The 10 Best Fire Starters of 2020

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 solutioned to fit any emergency."

Best Buy: SOL Mag Striker at Amazon

"Don’t mistake the Mag Striker’s modest price for a lesser product—SOL has thought of it all."

Best Kit: Light My Fire FireLighting Kit BIO at Amazon

"When you want a guaranteed fire in any condition, go for the 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

"Made of recycled wood chips and wax, these squares work even when wet."

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 farro rod, this model starts fires in the wet and wind."

Adventurous travelers know that you should never rely on having only one way to start a fire. Lighters can run out of fuel, and matches can get wet and fail to strike a flame, which 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 and backyard fire pits, ignite stoves, and reliably create an emergency fire in even the wettest, windiest, highest-altitude conditions. These are the best fire starters.

Best Overall: Wolf and Grizzly Fire Set

  • Lifespan of 20,000 strikes

  • Can use the cord as last-resort kindling

  • Sharpen the Fire Set to extend product life

  • Learning curve to using a striker

Simple by design but made to fit any emergency, the Fire Set from Wolf and Grizzley utilizes an 11-inch ferrocerium rod striker and a ferro rod to generate a shower of sparks that reach temps of 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 that 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: SOL Mag Striker

  • Combo magnesium and flint fire starter

  • Affordable price point

  • Has bottle opener attached

  • Limited to 100 sparks

Don’t mistake the Mag Striker’s modest price for a lesser product. SOL has created an all-in-one fire starter that comes with flint and magnesium rods embedded in the ergonomic handle. The steel scraper has a curved edge to make it easier to shave off a pile of magnesium, which has a maximum burn temperature of up to 5,400 degrees F. Then use the straight edge of the striker against the flint to generate a shower of sparks that’ll quickly ignite the magnesium and light kindling. And once you’ve got the fire going, you can pop open a cold one with the bottle opener integrated into the steel striker. The ferrocerium rod will create enough sparks for more than 100 fires.

Best Kit: Light My Fire FireLighting Kit BIO

  • Any-altitude and all-weather fire starter

  • Includes stainless steel BBQ fork

  • Works with camp stoves

  • Method may take patience to get going

When you want an absolute, guaranteed fire in any condition, go for the FireLighitng 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 to help ignite kindling in high-altitude and low-temp environments. It can combust flammable gas or liquid directly, working with your modern camp stove, as well as help 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

  • Box of 24 lighter cubes

  • Use for grills, smokers, campfires

  • Lights easily even when wet

  • 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. Mind you, you 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 flame—even if the cube’s wet—that burns 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

  • Three times hotter than standard matches

  • Safely use on grills, smokers, stoves and more

  • Approved for indoor and outdoor use

  • Requires a solid surface to strike against

These handy fire starter squares are perfect to use in your fireplace or firepit to get your fire burning without the need for any kindling. Made of recycled wood chips and wax, they will light even when they’re wet. You can also safely use them on your grills, smoker, wood, or coal stoves, and they won’t flavor your food at all. Approved for indoor and outdoor use, they burn clean and meet the strictest air quality codes.

Best Charcoal Starter: Melt Fire Starters

  • 160 squares of environmentally-friendly blocks

  • Burns smoothly for 10 minutes

  • Works even if damp or water saturated

  • Don't contain wax so produce 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 you want to use a coal 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 10 minutes and work even if fully saturated. They can also be used to start bonfires, smokers, fire pits, and wood stoves.

Best Sticks: Coghlan’s Fire Sticks

  • 12 waterproof fire sticks

  • Leaves no odor

  • Use for indoor or outdoor fires

  • 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 all you need to get the kindling going. They do work even if they’ve been submerged in water—but they have to be dried out before using, which is a modest knock against an otherwise reliable fire starter.

Best Back-Up: Zippo Emergency Fire Kit

  • Includes wax-coated tinders and ignition

  • Textured handle for grip

  • Includes lanyard point

  • Flint doesn't produce a lot of sparks

The Zippo Emergency Fire Kit measures in at only four inches, but it packs in 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; 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

  • Waterproof ferro rod with 3,000 strikes

  • Aluminum body for rugged protection

  • Includes flammable lanyard

  • 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 includes a larger rod and handle than the original to make it easier to generate serious sparks—and 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, and 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 you get your kindling going if initial efforts prove frustrating. Best of all, when you eventually wear out the farro rod, you can buy a replacement without having to invest in an entire fire starter.

Best Multi-Use: Uberleben Zunden Fire Starter

  • Up to 12,000 strikes

  • Works at any altitude or with any weather

  • Includes six other functions

  • Doesn't put out a lot of sparks

At first glance the Uberlebe Zunden Fire Starter looks a fairly traditional farro 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, 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 camping trip after camping trip thanks to the 20,000 strike lifespan.

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