The best fire starters you can buy

The best fire starters you can buy

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  • The ability to make fire is the oldest and most important technological innovation ever conceived by humankind.
  • The modern human gets an edge over our ancient forebears with great fire starters.
  • The Überleben Zünden Bushcraft Ferro Rod Fire Starter is the best one you can buy because it is designed to provide more than 12,000 spark-making strikes for reliable fire making every time.

With a warm, crackling fire, you can cook up a meal, boil and purify water, ward off the cold of winter, and light up the darkness, bringing comfort to the nighttime forest. Fire allowed the earliest humans to extract more nutrition from their foods through cooking and it helped them frighten off predatory animals against which an unarmed homo sapien was no match. Fire cleared land for agriculture and lit up the darkest recesses of caves where ancient artists created the world's first painted masterpieces.


Today, you probably don't do much cave painting, and you're probably not going to be eaten by a saber-toothed tiger. But if you're out there in the wilderness on a camping trip or if you ever find yourself in a survival situation, the ability to make fire can be every bit as important for a 21st Century human as it was for people living tens of thousands of years ago.

The best fire starter is a lighter, followed closely by a match. These tools make the process of igniting a fire almost effortless, provided you have selected the proper tinder and fuel setup. If you're headed out for a camping trip or assembling a disaster preparedness kit, always put a lighter and some emergency matches in there with the rest of the gear. But as lighters eventually run out of fuel or break, and as you can only carry a finite number of matches, it's a good idea to also bring along a fire starter.

In a perfect world, your lighter or matches will always be at hand and you will never have to use your fire starter. In the real world, however, assume Murphy's Law will apply during your next multi-day hiking trip or when you find yourself stranded in the forest following some sort of dramatic, cinematic situation where the stakes are high, the dangers real, and there's nothing you can count on except your own wits.


In other words, if you want to stay safe out there in the wilderness, just be sure to bring a fire starter.

Here are the best fire starters you can buy in 2019:

Updated on 04/24/2019 by Malarie Gokey: Updated prices and formatting.

Read on in the slides below to see which of our picks is the one for you.

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The best fire starter overall

The best fire starter overall
Why you'll love it: The Überleben Zünden Bushcraft Ferro Rod Fire Starter couldn't be much simpler to use, and it provides more than 12,000 strikes.

Ferrocerium is a metal alloy comprised primarily of iron and cerium. When struck in the right manner, it produces copious showers of sparks that can exceed 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit in temperature. In case you were wondering, that's more than enough heat to ignite a fire.

The Überleben Zünden Bushcraft Ferro Rod Fire Starter is nothing more than a thick rod of ferrocerium with a thick wooden grip attached to one end that comes accompanied by a striking tool. It's nothing more than that, because there's nothing more needed, provided you have gathered suitable tinder and laid a decent fire.

I've used many different ferro rods over the years, and frankly, there's little to distinguish most of them. The Überleben Zünden Bushcraft rod is notable for two reasons, though. First, the wooden handle provides a good, solid grip and it looks better than the plastic grips on most options. Second, the included striking tool doubles as a miniature multitool. The tool has two different scraping surfaces for sending sparks showering off the ferrocerium rod as well as a bottle opener, a built-in hex wrench, and a little ruler.

Using a ferro rod like this couldn't be much easier: You rake the striking tool along the side of the rod and create showers of sparks. The trick with these sorts of fire starters is to master creating a proper tinder bundle to receive the sparks and having carefully selected wood (or other fuel, like pinecones or peat) at the ready.

Once you have scraped away the protective coating that comes on a new Überleben Zünden Bushcraft Ferro Rod, you'll be making sparks like a pro in no time. Spend lots of time practicing tinder and fire preparation, though.

People love the Überleben Zünden Bushcraft Ferro Rod Fire Starter, with this can-do tool enjoying a 4.8-star rating on Amazon. One owner shared my sentiments, saying the "wood handle provides an excellent grip," while another satisfied fire maker named Kimberly said it was "small enough to carry ... with no problems and durable enough to be confident that it will be protected in my pocket."

Professional outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen are also fans across the board. A writer with Geek Prepper praised it as a "premium fire starter" and lauded its plentiful sparks. In a video review from CT Bushcraft, the reviewer used the tool on camera and called it "an absolutely amazing product."

Pros: Lasts for thousands of uses, durable construction, easy to use

Cons: Requires decent knowledge of tinder preparation

Buy the Überleben Zünden Bushcraft Ferro Rod Fire Starter on Amazon for $16.00 to $33.91

The best fire starter for ease of use

The best fire starter for ease of use
Why you'll love it: If you can use a classic Zippo lighter, you can use this Zippo EFK Emergency Fire Kit.

There is a lot to love about the Zippo EFK Emergency Fire Kit. First off, it creates a shower of hot sparks using the exact same flint wheel ignition system as Zippo's generations-old lighters. With a quick flick of the thumb, you will rain sparks down onto your selected tinder.

The next thing you'll appreciate about this kit is that it comes with a pretty ideal choice of tinder in the form of five paraffin wax-coated cotton rolls, each of which will burn for about five minutes once ignited, offering plentiful time to catch larger pieces of fuel, AKA wood.

The spark wheel and the paraffin discs tuck away into a plastic tube that is not only watertight, but that floats, so if you drop the Zippo fire starter in a stream or over the side of a canoe, no harm done. There is a spot for attaching a lanyard that will help prevent you from dropping the kit.

The main drawback with this fire starter is that the flint peg used to create the sparks will wear down and stop being effective much more quickly than you would experience with a ferro rod. Using the Zippo Fire Starter is easier than using a rod, but just make sure to bring along spare flints.

The Zippo Emergency Fire Kit has a solid four out of five stars on Amazon, with most buyers agreeing with the words of an owner named Jon who called it "simple and waterproof and self-contained," though many people did point out the frustrating need to replace the flint often with heavy use.

In a review with trusted outlet Gear Junkie, a tester praised the Zippo Fire Starter's ease of use and reliability, both of which are hallmarks not just of this product but of every product the company makes.

Pros: Easy to operate, comes with reliable tinder, waterproof case

Cons: Flint wears out quickly, on the bulkier side

Buy the Zippo EFK Emergency Fire Kit on Amazon for $9.81 (originally $11.95)

The best fire starter on a budget

The best fire starter on a budget
Why you'll love it: The SE FS374 All-Weather Emergency Fire Starter & Magnesium Fuel Bar costs less than six bucks, but it can help you make fire even in the worst of conditions.

One of the biggest challenges you run into when you are trying to make a fire out in the wilderness is finding a tinder combustible enough to take a spark and create flames. But guess what readily ignites when it meets sparks and then burns super hot? Magnesium, that's what. And that big rectangular bar attached to the little ferrocerium rod you see there? Yep, that's magnesium.

Using the SE FS374 fire starter is simple stuff: You just use the included striker tool or the blade of a knife to produce sparks using the ferro rod. When those sparks fall down onto a bed of shavings you created using the magnesium block, a hot little fire is basically guaranteed, even in damp conditions.

One obvious drawback to this unit is the fact that eventually the magnesium will be worn down so much as to no longer offer a block you can grip. Of course, the rather small ferro rod will probably wear out first. But there's a great solution here: Just buy another one, these things cost six bucks.

Thousands and thousands of people have bought an SE FS374 All-Weather Emergency Fire Starter & Magnesium Fuel Bar, myself included. The fire starter has a four-star rating on Amazon right now, though the words from one five-star review speak for most owners. A reviewer named Deb called the SE FD374 an "excellent addition to any camping/survival" gear.

A writer with praised the SE FS374's ability to "light a fire in any weather," while a video review from LiveLongGear demonstrated the remarkable ease of use, carving and then igniting magnesium shavings on camera.

Pros: Very low cost, comes with ideal fuel source, compact

Cons: Small ferro rod, inferior included striker

Buy the SE FS374 All-Weather Emergency Fire Starter & Magnesium Fuel Bar on Amazon for $5.15

The best fire starter for foul weather

The best fire starter for foul weather
Why you'll love it: With its directional shower of sparks concentrating heat and its one-handed operation, the UST Blastmatch Fire Starter is a great choice for use when the wind is howling, the rain is falling, and a fire is very much a necessity.

When you only need one hand to operate your fire starter, the other hand can be holding up an umbrella or keeping a tarp or poncho covering your tinder. Or it can be used to cup around your pile of wood shavings and cotton fibers as the wind whistles through your campsite. One-handed operation of a fire starter is more than a convenience — It can be a game changer in terms of speed of success.

The UST Blastmatch Fire Starter uses a steel post that is pressed against a flint rod, and is operated with the motion of one hand. Its use sends a shower of hot sparks blasting out of the device's tip. This design allows you to aim the sparks just where you want them and to hold the fire starter steady during use. Many rod-style fire starters that require a striker (or knife) held in the other hand use a jerky, less precise action that makes it harder to concentrate the sparks.

Because you can use your free hand to shield your tinder and because this fire starter allows for such steady, precise direction of sparks, it's a great choice for use in inclement conditions. Just note that it's rated for less than a third the number of strikes as other options, like our top pick.

With hundreds of reviews and ratings in, the UST Blastmatch as four out of five stars at present. A user named Michael simply said "this tool really works," while an owner named Buck expanded on that slightly, adding it "works every time."

A round-up review from Savant Magazine noted how well the UST Blastmatch works even after "exposure to water," while in a video review from The Survival Resource, the gear tester called the Blastmatch a great backup device but also suitable a "main fire starter."

Pros: One-handed operation, works well in bad weather, directional spark production

Cons: Shorter operating life than other options, mastery takes practice

Buy the UST Blastmatch Fire Starter on Amazon for $12.02 (originally $19.99)

The best solar fire starter

The best solar fire starter
Why you'll love it: When the sun is shining, the Cz Garden Supply Fresnel Lens Fire Starter can ignite tinder in mere seconds, and unlike a lighter, matchbook, or even a ferrocerium rod, you'll never run out of the heat source.

Let's get the one glaring negative out of the way here: The Cz Garden Supply Fresnel Lens Fire Starter is absolutely useless after sunset, before sunrise, or when it's heavily cloudy or raining. Without sunshine, there will be no use of a solar fire starter, that's just the hard, cold truth. Even when the weather isn't playing nice, you can still use the lens to magnify the page of a book or to create a jury-rigged projection TV, though! (You'll need some other hardware for the latter, of course.)

When the sun is shining brightly, this seven- by 10.3-inch lens can ignite a fire in a matter of seconds once you have it held at the right angle over your tinder. It's immensely more effective than that little plastic magnifying glass you used to burn holes in paper when you were a kid, though the exact same principle applies. Mastering the use of the Cz Garden Supply fire starter lens is relatively easy, though selecting the right tinder to combust under the hotspot it creates may take a bit of work.

An owner named Brian called his Cz Garden Supply Fresnel Lens Fire Starter a "great emergency fire starter" that didn't add much weight to his pack. A user named Ted claimed to be able to start a fire in just two seconds "on a bright sunny day."

A writer with Graywolf Survival praised Fresnel lens fire starters as "really light" and noted that they "take up almost no space in your backpack." The light weight of these lenses is regularly noted, as is the abundance of the fuel source, AKA the sun itself.

Pros: Never runs out of fuel source, easy to use, lightweight

Cons: Useless without sunshine

Buy the Cz Garden Supply Fresnel Lens Fire Starter on Amazon for $5.55 (originally $8.99)

Check out our guide to the best camping gear you can buy

Check out our guide to the best camping gear you can buy
The best camping gear you can buy

Campfires, wildlife, and fresh air. Heat stroke, mosquito bites, and no A/C. However you enjoy your time outdoors, this is the best camping gear for all of you. From the most intrepid of adventurers to the feeblest city slicker, we'll make sure you're comfortably sorted out for your next camping trip.

Whether you're searching for a tent and sleeping bag, a camping stove and mess kit, or a first aid kit and sunscreen, we have the camping gear you need.

Check out all our buying guides to the best products on Insider Picks.