Starting a fire in the woods can be tough when you’re dealing with wind, rain, and other elements — but if NASA can start a fire in outer space, then you can get one going here on Earth with the help of the right tools. The best fire starters are made from durable materials that have waterproof, windproof designs. Not only that, but they’re user-friendly, whether you’re a rookie camper or a wilderness expert.
Types of fire starters
There are many different kinds of fire starters out there, but the list below includes five of the most popular: flint-and-steel strikers, ferro rods, magnesium blocks, weather-proof matches, and rechargeable lighters. Keep in mind that it’s generally prudent to stock your survival kit with multiple types of fire starters, along with a variety of tinder options. But each type of fire starter has pros and cons.
Flint-and-steel strikers are the most durable option, but they tend to be harder to strike than ferro rods and magnesiums blocks. Plus, your tinder must be charred first so you typically have to bring char cloth with you. Ferro rods create more sparks than flint-and-steel strikers, but they wear down quicker and they’re more prone to snapping and breaking. Magnesium blocks are handy because the magnesium acts as tinder, but they take longer to light since you have to make a pile of shavings first.
Weather-proof matches and rechargeable lighters are easier and faster to use than the previous striker options, but they typically won’t last as long in a survival scenarios. Although flint-and-steel strikers, ferro rods, and magnesium blocks will all eventually wear down or break over time, it probably won’t happen as quickly as running out of matches or losing your lighter charge.
With all that in mind, here’s a list of the best fire starters of each kind.
1. The best flint-and-steel striker
This type of fire starter is a rod of flint that you strike against the ground or other sharp surfaces to create sparks. Some come with spring-loaded mechanisms that strip down the coating on the rod, making it easier to spark.
The lowdown: Made with a thick, high-quality rod, this is one of the best flint fire starters available. It has a spring-loaded bar that scrapes off the coating (making it easier to light), and a durable design that lasts up to 4,000 strikes in a survival scenario. Best of all, the flint can be rotated 360 degrees so that it wears down more evenly.
One reviewer wrote: “After experimenting with it a short time, I was VERY impressed with both the amount of sparks/heat generated by the Blastmatch, and the ease with which it lit my fires. Yes, it does help to have a firm surface to press down on, but this is not essential [...] Well worth the small amount of money to get sparks and heat of this caliber.”
2. The best ferro rod
Comprised of two separate pieces, a ferro rod features a piece of ferrocerium attached to a steel tool. You strike the two parts together, shedding off bits of steel to help start your fire.
The lowdown: This Titan Fire Striker is one of the best ferro rods out there, whether you’re camping for the weekend or preparing for the apocalypse. Capable of creating sparks up to 5,400-degrees Fahrenheit, it lights fairly easily and can be used in both the rain and the wind. What’s more, the steel doubles as a multi-tool with a bottle opener, box cutter, bit driver, scraper, and hex wrench.
One reviewer wrote: “I have several different types of Ferro rods. They are a bit smaller in diameter than this one. I messed with this one today and am happy with the larger diameter rod, the striker, & spark that this combo throws. I am looking forward to training with it.”
3. The best magnesium block
Similar to other types of fire starters, magnesium blocks contain ferrocerium components but they’re usually glued to the side of the magnesium (which burns at high temperatures), or included in the kit as separate pieces. Use a serrated edge to create magnesium shavings, then mix it with tinder and use the ferrocerium to make a spark.
The lowdown: If you’re looking for an option that doesn’t require you to pack a lot of tinder, this magnesium fire starter makes a great addition to your survival bag. The block is large enough to start hundreds of fires, according to the manufacturer, and it can light damp materials. The only drawback is that some reviewers on Amazon noted that the starter bar is thin and wears down quickly.
One reviewer wrote: “Works great if you know how to use it properly. Even in a typically wet state devoid of most of the standard "fire starting" species/materials, with one of these and some petroleum jelly cotton balls, I'm confident that I can get a fire started in a pinch.”
4. The best weather-proof matches
These work like regular matches except that they’re usually waterproof and windproof. They also come in watertight cases and can often be relit after full submersion.
The lowdown: With matches that stay lit for up to 15 seconds, this UCO Stormproof kit is a fantastic all-weather fire starter. The fully waterproof and windproof matches, which boast more than 5,500 reviews on Amazon, can even be relit after full water submersion. This set comes with 25 matches, a resilient plastic case (that can hold up to 40 matches), and three sturdy strikers.
One reviewer wrote: “These are incredible matches!!!!! I saw the videos with them continuing to burn even after held under water and thought [there] had to be sort of faking that [...] Literally the only way to put this thing out is to let it burn past the epoxy like stuff or bury it under dirt. These things are truly ‘end of the world’ matches.”
5. The best rechargeable lighter
This type is similar to your standard everyday lighter but with the benefit of being waterproof and windproof. In addition to weather protection, this type of fire starter offers fuel-free lighting (so you don’t run out) and is often equipped with other survival features like pin lights or paracord.
The lowdown: For folks seeking a simpler, more user-friendly option, this rechargeable lighter is a high-quality choice. The survival fire starter, which comes with an integrated emergency light, is fully weatherproof and can last up to 45 uses on one charge. It has a paracord lanyard (which doubles as tinder) and you can use it at virtually any altitude.
One reviewer wrote: “What a great little lighter! I got this as a stocking stuffer for my husband and he loves it. It works with plasma and the fact that you can recharge it in a flash is a definite pro! We are still trying to figure out how the tinder lanyard works but it's overall one of his favorite Christmas gifts! Next year, I'm going to get one for my dad!”