15 Best Fire Starters for Backpackers & Preppers for 2020

Along with shelter, water, and food, fire is one of the core 4 essentials you need to survive in the wilderness or when the shiz hits the fan.

In a survival situation, away from the conveniences of modern life, you must have a way to cook your food, stave off predators, act as a light source and even help you prepare tools.

Fire Starter Ferro

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Methods to Start a Fire
    1. Natural Occurrences
    2. Friction
    3. Percussion
    4. Compression of Air
    5. Solar
    6. Chemical

15 Best Fire Starters for Backpackers and Preppers
    #15) Gerber Bear Grylls Firestarter
    #14) E FS374 All-Weather Emergency 2-IN-1 Fire Starter & Magnesium Fuel Bar
    #13) Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel 2.0 Army 12,000 Strike Fire Starter with Emergency Whistle
    #12) Ultimate Survival Technologies Spark Force Firestarter
    #11) Dimples Excel 6 in 1 Extra Large Size 133g Military Instant Waterproof Windproof Magnesium Fire Starter
    #10) D-FantiX Anti-corrosion Magnesium Fire Starter Kit Survival Flint with Compass + Long Chain Camping Equipment EDC Gear
    #9) Uberleben Zünden Traditional Bushcraft Fire Steel with wood handle, 5/16" thick Ferro Rod Fire Starter for Survival
    #8) EggDeal survival New Black Steel Flint Magnesium Stone Fire Starter Safe and Durable Survival Kit
    #7) Ultimate Survival Technologies BlastMatch
    #6) Dimples Excel Magnesium Alloy Emergency Easy Grip Fire Starter with 500 lb (227 kg) Paracord Lanyard (2 Pack)
    #5) Core Survival Magnesium Fire Starter, Glass Breaker, Tactical Keychain
    #4)  Pernix Magnesium Survival Firestarter
    #3) The Friendly Swede Keychain Fire Starter with Whistle (2-pack)
    #2) Alpha Encender Fire starter
    #1) SurvivalSPARK Emergency Magnesium Fire Starter with Compass and Whistle

Methods to Start a Fire

Several methods can cause a fire to start aside from using lighters and matches. If you were to go hiking or backpacking, you must be familiar with the different ways you can make fire, in case one method fails.

Here are some of them:


1. Natural Occurrences lighting

Fire can naturally start because of lightning strikes, meteorites, and volcanic activity. Because of these natural occurrences, plants and animals have learned to adjust their life and behavior to adapt to it.

Humans, since the early ages, have made use of fire mainly for warmth and cooking. The easiest method they used to create fire was to use burning wood or hot ashes from a grass or forest fire. They put in an additional combustible material to keep the coals or fire going as long as they can.


2. Friction

Fire can be made by rubbing combustible materials rapidly against each other until they are head and produce an ember. Once hot enough, the tinder is exposed to the ember to ignite it further. Then, one needs to add more oxygen by blowing on the materials. Doing so will cause the fire to spread further.

  • Hand Drill

To make fire using a hand drill, you need a thin, straight wood shaft, a fireboard, and a good amount of tinder. Hold the shaft in a vertical position between your palms. Its bottom tip should be in the carved notch of your fireboard.

Start spinning quickly with downward pressure until you get an ember. A hand drill is best used for making a fire in dry climates.

  • Bow Drill

Bow drill

A bow drill works in a similar matter with the hand drill.

You also create friction by rotating a wooden shaft on a wooden board. However, the shaft here is wider and shorter. Instead of just bare hands, a bow is used to drive the shaft to protect the palms and to make the strokes longer and easier.

  • Pump Drill

The pump drill works the same way as a bow drill, except that this method uses a coiled rope wrapped around the cross-section of a wooden stake to spin the wooden shaft instead of a bow.

One advantage of using a pump drill instead of a bow or hand drill is that a user can continue operating a pump drill with just one hand while using the other hand to steady and position the work.

  • Fire Plough

Another method that makes use of friction is the fire plough.

sportsmans warehouse

Materials needed are a long, wooden stick with a dull point and a long piece of wood that has a groove cut down vertically in the middle. Press down the wooden stick and rub it quickly against the groove of the long piece of wood. Do this action repeatedly and in a plowing motion until an ember is produced.


3. Percussion


When you hit a fire striker or firesteel using hard, glassy stone, hot, oxidizing metals are produced that can spark tinder. Quartz, flint, agate, or jasper are some of the stones that can be used in this scenario. The steel must be hardened, high carbon, and non-alloyed.

In pre-industrial societies, the flint became the most popular technique of creating flames.

The use of a ferro rod and striker to create fire date back to the early Iron Age.

Thus, making this fire starting method very ancient. All you have to do is strike the flint on a steel or iron. This action causes the material to shave off very heated small metal pieces. Direct these metal pieces to tinder or char cloth to create fire.

Modern ferro rods and strikers use ferrocerium alloy instead of flint. This material has been proven to create more sparks that burn longer.

This fire starter set is small and light. You can easily toss one or two of them in your pocket or backpack. However, some technique is required to make a fire out of them successfully.

  • Lighter

Lighters make use of a percussion-type sparking device that ignites liquid fuels to make fire.

Naphtha or gasoline or commonly used as a gas or liquid fuels in a lighter. This item is one of the more high tech types of survival starters. No repeated manual action is required to ignite a fire.

All you have to do is spin the wheel mechanism using your thumb, and you’re good to go. Aside from being easy to use, it is also small, light, and cheap. There’s absolutely no reason not to include a few of these in your backpack. 


4. Compression of Air

Nearly all gases can heat up if compressed.

If you make the compression faster and harder, the gas gets hotter. The gas can become extremely hot to the point that it would be enough to produce fire.

Your diesel engine functions in a similar way. No spark plugs are present, instead, the mixture and fuel and air are ignited through compression when you close up the cylinder.

  • Fire Piston

The main principle behind the fire piston is physics’ first law of thermodynamics: energy cannot be created or destroyed – it has to go somewhere.

A fire piston has only two parts: a thick-walled tube and a rod that fits perfectly when inserted in the tube. Modern fire pistons are made of aluminum. Older versions were made of either wood, horn, antlers, or bamboo.

To make fire, insert tinder or char cloth into the tube. Then, quickly and forcefully insert the rod to compress the air inside and heat the cloth or tinder until ignition. Fire pistons are light and portable.

It’s convenient to carry them around. However, once the seal is compromised, the entire device is already ruined. So, be careful in handling them and learn the proper technique when striking the rod to achieve your desired result.


5. Solar

sun power

Sunlight, of course, can be used to make fire. By using a lens, it can be concentrated so its energy is focused on the tinder. Lens such as a concave mirror or a burning glass can be used to execute this method.

  • Magnifying Lens

As mentioned above, a clear lens can be used as a fire starter. The lens can be made of plastic, glass, or even ice.

This method, however, needs a sunny day and a good lens with magnification power. These requirements are too specific, so make sure you have other fire-starting alternatives. Simply hold the lens on top of the tinder and move it back until a bright white point of light is seen where the sun’s rays are focused. Hold the lens still until you start seeing smoke.


6. Chemical

Once enough heat is generated, an exothermic chemical reaction can set itself or tinder on fire. A good example of a material that uses this method is a match stick. When triggered by friction, it’s coating produces an exothermic reaction.

  • Matches

Matches are one of the most popular fire starting mechanisms.

The Chinese invented it over 1400 years ago. Through trade, it spread slowly to other continents. As mentioned, the colored tip of a match stick is coated in a highly combustible chemical. Strike it once on the material located on the sides of the matchbox, and you are good to go.

Matches are good fire starters because using it does not require much technique, energy, or time.

They are also very cheap, light, and portable. You can carry several boxes while on the go. However, You have to be careful in storing and using them because moisture can easily ruin them.


15 Best Fire Starters for Backpackers and Preppers

Making fire without the assistance of modern tools such as survival lighters can be difficult though, as you must find the right materials, in ideal conditions to allow you to start the first spark and build an adequately sized fire.

Fortunately, you do not have to rub rocks together in order to get a fire going. With the following fire starters, you should be able to build a perfect survival fire in no time with minimum hassle:


#15) Gerber Bear Grylls Firestarter

Gerber Bear Grylls Firestarter

Bear Grylls fire starter is a device with a Ferrocerium rod and metal striker.

It comes with a waterproof storage compartment to keep the tinder-dry when not in use. The lanyard helps to keep each piece secure while you are using it.

The fire starter comes in a kit that contains the starter, lanyard, rod, and emergency survival guide.

A whistle is included in the rod for use during emergencies. Small and compact, this fire starter is portable and easy to use. However, users have complained that the chord it comes with is too short to wear around the neck.

Color:Weight:Measures: Firestarter components:Also Includes:
Black3.52 ounces4-4/5 inches when closed Ferrocerium rod and metal strikercomes with lanyard and Emergency Whistle


#14) E FS374 All-Weather Emergency 2-IN-1 Fire Starter & Magnesium Fuel Bar

Magnesium Fire Starter Kit

This fire starter makes use of a compact aluminum rod that can be scrapped to create shavings for starting a fire.

It comes with a black flint striking rod and serrated metal striker. To use, you simply use the serrated metal striker to create shavings, place the shavings on tinder (dry leaves, twigs, grass, etc) and strike the flint to create a spark.

The fire starter comes with a bonus compass, is easy to use, and provides enough aluminum shavings for up to 100 fires.

Its main disadvantage is that the magnesium rod is a bit difficult to scrape so it might take you quite a while to get the shavings you need to start a fire.

Color:Weight:Measures: Firestarter components:Also Includes:
Silver12 ounces3″ x 1″magnesium fuel bar with flintIncludes compass and detachable ball chain


13) Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel 2.0 Army 12,000 Strike Fire Starter with Emergency Whistle

This fire starter was designed by the Swedish military to provide instant fires regardless of the attitude. It has an alloy rod, stainless steel striker that produces a 3,000º C spark, ergonomic handle, and emergency whistle.

Advantages include ease of use, 12,000 strikes and the ability to work in wet conditions.

The spark that appears when you strike the rod can also be used as emergency lighting. Customer complaints about this product include a too short strap and low sounding whistle.

light my fires weed
light my fires weed 2

Color:Weight:Measures: Firestarter components:Also Includes:
Orange1.76 ounces3.7 x 1 x 0.6 inches stainless steel strikerbuilt-in emergency whistle


#12) Ultimate Survival Technologies Spark Force Firestarter

The Spark Force is a flint-based fire starter that comes with a striker built into a detachable cap with a lanyard to prevent accidental sparks.

The fire starter creates sparks in all weather conditions allowing you to start fires even in adverse conditions like rain and snow.

The protective casing it comes with makes it easier to carry around. The Spark Force’s main disadvantage is that you have to strike the rod several times before you can get a good spark going.

ultimate survivals tech spark

Color:Weight:Measures: Firestarter components:Also Includes:
orange1 oz3.1” L x 0.75” W x 0.4” Dflint-based fire starterABS case and lanyard


#11) Dimples Excel 6 in 1 Extra Large Size 133g Military Instant Waterproof Windproof Magnesium Fire Starter

If you are looking for a great multi-feature and multipurpose fire starter, the Dimples Excel 6 is as good as they come.

This extra large ferrocerium rod comes with a mini ruler with a serrated edge, emergency whistle, bottle opener and a 108 inch woven, paracord lanyard.

This fire starter is weatherproof, durable and fireproof and comes with a lifetime guarantee from excel. The main disadvantage of this product is that weighing in at 133g; it is much heavier than other fire starters.

dimples excel 6 in 1

Color:Weight:Measures: Firestarter components:Also Includes:
black0.3 ounces4.97″x.5″FiresteelMini Ruler, Bottle Opener, Serrated Edge, Rescue Whistle and Lanyard Woven by 108 inches Paracord


 #10) D-FantiX Anti-corrosion Magnesium Fire Starter Kit Survival Flint with Compass + Long Chain Camping Equipment EDC Gear

This pen-shaped fire starter is made of a high-grade aluminum rod that comes with a multifunctional striker that can be used as a ruler, saw, compass and bottle opener. It has a long chain to help you keep the striker and rod together.

It’s highly compact to ease portability and can be used in all types of weather. It is anti-corrosive, fireproof and water resistant. The alloy rod is thicker than most to provide greater sparks and make it easier to start a fire.

Unfortunately, customers have complained that it does not create enough sparks in damp conditions.

d fantix fire starter

Color:Weight:Measures: Firestarter components:Also Includes:
Black or silver3.52 ounces4.7 x 0.6 x 0.6 inchesMagnesium Firestarterwith Compass and Long Chain Camping Equipment (Black)


#9) Uberleben Zünden Traditional Bushcraft Fire Steel with wood handle, 5/16″ thick Ferro Rod Fire Starter for Survival

The Uberleben Zunden Bushcraft Fire Steel is a premium fire starter that comes with a wooden handle and a thick Ferrocerium rod.

A braided nylon lanyard, concave toothed scraper, and free 3 ply tinder come with this fire starter to help you get started with fire building.

Customers love this product for the great organic feel of its handle, durability, and ability to create large sparks.

Its major downside is that it requires a mighty stroke to get the sparks going but the great number and size of sparks more than makeup for this.

uberleben zunden trad-2

uberleben zunden trad

Color:Weight:Measures: Firestarter components:Also Includes:
black with hardwood handle0.11lbs5/16”, 3/8” or 1/2”Steel ScrapperMil-spec 550 paracord lanyard + Multi-tool striker


#8) EggDeal survival New Black Steel Flint Magnesium Stone Fire Starter Safe and Durable Survival Kit

One of the simpler designed and more effective products on the market, the Eggdeal fire starter comes with a magnesium flint rod, green striker and black carrying lanyard. It is great for people who are just getting started with fire starters due to their basic features and cheap cost.

The sparks created can help you start a fire in as little as 30 seconds and it’s small, compact nature makes it easy to carry.

The major disadvantage is that the striker might not produce enough sparks but this can be mitigated by using the edge of a knife.



Color:Weight:Measures: Firestarter components:Also Includes:
Black0.80oz10×2.2×1.1cmmagnesium flintstone and iron scraperblack lanyard for carrying


#7) Ultimate Survival Technologies BlastMatch

The flint on this particular fire starter is spring loaded, allowing you to retract it once you are done lighting your fire. The carbide striker is highly effective and allows you to get as many as 4000 strikes.

The fire starter itself produces three times as much heat as other options and has been shown to work in the rain and other adverse weather conditions. It comes with a safety button to prevent accidents.

The one disadvantage that customers have found is that the rod keeps falling out of the casing.

ultimate survivals tech blastmatch

Color:Weight:Measures: Firestarter components:Also Includes:
black7 ounces7.5 x 4 x 1.2 inchesSpring loaded rotating flint bar and carbide strikerone hand sparked


#6) Dimples Excel Magnesium Alloy Emergency Easy Grip Fire Starter with 500 lb (227 kg) Paracord Lanyard (2 Pack)

This 2 pack kit comes with two 5” ferrocerium rods, two 2.5 inch steel strikers and 2 woven paracord lanyards. These fire starters work in all weather conditions and come with extra long rods to allow for the creation of more sparks.

The ergonomic handles are ideal for holding even when your fingers are too frozen to handle other fire starters. This product comes with a lifetime warranty.

dimples excel mag

Color:Weight:Measures: Firestarter components:Also Includes:
black3.2 ounces5.3 x 0.5 x 5.3 inchesSteel Strikerslanyard


#5) Core Survival Magnesium Fire Starter, Glass Breaker, Tactical Keychain

This 4-in-1 fire starter is made up of an aircraft grade magnesium and tungsten flint rod that is accompanied by a flint striker, glass breaker, tinder compartment, and tinder cotton ball.

The high-quality alloy ensures a high-quality fire, customers have access to a lifetime warranty and also have the option of picking the color they want i.e. coal-black, charcoal grey or pearly champagne.

This fire starter can be a little big and may not suit people who are looking for something they can hang on their key chains.

core survival

core survival 2

Color:Weight:Measures: Firestarter components:Also Includes:
Grey, Champagne or Black1 ounce4.25 x 0.5 x 0.5 inchesmagnesium and tungsten flint rod glass breaker and tactical keychain


#4)  Pernix Magnesium Survival Firestarter

One of the more lightweight options on the market, this fire starter packs a punch with regard to the number of sparks (12,000), is waterproof and is made of military-grade material. It can function in all types of weather conditions and comes with a lifetime warranty.

The major disadvantage is that the lanyard tends to break shortly after purchase.

pernix starter

Color:Weight:Measures: Firestarter components:Also Includes:
orange0.32 ounces5.5 x 3 x 0.7 inchesmagnesium rodlanyard


#3) The Friendly Swede Keychain Fire Starter with Whistle (2-pack)

The friendly Swede fire starter is a lightweight, pocket-size fire starter that comes with a braided lanyard and emergency whistle. Each pack comes with one orange and one black fire starter, each with an aluminium rod in a plastic casing along with a striker.

The smallness of this fire starter makes it easy to carry around your neck or inside your pocket. The two main cons are that the sound on the whistle is very low and the rod sometimes falls out of the plastic casing.

friendly swede key

Color:Shipping Weight:Measures: Firestarter components:Also Includes:
orange or black0.3 ounces1/4″ in diameter and 1-1/2″ longkeychain size magnesium firestarterwith whistle


#2) Alpha Encender Fire starter

Preppers, campers, hunters and other outdoorsy types will be happy to learn about the existence of this efficient and affordable fire starter.

It comes with a magnesium rod, metal striker and lanyard that helps to hold the two together. The main pro for this product is its simplicity. Simple design, efficient working and easy portability.

alpha encender-2

Color:Weight:CapacityFirestarter components:Also Includes:
black3.2 ouncesup to 15,000 strikesFire Starter with Ferrocerium Rod, Large Magnesium Rod and metal strikerlanyard


#1) SurvivalSPARK Emergency Magnesium Fire Starter with Compass and Whistle

This is the best-rated fire starter on the market today thanks to its user-friendly features and affordable price. Made up of a magnesium striker and metal rod, it comes with a lanyard and compass and is known to provide up to 15000 strikes.

It also has a loud quality whistle which can be heard over several miles, while the lanyard makes great tinder for starting fires.

On the whole, many users report no cons with this product but the compass is a bit on the small side and tends to wander a bit if air bubbles are trapped inside.


survival spark-2

Color:Shipping Weight:Measures: Firestarter components:Also Includes:
black1.6 ounces5.6 x 3 x 1 inchesmagnesium rod and serrated strikerwith compass and an SOS whistle



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