The Best Firestarters of 2024

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Start a fire in the rain. Start a fire in the snow. Start a fire after your gear gets dunked in the river. And start the fire with a firestarter that is capable of working through the most difficult scenarios.

There are various firestarters to choose from, and part of getting the best one is getting the right one. We’ve pored over the research and testing that’s been done to create a buying guide that will steer you to the best firestarter for you.

Outdoor survival is just as much about outsmarting the elements as it is using them to your advantage. Packing the right firestarter is one of the best ways to outsmart any of the difficulties the outside world tries to throw at you, whether you’re camping, hunting, backcountry skiing, or stranded on the side of the road.

Know your local fire restrictions and think carefully about whether you actually need a fire. Never leave your fire unattended and be prepared to completely saturate your fire until the ground beneath it is wet and cold. Unattended campfires are the cause of some of the largest, most costly natural disasters in the U.S., consuming millions of acres of forest and destroying entire communities. A fire can save your life in cold, wet conditions, but we must be responsible outdoors people.

Check out our firestarter comparison chart at the bottom of the list for a quick comparison, or follow our buyer’s guide to figure out the best firestarter for your pack. Then, get your burning questions answered in our FAQ.

The Best Firestarters of 2024

  • Best Overall Firestarter: Wolf & Grizzly
  • Best Budget Firestarter: Light My Fire Tinder-on-a-Rope
  • Runner-Up Best Firestarter: UST BlastMatch
  • Best Natural Firestarter: UCO Sweetfire
  • Best Firestarter Knife: Morakniv Companion Spark
  • Best Firestarter Flashlight: Wicked Lasers FlashTorch
  • Best Hassle-Free Car Camping Firestarter: Bernzomatic Trigger-Start Torch

Firestarter Comparison Chart

Wolf & GrizzlyLight My Fire Tinder-on-a-RopeUST BlastMatchUCO SweetfireMorakniv Companion SparkWicked Lasers FlashTorchBernzomatic Trigger-Start TorchFerro rod, metal striker, cotton tinder, plastic casing4.75″ x 1.1″100 decibel whistlePlasma lighter, plastic case3.75″ x 1″120-lumen built-in flashlightFerro rod, 550 paracord, metal scraper12,000 – 20,000 strikes 2.5” x 0.31″, 0.38″, or 0.5″Multitool scraperZippo Firestarter KitSOL Fire Light electric lighterFerro rod, paracord lanyard, aluminum handle, cotton tinder10,000 strikes3.55″ x 0.55″ x 0.55″tinder capsulePlastic, ferro rod, reflective paracord, steel3,000 – 12,000 strikes3.8″ by 1″Striker doubles as a bottle opener
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We meticulously tested each of the firestarters on this list in a variety of different conditions and environments; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

Why You Should Trust Us

From experienced survivalists to weekend warriors stoked on bushcraft, the GearJunkie team is made up of outdoor enthusiasts that know the importance of getting a fire started in any condition. We’ve spent hundreds of hours gathering tinder bundles, snapping sticks, and getting light-headed as we blow flames into life. Whether it’s a campfire to cook dinner over, or an emergency heat source, fire-making skills are key for anyone going camping or backpacking in the backcountry.

We put a load of the top firestarters to the test for this guide, hoping to narrow in on the best ones available for a variety of different situations. We have significant hands-on experience with everything on the list and focused on the ease of use, reliability, and lifespan of each starter to ensure that each product will serve you well in the wild.

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Firestarter

Best Firestarters
Make sure you get comfortable using whatever firestarter you decide to buy before depending on it in the backcountry; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

While matches or lighters may be some of the faster ways of starting fires, they aren’t always the most reliable. It’s important to have, and know how to use, a solid firestarter for when the unexpected happens. You accidentally fall into a river and soak all your gear. You break all your matches or your lighter runs out of fluid.

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Being able to start a fire in any situation is one of the best steps you can take to improve your chances in a survival situation. We found the top tried and true firestarters out there and put them to the test for this guide, offering a selection for every type of adventure.

Type of Activity

Different activities require different firestarters. For example, carrying the heavy Bernzomatic Torch on a long-haul backpacking trip could make for a good laugh, but you’ll regret it pretty quickly.

If you’re going car camping, something bigger and heavier like that will be a much better fit. Backpacking demands lightweight gear that’s easy to bring along, so you’d be much better off with a simple ferro rod and flint firestarter.

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Being able to get a fire going in any condition not only makes things more enjoyable at camp but could save your life in a survival situation; (photo/Chris Carter)

Size & Weight

Every ounce counts when backpacking, and every inch of your backpack is valuable space. The little things like firestarters are where the ounces can quickly add up. An extra inch of material means less space for food and more weight to carry.

Finding the middle ground with size and weight is key to getting the right tool. Too small and it’s impossible to handle; too big, and you’re lugging extra weight you don’t need.

Ease of Use

At the end of a long day of hiking, the last thing you want is to fight with your firestarter to get warm. The easier the firestarter is to use, the better.

There are certain ways to make life easier in the backcountry, especially when you’re just starting to learn how to use a firestarter. If you’re new to the skill, pack extra firestarter sticks. They don’t weigh much or take up much space, and they’ll be more than worth it in the long haul.

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Electric starters, like the Dark Energy Plasma Lighter, are some of the easier, more weatherproof options out there; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

Flint & Steel, Ferrocerium Rods, and Magnesium Bars

The three primary types of firestarters — flint & steel, ferrocerium rods, and magnesium bars — can be used in a variety of different scenarios, and each has its place in a firestarting kit. This guide covers other unique firestarters that use electrical sparks, a blowtorch, or even a hot beam of light, but these are the more traditional starters you’ll see in simple survival kits.

Flint & Steel

Flint & steel is one of the oldest tried-and-true methods of starting a fire. The flint can be a variety of different hard rocks, such as quartzite or chert. The steel striker component is constructed with a high carbon content and is usually heat-treated. When the steel strikes the rock it breaks off tiny particles of the metal, which oxidize and ignite when exposed to oxygen.

One of the negatives of flint & steel is how dull the sparks are, and charred cloth or naturally charred materials are usually required to effectively hold the spark and turn it into a flame. The value of flint and steel lies in their ability to be easily reproduced with readily available materials.

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Starting a fire with Bear Grylls using a striker
Using flint and steel is the more traditional way of starting a fire, but can often be more difficult; (photo/Mallory Paige)

Ferrocerium Rods (Ferro Rod)

The sparks created by a ferro rod are extremely hot compared to those of flint & steel, which makes it easier to light a dry tinder bundle. Some of the starters in this guide, such as the Wolf and Grizzly, and the Zippo Fire Starter Kit use a ferro rod as part of their set.

It’s a good idea to carry some highly flammable tinder in your survival kit, such as cotton balls coated with Vaseline, to make this process easier, but there are plenty of natural resources that can be used in a pinch.

Ferro rods are constructed with different metals, which make it easier or more difficult to scrape depending on the composition. Softer rods don’t have as long of a lifespan but generally provide more sparks with each strike. Most ferro rods are made with about 50% cerium, with various ratios of lanthanum and iron making up the rest of the mixture.

A ferro rod doesn’t create a flame when struck, so it’s important that the tinder bundle you use is as dry and flammable as possible. Many ferrocerium rods will have a black protective coating on them when they come out of the box, which will need to be scraped off before use.

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The sparks from a ferro rod are super hot, like the 5,500º F sparks that spew from the Überleben Zünden; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

Magnesium Bars

Often referred to as “mag bars,” this is a bar or block which usually has a ferro rod attached to the top of it. Instead of having to gather a tinder bundle that will catch a spark, or bringing cotton balls, you can use magnesium shavings from the bar as much of your tinder bundle, which will ignite with a spark from the ferro rod.

Some mag bars come with their own striker, but you can use the back side of your bushcraft knife to shave off magnesium, and strike the ferro rod. Avoid using the sharp end of your knife for this, as it could dull or damage it significantly.

This is usually a pretty time-consuming way to start a fire as it takes a large pile of magnesium shavings to make a flame that lasts long enough to light your tinder or kindling, and the shavings can blow away easily in any amount of wind. You will want to use additional dry tinder with the shavings, as the shaving bundle itself may not be enough to catch the larger fuel on fire.

Firemaking Tips

"How to Light a Fire" artwork by Emily Malone
Make sure not to increase the size of your fuel too fast while building your fire, and gather plenty of these sizes of wood before lighting your tinder bundle; (photo/Emily Malone)

Fire is such a basic, fundamental element to human existence, but can be surprisingly hard to make, particularly if the weather is against you. It’s important to practice using any firestarter that you plan on having in your emergency kit beforehand, as matches and lighters can fail on adventures.

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Whether using flint & steel, a ferro rod, or a mag bar, you will need a bone-dry bundle of tinder to catch your spark and transfer a flame to larger kindling. Fatwood shavings, birch bark, cattails, dry fluff from plants, or dried animal dung often work well as tinder bundles.

Gather plenty of medium-sized dry kindling (preferably from conifers) and have it on hand to build up your fire once you establish a flame. Make something of a “bird’s nest” with your pile of tinder, using fluffed-up dry materials. Place fatwood shavings or a feather stick (a stick that has been shaved to produce clusters of thin curls protruding from the wood) on top of the bird’s nest.

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Getting your tinder bundle to catch a spark and ignite is the most difficult part of the process; (photo/Honey McNaughton)

Once you have a tinder bundle you like, hold the scraper at a 45-degree angle to your rod, with the end of your rod almost touching your tinder. Pull the rod, not the scraper, back sharply. This allows you to get sparks closer to the tinder.

When a spark takes in your tinder bundle it should produce a strong but short-lived flame. Build a teepee of small twigs and pencil-size kindling over the growing flame, which encourages the flame to go upward. Gradually add bigger and bigger sticks and logs until you’ve established a solid base of embers and heat.

Blowing slightly on the tinder bundle near the beginning can help, but only after the flame has caught and the tinder is smoldering. Be sure not to blow out a new small flame in an effort to give it more oxygen.

Reliability

electric fire starter
Electric lighters, like the Dark Energy Plasma Lighter or the SOL Fire Lite, offer solid weatherproof solutions to starting a fire in a pinch; (photo/REI)

The problem with matches and lighters is their reliability. Once they get wet, too cold, or too high in altitude, they don’t work well.

Getting a firestarter that’s reliable in all conditions and environments helps ensure that you won’t be left shivering on the ground with an empty stomach after a long day of trekking. We would feel comfortable relying on all of the firestarters on this list in the backcountry (though some are better suited for a backup lightweight “survival kit” than others).

Price

Just as with every piece of gear, price matters. Determining a budget before even browsing your options is important to help you get the best firestarter for your particular use.

Don’t buy something just because of a high price tag. It doesn’t always mean it’s the better piece of gear. Price can be a reflection of quality, but it can also lead to unnecessary and over-the-top products.

It’s also worth noting that this guide covers a broad range of firestarter types. Our “Best Budget” option doesn’t offer the same level of versatility as some of the traditional ferro rods we cover. Think about the type of trips you plan on using your starter on, and use this to help formulate a budget, and narrow in on the best firestarter for your needs.

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Campfires are the perfect cap to a long day on trail; (photo/Chris Carter)

FAQ

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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 >>