Best Fire Starters for Survival in 2021: Reviews, and Ways to Make Fire

I would put the ability to make fire right behind water, shelter, and food in the list of most important things in a survival situation, and before food and shelter in some cases. Since being able to start a fire is so important, are you really going to rely on only one or two ways to do it? I think you should have at least 5 fire starters in your Bug Out Bag or in any survival preps for that matter.

Ways to Make Fire

Notice that I am not talking about different types of tinder, like cedar shavings, fire log, paper etc. I am talking about 5 ways to actually make fire, to get that first spark. Without that, the rest really doesn’t matter.

I also review the best fire starters for survival that I hand-tested at 9,000 ft in the Rocky Mountains under normal conditions (sunny – light wind). Fire starters are a must in addition to the other ways.

Ways to Make Fire (Alternatives to Fire Starters)

1. Matches

Matches

No surprises here. Check out Stormproof matches, I have tested these things and they are pretty tough to beat.  If you go with regular matches there are two important things to remember about your matches.

1. They need to be waterproof. SurvivalTopics.com has a good article on how to waterproof your matches.

2. You need to store matches in multiple places. Even if you have a pile of waterproof matches, if they are all in the same bag or box and you lose them, that’s it. So use a couple of empty film canisters or an element proof Loksak bag and store matches in several places. (But not in the handle of your knife, which I explain here: Survival Knife)

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Provides an instant flame
  • Affordable
  • Lightweight and compact

Cons

  • Finite, one match equals one fire
  • Does not have a long burn time
  • Regular matches are not weatherproof

2. Lighters

Lighter

Notice lighters is plural. You need several lighters. It might be a good idea to get one waterproof and windproof lighter and a couple of cheap gas station lighters.

If you are going to buy a nice lighter like that one, you should carry some Butane refill fluid and it will last you 5 times as long as any of the throw away lighters.

Pros

  • Extremely easy to use
  • Provides an instant flame
  • Affordable
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Can be used hundreds or thousands of times

Cons

  • Some are not weatherproof
  • Most lighters need to be kept away from extreme temperatures

3. FireSteel and Scraper

Firesteel and Scraper

A firesteel and scraper, or what used to be a flint, is a tubed piece of metal, usually steel or magnesium, that creates sparks when you run the metal scraper down the tube.

A firesteel and scraper is important to have for a couple of reasons. First, it works even if it’s wet. So if all of your other fire starters got completely soaked or ruined for some reason the firesteel will still work.

Cool ones that we have tested include:

1. BlastMatch Fire Starter
2. StrikeForce Fire Starter
3. Sparkie Fire Starter (Can use with only one hand)
4. Aurora Fire Starter (Personal Favorite)
5. Evalast Fire Clip (coolest one we tried)

Also, it will most likely outlast all of your matches and lighters put together. Many Firesteels advertise 3000 strikes, and some as many as 7000.

We cover more in-depth discussions of these fire starters in the next main section below.

Pros

  • Lightweight and compact
  • Affordable
  • Weatherproof
  • A pile of flakes can be made to intensify the initial burn
  • Most are rated for thousands of strikes
  • A broken rod is still capable of producing sparks

Cons

  • Requires practice to be used effectively
  • Does not produce an instant flame
  • May be difficult to use in cold weather
  • May be difficult to hold dpending on its size

4. 9V Battery and Steel Wool

9 Volt

This is one of my favorite ways that I think should be in every survival gear set up. If you take a 9V battery and simply touch both poles to a piece of steel wool it will catch fire.

I don’t consider this in the fire tinder category because it is the steel wool itself combined with the battery that actually makes the fire.

Two things to remember: The finer the steel wool the better. Also, it only takes a tiny bit of steel will for this to work. Just enough to cover both poles of the battery.

Pros

  • Lightweight and compact
  • Produces hot embers quickly
  • easy to use
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Not weatherproof
  • If the battery dies, becomes damaged, or ruptures it will not work
  • If one of the items becomes lost it wont work

5. Rub 2 sticks together

The most cliche survival tactic ever, rubbing two sticks together.

I am not going to go into all the different ways you can make fire with nothing but wood, that is a whole different article. Just know that you should have at least one other way to make a fire without any tools at all.

Pros

  • The materials can be sourced from the environment

Cons

  • Requires knowledge and a TON of practice to be used effectively
  • Does not produce an instant flame or spark
  • Is not weatherproof
  • Requires phsyical exertion

6. Ferrocerium Rod and Magnesium Rod

The combination of these two items is a favorite among outdoor enthusiasts. They are incredibly durable and hold up to more uses than you will probably need. All that is needed is the rod and a scraper that will produce hot burning sparks no matter the conditions. These rods are also completely waterproof and will continue to work even when they are broken. 

Pros

  • Lightweight and compact
  • Affordable
  • Weatherproof
  • A pile of flakes can be made to intensify the initial burn
  • Most are rated for thousands of strikes
  • A broken rod is still capable of producing sparks

Cons

  • Requires practice to be used effectively
  • May be difficult to use in cold weather
  • May be difficult to hold dpending on its size

7. Magnifying glass

As a fire starting tool, a magnifying glass is great because as long as it stays intact, it can be used indefinitely. That means you do not have to worry about fuel funning out or a spark rod being worn down. However, it can only be used during the day and is dependent on sunny conditions. 

Pros

  • Can be used indefinitely
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Does not produce an instant spark or flame
  • Can only be used during the day with bright sunlight
  • Requires a lot of patience


Best Fire Starters: Top Picks After Hands-On Testing

All commercially available fire starters for survival will start fires provided that you have enough time and the conditions are right.  So with that premise in mind, we wanted to take a look at which one performed the best and would be the easiest to use in a pinch with different fuels.

Check out the hands-on review video:

Here are our top picks at a glance:

Last update on 2021-09-24 at 12:14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

1. Evalast Fire Clip Review

If you want an EDC fire starter that will work in all survival situations, then the Evalast Fire Clip is highly recommended. This is also a keychain holder so you can it with you everywhere. To start a fire, just unscrew the match end, strike the cotton down the flint, and that’s it; you got a fire.

Pros:

  • Small footprint for daily carry
  • Unlimited fires
  • Bottle opener, key holder included
  • Rustproof

Cons:

  • Built as a keychain holder primarily

Click here to check out more details on the Evalast Fire Clip

2. Aurora Fire Starter Review

Aurora Fire Starter Review

Out of all of the fire starters we tested, the Aurora Fire Starter is probably the one you want if you are walking into TEOTWAWKI.  Small, light, not sexy, but the Aurora Fire Starter works.  It is a really simple design with no plastic or moving parts.  The size is great for carrying in your pocket or on your key ring but that same small size makes it a little hard to handle when starting a fire.

Pros

  • Very small and compact
  • Lightweight
  • No moving parts
  • No plastic
  • Loop for dummy cord or key ring
  • Waterproof O-ring

Cons

  • Almost too small
  • Slightly more expensive

Last update on 2021-09-24 at 12:14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

3. BlastMatch by UST Review

UST BlastMatch Fire Starter with One-Handed Operation and Lightweight...

The BlastMatch seemed to be my favorite of the UST models.  It was sort of an industrial version of the Sparkie fire starter.  I liked the size in my hand and I had more leverage with the BlastMatch than I did with the Sparkie.  Again, I liked the fact that you could use the BlastMatch with one hand and it comes with a spring loaded cover to protect your flint & steel.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Nice size – fits well in your hand
  • Able to use one handed
  • Easy to pack
  • Created a nice spark
  • Nothing to lose – flint & steel combined together

Cons

  • A little more expensive than the Sparkie
  • Plastic components, might want to have a back up
Sale
UST BlastMatch Fire Starter with One-Handed Operation and Lightweight...
  • DIMENSIONS: 4.1” L x 1.4” W x 1” D and weighs 2.3 oz
  • EASE OF USE: One handed, flint-based firestarter generates intensely hot sparks that can be...

Last update on 2021-09-24 at 12:14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

4. StrikeForce by UST Review

Ultimate Survival Technologies UST StrikeForce Fire Starter, Black

The StrikeForce by UST worked well.  I liked the concept of the container that it comes in with the dummy cord.  The size of the container is a tad bit balky but not bad.  At 3.7 ounces the weight is not a major consideration.  The two pieces (flint & steel) are dummy corded together, making them hard to lose but not impossible.  I liked the extra compartment to store tinder or a piece of WetFire.  Overall, the StrikeForce is a quality product.

Pros

  • Works in almost any conditions
  • Hard to lose working pieces
  • Compartment for storing tinder

Cons

  • Requires two pieces
  • Requires two hands
Ultimate Survival Technologies UST StrikeForce Fire Starter, Black
  • High quality, field tested surival gear
  • A variety of products to cover all your outdoor and survival needs

Last update on 2021-09-24 at 12:14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

5. Stormproof Matches Review

UCO Stormproof Match Kit with Waterproof Case, 25 Stormproof Matches and 3...

I love Stormproof Matches.  They burn in almost any condition and they burn hot.  If you have your fire tinder all set up, strike one of these and your blazing fire awaits.  The downside to these of course is that 1 match = 1 fire.  I like the idea of Stormproof matches being a back up to flint & steel.

Pros

  • The name says it all

Cons

  • One time use.  If you have 25 of these, you have 25 fires.
  • These are a great back up to other fire starters on this list
UCO Stormproof Match Kit with Waterproof Case, 25 Stormproof Matches and 3...
  • Includes 25 windproof and waterproof matches, 3 strikers and match case that can hold up to 40...
  • Matches are easy to light, will burn up to 15 seconds each and will relight after being submerged in...

Last update on 2021-09-24 at 08:03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

6. Sparkie by UST Review

UST Sparkie Firestarter with Built-In Carbide Striker and Spring Loaded...

The Sparkie is light weight and made mostly of plastic, which is not always a good thing.  If I was going to rely on a Sparkie to save my life, I would want two of them (2 is 1, 1 is none philosophy).  The Sparkie worked well under normal (far from extreme) conditions.  I liked the weight and the size of it.  I also liked the fact that you could use it with just one hand.  I am a little suspect of the durability of the plastic case, which if it failed could be a catastrophic equipment failure, causing the Sparkie to not work.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Created a nice spark
  • Nothing to lose – flint & steel combined
  • Very Small – easy to pack
  • Can use with just one hand
  • Low cost – buy two

Cons

  • Mostly made of plastic
  • Feels sort of cheap
  • Feels a little too small in my hand (Might be a better fit for a person with small hands)
UST Sparkie Firestarter with Built-In Carbide Striker and Spring Loaded...
  • DIMENSIONS: 2.3" L x 1.25" W x 0.6" D and weighs 08. oz
  • RELIABLE: Generates sparks three times hotter than a normal match; spring-loaded flint based bar...

Last update on 2021-09-24 at 12:14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Best Tinder and Fuel For Survival: Top Picks

1. Tinder on a Rope Review

How to start a fire

Tinder on a Rope will provide a nice little addition to your Bug Out Bag.  You will no longer have to search for fire tinder because it will be nice and dry in your pack.  Just cut off a few shavings and you are ready to start a fire.

Pros

  • No searching required
  • Lights when wet

Cons

  • You will need a knife

2. Wetfire Tinder Cubes Review

Fire Starter Review

The Wetfire tinder cubes can be a nice addition to your kit providing you with about 8 minutes of burn time (each). 

Pros

  • Small and Compact
  • Individually wrapped (Bring extras)
  • You can cut them up to use a smaller portion (or shavings)

Cons

  • Wish they came in a bigger size
  • Difficult to light in our experience

3. Fire Paste Review

fire starter review

If you confuse this with your toothpaste then you are in for a surprise.  Fire Paste works great but the container it comes in is a little suspect.  If it breaks in your pack you could have a mess on your hands.

Pros

  • Lights very easily

Cons

  • If the tube breaks, your SOL.

Best Firestarter For Camping: Methods Covered

If you are camping, then starting a fire is critical. Here are the best firestarters for camping purposes:

  • Lighter
  • Matches
  • Ferrocerium Rod and Magnesium Rod
  • Magnifying glass
  • Tinder
  • Dryer Lint
  • Cotton ball

DIY Method: Egg Carton Starters

These are a DIY project that has been around for some time and they are fantastic for getting a fire going. Using a cardboard egg carton, fill each egg slot with wood stove pellets. Then place in a jute twin wick and cover the pellets with melted wax.

Allow the wax to cool and harden and you will have a fire aid that will burn hot for fifteen to twenty minutes. 


Know Any Other Ways to Make Fire?

I am interested to hear if our readers have any other good ways to “make fire” that are easily stored for survival situations? Please share below:

Some honorable mentions from our commentators include: Fire pistons, which is a compact way to light a fire with air.

Photos by: Alan Ainsworth




Written by Bryan Lynch

Bryan grew up in the Midwest and spent every waking moment outdoors. Learning how to hunt, fish, read the land, and be self-reliant was part of everyday life. Eventually, he combined his passions for the outdoors, emergency preparedness, and writing. His goal was to spread positive information about this field. In 2019, Bryan authored the book Swiss Army Knife Camping and Outdoor Survival Guide. His second book, Paracord Projects For Camping and Outdoor Survival, is scheduled to be released on March 2, 2021. Read more of Bryan's articles.