There are at least a dozen skills that every many should master in his lifetime: Changing a tire, tying a tie, crafting the perfect Old Fashioned — you get the gist. We count building a fire among them. It’s an essential part of every great weekend camping experience and potentially life-saving in a survival situation. There’s no shame in using a purpose-built tool to help get you started. Thankfully, we’ve done most of the legwork for you by shopping the best fire starters for camping and even at home.
Some of the best lighters have gotten a whole lot fancier in the last century. But, there’s nothing wrong with keeping it old school. The classic Zippo lighter has hardly changed in decades. The all-metal case is durable, windproof, and field-tested with that same satisfying click that’s become synonymous with the brand. They’re now available in countless colors, patterns, and sizes, but the outdoor-inspired series is our favorite.
Less tech in the backcountry is usually a good thing. Electronics have a way of getting wet, ruined, or running out of battery juice when you need them most. Still, we like SOL’s Fire Lite Fuel-Free Lighter as a solid backup fire starter. It’s weatherproof, works at any altitude, and burns blazing hot. You can’t deny the convenience of a traditional lighter mixed with the Fire Lite’s cool spark that resembles a mini stun gun. With a portable solar panel in your camping kit, you could theoretically power this USB-rechargeable campfire starter indefinitely.
If using a lighter or even matches feels like cheating, but friction methods are a little too Bear Grylls for your liking, opt for Light my Fire’s Ferro Rod Fire Starter. It’s lightweight, practical, and easy to use. Unlike lesser fire-starting tools, it also works at any altitude in any weather condition, even when wet. If it’s not ideal as a primary fire-starting tool for you, this is still a no-brainer to toss in your bugout bag or camping kit as a backup.
Why carry a camping knife and a fire starter when you can pack one tool that does both? Morakniv’s Companion Spark is a combination fixed-blade outdoor knife and fire starter. The 3.9-inch blade is durable and long enough for most typical backcountry tasks, including carving tinder. When you’re ready to build a fire, twist the built-in magnesium fire-starting rod out of the rubber handle. Together with the knife’s specially ground spine, the rod is capable of producing a 5,400-degree spark. It’s good for approximately 3,000 strikes, so it’ll probably outlive you.
If you lack the patience to mess around with merely trying to start a fire, you need a legit blowtorch. Bernzomatic’s Premium Trigger-Start Torch Kit is by far the heaviest and most fuel-hungry option on this list, so it’s not meant for backcountry trips where weight is an issue. For weekend car camping trips, however, it’s hard to beat. The trigger design makes it easy to light one-handed, and the 3,400-degree propane flame will ignite almost anything. Bonus: It’s also perfect for whipping up a perfectly caramelized creme brulee when you return home.
We’re big fans of multi-purpose hiking gear, especially on long-distance backpacking trips where every ounce counts. Wicked Lasers’ FlashTorch is a combination flashlight and fire starter, making it easily the most interesting tool on this list. Even the best headlamps “only” throw off around 750 lumens. The FlashTorch 250W puts out an eye-popping 12,000 lumens, making it one of the brightest flashlights on the market. That same power also generates enough heat to light a fire, even melt some metals. Unnecessary? Yes. Seriously cool? Absolutely.
UST’s BlastMatch takes the design of traditional flint and ferro rod firestarters and upgrades it for the 21st century. With just one hand, you can release a flurry of sparks hot enough to ignite a wide range of tinder and other combustibles. It’s also designed to work in rain, sleet, and wind while burning three times hotter than ordinary matches.
Exotac’s nanoStriker XL features a narrow, pen-like design that makes it incredibly pocketable. The sparks burn at nearly 5,500 degrees Fahrenheit, and it has a replaceable interior rod. The lightweight body is a handsomely finished aluminum and is, of course, waterproof. It’s a rather expensive option, but the pure portability is worth it, in our opinion.
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