Fire is essential to life. In a survival situation, it provides more than just warmth. A fire provides a way to signal for help, purify drinking water, and ward off wild predators. Unfortunately, the cold wet conditions that can cause hypothermia, often aren’t particularly helpful when it comes to building a fire. And since not everyone can easily start a fire by rubbing two sticks together, it pays to have a little help on hand. But what kind of help works best for starting a fire? Don’t worry, we’ve done the hard work for you.
Things to Consider:
- Carry a disposable lighter…even if you aren’t a smoker. Most of the time, especially under mild weather conditions, a simple plastic disposable lighter is all you need to get a good fire going. Seriously, sometimes simple is better, and you can carry a disposable lighter pretty much anywhere (even through airport security).
- Don’t count on cheap matches. They are hard to keep dry and can be tricky to use in damp or windy conditions. Even some of the fancy, “waterproof” camp matches can be unreliable during wet or windy conditions.
Here are some of the best fire starters. Not all are fancy, highly-marketed specialty survival products. But we like to think outside the box. Call us crazy, but we prefer practical things that actually work.
Bernzomatic TS8000 – High Intensity Trigger Start Torch
Not just for soldering metal or making the perfect creme brulee, a blow torch is also a reliable and easy-to-use way to start a campfire. Short of dousing your wood with a gallon of gasoline, this is hands-down the surest way to get a fire blazing. If you don’t include a blowtorch in your car camping gear, you’re really missing out. While any blow torch will get the job done, the Bernzomatic is one of our favorites. It’s durable and can handle a few drops without compromising reliability.
Pros: Works in all kinds of weather. From dry to absolutely saturated. High winds? No problem. In fact, We’re pretty confident this would start a campfire in the middle of a rainforest in hurricane conditions. It is just that reliable. This baby actually dries most saturated paper and tinder in just a few seconds and then engulfs it in flame.
Cons: It’s heavy. You aren’t fitting this one in your pocket. It also isn’t a good choice for long hiking trips.
You need a fuel canister. However, this one fits on the Coleman Propane Fuel Tanksmost people use for their propane lanterns, so you may already have a good supply on hand.
UCO Stormproof Match Kit with Waterproof Case
We’ve been known to scoff at matches when it comes to reliability during emergency situations, but these matches are an exception to our usual well-earned cynicism. The company claims that these matches are windproof and waterproof, and that’s a pretty credible claim. The kit comes in a hard plastic, waterproof case, that seals with a rubber o-ring. The case is so waterproof, that it actually floats. And this gem-of-a-match stays lit in even in direct wind. It’s like magic. The UCO Stormproof Match Kit definitely wins the title of “Best Emergency Firestarter.” It is a must-have addition to your hiking gear or bug-out bag.
Pros: Lightweight and compact, reliable, waterproof, effective. Everyone knows how to use matches.
Cons: Won’t ignite wet tinder. Only provides about 20 seconds of burn time. Consumable one-time use.
Red Standard Lightning Strike Fire Starter by Holland
About the size of a small flashlight or Swiss Army tool, this is basically a ferro rod on steroids. The Lighting Strike actually takes a ferro rod and concentrates the sparks in a tube, providing for a hotter ignition. It makes starting a fire almost as easy as pressing a button… almost. It will throw sparks at high altitudes, in low temperatures, and in spite of windy conditions. You can even use it one-handed.
Pros: lightweight, compact, waterproof, easy to use.
Cons: Won’t ignite damp tinder. Expensive. Works best with a firestarter material such as petroleum jelly soaked cotton or WetFire Tinder
The original wind-resistant lighter, a Zippo isn’t just for smokers. This American icon also works reasonably well as an outdoor fire starter.
Pros: lightweight, compact, flame will work to help dry wet tinder (although it is very time consuming), convenient for everyday-carry (even on airplanes).
Cons: Requires fuel and maintenance, otherwise they dry out and become useless. Mechanical parts can break easily. Probably not the best addition for an emergency kit.
Campfirepiston Hickory Fire Piston
The CampfirePiston uses an airtight piston that compresses air and generates a rapid spike of inside temperature to ignite a piece of charcloth. You have to It is really simple to use, plus it gets major cool points. I mean, how cool is it to start a fire with a handheld piston?
Pros: Simple to use in all kinds of weather. Fun to use.
ons: If the rubber seal cracks it becomes useless.