No survival kit is complete without at least one type of fire starter. Fire is one of the most important elements when it comes to a survival situation, as it is beneficial in such a wide variety of necessary tasks. In some cases, the ability to create fire in any environment can mean the difference between life and death.
The most common fire starters that survivalists pack with them are flint and steel, magnesium blocks, lighters, and matches. Each of these are a great option and can be beneficial in many survival situations and environments. On the other hand, each comes with some drawbacks that buyers should be aware of before purchasing.
It is a good idea for survivalists to pack more than just one type fire starter in case of emergency or in the case that one option doesn’t work in certain environments. This buying guide will provide an overview of all of these fire starters and then suggest the very best of each.
Our Top List: Best Survival Fire Starters
- Best Flint Fire Starter: Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel
- Best Magnesium Fire Starter: SE FS374 Fire Starter & Magnesium Fuel Bar
- Best Lighter for Survival: Zippo Emergency Fire Starter
- Best Survival Matches: UCO Stormproof Match Kit
Scroll down to read our detailed reviews on each of these items, but you can check out the current prices and read customer reviews on Amazon by clicking the links above.
Fire Starter Buying Guide
Flint and Steel
Flint is a material that many survivalists carry with them to create fires with steel. Steel, under high amounts of pressure, heats up and can be used as a fire starter.
Using a sharp edge of a piece of flint, survivalists can hit steel in a way that creates a small spark. Holding this over some type of tinder can lead to the beginning of a fire.
Flint and steel are great to pack as a fire starter because they are simple and require little maintenance. Neither object is likely to be ruined by water or non-effective in the cold weather or strong winds.
It is a durable option than many survivalist rely on as their main source of fire. Flint and steel can be rendered useless, however, if a dry and effective source of tinder material is unavailable.
Flint and steel creates a quick spark, not a lasting flame like some of the other options available.
Another fire starter option, similar to flint and steel, is a magnesium block. Tiny pieces of magnesium make for a great tinder, so many survivalists carry blocks of it with a small rod of flint glued to one of the edges.
With a knife, flecks of magnesium can be scraped into a small pile of another type of tinder. Then, the steel knife can be scraped against the flint to create the initial spark. The magnesium is likely to catch fire quicker than just the pile of tinder alone.
Much like the first option, magnesium blocks are great because of their durability. They dry off quickly and won’t take much damage, even on hard surfaces. They are also convenient, as they don’t need to be specially stored in a container and, if threaded with a lanyard, can be worn around the neck or clipped to a belt-loop for immediate access.
The only inconvenience with magnesium is that a knife or metal striker is necessary for use. If lost without one, the block becomes fairly useless.
Lighters are a more common and simpler fire starter that many survivalists carry with them. Lighters use a spark-wheel made of steel and a small flint to create a spark, and then produce a flame with fuel.
Many survivalists find lighters convenient as they can be used with one hand and tinder isn’t required to convert a spark to a flame. This could prove useful if trying to shield wind or rain, hold kindling, or read a map while using the lighter.
Lighters are the only option out of these four fire starters that can be used with just one hand. Although the possibility of running out of fuel exists, lighters typically allow for 3,000 lights and many survivalists pack several at a time.
One problem with lighters is that they can be damaged by water. Often, the lighter will eventually dry out and become functional again, but this could create a problem if the fire is needed immediately.
Additionally, lighters can be difficult to use in below freezing temperatures when the fuel won’t flow properly. Heat it up in an armpit or between legs to get around this inconvenience.
Many survivalists choose matches as their preferred fire starter. Survival matches are much more durable than standard matches, and are usually made to be waterproof.
Many survival matches are considered “strike-anywhere” matches and don’t need a specific strike pad. Matches are convenient because they produce an immediate flame.
If stored in a protective waterproof case, matches aren’t likely to become defective so they can be depended on heavily, especially since many survival matches are designed to work in wet or windy environments. However, matches are single-use and it would require a lot of space to pack enough to equal the amount of flames one could get with any of the above options.
Most waterproof match cases can hold between 20-40 matches, far less than the 3,000 uses a lighter would yield. However, matches are the most simple fire starters and so they have less ways to become defective. With less parts that can break, matches can be very dependable.
Best Flint Fire Starter
If flint seems like the right fire starter for you, then the Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel is the best you can get. Unlike many other flint options, this flint will last the user up to 12,000 strikes.
Survivalists can rest easy and depend completely upon this flint as a fire starter because it works at any altitude and in any weather. Extreme hot or cold temperatures won’t affect the flint’s ability to create a spark, and the flint works properly even if it get wet.
This flint is especially powerful compared to other models and creates a 5500 degree F spark. The created spark is so powerful that it also makes for a great safety or help signal.
Both pieces, the flint and the steel, are attached on a small rope so that survivalists don’t have to worry about losing either of the necessary pieces.
They are small enough to wear on a necklace or throw in a pocket for easy access. As an added bonus, this flint has a built-in safety whistle.
Best Magnesium Fire Starter
For survivalists who prefer using magnesium blocks instead of the other fire starter options, the SE FS374 All-Weather Emergency 2-IN-1 Fire Starter & Magnesium Fuel Bar is the best block on the market.
Like the flint, this magnesium block is waterproof and resistant to extreme temperature and weather, so it can be used almost anywhere. The magnesium itself is constructed to be extremely durable and long lasting, and it will last the user until the entire block is eventually scraped away.
The block itself is on a removable chain, so it can be easily attached to a lanyard, backpack strap, or belt loop for more immediate access. The block is 3 inches long and 1 inch wide, so it could also fit easily into a pocket.
The magnesium lights easily and will yield a flame faster than kindling alone. As an added bonus, this magnesium block comes with a small compass.
Best Lighter for Survival
For survivalists who prefer the convenience of a lighter, the Zippo Emergency Fire Starter is the best option to use in survival situations.
Lighters can be damaged if rain or water gets inside them to any of the sparking components. This lighter solves that issue as it features a snapping lid and is sealed with water resistant o-rings.
It comes with four water resistant and waxed tinder sticks for when survivalists find themselves in an emergency situation without any dry kindling.
The case of this lighter is made of a lightweight plastic, which may not be as durable as some other lighter options but is less likely to be dropped or to take damage during a fall. The lightweight case also allows for this lighter to float in water, while other lighters would likely sink and be lost.
The bright orange color helps the lighter stand out when users are looking for it. Since this is a Zippo lighter, the fuel and flints can be replaced as necessary.
Best Survival Matches
The UCO Stormproof Match Kit offers the best available option for survival matches and comes with everything to keep them functioning and safe from damage.
The kit contains 25 matches, 3 strikers, and a case that can hold up to 40 matches. The matches themselves are of the highest quality and built for survival situations. They are windproof as well as waterproof and will even light properly after being submerged in water or heavily rained on.
The matchsticks are each 2 3/4 inches long for added safety and longer burn time. After striking, the match will burn for 15 seconds. This is longer than most matches and plenty of time to light a fire or see something quickly in the dark.
The waterproof case is bright orange so it can be found easily, and is able to float in water. The side of the case has an integrated and replaceable striker for easy access and to make striking the matches less cumbersome.