Fire starters are an all-important piece of kit, one that everyone should carry at all times in the outdoors. Backcountry adventures are a fun and enriching pass time, but the nature of trips into the wilderness means there are some dangers involved. In emergency situations, having a fire starter can make a big difference. Along with drinking water and a quality backpacking knife, a fire starter is one of your most valuable tools.
Most of the time, a lighter or box of matches will suffice to make your flames, but you never know what kind of conditions you’ll end up in. It’s always better to be prepared; a lighter is good enough day-to-day, but in more extreme situations you’ll be glad to have the more reliable fire starter. Before you head out on your next trip, throw one of these best fire starters in your bag, you never know when you might need it.
In a hurry? Here’s the test winner after 10 hours of research:
And here’s an overview of the best fire starters on the market today:
How to choose a fire starter
There are a few things to consider when making a decision about a new fire starter. Before we go into the different options to consider when searching for the best fire starter, here are a few things to keep in mind. Firstly, as with any outdoor equipment, weight is an important factor. As all of these fire starters are small items, the weight considerations are small but worth thinking about to shave off those few extra grams.
As an emergency survival item, reliability is more important than weight. If it comes down to it, we recommend you choose the fire starter more likely to save you in an emergency situation, rather than one which is lighter. Ease of use is another important factor. You may find yourself needing to strike some sparks in all kinds of conditions, so make sure you pick a fire starter that you can use at any time, for example, you may need to use one while wearing thick gloves, or at high altitudes. With this information in mind, read on to discover our top picks for the best fire starter.
Best Fire Starter – Overview
1. Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter
- Compact fire starter with ferrocerium rod and metal striker
Produced in collaboration with everyone’s favorite survival expert, Bear Grylls, this compact fire starter promises years of reliable use. The construction is waterproof, meaning your tinder inside stays dry and ready to use when the time comes. This fire starter features a ferrocerium rod and metal striker, with a lanyard to keep all the pieces together. You don’t want to lose any important parts in the backcountry, so we love this thoughtful feature. Another useful addition to this survival tool is an emergency whistle integrated into the lanyard, for quick access.
This fire starter comes in a small, lightweight, self-contained unit, perfect for storing in your gear bag. Having been through rigorous testing, this tool promises to spark at least 8000 strikes, so if you choose this fire starter you know it’s a product that will last. The kit also includes emergency rescue and SOS instructions, which is another handy addition.
For only $11.24 on Amazon, the Gerber Bear Grylls fire starter appears to be a bargain piece of kit. Use it to ignite your campfires every weekend, or just stash it in your backpack for those emergencies that you hope never happen. Upon testing, this product produced a sizeable shower of sparks with each strike, and the waterproofing is adequate.
However, the compartment provided for storing kindling is small, only big enough for a single cotton ball. Unfortunately, it’s not large enough to accommodate anything useful. This simple piece of kit will do a good job lighting fires and not much else. If you want a no-nonsense tool that does what it’s meant to, you can’t go wrong with the Gerber Bear Grylls fire starter.
- Good quality
- Emergency whistle built-in
- Small storage compartment
- Could have better waterproofing
2. Ultimate Survival Technologies Blastmatch
The UST Blastmatch offers a simple but highly effective flame striking solution. This unique product is a one-handed fire starter, making it much easier to use, particularly if you sustain an injury. This is a great fire starter for backpackers and hunters, it’s perfect for any form of bushcraft. A spring-loaded rotating flint bar allows you to ignite your tinder with ease, while the shower of sparks produced by the Ultimate Survival Technologies Blastmatch is three times hotter than a standard match. This makes your full all the more likely to ignite, and flames much more convenient to produce.
We love this fire starter, as it’s so easy to use, which is of paramount importance in emergencies. When you’re facing adverse weather conditions, high altitudes, or any unfavorable situation, your emergency equipment needs to be ready when you are. This fire starter will last for thousands of stikes, enough to light many campfires or rescue signals.
The one-handed action that makes this fire starter so unique may require a little time to master, which is one downside of this product. With some practice, this fire starter is the ideal tool, but reduced ease of use means it’s probably not a good choice for amateur campers. For $15.50, anyone can own this intuitive one-handed fire starter, and we recommend it to any serious adventurer who needs a kit that’s reliable in all conditions.
- Can be used with one hand
- Good in all weather conditions
- Hard to master the mechanism
- No extra useful features
3. Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel 2.0
- Compact fire starter designed to light fires in any conditions; includes built-in emergency whistle
This fire starter from Light My Fire is another highly reliable backpackers tool. What sets this one apart from the rest is the 5400 degrees Fahrenheit spark, which makes the Swedish Firesteel much more effective at producing a flame, especially in adverse conditions. Known for its durability and dependability, this fire starter is used in several armies around the world. With an ergonomic design giving it excellent ease of use, it’s a handy device to keep in your pocket.
The striker has a built-in whistle, which is very useful for emergency situations. Longevity is something else you won’t have to worry about, as testing shows the Light My Fire Swedish Firesteel to last an impressive 12000 strikes. A lanyard connects the flint striker and rod together to prevent any accidental loss, and as another useful bushcraft feature, this fire starter can create survival sparks bright enough to be used as an emergency signal.
These hot sparks will fly no matter the altitude or temperature, making this one of our top picks for reliability. In return for this increased effectiveness, the rod of this firesteel is harder than others. This makes it harder to use at first, so it’s a good idea to break it in before your first adventure.
We recommend this emergency fire starter to any survival enthusiast looking for a quality Ferro rod. The flint striker is a little awkward to use, we would appreciate a more ergonomic design, so this might impact the device’s ease of use. There are no bells and whistles (apart from the whistle) with just a simple lanyard tying it all together. Overall, a reliable shower of hot sparks is what can be expected, for $14.87 on Amazon you can’t complain. It’s enough to light your campfire and keep you warm in the mountains, and for BBQs and bushcraft, the Swedish Firesteel has got you covered.
- High-quality ferrocerium rod
- Hot sparks make fire-starting easier
- Awkward flint striker
- Needs breaking in before reliable use
4. Exotac Nanostriker XL
- INSTANT FIRE: Exotac's nanoSTRIKER XL features a unique compact, collapsible strike tool design and a waterproof Ferro rod that supplies the most prodigious spark for its size. Survival essentials are...
This nano-sized fire starter is perfect for keeping on your keyring. It’s completely unintrusive while always being ready should you need it. This firestarter is collapsible, completely self-contained, and waterproof. Even if it’s raining you won’t have to worry, as the high-quality ferrocerium rod works when it’s wet. Use the ultra-sharp tungsten striker to rain a shower of sparks down on your tinder, easily igniting campfires and other fuels.
Sparks of up to 5,500 degrees Fahrenheit are thrown from the replaceable Ferro rod, making wet and cold environments no match for your fire starting. The quality manufacturing and craftsmanship that has gone into this device is obvious, and this is reflected in its pricing of $25.45. Unfortunately, the design means you’ll get fewer strikes before the rod needs replacing, so it may be more fiscally practical to buy cheaper, lesser quality models and replace them.
- Keyring sized
- Produces hot sparks
- Rods don’t last long
- Higher priced than other options
5. Zippo Emergency Fire Kit
On any outdoor adventure, you need to be prepared for the unexpected, and when primitive camping there’s all the more risk. There are numerous emergency situations where a fire might be needed, and when you’re alone in the backcountry, miles from help, having this little piece of equipment could save your life. The Zippo emergency fire kit lets you light campfires or signals at a moment’s notice, reliably overpowering any adverse conditions which may stand against you.
This product promises to start fires easily, with the Zippo flint wheel providing up to 1700 sparks in any weather condition. This wheel can be replaced easily, allowing you to continue using your emergency fire kit for much longer. The self-contained kit is water-resistant, and floats for extra peace of mind. A waterproof seal protects your tinder inside, making sure it stays dry and ready to ignite. This fire starter is available on Amazon for $10.21, a competitive price.
The ergonomic design only adds to ease of use, while a lanyard hole allows you to transport it easily while keeping this survival tool close by. The simple but reliable design means we can recommend this fire starter to any camper, as a reliable and high-quality choice. The main drawback of the Zippo emergency fire kit is the striker or flint wheel, as this is a weak point in the design. With a striker and rod, there’s little which can break and render the product useless, whereas a jammed flint wheel could create a dangerous situation.
- Reliable self-contained design
- Floats in water
- Flint wheel may not be reliable
- Less longevity than other options
6. Uberleben Zunden Fire Starter
- HANDCRAFTED HARDWOOD HANDLE — Traditionally inspired materials and ergonomics. We’ve intentionally left the grip natural, ready to earn that seasoned finish. Oil & grit… bare, calloused hands.
With this fire starter, Uberleben has proved that you don’t have to give up style for functionality. The handcrafted hardwood handle gives this fire starter an attractive edge over the others, it might just make it our top pick. The unseasoned natural grip gives this tool a more traditional feel, and there’s no concession for performance.
For only $16 on Amazon, the Uberleben Zunden promises the best balance between softness and durability in their ferrocerium rod. With each strike, a shower of sparks of 5500 degrees Fahrenheit is promised, which will easily ignite any camper’s signal fire. This lightweight item is perfect for carrying around your neck on the included paracord lanyard, or put it on your keyring so you can never leave home without.
One feature that we love on this firestarter is the multitool striker, it really reaches the next level. As well as producing sparks from the Ferro rod, this striker serves as a tinder scraper, map scale, hex wrench, and bottle opener, among other uses. It’s hard to find a point to criticize for this fire starter, but there is one element that we would change. For the price and quality of this item, we would expect top-notch construction, but some have found issues in the joining of rod and handle. Additionally, the thick coating means this is another fire starter that needs to be broken in before it’s first use.
- Stylish and traditional design
- Multi-functional striker
- Construction could stand improvement
- Needs breaking in before first use
7. Coghlan Flint Striker
At only $5.02, the Coghlan flint striker is the cheapest fire starting option on our list. This waterproof tool lasts for thousands of strikes and will light your campfire at any altitude, no matter what the weather. The ferrocerium rod and striker are connected with a cord and are perfect for any camping, trekking, or bushcraft use.
This is the right choice if you like your gear to be as simple as possible, as this striker and rod are as plain as they come. For those on a budget, this fire starter is the obvious choice. However, the simple design makes the Coghlan flint striker a little difficult to wield, with some other options offering much better ease of use. Another fire starter that needs breaking in, the rod will need scraping before it’s ready to use for the first time in the field.
- Very affordable
- Simple and effective
- Difficult to use
- Needs to be broken in
As any hiker, camper, or outdoor enthusiast knows, it can be hard to keep your collection of gear in check. Every new gadget or groundbreaking technology requires new purchases in order to keep up with current trends, and sometimes your old equipment can serve you just as well. However, when it comes to survival supplies, having the best possible gear is to your obvious advantage.
Like a backcountry first aid kit, or camping water purifier, you need to make sure your fire starter is the best. In emergency situations where you need to light a campfire or make a signal, having a reliable fire starter can seriously save your skin. One of our picks should be sufficient to keep you out of danger and keep your fires lit on your next expedition.
For outdoor enthusiasts on a budget, we recommend the Coghlan Flint Striker. For only $5, this simple rod and striker is easily transported, light, and provides a satisfactory shower of sparks. If you have a little more to spend, the Zippo emergency fire kit is the next cheapest at just over $10.
For our top pick, however, we have to recommend the Uberleben Zunden Fire Starter. This is the only option on our list which gives you a multi-tool as a striker, with a tinder scraper, straight edge, and that all-important bottle opener included. On top of that, the natural wooden handle gives this fire starter a stylish flair which the others lack, as well as making it feel like a more traditional tool. Producing plenty of hot sparks with every strike, this fire starter will last a long time before letting you down.
Always remember the fire safety guidelines when using fire starters in the backcountry. All it takes is one stray spark on a patch of dry grass to set in motion a catastrophe. Forest fires are incredibly damaging to our environment, but if every outdoor adventurer is careful and responsible, then the threat is lessened hugely.
Bonus tip: Check out this video for some tips on using a fire starter!