Last Updated January 2018: We’ve updated our guide to the best fire starters you can buy and added new picks and insights. Prices and links have also been updated.
Editor’s Choice: Exotac NanoStriker XL
Editor’s Choice: This XL is a slightly larger version of Exotac’s original NanoStriker. With a marginally thicker ferrocerium and magnesium rod, and a larger tungsten carbide striking tool, the XL is easier to hold and can produce a hotter spark. The compact tool fits on a keychain and can easily be screwed apart and then reassembled into the fire starter. When screwed together, it’s also completely waterproof.
Table of Contents
- Best Two-In-One Fire Starter: Swedish FireKnife
- Best Keychain Companion: Exotac NanoStriker XL
- Most Dependable Matches: UCO Titan Stormproof Matches (Kit)
- Best One-Handed Fire Starter: Ultimate Survival Technologies BlastMatch
- Best Starter for Making Tinder: Gerber Bear Grylls Tinderbox
- Best Solar Fire Starter: Solo Scientific Tinder Hot Box Solar Fire Starter
- Most Affordable Fire Starter: Coleman Magnesium Fire Starter
- Best Fire-Starting Kit: SOL Fire Lite Kit
- Best Compact Kit: Zippo Emergency Fire Kit
According to Greek mythology, the Titan Prometheus gave fire to mankind after stealing it from Mount Olympus. When Zeus found out, the thief was chained to a rock, where an eagle could feast on his liver every day, for the rest of eternity. Fortunately for us, fire is much easier to come by today. With the simple flick of a lighter, or strike of a match, producing a flame is a breeze — even in the wilderness.
Anywhere you make it, a fire needs three elements: heat, a combustible material and oxygen. These seven fire starters take care of those first two. All require a little more work than your Zippo, but since none are dependent on fuel, they’re more reliable in a dire situation. A fire can purify water, cook food, keep you warm, and scare away predators; to sum it up, having a fire starter on your person may help save your life.
The Best Firestarters for Every Situation
Light My Fire Swedish FireKnife
Best Two-In-One Fire Starter: This fire knife is a collaboration between Light My Fire and Mora of Sweden, who’s been making knives for the last 120 years. The FireKnife has a Sandvik 12C27 stainless steel blade, comes with a polypropylene sheath, and has a original Swedish FireSteel Scout fire starter (good for approximately 3,000 strikes) that pops out of its handle. To make a spark, scrape the dull side of the blade forcefully against the FireSteel. And after you’ve successfully produced a flame, flip the knife over and start filleting that trout you reeled in earlier.
Exotac NanoStriker XL
Best Keychain Companion: This XL is a slightly larger version of Exotac’s original NanoStriker. With a marginally thicker ferrocerium and magnesium rod, and a larger tungsten carbide striking tool, the XL is easier to hold and can produce a hotter spark. The compact tool fits on a keychain and can easily be screwed apart and then reassembled into the fire starter. When screwed together, it’s also completely waterproof.
UCO Titan Stormproof Matches (Kit)
Most Dependable Matches: What makes these better than your average box of matches? Everything. To be honest, saying that these matches by UCO are stormproof may actually be an understatement. Once lit, they will keep their flame in high winds or heavy downpours. Hell, submerge them in water (briefly) or bury them in dirt and they’ll still stay lit. The carrying case they come with is hardy as well. It’s watertight, floats, and won’t crush under extreme pressure. In each kit you’ll find 25 matches and three strike surfaces.
Ultimate Survival Technologies BlastMatch
Best One-Handed Fire Starter: With just one hand, a person can create a spark with this flint-based fire starter. The device has an attached cover, which easily flips off to reveal a spring-loaded rotating flint bar. Creating a shower of sparks is simple: hold down on the thumb button (it’s part of the case) while pushing the flint bar against a hard surface. To create a fire, make sure it’s over a type of tinder. The BlastMatch is nice because it’s useful, easily fits in a pocket and doesn’t have many moving parts.
Gerber Bear Grylls Tinderbox
Best Starter for Making Tinder: Before you can spark a fire with whichever device you decide to carry, you first have to create good tinder. It’s not always easy to identify what will work — tinder has to be small and dry in order to provide a combustible base for a solid fire. The Tinderbox alleviates the difficulty of that first step; the grater can convert any old stick into light and fluffy tinder and it automatically drops it into a convenient storage box. There isn’t a sparking device on this kit, but it is equipped with a signaling mirror and a small magnifying glass that can be used to create flames from a directed beam of light (if you’re working in sunlight).
Solo Scientific Tinder Hot Box Solar Fire Starter
Best Solar Fire Starter: There’s no striking required with Solo Scientific’s fire starter. It’s a water- and airtight capsule that stores tinder. When attempting to start a fire, a “tinder arm” (normally stored in the tin’s lid) is attached and is used to hold the tinder. The container’s reflective bottom is then used to reflect light and ignite the tinder. This device uses a parabolic reflector to focus heat on one specific point. Once smoldering, the tinder can be transferred to a larger flammable source.
Coleman Magnesium Fire Starter
Most Affordable Fire Starter: Coleman’s iteration of the fire starter is fireproof, waterproof, simple and dependable. With the included steel blade, users shave the magnesium block so that there’s a mound of magnesium ash. They then strike the blade against the block’s flint side, creating a spark and igniting the shavings. Then cover the smoldering ash with a pile of tinder, and boom — fire.
SOL Fire Lite Kit
Best Fire-Starting Kit: This fire starter comes in a bag — a waterproof and resealable bag. Included is a Fire Lite Sparker, 20 of the brand’s waterproof tinders (Waterproof Tinder Quik ignites) and fire starting instructions. The sparker has a flint wheel that produces a spark, and each piece of tinder will burn for two minutes and is impervious to both wind and water. In all, the kit weighs less than half an ounce, fits your pocket and is ridiculously easy to ignite.
Zippo Emergency Fire Kit
Best Compact Kit: Inside Zippo’s pocketable tube you’ll find five Easy Spark Tinders that are capable of burning for up to five minutes and an easy-to-use flint wheel ignition for getting them burning. The container itself is both water-resistant and floats, and is constructed using durable plastic with a textured grip and a convenient loop that can be used to attach cordage to.