The 10 Best Fire Starters of 2021

Sure fire ways to spark up any kind of flame in any situation

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The Rundown

Best Overall: Wolf and Grizzly Fire Set at Amazon

"This set is simple by design but thoroughly capable to fit any emergency."

Best Buy: SE Full Magnesium Body Fire Starter at Amazon

"SE's all-in-one magnesium fire starter kit will fit in your pocket and costs less than your favorite microbrewed IPA."

Best Kit: Light My Fire FireLighting Kit BIO at REI

"When you want a guaranteed fire in any condition, go for this aptly named company."

Best for Fire Pits: Weber Lighter Cubes at Amazon

"These cubes quickly transform a pile of smoldering kindling to a roaring bonfire."

Best One-Handed: Ultimate Survival Technologies BlastMatch Fire Starter at Amazon

"The one-handed BlastMatch is light and will spark in any weather."

Best Charcoal Starter: Melt Fire Starters at Amazon

"A wood blend with refined wax that ignites quickly when met with a flame."

Best Sticks: Coghlan’s Fire Sticks at Amazon

"Burning smoothly for about nine minutes, these sticks give ample time to start your BBQ."

Best Back-Up: Zippo Emergency Fire Kit at Amazon

"While compact, this kit packs in a lot of essential fire-making features for all situations."

Best Every-Day-Carry: Exotac nanoSTRIKER XL at Amazon

"Pocket-friendly yet containing a larger rod for easy flames, this model is a great bet."

Best Multi-Use: Uberleben Zunden Fire Starter at Amazon

"Looking like your traditional ferro rod, this model starts fires in the wet and wind."

Adventurous travelers know the importance of having more than one way to start a fire. Lighters can run out of fuel. And matches can get wet and fail to strike a flame. This is why it’s a good protocol to have a backup way of generating a spark. In this round-up, we cover the gamut. From ferro rods that generate sparks that rate to 5,400 degrees F to reliable ways to light charcoal, backyard fire pits, and camp stoves. We'll also make suggestions for fire starters that reliably create an emergency fire, even in the wettest, windiest, highest-altitude conditions.

These are the best fire starters.

Best Overall: Wolf and Grizzly Fire Set

What We Like
  • Lifespan of 20,000 strikes

  • Can use the cord as last-resort kindling

  • Sharpen the Fire Set to extend product life

What We Don't Like
  • Learning curve to using a striker

Simple by design but made for any emergency, the Fire Set from Wolf and Grizzley utilizes an 11-inch steel striker and a ferro rod. The combo generates a shower of sparks capable of temps up to 5,400 degrees F, with a wide surface area to make it easy and quick to get going. And, because the rod is 100 percent ferro, you can sharpen the Fire Set the same way you do your favorite knife or multi-tool to extend the life of the product. Better still, if you’re in dire need of a fire but lack any sort of kindling, you can cut the paracord that attaches the striker rod and pull out a length of jute that’s wrapped inside the nylon, and use it as kindling. All this for a tool that weighs only 2.23 ounces. It comes with a one-year limited warranty and a life span of up to 20,000 strikes.

Best Buy: SE Full Magnesium Body Fire Starter

What We Like
  • Weatherproof and waterproof

  • Affordable price point

  • Pocket-sized

What We Don't Like
  • At 12 ounces, it's a bit heavy

Don’t mistake the Sona Enterprises (SE) All-Weather Magnesium Fire Starter Kit's modest price for a lesser product. SE has created an all-in-one fire starter that comes with a fully magnesium flint and striker. We love that it's weatherproof and will fit into your pocket. We especially love that it costs almost the same as a pint of your favorite microbrewed craft IPA. We don't love that it weighs nearly a pound. But if you're looking for a low-budget firestarter to keep in your survival bag or take on car camping trips, the SE Magnesium Kit is as solid as any.

Best Kit: Light My Fire FireLighting Kit BIO

What We Like
  • Any-altitude and all-weather fire starter

  • Includes stainless steel BBQ fork

  • Works with camp stoves

What We Don't Like
  • Method may take patience to get going

When you want an absolute, guaranteed fire in any condition, go for the FireLighting Kit BIO from the aptly named company Light My Fire. The three-piece package includes the brand’s legendary FireSteel fire starter, which was first developed by the Swedish Department of Defense. It uses a magnesium alloy—a mix of iron, magnesium, lanthanum, and cerium—to generate a solid shower of sparks helping ignite kindling in high-altitude and low-temp environments. It can combust flammable gas or liquid directly, working with your modern camp stove, and light kindling. The stainless-steel striker comes with a precise edge to deliver maximum spark. The kit also includes Tinder-on-a-Rope, a sustainably sourced natural fire tinder that’s 80 percent resin and will light even when wet. Then, after you’ve nursed your fire to life, attach the included Grandpa’s FireFork to a stick, pull off the plastic cap, and skewer your marshmallows to the twin spikes to roast your well-earned reward.

Best for Fire Pits: Weber Lighter Cubes

Weber Fire Cubes

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Box of 24 lighter cubes

  • Use for grills, smokers, campfires

  • Lights easily even when wet

What We Don't Like
  • Still requires lighter or match

If you’re looking to quickly transform your backyard fire pit from a pile of smoldering kindling to a roaring bonfire, go with Weber’s Lighter Cubes. Now, you'll still need to generate a flame via match or lighter (we like long-necked lighters so you can bury the Lighter Cubes under a pile of kindling). But once you put flame to the paraffin wax cube, you’ll get a reliable burn—even if the cube’s wet—for up to 15 minutes, ample time to ignite the kindling and then larger logs. They also produce no ash and burn strong even in windy or wet conditions. Each box comes with 24 cubes and can also be used to ignite charcoal, smokers, and indoor fireplaces.

Best One-Handed: Ultimate Survival Technologies BlastMatch Fire Starter

What We Like
  • Three times hotter than standard matches

  • Weatherproof and able to light in basically all conditions

  • Up to 4,000 strikes

What We Don't Like
  • Requires a solid surface to strike against

Meet your ultimate emergency fire starter. Created specifically for situations where only one hand is available, the flint-based Ultimate Survival Technologies (UST) BlastMatch can be used in any weather. We like that it gives up to 4,000 strikes and the sparks can be targeted in specific directions. At just 2.3 ounces, and 4 inches long, the BlastMatch is also a good choice for backpackers.

Best Charcoal Starter: Melt Fire Starters

What We Like
  • 160 squares of environmentally-friendly blocks

  • Burns smoothly for ten minutes

  • Works even if damp or water saturated

What We Don't Like
  • Produces less heat

BBQ purists understandably endorse using a chimney to get a batch of charcoal up to temp—and with good reason. They’re easy to use and reliably produce hot coals ready for your grill. But if you prefer the old-school method of stacking a pyramid of coals, use the Melt Fire Starters to get things going. These environmentally-friendly blocks are constructed of a wood blend with refined wax that ignites quickly when met with a flame. If using a chimney, simply put a few of these under the bed of coals and ignite the charcoal with them, rather than using newspaper. The cubes burn smooth for about ten minutes and work even if fully saturated. They can also be used to start bonfires, smokers, fire pits, and wood stoves. Good for car camping, but probably not the choice for your backpacking fire starter.

Best Sticks: Coghlan’s Fire Sticks

What We Like
  • A dozen waterproof fire sticks

  • Leaves no odor

  • Use for indoor or outdoor fires

What We Don't Like
  • Must dry out if exposed to water

Coghlan’s Fire Sticks burn smoothly and odor-free for about nine minutes, which should be ample time to start your BBQ or indoor or outdoor fires. You get 12 sticks in a bundle, and users report that often only half a stick is needed to get the kindling going. They do work even after being submerged in water, but will need drying out before using, which is a modest knock against an otherwise reliable fire starter.

Best Back-Up: Zippo Emergency Fire Kit

What We Like
  • Includes wax-coated tinders and ignition

  • Textured handle for grip

  • Includes lanyard point

What We Don't Like
  • Flint doesn't produce a lot of sparks

The Zippo Emergency Fire Kit measures in at only four inches. But it packs a lot of essential fire-making features into its modest profile, including five easy-to-light paraffin wax-coated tinders that ignite with a spark and burn for up to five minutes. The tinder lights easily thanks to Zippo’s iconic flint-wheel ignition that generates a comforting shower of high-temp sparks. An ergonomic design paired with a textured grip makes it easy to use—and hard to drop, while the ABS plastic body of the device floats in water. Bonus: An O-ring seal keeps the insides from wetting out. It also includes a lanyard point on one side of the cap and weighs only 1.6 ounces.

Best Every-Day-Carry: Exotac nanoSTRIKER XL

What We Like
  • Waterproof ferro rod with 3,000 strikes

  • Aluminum body for rugged protection

  • Includes flammable lanyard

What We Don't Like
  • May be too small for large hands

A slightly larger model than Exotac’s original nanoStriker, the XL edition still measures in at a very pocket-friendly 3.6 inches. But the XL includes a larger rod and handle than the original to make it easier to generate serious sparks. It also has a longer application since the larger ferrocerium rod (now a quarter-inch long) works for more than 3,000 strikes (versus the old rating of 1,000). This ferro rod stows inside the textured anodized aluminum body of the fire striker. When you’re ready to get the fire going simply unscrew the striker, flip it around, and screw it back on—then use the tungsten carbide striker to let the sparks fly. It works when wet, though O-rings keep moisture from getting inside. The included lanyard is constructed from Exotac’s 550 FireCord, which has an inner red strand that takes flame easily and burns like a candle to help get your kindling going if initial efforts prove frustrating. Best of all, when ferro rod eventually wears out, you can buy a replacement without having to invest in an entirely new fire starter.

Best Multi-Use: Uberleben Zunden Fire Starter

What We Like
  • Up to 12,000 strikes

  • Works at any altitude or with any weather

  • Includes six other functions

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn't put out a lot of sparks

At first glance, the Uberlebe Zunden Fire Starter looks like a fairly traditional ferro rod. And it is that, of course, with a 2.5-inch rod that can handle up to 12,000 strikes in the smallest of three models. It generating sparks that measure in at 5,500 degrees F, molten enough to start a fire in even wet, windy, or high-altitude conditions. The hand-made hardwood handle speaks to the high-quality materials that were used and offers a natural, textured grip. But the real magic lies in the scraper, which reliably produces showers of sparks, but also offers six other functions, including a ruler, micro-saw, hex key, and bottle opener. A military-grade 550 paracord lanyard keeps it within reach.

Final Verdict

For a solid and well-built fire starter, it's hard to go wrong with Wolf and Grizzley's Fire Set (view at Amazon). It wins high marks for its ability to reliably generate 5,400 degrees F sparks with a large rod surface area—not to mention the paracord strap contains some dried jute inside for use during emergencies. You can keep it in your gear bag for many trips thanks to the 20,000 strike lifespan.

Why trust TripSavvy?

Nathan Borchelt has more than 15 years of experience testing and writing about outdoor and adventure gear. TripSavvy authors spend hours researching their topics, interviewing experts, and reading reviews and comments to compile their best-of lists.

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