The best fire starter for camping and survival in 2017

best fire starter

Since the time man discovered fire, it has become an important part of civilization. We cannot imagine life without fire. Fire is of utmost importance when out camping, hiking or backpacking. It can keep you warm, ward off animals, let you cook food and boil water to make it safe for consumption. If you need to start a fire, you are going to need a fire starter.

Sure enough, you have a good lighter or matchsticks in your essential camping gear, but you should have a backup plan as well when your primary source goes wrong. In this post, we will look at some of the best fire starters out there and help you pick the best fire starter for your needs.

Best fire starter comparison list

Our pick of the best fire starters out in the market and how they stack against each other.
PictureProductWeight (grams)Life time (no# of strikes) 
UST StrikeForce Fire Starter221000

Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel 2.0 Army5012000
The Friendly Swede Magnesium Alloy Fire Starter475000
Exotac nanoSTRIKER XL Ferrocerium Fire Starter623000
Alpha Encender Fire Starter9012000

Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter6510000
SurvivalSPARK Emergency Magnesium Fire Starter6815000
MyCrisisGear Magnesium fire starter90600
BlizeTec Fire Starter6012000
Überleben Zünden Fire Starter6812000

How to choose the best fire starter?

A fire starter works on the simple principle of producing sparks by striking a flint rod against a metal blade. Most fire starters are simple magnesium block with a Ferrocerium rod attached on one side. The Magnesium block is scraped to produce small shavings. The Ferrocerium rod is then struck along the length with a knife or a blade to produce a spark. The Magnesium shavings catch fire and start burning. You can then use that fire to burn paper, leaves or wick and start a fire. Here is a video showing how to use a Magnesium and Ferrocerium block fire starter.

When trying to find the best fire starter, consider the following factors,

  • Ease of use
  • Life of the fire starter
  • Weight
  • Extra features

Ease of use

As seen in the above video, using a classic Magnesium block fire starter requires some effort. You need to work the block to get a considerable amount of shavings and then strike the rod to get a spark. Even the best Magnesium fire starter can be a little difficult to first-time users but more seasoned old time campers swear by these fire starters. In fact, it is the de facto fire starter kit that one refers to when they talk about a fire starter kit.

There are other models available which do not have a Magnesium block. All you need to do is strike a rod which is made of a combination of alloys and you can create a spark. These fire starters are much easier to use and the preferred choices when you are just starting out with a fire starter kit.

Life of the fire starter

Most fire starters can last anywhere from 500 to 15000 strikes. There is no expiry date of the kit. Life of the kit entirely depends on the usage pattern. The striker rod, which is made of a Magnesium and Ferrocerium combination can corrode over time. This makes the rod brittle and it does not produce enough spark over time. Most high-quality fire starters have a waterproof casing which prevents the rod inside from corrosion and becoming useless.

In most of the Magnesium block fire starters, the striking rod is used up pretty fast than the Magnesium block. You cannot replace the striking rod but you can have a spare rod that can be used.


While weight is not much of an issue for campers, serious backpackers think of innovative ways to shave off any extra weight they can. In such cases, the weight of the fire starter kit also becomes an important factor.

The weight of the fire starters can range from 20 grams (1 ounce) to 90 grams (3 ounces), depending upon the size of the rods. A heavier fire starter which is reliable is a better investment than a lighter one which fails to work when needed. The weight of the fire starter should not stop you from making an all around better choice.

Extra features

We are a great fan of gears and tools that can perform in more ways than they are expected to. As such, any extra features even in a fire starter kit is more than welcome. Most fire starters will have a whistle for emergency needs. Others will have a small compass. While these features may seem useful, they cannot be expected to be 100% reliable. As long as the fire starter does its primary job of starting a fire well, any extra features are just more bang for your bucks.

Which is the best fire starter and what are our picks?

Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel 2.0 Army fire starter- Editor’s choice pick for the best fire starter

Best fire starter - Swedish FireSteel 2.0 Army fire starter
The Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel 2.0 Army fire starter was originally manufactured for the Swedish department of defense. It produces a 3000-degree spark which makes starting a fire a breeze at higher altitudes and low temperatures. It consists of a hardened magnesium alloy rod and the striker is made of high-quality stainless steel. It has an easy grip both on the rod and the striker that makes it quite easy to use.

It weighs a mere 50 grams(1.8 ounces) and can be tucked in nicely in your jacket or pant pocket, and is an ideal to carry along on camping, hiking or backpacking. The striker handle has a whistle which can be used in emergency signaling to draw attention.

It can work even when wet. The Swedish FireSteel fire starter is a reliable fire starter in any situation and won’t let you down. This fire starter will last for 12000 strikes and will be with you for a very long time. What’s more, the fire starter comes with a built-in emergency whistle for use in case of distress. For these reasons, the Swedish FireSteel 2.0 Army fire starter is our editor’s choice pick for the best fire starter.

Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter – Best value pick for the best fire starter

Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter

The Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter is a must-have gear when out camping, hiking or backpacking. It is made by Gerber and is endorsed by survival specialist Bear Grylls so you can be sure that it is indeed reliable. It is small and compact, weighing just 65 grams ( 2.3 ounces), making it ideal for carrying around in your pocket.

The unit contains a ferrocerium rod and a metal striker to get your fire started in no time. It has a waterproof storage compartment which can store tinder. It has a lanyard which keeps the unit together. The lanyard also has an integrated whistle for emergency signaling.

This fire starter will last you easily for 10000 strikes making it a great value for its price. For these reasons, the Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter is our best value pick for the best fire starter.

Fire starter tinder

The most common item required with a fire starter is tinder to kindle the fire, especially when you cannot find dry wood chips and twigs nearby. There are a lot of homemade DIY tinder options available such as paraffin-soaked cotton balls or wine corks dipped in alcohol. However, if you are looking for decent commercial tinder items, you can consider the following popular options:

Multi-purpose products with fire starters

Fire starters are such a popular item for bush crafting, survival and outdoor camping that you can get a lot of tactical products in the market with emergency fire starters.

While the fire starters in these products may not be as effective as traditional fire starters, you can check them out if you are looking for some multi-purpose tactical gear as backup:

Final thoughts on the best fire starter

A fire starter is a must have survival tool and a great backup for starting a fire when your primary source gives up on you. Choosing a good fire starter is easier compared to other camping gear but you need to really look across to get the best value for your money. In this article, we looked at some of the best fire starters out in the market. We hope you found this guide useful and it will help you pick the best fire starter for your needs. Happy camping!

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