Long lifespan
- Simple design
- No space for grip
Runner-Up: UST BlastMatch
The UST BlastMatch ($20) is unmatched in ease of use. The one-handed design allows you to keep one hand free to steady your tinder and bring it closer into the sparks. The UST BlastMatch is a firestriker that essentially does the work for you.
This is an excellent tool for anyone who doesn’t have a lot of experience using firestrikers. It even utilizes a 360-degree flint rotation to distribute the wear and tear on the ferro rod evenly. It packs away neatly to avoid accidental sparks.
The ferro rod stores away inside a compact, waterproof housing that keeps the interior dry in the worst storms. While it would still work wet, they’ve made sure that everything stays dry. Compared to other flint and steel methods, the BlastMatch puts more work on the tool rather than the user.
The striker is going to last for about 4,000 strikes. It’s not the longest lifespan on our list, but it’s going to get you fire for years to come if you’re using it right.
The whole thing measures 4.1 by 1.4 inches, just small enough to easily carry around in a hip belt pocket for ready use. Whip it out, press a single button, and watch the sparks come to life.
- Material: Flint-based bar with plastic carrier
- Lifespan: 4,000 strikes
- Size: 4.1” x 1.4”
- Other Features: One-handed use, 360-degree flint rotation, waterproof housing
- Easy to use
- Fits in small pockets
- Distributes wear and tear
- Method takes some work to get down
- Doesn’t last as long as others
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Best Budget: Light My Fire Tinder-on-a-Rope
These firestarter sticks ($4) are a great budget option to pair with any method of ignition. They are highly combustible materials that shave off and light quickly in any weather.
When surrounded by wet wood and tinder, this is what you need to get a fire going. The Light My Fire Tinder-on-a-Rope is one of the cheapest ways to ensure that fire is easily accessible.
This firestarter is made from pine tree stumps containing a high percentage (80%) of resin. The resin content makes it burn hotter and longer than sticks made from paraffin or paper. Resin also lights easily in the rain, where other sticks can be rendered useless once wet.
With the Tinder-on-a-Rope, simply shave a bit off and light it. There’s not much to it otherwise. It’s simple, carried easily on the attached rope, and highly effective.
- Material: Pine
- Lifespan: Enough for more than 10 fires
- Size: 5.9” x 0.7” x 0.8”
- Other Features: 80% resin content, rope attached for easy carry
- Highly combustible in any conditions
- Can be used with any ignition source, affordable
- Need to carry separate igniter
Best Natural Firestarter: UCO Sweetfire
Bagasse is a sugarcane byproduct that has amazing utility. Bagasse is used in a wide array of new green tech and is developed with a nonpolluting process. Everything about this byproduct is good for the paper industry, as well as fire-making.
UCO Sweetfire’s ($4) combustion comes strictly from bagasse, making it an impressively sustainable product. It’s then fused with vegetable wax to make this firestarter burn for 6 to 7 minutes. Other products require factory production and mining for materials, so a bagasse firestarter is one way to invest in more sustainable outdoor gear.
Sweetfire briquettes work well with ferrocerium firestarters. To get the best use out of this firestarter, shave bits of the brick into a powder. The powder will catch the sparks quickly, and then larger chunks will burn for a long time once they catch.
- Material: Sustainable construction of bagasse and vegetable wax
- Lifespan: 24 firestarters that each burn for 6-7 minutes
- Size: 6” x 5.5” x 1.13”
- Other Features: 3.7 oz. that gets lighter as you use it
- Sustainable product
- Catches a spark easily
- Can be used with any ignition source
- Need to carry separate igniter
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Best Firestarter Knife: Morakniv Companion Spark
Morakniv knives captured our hearts years ago when we recognized the immense value of the quality steel and low price. Then, we discovered the Companion Spark ($28). The name has always been true to us, as one of our testers carries this knife on every outing into the backcountry and uses the magnesium firestarter almost every night.
Even without the firestarter that twist-locks into the handle, this knife is made to help get a fire going. The Companion has a square-grind on the blade’s spine that makes it ideal for use with any ferro rod.
Don’t look past the firestarter that this comes with. The magnesium alloy creates high-temp (3,000 degrees C) sparks and will last for about 3,000 strikes.
The Sandvik 12C27 steel blade holds an edge well and requires a low amount of maintenance in the field. When starting a fire is your main task, don’t concern yourself with sharpening and oiling a knife over and over again.
- Material: 3.9″ hardened 12C27 stainless steel blade, magnesium alloy firestarter
- Lifespan: 3,000 strikes
- Size: 9.4” x 4.1” x 2.5”
- Other Features: Firestarter twist locks into the handle
- Two-in-one knife and firestarter
- Low-maintenance and high-quality knife blade
- Catches on tinder easily
- Firestarter has a short lifespan
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Best Firestarter Flashlight: Wicked Lasers FlashTorch
Concentrated beams of light are an ant’s worst enemy when in the hands of a child. When you put the same light to use in a survival scenario, it works just as well to get a fire started. We hope that you choose to utilize this for the greater good of starting your campfire, rather than creating mass destruction among colonies of innocent ants.
The FlashTorch ($249) is a fire starting flashlight that gets so hot it will burn anything it touches. The FlashTorch puts out 4,100 lumens. To give you an idea of what that means, most headlamps that you may use function around 200-350 lumens.
The FlashTorch’s housing is anodized aluminum that will withstand any brutal work you put it through. There are three different settings — high, medium, and low — on the FlashTorch. Use it to light the trail with a wide floodlight or concentrate the beam to start a fire for cooking dinner.
Our in-depth review of the FlashTorch Mini firestarter has an immense amount of information. If this light sparks your interest, check it out to learn more.
- Material: Military-grade anodized aluminum
- Lifespan: 2,000-hour life for the halogen lamp, 20-80 minutes of battery life
- Size: 63 mm x 48 mm x 293 mm (head x barrel x length), 610 g
- Other Features: 4,100 lumens of power, rechargeable lithium-ion battery packs
- Versatile use with three different settings
- Heavy-duty construction
- Automatic lockout prevents lighting your pocket on fire
- Expensive technology
- Short battery lifespan
Hassle-Free Car Camping Firestarter: Bernzomatic
If you’re tired of repeated failed striking attempts when starting a fire with fire steel, it’s time to bust out the blowtorch. The Bernzomatic Trigger-Start Torch ($97) makes getting a fire started the easiest thing in the world. It’s not the best choice for those looking to go out on a week-long backpacking trip, but for dedicated car campers, it’s a great choice.
When you’re left with wet wood and nothing dry in sight, sometimes the situation demands that you just have a strong flame to get stuff dry and lit. Even larger logs can be lit with the Bernzomatic.
No need to spend time collecting kindling, then pencil-sized sticks, and then real fuel. Light the logs directly with this.
The trigger start means you don’t need to carry an extra spark igniter. The propane lights easily, and the trigger is reliable — propane burns at about 3,400 degrees F, which will be hot enough to get anything lit.
- Material: Propane fuel, steel container
- Lifespan: Varies depending on use
- Size: N/A
- Other Features: Burns at 3,400 degrees F, self-igniting trigger
- Lights just about anything
- Easy to use and completely hassle-free
- Long reach of the flame
- Need to replace fuel more often
- Takes up a lot of space and weight
Best of the Rest
SOL Fire Lite Fuel-Free Lighter
As our world slowly moves away from gas, electric lighters are becoming more popular. The SOL Fire Light electric lighter ($28) is a quick and easy solution when bad weather hits or at a high altitude. While standard lighters struggle to light in extreme cold, the SOL Fire Light works simply with the click of a button.
The weatherproof housing keeps the lighter in good condition no matter what. You can carry it in any pocket with its compact size of 4.5 x 0.5 inches.
The battery inside will last for about 45 uses, timed out at 7 seconds per use. If you do the math, that’s just over five minutes over a continuous electric arc. In reality, you shouldn’t need much more than the blink of an eye to touch the arc to tinder and get a fire started.
The SOL Fire Light is a complete firestarter kit when you need it in an emergency. The paracord lanyard can be broken down, and the inside jute can be used as emergency tinder. When things get tough, there’s a built-in 100-lumen flashlight that will last for up to 3 hours on a full charge.
- Material: Plasma lighter, plastic case, cord lanyard
- Lifespan: 45 uses in one charge (Each use = 7 seconds)
- Size: 0.4 oz.
- Other Features: 3-foot tinder-cord lanyard, 100-lumen built-in flashlight, 2-hour charge time
- Dependable in just about any environment
- Easy to use
- Emergency flashlight and tinder
- Quick-charging lithium battery
- Needs to be charged every so often
- Won’t light anything too wet
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Zippo Firestarter Kit
Zippo has been doing fire for a long time, so it’s no surprise that they also make one of the best firestarter kits out there. This kit ($22) is the whole package and has everything you need, up to laying down kindling. It even includes collapsible stainless steel fire bellows to urge the fire forward once it’s going.
The ferrocerium rod is used alongside the striker, which has a triangular shape for the best grip. With this, you can direct the sparks right into the included shredded pine tinder bundles that burn for 8 minutes apiece.
Everything about this kit makes it user-friendly. You don’t need to buy separate fire sticks, strikers, or ferro rods. It’s all here with the nice addition of the bellows.
- Material: Ferro rod, steel striker, pine tinder
- Lifespan: Five pine tinder shreds burn up to 8 minutes each; the lifespan of ferro rod and striker depends on the frequency of use
- Size: 1.5” x 6.63” x 6”
- Other Features: Five paraffin-coated pine tinder bundles, collapsible stainless steel bellows
- Has everything you need in one package
- Bellows help you keep the fire going once started
- Small pieces can be lost easily
- Only five tinder bundles, so you will need more
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Fire Starter Comparison Chart
|Wolf & Grizzly||$23||Ferro rod, steel striker, paracord||20,000 strikes||4.9” x 0.8”||Emergency tinder|
|UST BlastMatch||$20||Flint-based bar with plastic carrier||4,000 strikes||4.1” x 1.4”||Waterproof housing|
|Light My Fire Tinder-on-a-Rope||$4||Pine||Enough for more than 10 fires||5.9” x 0.7” x 0.8”||80% resin content|
|UCO Sweetfire||$4||Bagasse and vegetable wax||24 firestarters, 6-7 min each||6” x 5.5” x 1.13”||Lightweight|
|Morakniv Companion Spark||$28||stainless steel blade, magnesium alloy firestarter||3,000 strikes||9.4” x 4.1” x 2.5”||Firestarter twist locks into the handle|
|Wicked Lasers FlashTorch||$249||Anodized aluminum||2,000-hour lamp life, 20-80 min battery life||63 mm x 48 mm x 293 mm||4,100 lumens of power|
|Bernzomatic Trigger-Start Torch||$97||Propane fuel, steel container||Varies depending on use||N/A||Burns at 3,400 degrees F|
|SOL Fire Light electric lighter||$28||Plasma lighter, plastic case||45 uses in one charge||0.4 oz.||3-foot tinder-cord lanyard|
|Zippo Firestarter Kit||$22||Ferro rod, steel striker, pine tinder||Tinder shreds burn 8 min each||1.5” x 6.63” x 6”||Five paraffin-coated pine tinder bundles|
Why You Should Trust Us
From experienced survivalists to weekend warriors stoked on bushcraft, the GearJunkie team is made up of outdoor enthusiasts that know the importance of getting a fire started in any condition. We’ve spent hundreds of hours gathering tinder bundles, snapping sticks, and getting light-headed as we blow flames into life. Whether it’s a campfire to cook dinner over, or an emergency heat source, fire-making skills are key for anyone going camping or backpacking in the backcountry.
We put a load of the top firestarters to the test for this guide, hoping to narrow in on the best ones available for a variety of different situations. We have significant hands-on experience with everything on the list and focused on the ease of use, reliability, and lifespan of each starter to ensure that each product will serve you well in the wild.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Firestarter
While matches or lighters may be some of the faster ways of starting fires, they aren’t always the most reliable. It’s important to have, and know how to use, a solid firestarter for when the unexpected happens. You accidentally fall in a river and soak all your gear. You break all your matches or your lighter runs out of fluid.
Being able to start a fire in any situation is one of the best steps you can take to improve your chances in a survival situation. We found the top tried and true firestarters out there and put them to the test for this guide, offering a selection for every type of adventure.
Type of Activity
Different activities require different firestarters. For example, carrying the heavy Bernzomatic Torch on a long-haul backpacking trip could make for a good laugh, but you’ll regret it pretty quickly.
If you’re going car camping, something bigger and heavier like that will be a much better fit. Backpacking demands lightweight gear that’s easy to bring along, so you’d be much better off with a simple ferro rod and flint firestarter.
Size & Weight
Every ounce counts when backpacking. The little things like firestarters are where the ounces can quickly add up. An extra inch of material means less space for food and more weight to carry.
Finding the middle ground with size and weight is key to getting the right tool. Too small and it’s impossible to handle; too big, and you’re lugging extra weight you don’t need.
Ease of Use
At the end of a long day of hiking, the last thing you want is to fight with your firestarter to get warm. The easier the firestarter is to use, the better.
There are certain ways to make life easier in the backcountry, especially when you’re just starting to learn how to use a firestarter. If you’re new to the skill, pack extra firestarter sticks. They don’t weigh much or take up much space, and they’ll be more than worth it in the long haul.
Flint & Steel, Ferrocerium Rods, and Magnesium Bars
The three primary types of firestarters — flint & steel, ferrocerium rods, and magnesium bars — can be used in a variety of different scenarios, and each has its place in a fire-starting kit. This guide covers other unique firestarters that use electrical sparks, a blowtorch, or even a hot beam of light, but these are the more traditional starters you’ll see in simple survival kits.
Flint & Steel
Flint & steel is one of the oldest tried and true methods of starting a fire. The flint can be a variety of different hard rocks, such as quartzite or chert. The steel striker component is constructed with a high carbon content and is usually heat-treated. When the steel strikes the rock it breaks off tiny particles of the metal, which oxidize and ignite when exposed to oxygen.
One of the negatives of flint & steel is how dull the sparks are, and charred cloth or naturally charred materials are usually required to effectively hold the spark and turn it into a flame. The value of flint and steel lies in their ability to be easily reproduced with readily available materials.
Ferrocerium Rods (Ferro Rod)
The sparks created by a ferro rod are extremely hot compared to those of flint & steel, which makes it easier to light a dry tinder bundle. Some of the starters in this guide, such as the Wolf and Grizzly, and the Zippo Fire Starter Kit use a ferro rod as part of their set.
It’s a good idea to carry some highly flammable tinder in your survival kit, such as cotton balls coated with Vaseline, to make this process easier, but there are plenty of natural resources that can be used in a pinch.
Ferro rods are constructed with different metals, which make it easier or more difficult to scrape depending on the composition. Softer rods don’t have as long of a lifespan but generally provide more sparks with each strike. Most ferro rods are made with about 50% cerium, with various ratios of lanthanum and iron making up the rest of the mixture.
A ferro rod doesn’t create a flame when struck, so it’s important that the tinder bundle you use is as dry and flammable as possible. Many ferrocerium rods will have a black protective coating on them when they come out of the box, which will need to be scraped off before use.
Sometimes referred to as “mag bars,” this is a bar or block which usually has a ferro rod attached to the top of it. Instead of having to gather a tinder bundle that will catch a spark, or bringing cotton balls, you can use magnesium shavings from the bar as much of your tinder bundle, which will ignite with a spark from the ferro rod.
Some mag bars come with their own striker, but you can use the back side of a knife to shave off magnesium, and strike the ferro rod. Avoid using the sharp end of your knife for this, as it could dull or damage it significantly.
This is usually a pretty time-consuming way to start a fire as it takes a large pile of magnesium shavings to make a flame that lasts long enough to light your tinder or kindling, and the shavings can blow away easily in any amount of wind. You will want to use additional dry tinder with the shavings, as the shaving bundle itself may not be enough to catch the larger fuel on fire.
Fire is such a basic, fundamental element to human existence, but can be surprisingly hard to make, particularly if the weather is against you. It’s important to practice using any firestarter that you plan on having in your emergency kit beforehand, as matches and lighters can fail on adventures.
Whether using flint & steel, a ferro rod, or a mag bar, you will need a bone-dry bundle of tinder to catch your spark and transfer a flame to larger kindling. Fatwood shavings, birch bark, cattails, dry fluff from plants, or dried animal dung often work well as tinder bundles.
Gather plenty of medium-sized dry kindling (preferably from conifers) and have it on hand to build up your fire once you establish a flame. Make something of a “bird’s nest” with your pile of tinder, using fluffed-up dry materials. Place fatwood shavings or a feather stick (a stick that has been shaved to produce clusters of thin curls protruding from the wood) on top of the bird’s nest.
Once you have a tinder bundle you like, hold the scraper at a 45-degree angle to your rod, with the end of your rod almost touching your tinder. Pull the rod, not the scraper, back sharply. This allows you to get sparks closer to the tinder.
When a spark takes in your tinder bundle it should produce a strong but short-lived flame. Build a teepee of small twigs and pencil-sized kindling over the growing flame, which encourages the flame to go upwards. Gradually add bigger and bigger sticks and logs until you’ve established a solid base of embers and heat.
Blowing slightly on the tinder bundle near the beginning can help, but only after the flame has caught and the tinder is smoldering. Be sure not to blow out a new small flame in an effort to give it more oxygen.
The problem with matches and lighters is their reliability. Once they get wet, too cold, or too high in altitude, they don’t work well.
Getting a firestarter that’s reliable in all conditions and environments helps ensure that you won’t be left shivering on the ground with an empty stomach after a long day of trekking. We would feel comfortable relying on all of the firestarters on this list in the backcountry (though some are better suited for a backup lightweight “survival kit” than others).
Just as with every piece of gear, price matters. Determining a budget before even browsing your options is important to help you get the best firestarter for your particular use.
Don’t buy something just because of a high price tag. It doesn’t always mean it’s the better piece of gear. Price can be a reflection of quality, but it can also lead to unnecessary and over-the-top products.
What Is the Best Firestarter?
The best firestarter is the one that best fits your needs and your budget. The firestarter that you feel comfortable using when you need it to work, and doesn’t cost a fortune, is the best firestarter. The best firestarter is one that helps you skip having to learn how to start a fire with sticks and friction alone.
Some people prefer using a Bic lighter, while others love a ferro rod and striker’s reliability. In the end, it’s all about opinion and experience. Test out multiple types to find what fits you best.
How Does a Firestarter Work?
Firestarters all work in different ways. A flint and steel method, or a striker and fire rod made from different materials, will work with simple science.
The hardness of the two materials and the contact between the two results in sparks. Your striker needs to be harder than what you are striking it on.
While the firestriker scrapes away a bit of the fire rod, the ripping apart of the material and the friction of the two objects both play a part in shooting small, insanely hot pieces of metal in the direction you want them to go. They stay hot enough in the air (hopefully) to reach your tinder and transfer heat into the dry tinder, resulting in a fire.
What Does Bear Grylls Use to Start a Fire?
Bear Grylls is seen as the Olympian of outdoor survival by many. Still, it’s important to remember that he only uses tools that work well for him.
Bear Grylls teamed up with Gerber to make his idea of the best possible firestarter for survival. They came up with the Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Series Fire Starter. While this is what he came up with, we can imagine Bear used a wide array of different firestarters to figure out what works best for him.
What Is a Magnesium Firestarter?
Magnesium firestarters have a magnesium block attached to a small ferro rod strip that together can make sparks. Scrape the magnesium off with a knife or the provided striker, and then build up a small pile of the shavings.
This is what you want to strike into. Once the spark catches, the magnesium will burn hot, fast, and bright.
Magnesium doesn’t work alone as tinder to start a fire. You still need to find dry tinder to place the shavings inside. Magnesium burns around 4,000 degrees F, which helps get a fire started quicker, but it can take a lot of work to get enough shavings from the magnesium block.