Best Fire Starter Ignitors In 2020: Complete Buyer’s Guide

strike a fire

Camping out, especially in inclement weather can be really tough, particularly if you don’t have a way to make a fire in such wet conditions. Using the best fire starter will ensure you enjoy a campfire with the family after a nice day of hiking through the backcountry. These devices should also always be kept on hand in the event of an emergency. It’s common to have one or two fire starters in a bug out bag, since you may need to start a fire if you’re left without power or you’re on the go during a natural disaster. If you’re not sure what your options are in terms of the different types of available, or you don’t know how to choose a model that’s durable and easy to use, then this buyer’s guide will teach you everything you need to know about fire starters and how to choose a model that’s designed to last. I’ve also tested out several of the leading models, choosing four must-have models that the survivalist and avid camper will love. Below you’ll find a comparison chart that includes each of the models that made it onto my must have list, their best features, and their rating.

Fire Starter Comparison Chart

ProductTypeWeatherproofExtrasRating
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Fire Starter

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Flint and SteelYesHex wrench,
map scale,
scraper, ruler
Survival Spark Magnesium
Survival Fire Starter

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Flint and SteelYesCompass, whistle
Phone Skope PYRO
Putty ARC Lighter Kit

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LighterYesPutty
SURVIVE Permanent Match

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MatchesNoWicks

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Our Rating: (5/5)

This flint and steel fire starter set comes equipped with a hardwood handle that has an ergonomic design. The grip is left natural intentionally, so the buyer can use a seasoning of their choosing. This model also uses top quality ferrocerium that features the perfect balance between durability and softness, which results in a set that’s reliable and offers consistent results. Even a beginner can easily create a fire in just a couple of minutes. This model is highly portable and is designed for neck carry thanks to the mil-spec lanyard that’s built tough and made out of paracord.

Pros

  • Durable
  • High spark capacity
  • Hardwood ergonomic handle
  • Beginner friendly

Cons

  • Handle is not seasoned

Conclusion

This highly portable, weatherproof flint and steel set offers a high spark capacity, a durable design and features a concave tinder scraper, a straight-edge spine, and a map scale, hex wrench, and ruler. Versatile, easy to use, and designed to last, this is one fire starter you can rely on season after season.

Survival Spark Survival Fire Starter


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This flint set is weather resistant and features a high strike capacity of fifteen thousand times, allowing you to easily and quickly make a fire. This is a versatile tool that includes a large scraper, lanyard, whistle, compass, and fire starter stick. The lanyard allows you to wear the fire starter around your neck, so you’ll never lose it, while keeping it highly accessible. The rod measures in at five and a half inches, so this compact design makes this set convenient to carry, allowing you to wear it around your neck or store it in your backpack or another type of bug out bag.

Pros

  • Includes whistle and compass
  • Lanyard makes this set highly portable
  • Weatherproof
  • Extra-long scraper

Cons

  • Will take practice to use correctly

Conclusion

The included extra-long scraper is designed to improve ease of use, although beginners may quickly find that they need to practice with this type of tool before their hiking adventure, since there is a bit of a learning curve. The rod features both a serrated and flat edge that allows you to shave off the magnesium, easily and quickly. The addition of the integrated whistle and compass make this a must-have survival tool for the camper, hiker, or survivalist. Handy, durable, and designed to withstand the elements, this is one tool you need to keep on hand during your next backcountry adventure.

Phone Skope PYRO Putty ARC Lighter Kit


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

If you don’t have any past experience camping, or you’ve just taken an interest in learning survivalist skills, then using a traditional fire starter may be challenging, especially when you add rain and wind to the mix. Fortunately, lighters such as this model by Phone Skope can make starting a fire a cinch. This model is weatherproof and designed to burn even in high altitudes and during windy and rainy conditions. The included putty is totally waterproof, sticky, and pliable, allowing you to easily attach it to firewood.

Pros

  • Includes putty
  • Weatherproof
  • Easy to use
  • Lighter is rechargeable

Cons

  • Price

Conclusion

The arc lighter comes with a rechargeable battery, complete with an LED battery level indicator, so you’ll always know how much juice is left, so you can charge your lighter before you head out. The putty and lighter both work in any type of weather, making this kit the perfect addition to any hiking gear or survival kit.

SURVIVE Permanent Match


Our Rating: (4/5)

This permanent match set is highly portable and comes with a keyring so you can easily attach it to your pack or other camping and hiking gear, so you’ll never lose it. The durable design consists of a thick ABS plastic and stainless-steel construction. The fluid canister is refillable and reusable. With each tube, you’ll get a minimum of fifteen thousand strikes before a refill is needed. The match runs on lighter fluid, which is sold separately.

Pros

  • Set of five
  • Fifteen thousand strikes per fill
  • Extra wicks included
  • Durable

Cons

  • Lighter fluid not included
  • Wicks burn quickly when the tank is low on fuel
  • Cannot handle wet weather

Conclusion

These permanent matches are highly portable, easy to use and designed to handle windy conditions. The matches come with extra wicks, which are simple to replace, however, the wicks themselves can easily burn out if the fuel in the fuel reservoir is running low. Additionally, while the manufacturer claims that this fire starter is weatherproof, the match will not ignite when wet. Fortunately, it does dry out pretty quickly. Affordable and highly portable, while it’s a great tool to have on hand, you will want to have another fire starter on hand that’s more reliable.

Firestarter Buyer’s Guide

A fire starter is an important piece of gear that every camper and survivalist should have in their bags at all times. While journeying through the backcountry can be an amazing adventure, there will also be some dangers involved, considering you’ll be miles and miles away from civilization.

In the event of an emergency, having one of these devices on hand can be lifesaving. In addition to a quality bag, food and water, a fire starter is considered a valuable tool and one of the most important pieces of gear to bring along, whether you’re including this type of tool in a bug out bag or your camping pack.

Fire starters are an all-important piece of kit, one that everyone should carry at all times during any type of outdoor adventure. Backcountry camping is a fun and enriching type of vacation, but the nature of trips into the wilderness means there are some dangers involved. In emergency situations, having a fire starter can make all the difference. Along with drinking water and a quality backpacking knife, a fire starter is one of your most valuable tools.

To make a fire, a box of matches or a lighter can suffice, but you’ll never know what type of conditions you can end up in. While using a lighter can be a good choice for day to day use, in extreme weather conditions you may need to use a fire starter that’s more reliable.

Every survivalist knows the importance of having more than one fire starter on hand, as backup. If you’re serious about being prepared, regardless of where you are and the type of environment you’re in, then always bring along a total of three ways to start a fire. This way, if the first two models fail you, you’ll have a third option available. Fire is powerful and can be lifesaving in freezing conditions, it can also be used to provide warmth, send a signal to rescuers, cook food, it can keep wild animals at bay, and it can be used to boil water. It can be vital to your survival, which is what makes it so important to have a few options on hand to ensure you’re never without the safety of a fire.

Types of Fire Starters

Fire starters are often divided up into a couple of categories: accelerants and ignitors. An ignitor will provide the initial heat, while an accelerant will help a small fire grow into a large one. In this guide, I’ll solely focus on ignitors and the best types to put in your bug out bag or your pack for your journey through the backcountry.

Flint and Steel

starting a fire

This is an ancient type of fire starter and one that can be tricky to learn how to use, so practicing with this type of tool before heading out for your backcountry adventure is definitely recommended.

To use, the flint strikes the iron or steel, shaving off a small piece that becomes heated by friction. The sparks it makes can be directed to a dry piece of tinder or char cloth in order to create a flame. Many modern models will incorporate the use of ferrocerium alloy instead of flint. The alloy works by creating a spark that’s longer burning and makes the device much easier to use compared to models that utilize steel or flint. The best thing about this option is that the steel and flint will work regardless of any moisture in the environment. It’s also a very packable and light option, which will be a big plus for anyone with a goal of keeping their pack weight low.

However, if you end up with a true steel and flint tool, it will take practice to get this technique down. It also produces sparks that can be very difficult to ignite. Models that use ferrocerium strikers are definitely much easier to use and can work to produce a shower of sparks that will make starting a fire a breeze.

Slam Rods/Fire Pistons

Slam rods, also referred to as fire pistons, consist of a tube that has thick walls with a single opening. The tinder is inserted in the tub. The included rod is inserted inside the tube and rapidly depressed. The air in the tube is then compressed so quickly that it will heat up to the point of ignition. This energy from the rod is unable to compress the air beyond a certain point so it’s transformed into heat instead. Modern models will come with a rubber gasket that works to create a seal that’s airtight. Older models would rely on animal fat for the seal, but these models were never reliable, especially over a certain period of time when the animal fat began to break down. These devices consist of very few moving parts and are highly portable and light, but if the rubber gasket is compromised then the device is basically worthless. Like with flint and steel, you’ll also need to practice using this method to start a fire, you can’t expect to get the hang of it right off the bat, although some people will.

Matches

Keeping a box of matches in your pack can come in handy, especially when your other methods of starting a fire fail you. Matches are light, highly portable, and simple to use. They rely on friction in order to ignite and are highly combustible. Most people already know how to strike a match, so you won’t have to worry about practicing with this method, like you will with the other two fire starter options I’ve discussed. The biggest drawback of using matches is that they don’t work once they’re wet. However, there are waterproof matches available that rely on a wax coating that seals out moisture. Matches can also be carried in a type of waterproof case, which will protect them from the elements. Yet since matches are a single use tool only, if you’re trying to start a fire with them in windy conditions, doing so can be a pretty frustrating experience.

Lighter

Today’s lighters consist of a fuel source and a mechanical striker that work together to produce a small flame. Some models are marketed as storm proof and can withstand high winds. These are the lighters that feature a jet flame that’s similar to a mini blowtorch. These are the best options for backcountry camping. Like matches, most people know how to use a lighter, so you won’t have to practice with one. They’re also very portable, light, and affordable. The biggest drawback to this option is that one of the mechanical parts can fail if it becomes damaged. You’ll also have a limited fuel supply to work with. Additionally, if the striking mechanism becomes wet, the lighter will not work. Some models have electric strikers, which will still work if they get wet, however, these lighters are often pretty pricey.

Other Important Features

When you’re shopping for this type of tool, there are a few things you should consider. First, like with any type of outdoor equipment, reliability will be important. Always go with a device or tool that is the most likely to save you in an emergency situation. Ease of use can also be crucial, since some of these tools can be difficult to use if you’ve never practiced with them before. Environment and weather will also play a role, although you should search for a tool that can work in any type of weather conditions since you’ll want to be prepared for the worst.

Spark Capacity

You’ll want to look at a tool’s max number of strikes and its capacity to produce sparks. The more strikes it’s able to make, the longer you can use this tool, which will result in a lower cost per year.

Weatherproof

A product that’s weatherproof or water-resistant can be used in inclement weather. This will be very important, regardless of the environment, since the weather can be so unpredictable. Many survivalists and backcountry campers recommend using flint and steel type fire starters since they can still be used, even in a wet environment. Some types of putty fuels can also be used since they’re chemically designed to withstand harsh weather conditions.

Portability

Most fire starters are highly portable, especially flint and steel models, which makes them a great choice for a wide range of applications and environments. Chimney starters are often recommended for campfire use, but their bulky design takes away from their portability and can end up taking up too much room in a pack.

Price

Most products are priced reasonably, so even if you’re on a tight budget you should have no problem purchasing two or three of these starters for your next camping trip or your bug out bag. Of course, the prices will vary greatly depending on the type of starter, but on average, you can expect to pay $10 to $30 for each product.

Frequently Asked Questions

flint and knife

What Makes a Good Fire Starter?

A good product is one that’s reliable, easy for you to use, and a model that comes with some type of weather protection so you’ll be able to use it in wet conditions. The starter should also be able to maintain a flame, even in windy conditions.

What Type of Fire Starter Can Effectively Produce a Fire?

If you’re looking for the most reliable type, I’d keep an eye out for a flint and steel tool, both of which had the ability to create a high level of sparks and produce lasting embers when used correctly.

Which Type of Fire Starter Can Make a Fire Last Longer?

If you’re looking for the best results, there’s no one type of product that can do this alone. However, you should take into consideration the resistance of the material to temperature and weather changes. While certain types of fuel can do a great job of keeping a fire going, if you purchase manufactured wood sticks and logs, they come with less internal moisture, which is what makes them a great choice for burning without the need to bring along a chemical fuel when you’re traveling.

How Long Do Fire Starters Last?

These are devices and products that are designed for emergency and survival purposes, so they’re designed to last for several years. However, in some cases, they will have a shorter than expected expiration date. Additionally, exposure to moisture and other chemicals can also have an impact on their effectiveness so they may need to be replaced more often than anticipated. Typically, steel and flint types will offer the longest shelf life, until the scraper becomes too dull or the rod becomes too thin.

Final Thoughts

The best fire starter is an essential piece of gear that should be included in any emergency kit, bug out bag, or backcountry camping gear. Always make sure you include at least three different types of fire starters in your gear, so you always have a backup in the event one or two of the fire starters fails you. Remember, fire can mean the difference between life and death in emergency situations. The products I’ve included here, combined with my buyer’s guide will help you choose the best tool that will leave you feeling prepared and confident that you can start a fire up easily, regardless of the environment or weather conditions.

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