The 10 Best Survival Fire Starters

Updated September 26, 2017 by Chase Brush

10 Best Survival Fire Starters
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We spent 47 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top options for this wiki. Many anthropologists believe that the discovery of fire was a key factor in ensuring our ancestors' survival and development. So if you want to make it in the wild like our early human relatives, be sure to keep one of these fire starters in your pack. They will allow you to generate heat to cook, stay warm, or start a signal fire when camping or hiking or stuck in snow. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best survival fire starter on Amazon.

10. Ultimate Survival Technologies BlastMatch

The Ultimate Survival Technologies BlastMatch directs a hot, concentrated shower of sparks right where you want it, quickly igniting many types of tinder and giving you the beginnings a roaring fire. The one-handed design allows it to be used even if you're injured.
  • works in rain or snow
  • bar rotates for even wear
  • not as durable as other models
Brand Ultimate Survival Techn
Model 1WG0415
Weight 16 ounces
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

9. Inside N Beyond Survival Kit

More then just some flint and steel, the Inside N Beyond Survival Kit is a complete solution for roughing it alone in the wild. The magnesium starter comes with a scraper, compass, and special compartment for keeping your tinder safe and dry.
  • instructional guide included
  • works even when wet
  • pieces are very small
Brand Inside N Beyond
Model pending
Weight 1.6 ounces
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

8. Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Series

Named after the British adventurer and TV personality, the Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Series will have you starting fires like a pro. A ferrocerium rod and metal striker come on a lanyard that also features an emergency whistle and land-to-air rescue and SOS instructions.
  • waterproof compartment for tinder
  • small and compact design
  • rod is a little short
Brand Gerber
Model 3208
Weight 4.2 ounces
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

7. Spark-Lite Military Edition

Marketed as the official fire starter of the U.S. Armed Forces, the Spark-Lite Military Edition is a reliable option that includes both a sparking rod and eight quick-light tinder tabs. They all come in an olive drab storage container and weigh less than an ounce.
  • great addition to emergency kits
  • can be used with left or right hand
  • flint cannot be replaced
Brand Spark-Lite
Model pending
Weight 0.3 ounces
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

6. The Friendly Swede Starter Blocks

The magnesium alloy in The Friendly Swede Starter Blocks offers a quick and certain way to get a flame going even when you're using wet or less-than-desirable tinder, such as soggy bark or grass. Just scrape off a pile and drop a spark on it for instant combustion.
  • striker doubles as bottle opener
  • comes in pack of three
  • unsightly branding on side of blocks
Brand The Friendly Swede
Model pending
Weight pending
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

5. Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel

The Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel is a compact, handy tool for starting up campfires, cooking flames, or for use in emergency situations where smoke or warmth is needed. It's small and light enough to hang on a keychain, ensuring you're always prepared for the worst.
  • built-in emergency whistle
  • produces 5500-degree spark
  • can be used up to 12000 times
Brand Light my Fire
Model 26005
Weight 2.4 ounces
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

4. Survival Spark Magnesium

if you're a frequent camper or even occasional hiker, it might be a smart idea to keep one of these Survival Spark Magnesiums in your pack. Not only can it give you warmth in a pinch, but it can also help guide you back to civilization with its built-in compass.
  • includes a 150 db whistle
  • easy to grip and scrape
  • great value for price
Brand SurvivalSPARK
Weight 2.4 ounces
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

3. Exotac nanoStriker XL

The slender tube that is the Exotac nanoStriker XL may look inconsequential, but it may very well save your life one day. It offers as many as 3,000 spark-creating strikes, so don't be afraid to use it heavily and keep yourself warm on your next wilderness expedition.
  • replaceable ferrocerium rod
  • tungsten carbide striker
  • grip is machined from 6061 aluminum
Brand Exotac
Model 001140-OD-Parent
Weight pending
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

2. SE FS374 All-Weather Emergency

It doesn't get much simpler -- or effective -- than the SE FS374 All-Weather Emergency, which incorporates a solid three-by-one-inch magnesium fuel bar and flint strip for creating flames in any conditions, whether they be rain or snow. It's also rated to last a lifetime.
  • fully weather and waterproof
  • no breakable parts
  • hangs on detachable ball chain
Brand SE
Model FS374
Weight 3.2 ounces
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

1. Überleben Zünden Traditional Bushcraft

The Überleben Zünden Traditional Bushcraft is a classic survival tool that performs as handsomely as it looks, featuring a hand-crafted hardwood handle that offers a natural-textured grip when striking. The multifunctional scraper is stamped with ruler measurements, too.
  • bright spark can be used as signal
  • black 550 paracord lanyard
  • manufactured in germany
Brand Überleben
Weight 2.4 ounces
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

A Brief History Of Starting Fires

The rise of human civilization is tied to our ability to control fire. If our ancestors hadn't tamed the mighty flame, we would never have been able to expand to the far corners of the earth, our diets would have been much more restricted, and s'mores would remain a distant, impossible dream.

Using a flint blade to create sparks first happened about 300,000 years ago. This was a watershed moment in human history, as it meant that for the first time, humans could have fire on demand, without waiting on nature to first provide it. This opened up the ability of exploration and colonization, as they could now survive in colder climates while also warding off nocturnal predators.

The first evidence of man using friction to spark combustion came 4,000 years ago in ancient Egypt. This technique involved rubbing pieces of wood together, either by using some sort of plough or relying on a bow or saw.

With the dawn of the Iron Age around 1200 B.C.E., humans developed special tools known as fire strikers. These were pieces of steel that were struck against flint or iron pyrite, creating extremely hot sparks. Fire steels would prove remarkably durable, as they would continue to be the dominant mode of fire-starting until the 19th century. Most households would have a tinder box, which contained a fire steel, flint, and char cloth.

German chemist Hennig Brand discovered that phosphorus was flammable in 1669, and from there the race was on to harness its power. The first friction match, however, wouldn't come along until 1826, thanks to English chemist John Walker.

Today, we have a variety of fire starting devices, including matches, lighters, and magnifying glasses. However, many survivalist fire tools rely on the same principles that our ancestors used. We still try to start blazes by applying sparks to flammable substances — and in all too many cases, our survival still hinges on our success.

The only difference, really, is we've found a much better use for Tinder.

How to Choose the Right Survival Fire Starter

Let's face it — if you're Bear Grylls, you don't need to buy a fancy fire starter. You can make your own roaring blaze using nothing more than two sticks, your own breath, and a cup of your own urine (don't ask what he uses that for).

However, you're not Bear Grylls, and it's important to remember that. No, I'm not putting down your survival skills — I'm simply pointing out that he has a camera crew with him that will whisk him away to safety if he can't get a fire started. If you can't get a blaze going, however, you could die. There's no point in risking your safety just so you can feel like a guy you saw on TV.

The first thing you need to realize is that you should never limit yourself to just one way to start a fire. Things happen when you're outdoors — you could lose your flint, your tinder could get soaked, or maybe your matches just won't cooperate. That's why it's good to have several different fire starters on hand. I'd recommend getting a couple professional methods, while also keeping matches and a regular lighter on hand in a waterproof container.

If you carry a lot of gear, you'll want a starter that's extremely lightweight. Some also come with other devices installed, like a compass, which can allow you to further streamline your pack. However, be careful about getting too small, as you don't want one that will be easy to lose out in the brush.

You also need to decide whether you want to get something cheap that you'll have to replace often, or splurge for a longer-lasting option. There's no real wrong answer here; again, it comes down to whether you're the type who tends to misplace gear, or if you keep the same items your entire life.

The most important consideration, however, is whether or not you're comfortable with it. Again, your life could depend on this, so get something you know you can use, and take the time to practice with it before you go into the great outdoors.

And if you see Bear Grylls while you're out there, hit him up — he probably knows where to find a great hotel in the area.

Tips For Starting A Fire

Once you've found a reliable method for creating sparks, all you need is fuel to burn. The best way is to bring your own tinder, such as fire paste, cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly, or even dryer lint. If you don't have anything with you, however, look for dry kindling, or if it's raining, see if you can find some sap on any nearby needle-bearing trees. If you're using sticks, be sure to peel the bark off before burning them.

When you're ready to light it up, arrange all your kindling in a pile. Remember that heat rises, so you'll want to build your pile in a tee-pee shape. Don't try to just lay everything in a flat pile, because then your fire will quickly burn out, if it catches at all. Start the fire from the windward side, as this allows air to travel through your embers, keeping them alive and the fire crackling.

After you're done with your fire, be sure to put it out. Take a fire extinguisher with you, and never leave until all the embers are cool to the touch. If you love to camp, the last thing you'll want is to find out you can't go to your favorite spot because you accidentally burned it down the last time you were there.

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Last updated on September 26, 2017 by Chase Brush

Chase is a freelance journalist with experience working in the areas of politics and public policy. Currently based in Brooklyn, NY, he is also a hopeless itinerant continually awaiting his next Great Escape.

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