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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 our picks for the best fire starters you can buy:
Best overall fire starter: Überleben Zünden Bushcraft Ferro Rod Fire Starter
Best fire starter for ease of use: Zippo Emergency Fire Kit
Best fire starter on a budget: SE FS374 All-Weather Emergency Fire Starter & Magnesium Fuel Bar
Best fire starter for foul weather: UST Blastmatch Fire Starter
Best solar fire starter: Cz Garden Supply Fresnel Lens Fire Starter
Updated on 10/03/18 by Owen Burke: Updated prices and formatting.
Read on in the slides below to see which of our picks is the one for you.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
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 — It’s that easy.
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
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 OutsidePursuits.com 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
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