The Finest Fireplace Starters for Tenting, Barbecuing, and Survival

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Popular Mechanics; Courtesy of UCO

Whether you’re trying to keep warm in the backcountry or cooking in the backyard, fire is an important tool — but getting it up and running without a good fire starter can be tedious. Today’s firelighters are more than just a BIC lighter and some kindling or shredded bark. They’re also better — and safer — than dousing a pile of wood or briquettes with a liquid charcoal starter (a light kerosene) that can leave a flavor on your food. A good lighter can quickly start and sustain a fire without affecting the smell or taste of the food being cooked in it, and can keep your warming fire burning strong for hours.

The best fire starters

What to consider

There are two main types of fire starters: the spark and the tinder. You can technically start a fire with just the spark, but tinder makes it easier to nurture those initial sparks into a full blown fire to keep warm or get the grill going. Here we discuss some of our favorite tools for starting a fire and keeping it going.

First, a note about fires in the wild: It is extremely important to obey local fire bans and handle fire responsibly. Never light an open fire during a fire ban as it endangers human life, wildlife, forests and property!

If campgrounds have fire pits or fireboxes, use them or bring a portable fire pit like a LavaBox or Solo Stove. If you’re camping in the backcountry and making a fire, find an existing, well-established fire circle to use, or make one with rocks. After you’re done with the fire, use water to put out all the embers. After it cools, break the ring of fire, throw the rocks and all the wood will be gone. Spread cold ash and cover the areas with natural debris (dirt, leaves, twigs, etc.) to minimize the likelihood of someone else using the same area for a ring of fire in the future. (Leave No Trace has some great information on proper backcountry fire management.)

Spark-igniting igniters are things like lighters, matches, or ferrous rods. They typically involve the use of friction and a chemical reaction between two surfaces to create a spark and/or flame that is used to ignite the rest of the material in a fire. Ferro bars are usually made from a soft metal alloy of magnesium (which is highly flammable and reactive) and iron.

Tinder firestarters are slightly different and include a wider range of materials. They are designed to take the first spark and create a sustained flame, allowing damp wood in a fire to dry a bit before bursting into flame, or heat briquettes enough to ignite.

Tinder firestarters can include anything from paraffin wax on cotton or sawdust to dried wood chips. There are also some novel materials that can be used as fire starters for tinder, including steel wool.

If you’re considering a fire starter, think about how you’re going to use it. If you’re looking for a fire starter for backyard grilling, and space and weight aren’t a huge concern when car camping, you can use something heavier and more cumbersome, such as a fire starter. B. a box of Fatwood chopsticks.

When you head into the backcountry, you need a light, compact, and controllable fire starter. Ideally, the packaging should be bright so that it is easy to see even in poor lighting conditions. It should also be easy to use and reliable, even when wet.

As we have chosen

I have had a Promethean love of fire since I first felt its heat and enjoyed the mesmerizing dance of its orange tongues of flame. I’ve made fire by doing everything from lighting packets of powdered milk to rubbing chopsticks together. I’ve looked at a variety of different firelighters (both sparks and tinder), using my personal experience and trawling through countless reviews to bring you the products you’ll find below, all of which have an average user rating of 4 stars out of 5 or higher .

For more great ways to get a fire started in your backyard, check out our picks for the best wood fire pits, portable fire pits, and fire pit tables.

1

Overall best

Fire Lite Gasoline Free Lighter

key specifications

weight 1.8 ounces
fire starter type spark
best for Backpacking/Backcountry

2

Best Looking Ferro Rod Striker

Ignite fire starters

key specifications

weight 1.7 ounces
fire starter type spark
best for Backpacking/Backcountry

3

Best Match

Titanium Stormproof Match Kit

key specifications

weight 2.9 ounces
fire starter type spark
best for Backpacking/Backcountry

4

Best one-handed ferro fire starter

Sparkie fire starter

key specifications

weight 1 ounce
fire starter type spark
best for Backpacking/Backcountry

5

Most economical fire starter

Magnesium fire starter

key specifications

weight 1.6 ounces
fire starter type spark
best for Backpacking/Backcountry

6

Best Long Lasting Tinder

All natural fire starters

key specifications

weight 2 pounds, 3 ounces
fire starter type Tinder
best for Backyard/car camping

7

Most unique fire starter

PYRO putty

key specifications

weight 2 ounces
fire starter type Tinder
best for Backpacking/backcountry/backyard

8th

Best all natural fire starter

Eco-Stix Fatwood Fire Starter kindling sticks

key specifications

weight 2 pounds
fire starter type Tinder
best for Backyard/car camping

9

Best fire start rope

fire starter rope

key specifications

weight 2 ounces
fire starter type Tinder
best for Backyard/Car Camping/Backpacking


Chris Meehan is an international publishing writer, writer and editor with more than two decades of professional experience.

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