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The most challenging part of building a fire is getting it started.
We spent hours researching the best fire starters available online, evaluating ease of use, effectiveness, and value. Our top pick, the Weber Light Cubes, are odorless, non-toxic, and get the job done even when they're wet.
Bring on the marshmallows and read on to see the best fire starters.
Best Overall: Weber Lighter Cubes
The Lighter Cubes by Weber are the most cost effective and successful choice when it comes to getting a fire started, especially in the wilderness. You’ll get 24 cubes in the pack, 24 cubes that are odorless and light even when wet. Take these along when camping in the backcountry or use them to start your grill at home. If you do take these into the backcountry, you will have to pack them individually as they come unwrapped, together in the package. The cubes are 1-square inch and burn for about 10 minutes.
Best Runner-Up: Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter
If you’re in need of a small, portable fire starter, the Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter is a compact rod and striker. The ferrocerium rod and metal striker fit into a small storage compartment (just less than five inches) that has enough space to also hold tinder. Both handles are sturdy enough to provide a solid grip even with larger hands. The tool has been tested to provide a spark for more than 8000 strikes. The kit also comes with a lanyard, emergency whistle, and a pocket survival guide.
Best Stick-Form: Coghlan's Waterproof Fire Sticks
Coghlans 12-Pack of waterproof fire sticks is ideal for starting fires in your fireplace, lighting up a grill and using outdoors. These lightweight sticks are not individually wrapped, so store them in a watertight bag if you are taking them into the great outdoors.
Best Windproof Lighter: Bernzomatic Zippo Matte Lighter
For an alternative to matches and strikers, use the all-metal Zippo Matte Lighter. The classic lighter is windproof and is available in a variety of matte colors that scratch less and show fewer fingerprints than their glossy counterparts. We recommend choosing a bright one in case you drop it in the woods. Colors include black, cream, green, yellow, blue, orange, pink, red, royal blue, and white. The compact lighter is 2.25 inches high, 1.5 inches wide, and .5 inches thick and the fluid is sold separately so be sure to stock up before your caught without it.
Best for Emergencies: Zippo Emergency Fire Starter
Stash the bright orange Zippo Emergency Fire Starter kit in your backpack or car, just in case. The small kit comes with a flint-wheel ignition and four water-resistant, waxed tinder sticks. For clumsy hands, the easy-to-spot case includes a water-resistant seal and also floats, which is ideal for multi-day rafting trips or lazy days on a boat.
Best Weather-Resistant Matches: UCO Stormproof Match Kit
The UCO Stormproof Match Kit contains 25 extra-long matches (2.75 inches), three strikers, and a waterproof case. Each match burns for up to 15 seconds, and will relight even after soaking wet. The case floats, and has an external and integrated striker for easy lighting. A great option to use when camping or backpacking, especially if rain is in the forecast. Case colors include dark green, bright orange, and yellow.
Best One-Handed Tool: Ultimate Survival Technologies BlastMatch Fire Starter
For one-handed, quick operations, use the Ultimate Survival Technologies BlastMatch Fire Starter. The tool uses a flint bar with a spring-loaded tungsten carbide striker. Press the button while pushing the flint against a hard surface, and sparks will fly. The flint bar rotates 360 degrees so that one side won’t wear out, even after multiple uses Providing up to 4,000 strikes this starter will be along for the long haul with it's waterproof case and durability.
What to Look for in a Fire Starter
Portability and Convenience
When you are packing up for a camping weekend or a day on the lake, fire-starting provisions for campfires and grilling are a lot more convenient when they come with a carrying case or kit. Some include both kindling and matches or a lighter for an easy start. An all-in-one model that includes a waterproofing feature is perfect for situations where kindling, too, might be hard to find.
When you plan a back-country hiking trip or other outdoor adventure, fire will be an essential survival element. Choose a fire starting kit that is compact, light, and easy to carry. With one that features waterproof ignition, you can feel secure about getting a fire going.
Wet weather can put a damper on any outdoor activity, but a campfire can sometimes save the day. This is not the time for your fire starter to quit working. Look for starters that include weatherproofing, either a waterproof case or packaging. Some starters will even work when wet. If you are someone who spends a lot of time outdoors, choose a refillable lighter with a heavy duty flint striker that will continue to spark even after dozens of uses.
Safety and Ease of Use
Fire is essential to survival, but as we all know, it can also be dangerous. Lighters with safety features like childproof mechanisms or carrying cases can help prevent unintended disasters. Regardless of how you intend to use your fire starting equipment, it should be simple to operate. If you choose a lighter that uses specialty fuels or kindling with specialized coating, be sure to refer to the manufacturer's information for proper use and any precautions.
Can you refill a lighter?
Lighters come in all sizes and shapes but are generally either disposable or refillable. Refillable lighters come with a port that can be refilled with butane or other fuels. Refer to manufacturers instructions for specialty lighters and fire starters for information about how to refill and what fuel to use.
What is a fire starter?
The term fire starter encompasses several items. It might refer to matches, lighters, or specialty kindling made of materials for igniting a flame. If you are looking for kindling, try fatwood or heart pine. Extra-long matches are sometimes called fireplace matches, and lighters with refillable ports are convenient and easy to use.
Are pine cones good fire starters?
Pine cones catch and burn quickly and hot, which makes them a viable fire starter. They also fit easily under your fireplace wood. Coating them first with wax will help cut down on shooting sparks and creosote build up. Pine cones are used as kindling in campfires, fireplaces, and wood stoves.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Barbara Gillette, a Master Gardener, herbalist, and outdoor enthusiast, provided additional research for this article. She works with honeybees and other pollinators to grow organic fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs on her 8-acre hobby farm.