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Editor’s Note: This is an updated and revised edition for 2019.
Fire starters are a basic survival tool that everyone should have. Matches and lighters are great and all but matches get wet easily and the waterproof type are not as readily available. Lighters require fuel or in the case of a disposable, have a very limited life.
I am not saying you should not have some lighters or a fillable Zippo put back or a few matches either, just that having a back up that requires just striking is a good move.
Below are some examples of proven fire starters that are affordable and fit into a small space. I also found some neat all in one survival fire tins that are great for those that want a fast and all in one survival fire solution. First though, let’s list the two main types of emergency fire starters you have to choose from.
Ferro Rod Style Starters
There are a lot of these out there but they are not all the same. These rods come in different thicknesses and lengths. The bigger the rod the more strikes it has in it so it should start more fires. To use you strike the rod with the attached striker near your dry tinder.
Magnesium Block Style Starters
These starters work by you scraping off a portion of the block of magnesium and then using the striker to strike the attached ferro stick located on the side. This should start your magnesium burning.
It is still advisable to have your tinder build up a little bit and then scrape some magnesium on that and then try to get the fire going, being careful to add more dry tinder quickly.
SurvivalSpark Stick With Whistle and Compass
When I saw this I thought it would make a great stocking stuffer for any outdoor enthusiast this holiday season. Sure this is not a really expensive Ferro rod that is going to last forever but it will help you find your way and possibly even scare off wildlife plus start a lifesaving fire.
This is small and easy to use. This would be a good basic fire starter to have a few of around to stash in different places.
Überleben Zünden | 5/16″, 3/8″ or 1/2″ Thick Bushcraft Fire Steel with Wood Handle | 12,000-20,000 Strikes
This is as fancier ferro rod for sure It has a wooden handle, nylon lanyard, and the striker is a 6 in 1 Multi-Tool with concave-toothed steel scraper, ruler, map scale, hex wrench, sharp spine scraper & bottle opener.
The added functionality of this fire starter makes it worth the extra cost. The rod comes in three sizes and is priced by the size. I think it is worth it to get the larger ½” size because it is going to last a lot longer and the price difference is not that much for what you are getting.
Camp King 3 PACK 100% Natural Wood Handle, 5/16” thick Bushcraft Ferro Rods
These are great ferro rods for those on a budget. You can stash one in your car, pack, and keep one at home.
These are compact rods so they fit in a very small space but are more than capable of taking care of getting a fire going. Each rod is rated for up to 11,000 strikes which is pretty typical for a rod of 5/16” diameter.
The Friendly Swede Magnesium Firestarter 3 Pack
For those that prefer the block style magnesium fire starter design, this bundle of 3 is an outstanding value. The metal beaded chain make it so easy to secure this fire starter to most anything.
There is no nylon lanyard to worry about failing and the striker is easy to remove since it is attached using the metal chain. I like that the striker is also a multi tool similar to the more expensive Überleben described above. Many people find that the magnesium block style starters don’t last as long as just using a ferro rod.
A lot of us have a tendency to scrape off a lot of magnesium shards for each fire so the more you use each time, the less fires you are going to get out of each one. They are still a good deal though and you can always have a few of them and then have a quality ferro rod put back.
Customizing Your Fire Starter
If you don’t care for the handles you see on a lot of the ferro rods you can just buy the rods in your choice of thickness and length and add a wood handle on yourself. Some of these fire starters are pretty small so if you got larger hands they may be more awkward to use than you would like. You actually can get just the rods for little money.
Like a lot of inexpensive but very useful survival gear, fire starter sticks are excellent barter items. Matches get wet and lighters need fuel but a ferro rod is good for thousands of strikes no matter if it gets rained on once and awhile.
8 Pack Ferro Rods
These rods are pretty basic and on the smaller side but you get a lot of them and they can have handles added. There are definitely thicker and more expensive ones out there that will give you more strikes per rod.
No Fire Starter Is Perfect: Don’t Give Up
The first time I ever used a magnesium fire starter I basically gave up. There is an art to fire making so don’t give up too quickly. I was also using the cheapest and most basic starter that could be found at the camping supply store.
Youtube videos can be helpful. Also, you need to have tinder ready to go. Nothing is as frustrating as getting a lot of good sparks only to realize you don’t have enough small dry stuff to keep it going and build up your fire.
Practicing your fire building skills is a good thing to do during good times so you are better prepared in an emergency. When you are cold and uncomfortable is not the time to realize you are not confident when using your fire starter.
Important Things To Remember When Using A Fire starter
- Sparks can fly fairly far so make sure you are pointing your starter in a direction that minimizes the chance of sparks reaching you or someone nearby.
- Have a good supply of dry tinder gathered. One of the most common frustrations with using strike style fire starters is getting a good little pile of leaves or other debris going and then having it go out because you haven’t gathered up enough dry stuff of various sizes to keep it going.
- Ferro rods and magnesium starters work well under wet conditions and at any altitude.
Ferro Rods and Magnesium Block Fire Starters Are Important To Your Fire Making Kit
Many preppers agree that you should have many different ways to make a fire if needed. Here is a list of fire making supplies that you could use as a checklist to make sure you are as fire prepped as possible.
- Ferro Rod
- Lighter & Fuel or Multiple Packs of Disposables
- Several Types of Matches such as Strike Anywhere, Books, and Waterproof/w storage case
- Magnesium Block Fire starter
Some preppers also go so far as to stash back a few things that can be used as emergency tinder in a situation where conditions are very damp. Cotton balls for example while not always the cheapest, can be put back and used for a lot of things besides fire starter.
Steve Kaeser Fatwood 100% Natural Firestarter Sticks Hand Cut In The USA Ferro Rod Ferrocerium Flint Jute Fatwood Chips Striker Tin Container
I know that buying a kit with wood and starter all together may seem a little but silly to some of you seasoned preppers but when I found this kit I started thinking about it and I see the point. For this price you are getting everything you need to get a fire going in an emergency.
Even after using all the starter up you still have a rod that can be used for thousands more strikes and hundreds of fires. All this fits in a little tin that you can slip in a small pocket. I would advise sealing it shut with some tape to avoid it coming open and getting damp if you are out on the trail. You could always put the whole tin in a plastic bag and seal it for added protection.
Pocket Survival Fire Starting Tin Fatwood Hand Cut in USA Bushcraft Outdoorsman Hunting Hiking Fishing Ferro Rod Striker Saw Knife Strike Anywhere Matches
This kit is a more complete and fancy version by the same company as the previous tin box kit. I like this one better because it gives you a lot of tools and more options for fire starting. In this kit you get:
- Ferro Rod
- Strike Anywhere Matches In Waterproof Bag
- Sawdust Tinder
- Striker and Scraper that is a ruler and bottle opener as well
- Wire Hand Saw
- Knife W/Sheath
- Fatwood Sticks
- Jute Twine
- Tin Box 1.5 x 2.75 x 4.25 inches
This kit weighs about 8 oz but that is not too bad considering how much is in it. I like the idea of having small tools for working up some wood to be used for a fire. I know the wire hand saws are not easy to use but they sure would beat nothing in a survival situation.
Ultimate Fire Starting Survival Kit Magnesium Chips Waterproof Matches In a Tin
If you like magnesium blocks but want a short cut then this is a handy tin to consider. You get two bags of pre shredded magnesium and a container of waterproof matches.
The handy plastic match container has a striking surface on the side. You get 20 windproof and waterproof matches and they producer claims there is enough magnesium shreds to start 15 fires.
Deciding What Is Best For Your Place
I think it is worth it to consider one of the kits in a tin that I talked about. The pice isn’t a lot and you get a ferro rod with the kit that can be reused.
If I had to pick out just a rod from the ones in this post, I would definitely go with the Überleben Zünden in the ½ inch size. It is just made so well and you have the scraper that offers more tool options.
What is your favorite easy to use fire starter? Do you have any tips from your experience over the years?
About the Author: Samantha Biggers lives on the side of a mountain in North Carolina with her husband and pack of loyal hounds in a house her husband and she built themselves. When not writing she is working in their vineyard, raising Shetland sheep, or helping her husband with whatever the farm and vineyard can throw at them.
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