Best Survival/Camping/Emergency Fire Starter Review

Creating fire is, without question, one of  the four most essential components to everyone’s overall survival plan. Unlike food, water and shelter, however, the creation of a fire  can assist with numerous tasks and necessities. It can warm you when you’re chilled. It can dry out your waterlogged supplies and  clothing. It can cook your freshly killed game  and can purify stagnant, pathogen-filled water for drinking. It can also give you a soothing and more relaxed peace of mind.  But your first mission, before anything  else, is to create a flame, and the less work it  takes to produce it can leave more time for other life-prolonging survival tasks at hand. Fire-starting devices are very diverse in function and accomplish their goal in a variety of ways. Your task is to not only find the one that works best for you but to be versed in a variety of devices to follow the old survival adage of having at least five ways to create fire when needed!

When it comes to the great outdoors, the bare necessities like food and shelter are essential. However, you can’t stay warm or enjoy piping hot food without a raging hot fire. Fire starters are a great way to jump-start a fire regard-less of weather conditions. There are quite a few products that can be used for starting fires, from flints to ferro rods to pre-treated cotton balls. Depending on the weather conditions, you’ll need a variety of fire starters, since you can’t always depend on a lighter, especially under adverse weather conditions like heavy wind or after a downpour. Whether you’re looking for a heavy-duty fire starter to start a campfire or to build a small fire, these products will help you turn up the heat.

Good Fire Starter

When it comes to choosing a fire starter, weather plays a very important factor. After a downpour, it’s essential to have a fire starter that’s dependable and can get the job done. The last thing you want is to be left in the cold with a fire starter that won’t work. Here are some good fire starters from which to choose.

  • Matches: Matches are the most basic fire starter. Everyone should have a box of matches for emergencies at home and at the campsite. They’re portable, but they don’t work the best after it rains.
  • Lighter: You should always bring at least two lighters with you and store them in different places. It’s important to have a backup, as your main lighter can easily be damaged or misplaced.
  • Flint: When matches and a lighter won’t work due to dampness outside, nothing beats your trusty flint. A flint is a great way to generate the spark you need to start a blazing fire.
  • Rubbing Sticks Together: If worse comes to worse and you don’t have any of the above around, you can start fires like the pioneers by two rubbing sticks together. Although it’s not the easiest way to start a fire, it works well if the wood is dry and free from moisture.

Bear Grylls Compact Fire Starter

Gerber Bear Grylls Compact Firestarter

Via Amazon.com

Key Features:
Compact rod and striker; integrated emergency whistle; waterproof tinder storage

Description:
Compact yet loaded with survival goodies, the Bear Grylls Compact Fire Starter is a welcomed necessity whenever a warm or comforting fire is needed. This amazing unit houses two simple-to-use components, the Ferrocerium rod and metal striker, to produce fire easily even in the most extreme conditions.
The Fire Starter stays tightly secured to your hand or supply pack by its included lanyard cord, complete with built-in emergency signaling whistle. A waterproof storage compartment in the unit keeps your tinder dry and immediately available for use. With time being a precious commodity in a survival situation, dry tinder is a lifesaver. The kit comes complete with starter, rod, lanyard and Bear Grylls pocket survival guide with survival tips and S.O.S. instructions.

Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel 2.0 Army 12,000 Strike Fire Starter

Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel 2.0 Army 12,000 Strike Fire Starter

via Amazon.com

Key features:
Highly durable, produces a 5,400°F spark, works well when wet

Description:
Are you looking for a high-quality fire starter? Look no further than the Swedish FireSteel 2.0 from Light My Fire. This product is used by armies around the world to start fires in almost any weather conditions. It’s highly dependable and a must-have in your emergency kit. With the ability to withstand up to 12,000 strikes, this lightweight, powerful starter is guaranteed to last a long time.

Magnesium Fire Starter

All-Weather Emergency 2-IN-1 Fire Starter & Magnesium Fuel Bar

Via Amazon.com

Key features:
Easily start fires, affordable, lightweight

Description:
If you’re in the market for a compact and light-weight fire starter but don’t want to spend a fortune, look no further than the Magnesium Fire Starter. This fire starter uses the power of magnesium to spark a fire. Whether you’re stranded or you forget your matches, this is a great way to start a fire in emergencies. It’s perfect to store in emergency kits, your car’s glove compartment or even in your coat pocket.

Ultimate Survival Technologies: BlastMatch Fire Starter

UST BlastMatch Fire Starter

Via Amazon.com

Key features:
Weather resistant; simple, one-handed operation; spring-loaded flint bar
Description:
No matter what the terrain, the BlastMatch Fire Starter is up to the task. Whether you find yourself in the sub-zero temperatures of theartic or in the heat of the Sahara Desert, this revolutionary flint starter will start a fire with- out a hitch. If it’s good enough for the Air Force, it’s good enough for civilians: This highly durable product was designed for use by pilots at risk of being shot down in hostile
territory.

Fire Starter - Magnesium Fire Starter Survival Kit [Flint Striker Bar] Ferro Rod (Ferrocerium) With Metal Knife Rod

UST BlastMatch Fire Starter

via Amazon.com

Key features:
Durable, easy to use, weather-proof
Description:
Start fires in the outdoors just like the pioneers with Flint Striker. A flint striker is an essential outdoor tool—if your matches ever get wet or you misplace your lighter, you’ll be glad you have one handy. Best of all, flint strikers can start a fire in an instant in any weather condi- tions. With only a few strikes against a piece of flint, you’ll have a fire started in no time. This ferro-cerrium tool is highly durable and lasts for thousands of strikes. It includes a handle, striker, and fire-starter rod and cord.

Esee Advanced Modular Fire Kit

Esee Advanced Modular Fire Kit

Via Amazon.com

Key features:
Waterproof capsule, portable, compact
Description:
The Advanced Fire Kit from ESEE is a last-ditch fire starter and mini-survival kit designed for the outdoors enthusiast. It contains everything you’ll need to navigate the out-doors: a 20mm Grade-A button compass, IR Glint Tape, Visible Light Reflective Tape and survival tips printed on the body. The waterproof capsule is perfect for storing your fire-starting tinder, fishhooks, line and other vital survival tools. It’s compact and portable, perfect for clipping to your belt or vest

Light My Fire Tinder on a Rope Fatwood Natural Fire Starting Material

Light My Fire Tinder on a Rope Fatwood Natural Fire Starting Material (Approximately 6 x 1 x 1-Inch)

Via Amazon.com

Key features:
Starts fires easily, environmentally friendly
Description:
Don’t harm the environment if you don’t have to. Tinder-on-a-Rope is an environmentally friendly way to start a fire, free from noxious fumes and harmful chemicals. TinderSticks are made of Pino de Ocote and coated with an 80-percent resin-content material. All you need to do is scrape and carve a small piece of tinder to start a fire and save the rest for later.

Stansport 207-77 Piezo Lighter

Stansport 207-77 Piezo Lighter

Via Amazon.com

Key features:
Durable, no butane required, multi-purpose

Description:
Why struggle with a flint striker when you don’t have to? Simply point and click and you’ll have a raging hot fire in no time! Not only is this five-pack lighter from Stansport easy to use, it’s low maintenance and requires no butane fuel; it works via electronic spark ignition. Are you concerned about adverse weather conditions? Don’t be. This highly durable lighter can withstand high winds and cold temperatures.

Solo Scientific Tinder HOT Box Solar Fire Starter

Key Features:
Easy operation; dry tinder storage; integrated signal mirror

Description:
When the sun is shining, fire is only moments away with the revolutionary Tinder HOT Box Solar Fire Starter. This amazing device utilizes the sun’s unlimited energy to heat tinder positioned at the unit’s singular impact point. No moving parts, no flint, no batteries and no gases or fuels of any kind are necessary.
Tinder can be stored and protected from the elements in the air- and water-tight portion of the device and the tinder support unit can be easily stowed in the top housing when not in use. The top portion of the Tinder HOT Box can be used for a signal mirror if and when you need it. This unit is compact enough to fit into your pocket with ease and can be ready to use in mere seconds. Weighing only 4 ounces and barely 1 by 3 inches in size, the Tinder HOT Box takes up virtually no space in your bug-out bag, yet it could become one of your most valuable supplies!

UCO Stormproof Match Kit with Waterproof Case

UCO Stormproof Match Kit with Waterproof Case

Via Amazon.com

Key Features:
See-through cylinder; hand operation; uses organic plant material
Description:
The FireLight II boldly illustrates the explosion of heat created from this amazing fire-starting tool. Its transparent piston flashes brightly as air molecules are quickly compressed and heated to ignite your awaiting tinder. No other supplies are needed to create a fire during harsh times when materials may become scarce or unavailable. Use any organic plant material you may find along your path as tinder. The unique pressure-release mechanism eliminates trapped air with a simple twist of the tool. The unit contains fire steel within the piston shaft as an added fire-creating tool. Available in clear, amber or firefly green color. Made in the U.S.

It is one of the most important skills in survival. The ability to start a fire, regardless of the climate, can make the difference between life and death, as it can keep you from getting hypothermia and ensuring that your water is potable and your food edible. Fire itself is considered a keystone for mankind’s existence. Keeping in mind that our ancestors with less knowledge of science and significantly smaller brain capacity than we have were able to master this skill, we should not be daunted when trying to learn how to get a blaze going anywhere, any time.

First Steps

Your first step is to know the most effective way to lay out your fire-making materials and understand the two simplest ways you can light it. In my area, things like the inside of cedar bark, birch bark, cattail down and tinder fungus are popular. However, you can also use man-made tinders such as char cloth, paper and chemical-based items, and still get an excellent result.
I have seen many fires fail even after a flame is started due to one main reason: the lack of preparation. Before you even think about trying to start a fire, you should have all the fuel you need. The three main fuel classes are tinder, kindling and then plain fuel.
Tinder is anything that is dry, ranging in size from fine fibers smaller than a human hair, all the way up to the size of a pencil. The key to success with any of these items is that they should be very dry. Small, dry fibers will easily catch aflame or will be able to be blown into a flame from introducing an ember. As the flame flourishes, the slightly larger item will begin to ignite and serve as a source to ignite the kindling.
Kindling is any size of fuel, from the size of a pencil to the size of your thumb. Kindling must be as dry as possible because the fire  started with the tinder will not have enough strength to actually dry out wet or very damp wood.
The next stage of fuel ranges from just above thumb thickness to large logs or even bigger items. If you gather all of these sources together and have them at the ready before you start, you have a much greater chance of fire-making success.

Light your fire

Once you’ve got your materials gathered, it’s time to discuss starting a fire with a match. Confused? Well, l can tell you that if you have ever learned to start a fire by friction, you will never again forget your matches. Even so, I have seen a number of people armed with matches or even a lighter and still fail to get a sustainable fire going. Therefore, it’s important to know some of the little tricks to help you start a fire, no matter what the source of combustion is.
You’ll first divide your aforementioned fuel sources into their perspective fuel piles, and then you’ll start working on organization. The method of laying a fire that guarantees a fire every time is an “A” frame structure. I start by building an “A” frame from materials about the size of large kindling. After I get that structure in place, I begin to build the walls of the structure by leaning kindling-sized fuel along the outside of the frame. It is important to note that you should not position the opening of the “A” frame straight into the wind. Lining the outside with kindling not only serves to  feed the fire when it starts this structure will also act as a basic wind block, allowing enough air in to feed the fire, yet not enough to blow it out.
After I have created the basic structure, I then place large fuel (about the width of my wrist) around it, just touching the base to re-enforce it and serve as fuel as the fire grows. Finally, I stock the inside with tinder. The finest fibers should be on the bottom and the increasingly larger pieces should be carefully placed on top of the tinder bundle. Be careful not to place too much on top of the finer tinder or you will compress it and not allow air to feed the fire. On the outside nearby, I keep even more tinder to feed the fire as it grows. Your frame is built and your materials are in place now it’s time to introduce a source of ignition. In our first example, you’ll use a match. Once your match is lit and glowing, you’ll gently introduce the flame to the tinder bundle, which should generate ignition and growth.
As a second example, you might consider using a ferro rod as your ignition. If this is your preferred option, you want to be sure to gather extra dry, fine fiber material. Start off by building your “A” frame as with the match. However, in order to use the ferro rod, you’ll have to strike it so the sparks go directly into the tinder bundle in the “A” frame.
A common mistake in this situation is to scrape the rod with the striker by moving the striker. Sometimes when you’re moving the striker, your hand will go flying, hitting your fuel and potentially damaging your hard-earned “A” frame. A more efficient method is to brace the hand with the striker on the ground and then draw back the ferro rod quickly, allowing you to focus the sparks toward the tinder without disturbing the bundle. As the spark catches, gently blow on it until the spark flares into a flame.
No matter which ignition you use, once you have a flame you should start feeding more tinder as previously mentioned.

Practice First

Properly preparing your fire is half the work. To practice fire-starting, your best bet is to take the occasional walk in the woods and practice gathering the material it takes to prepare for a fire. Before you find yourself in a survival situation, practice creating a fire as
often as possible. This way, you’ll know what serves best as tinder in your own geographic region.

Editors Note: A version of this article first appeared in the 2013 print issue of American Survival Guide.