The Best Fire Starters Tested in 2024

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A toasty fire is a welcome addition on any chilly evening. Less welcome is the hassle of wrestling with damp wood or crumpled-up newspapers to get the first flames going.

Enter fire starters. These quick-light products make it easy for anyone to have a roaring fire—using just a single match or the flick of a lighter. The downside is that they’re not all created equally. Some fire starters border on amazing for their ability to help ignite a fire rapidly, while others are difficult to light or won’t stay lit long enough to ignite a wood fire. We wanted to know which ones were worth buying, so we tested them in our own fireplaces, chimineas, wood-burning stoves, and fire pits.

Ahead, learn what to remember when navigating the options—and find out how the following products earned a place in our lineup of the best fire starters.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Superior Trading Co. All-Natural Fire Starter
  2. RUNNER-UP: Lightning Nuggets Fire-Starting Nuggets
  3. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Rutland Safe Lite Fire Starter Squares
  4. BEST FOR EMERGENCIES: Bayite 4-Inch Drilled Ferro Rod Flint Fire Starter
  5. BEST FOR FIREPLACES: Double Tree Forest Products Fire Starter Kindling
  6. BEST WEATHERPROOF: Kiknek FireFlame Quick Fire Starter
  7. ALSO CONSIDER: GreenSpark Fire Starter

How We Tested the Best Fire Starters

We considered a variety of factors when selecting which fire starters to test. We chose products that would burn long enough to ignite wood or charcoal without needing to add other burnable materials, such as wadded-up paper or cardboard. A fire starter should also be easy to use, so we chose options that light easily with a match or lighter, with the exception of the ferro rod.

In actual testing, we followed the manufacturers’ instructions—placing one or two fire starters as suggested and using them to start the recommended fire types. For many of the tests, we used a traditional fireplace, but we also used a fire pit, a chiminea, and a wood-burning stove if the directions recommended use with those types of fires. We also tested a few fire starters to see how well they worked for lighting charcoal, but only if they were listed as safe for use with grilling foods.

If a fire starter was advertised as waterproof, we dropped it in a glass of water and then attempted to light it. We determined that many waterproof fire starters aren’t genuinely waterproof but rather water-resistant. In other words, they needed a little time to dry out before lighting.

We timed how long it took for a fire starter to catch fire from a match or lighter, how tall its flames were, and how long it burned before going out. We discovered a fire starter needed to remain lit for 5 to 9 minutes, minimum, in order to ignite the rest of the wood and logs in a fireplace fully. The only fire starter we tested differently was the ferro rod, which is intended to start grass or other highly flammable materials on fire via sparks. We tested it on dry grasses and small twigs to see if it would start a fire.

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During the testing phase, we awarded points based on how well each fire starter performed the tasks. After testing, we added and averaged the scores to help categorize the products.

Our Top Picks

We tested several top-selling fire starters—mostly small accelerant products, but also a ferro rod that can be carried in a pocket on a camping or hiking trip. Our driving goal was to determine which fire starters performed the best in their relative categories. We didn’t test matches or lighters, but we did use them to light the fire starters. The following products vary by type and use, but each is a standout as a fire starter, and each earned its spot in this lineup by being a top performer in our hands-on testing.

Or, DIY Your Own Fire Starters

The fire starters that earned a spot in our lineup are all relatively inexpensive, and most are made from natural ingredients. For those who want something that looks as good as it lights, consider making pine cone fire starters.

Making them is a simple process of melting beeswax in the top of a double boiler and then dipping the cones two or three times until they have a nice wax layer. For fun, try rolling them in Epsom salts after the final dip—while they’re still warm—to lend a frosty look. For scented pine cone fire starters, add natural essential oils to the melted wax, such as pine or cinnamon.

Jump to Our Top Picks

Types of Fire Starters

In general, fire starters are one of two main types: flame/spark producers or accelerants. Shoppers already know about lighters and matches, but they might not know about other types of flame/spark producers, such as ferro rods.

Accelerants are usually what buyers are looking for when shopping for fire starters, and these products are used in conjunction with typical fire-building materials, such as seasoned logs. An accelerant fire starter is placed beneath the other materials and then ignited with a match, lighter, ferro rod, or other flame/spark producers. Here’s the skinny on all of them.

Lighter

A lighter consists of a metal or plastic container filled with a flammable liquid or compressed gas. A lighter lights by simultaneously creating a spark with the flint wheel while releasing a controlled amount of the fuel with a button. Unlike other methods, a lighter creates an actual flame, making it significantly easier to start a fire.

Matches

Matches are the tried-and-true method of starting a fire. Like a lighter, a match creates an actual flame versus a spark, making it an easier way to start a fire. However, many matches are susceptible to damage from water.

Ferro Rods

A ferro rod is a fragment of ferrocerium attached to a piece of steel. When the steel is struck against the rod, tiny shavings of ferrocerium become oxidized and ignite as a result of the friction, burning at a high temperature of more than 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Flint and Steel

Flint and steel consist of a steel striker and a piece of flint. When the two are struck together, they produce heated pieces of steel in the form of sparks that ignite a piece of cloth or tinder, starting the fire.

Magnesium

Magnesium comes in rods. To make a fire with it, simply strike the edge of a knife blade into the full length of the rod to ignite a small amount of magnesium. The magnesium spark reaches a temperature of about 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, igniting the tinder.

Accelerants

Accelerants are the most popular fire-starter products, and we tested a number of these. Nuggets and squares consisting of flammable oils, wax, and recycled paper and wood are the easiest to use; however, they require an ignition source, such as a match or a lighter. Once lit, these fire starters typically create tall, hot flames that light the materials above them.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Fire Starter

In addition to types of fire starters, there are a few more features shoppers should consider when choosing a fire starter, including ease of use and convenience. While any fire starter will make starting a fire easier than using tinder, not all fire starters are suitable for all types of fires.

Size and Convenience

As handy as fire starters may be, their usefulness is, to a degree, dependent on their convenience. Look for fire starters that are lightweight and compact, ranging from 1 to 6 inches in length. Typically sold in cases of 12 or 24, these pocket-size pouches, pods, or cubes can be stored in plain sight or tucked out of sight.

Reliability in Inclement Weather

Most fire starters consist of wax, oil, and dense recycled wood, which holds up well in wet weather. Some fire starters are waterproof—drop a ferro rod in water, and it’s not affected. Just dry it off, and it will still throw a spark that will ignite dry material. Fire starters also tend to burn at high temperatures of 800 degrees Fahrenheit or more, which allows them to withstand windy conditions better.

Burn Time

Fire starters are meant to facilitate the sometimes painstaking process of starting a fire by providing a persistent flame that can then catch on nearby kindling. To do so, the fire starter must burn long enough to establish the fire. The longer the burn time, the more likely users can achieve a robust blaze. Our tests determined that most burn an average of 3 to 15 minutes.

Smell

The earliest fire starters were infused with flammable compounds, which gave them a chemical smell. On the other hand, today’s best fire starters are nearly odorless. We tend to appreciate the less-noxious modern versions, so we don’t have to inhale chemical fumes. However, fire starters that contain natural essential oils can lend a pleasing scent to the product that enhances the user’s experience without the need for toxins.

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Sustainability

The best fire starters tend to be made of environmentally friendly materials, be it wood waste (sawdust or shavings), nontoxic wax, recycled paper, or waste textile fibers. Bear in mind that using fire starters typically results in faster and more complete ignition, which reduces the amount of airborne soot and smoke. Don’t miss our DIY fire-starter option below to find out how to make eco-friendly fire-starter accelerants from pine cones and beeswax.

FAQs

A key to using a fire starter effectively is understanding how to arrange logs and kindling around it. Ahead, learn about how to build a fire correctly and use a fire starter to light it quickly.

Q. How do you use a fire starter?

To use a fire starter, begin by setting up your wood. If building a wood fire, you’ll need some kindling, which will ignite more quickly than a full-size log. Place the fire starter under the kindling or charcoal, allowing access to the fire starter with a match or lighter. Light the fire starter with a lighter or match.

Q. How do you start a fire in a fire pit?

To start a fire in a fire pit, you need wood, kindling, and a fire starter. Place small pieces of kindling on top of one another until they form a shape resembling a log cabin about four layers high. Place the fire starter in the middle of your log cabin, pile kindling loosely in the middle, and then light the fire starter.

Q. How do you start a fire in a fireplace?

Begin by placing a layer of kindling and two or three small pieces of firewood on the fireplace grate, then place your fire starter in the space beneath the grate. Lighting the fire starter will ignite the kindling, which will, in turn, ignite the logs. Add larger logs as needed to keep the fire burning.

Q. Do fire starters expire?

Fire starters are made up of materials that include recycled wood fibers, paper, oil, and wax that do not expire; hence, most fire starters do not have a shelf life.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>