Perhaps no activity in the history of mankind is as primal or as manly as the art and science of building a fire. And yet, it’s difficult to find a good organization to get your child equipped and trained in the art of building fires.
Traditionally, it’s been left to organizations like the Boy Scouts to train up men in such activities. But with the Boy Scouts on the decline, perhaps you’re among the many modern men who have been left out in the cold.
Well, you’re in luck with these fire starters, that makes it easy when even the most experienced fire-builders among us can’t find the tools we need in nature.
- 1 Comparison Table
- 2 FIRST STARTERS FAQ
- 2.1 1. WHAT IS A FIRE STARTER?
- 2.2 2. WHAT DOES A FIRE STARTER DO?
- 2.3 3. HOW DO FIRE STARTERS WORK?
- 2.4 4. WHERE CAN YOU BUY FIRE STARTERS?
- 2.5 How We Reviewed
- 2.6 Overall Price Range of Best Fire Starters
- 2.7 ULTIMATE SURVIVAL TECHNOLOGIES SPARKIE & WETFIRE
- 2.8 LIGHT MY FIRE SWEDISH FIREKNIFE & TINDER-ON-A-ROPE
- 2.9 GERBER BEAR GRYLLS COMPACT FIRE STARTER
- 2.10 EXOTAC NANOSTRIKER XL
- 2.11 ZIPPO EMERGENCY FIRE STARTER KIT
- 2.12 The Verdict
FIRST STARTERS FAQ
Don’t feel bad if you can’t start a fire in the woods as handily as Adam and Eve did after being banished from the Garden! We’ve got you covered with the very best fire-starting technology available on the market today.
1. WHAT IS A FIRE STARTER?
We’ve all been there, you know, that situation where you’re stuck on a camping trip and – nothing. You just can’t get it to start. Perhaps you’re not even big on camping, but you want to get your home fireplace going and you just can’t, because, try as you might, the logs just won’t catch fire, and the match is about to burn your fingers. And who likes to go through match after match, only to find that they just can’t get that fire started?
Enter the fire starter. When all your matches are water-logged by an unexpected rain or fall into the stream, you’ve got serious, capable, all-weather backup so you can do what you always do – take care of your loved ones, keeping them safe and warm in the worst of conditions.
Some fire starters are individual pieces of equipment. Others are more complex units consisting of both the sparking material and the flame, such as the famous Zippo-brand units which not only spark the fire but provide a prolonged flame.
What all the very best fire starters have in common is that they’ve got what it takes to provide whatever you need to catalyze the big, long, sexy blaze you’re going to need come rain, hail, sleet, or snow.
2. WHAT DOES A FIRE STARTER DO?
Even if you’re not an expert camper, at some point in your life, chances are, you’ve tried to start a fire before. And so you understand that while the pros make it look quite easy, it looks easy because they know all the common pitfalls to avoid. Lots of times, in nature, when you’re dealing with real, recently stripped bark or wood, it’s not going to possess the ideal combustion properties you need for a prolonged blaze straight of nature.
The reality is that most wood you get straight out of nature has got moisture in it, and that moisture can mean the difference between being able to get your fire off and roaring or being stuck with a pile of damp wood. Ideally, you want to catalyze a bigger flame by using your fire starter in conjunction with the materials that you find in your surroundings. Any dude with a match and a piece of combustible fire-starting wood can make a small blaze.
What takes talent and skill, and what will pay off in dividends – maybe even helping you save your life – is being able to use the fire starter that you’ve been lugging around to its maximum potential by using it in conjunction with other materials.
In other words, fire starters have the most life-saving potential when they’re used as catalysts, not merely burning by themselves. Because when you’re in a survival situation, you only have as much fire starter materials as you can carry, so you’ve got to be very economical in the way that you burn it, and not use it all in one place or situation. It may have to last throughout your entire camping trip, so use it economically.
3. HOW DO FIRE STARTERS WORK?
Fire starters aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Among the top fire starters we reviewed, we found that some will include a variety of features, including tinder in the package, while some more economical solutions can be as simple as a keychain-sized fire-starting bar on a lanyard. One of the larger packages we reviewed even includes a multi-purpose knife, among which fire-starting is one of the tasks it handles.
The ultimate decision about which of our premier fire starters is best is really up to you, however, we do have our own ideas about which are more effective, both survival-wise and cost-wise. We’ll get into all of that shortly.
4. WHERE CAN YOU BUY FIRE STARTERS?
You can buy fire starters from a variety of retailers, both of the more traditional-style department store persuasions as well as your do-it-yourself big box stores and the smaller local hardware store. Our editors have a clear preference for Amazon, and so we’ll be sharing links to Amazon here, however, we encourage you to shop around and see which prices work the very best for you.
How We Reviewed
We reviewed based on a variety of characteristics and price qualities such as portability, ease of use for both the survival professional and the novice, and we even looked at the qualifications of one of the designers of the featured fire starters. However, at the end of the day, we were really concerned about the maximum cost-effectiveness and reliability, because when your survival depends upon your fire starter or fire starters working, you never want to be left out in the cold.
Overall Price Range of Best Fire Starters
The price range of the best fire starters available is actually well within the reach of the average camper, with the most expensive of our selections capping out at just under $30. If that’s too much for you, you can snag one for under $10, although there are detriments to the lower end of the price spectrum of fire starters. But we’ll get there.
What We Reviewed
ULTIMATE SURVIVAL TECHNOLOGIES SPARKIE & WETFIRE
If you’re sure you’re going to be in a situation with some workable tinder, look no farther than this highly economical go-to solution. It’s elegantly simple and portable, so it won’t weigh you down, but with the right tinder, you’re off and running. All you really need is a dry tissue to get this fire started and blazing effectively with this mini fire starter, which places an emphasis on small size.
- Simple, one-hand use
- Depends on weather conditions
LIGHT MY FIRE SWEDISH FIREKNIFE & TINDER-ON-A-ROPE
Following a long history and tradition of capable, rugged, durable, dependable survival tools, the Light My Fire Swedish FireKnife & Tinder-on-a-Rope combines the inventiveness and compactness of a Swiss Army Knife with the functionality of a full-blown, all-situations fire starter. It’s among the more pricey offerings among the firestarters listed here, however, this Swiss solution doesn’t fail to amaze. Its capable stainless steel blade will serve you in many more ways than simply being a great fire starter, but we trust in all things it will be sure to light your fire!
- Works when wet
- Bigger than our more portable units
GERBER BEAR GRYLLS COMPACT FIRE STARTER
A must in any survival scenario, the simplistic yet capable design makes for a fire starter unique in its ease of starting a fire, as well as being easy to find in a pinch! The rod is constructed of solid, fast-oxydizing ferrocerium. It’s also got a handy lanyard, keeping all 3.4 inches of this fire-starting marvel easily accessible at all times. Not only that, it’s surprisingly easy to tote around at just .8 ounces. You can easily and quickly connect it to your keychain, or even a zipper. Not surprisingly, it was designed by an ex-British Special forces officer who knows a thing or two about what’s necessary to survive in the wild, particularly when every second matters.
- Designed by intelligence professional
- More expensive than cheapest option
EXOTAC NANOSTRIKER XL
The tried-and-true ferrocerium material here is key, and while this durable, reliable piece of survival hardware isn’t flashy, you can count on it to get the job done every single time. It rapidly expands in size when you need it, and tucks away compactly when you don’t. When you wear out the ferrocerium, which you certainly will even though it lasts an astounding 3
,000 strikes, you can replace the rod, but you will never tire of using this amazingly affordable, yet rugged, strong, powerful fire starter increasingly trusted by campers all over the globe. And best of all, it’s made in the best country in the globe, putting good Americans to work.
- Works when wet
- In the higher range of prices
- Striker is on the smaller side
- Easier for experienced users
ZIPPO EMERGENCY FIRE STARTER KIT
Zippo isn’t just a snappy brand name that has won over the imaginations and hearts of millions of not only Americans, but fire aficionados worldwide. Just one aspect of Zippo’s superior charm and design lies in its super-compact, yet ridiculously effective air-tight, hermetic seal facilitated by maximum closure of the lid, and manifested by the water-resistant O-ring seal.
That’s why the Zippo Emergency Fire Starter Kit isn’t just flashy, although you’re more than welcome to show-off your superior fire-throwing antics in a YouTube video, as hundreds of happy Zippo owners have done. This fire starter of fire starters will have your camping buddies wondering how you did it so fast, and with such style, with the elegance, power, and even theatrics that the Zippo brand has become synonymous for, ironically among both smokers and survivalists alike.
Don’t be fooled by the familiarly styled Zippo lighter’s simplicity and reliably predictable delivery of a solid, powerful flame. It’s much more than a famously sporty Zippo lighter, though it’s all that with an orange finish that will never leave you struggling to find your Zippo in the wild. This Zippo over delivers on what you’d expect by including, within its hermetically sealed body, the ideal tinder to help you and your buds – or your wife – get a real fire started out in the wild.
- On the pricier side
- Known more for lighters
While naturally all of the best fire starters on our list are durable and known for their quality, we really like a couple of them.
The Gerber Bear Grylls Compact Fire Starter was designed by an ex-special forces agent, and so we trust him to be able to deliver a fire-starting experience that we can depend upon, since his career and reputation is staked upon so many relying upon him. We also can’t overlook the famous Zippo brand name, even though we know it mostly from its consumer lighter applications. Who’s ever seen someone do a trick with their snazzy Zippo lighter?
At the end of the day, even though both the Zippo and the Gerber Bear Grylls Compact Fire Starter may be at the pricier end of the range we’re considering, they’re well within the reach of anyone considering camping gear to keep them alive and kicking in the most uncertain of survival situations.
We give both the Zippo Emergency Fire Starter and the Gerber Bear Grylls Compact Fire Starter a five out of five, especially for the Zippo’s airtight design for when you need that dry tinder to stay dry. That said, always have a backup plan and consult your camping expert before heading out to the wild!
My articles appear in Marketing Edge Magazine, on Gizmogrind, and with various Medium publications. But one thing hasn’t changed in all of my life: no matter where I was or what I was doing. I’ve always loved to be outdoors.
A man needs nothing more than a good flannel shirt, a well-worn pair of jeans, and comfortable hiking boots. I don’t go for all the fancy luxury stuff. Suits are uncomfortable and shaving sucks.