What Type of Fire Starters Do You Carry?


I have been playing with all kinds of different fire starters from matches to fancy devices and most of them seem to work well. There are literally hundreds of different firesteels and other sparking devices on the market.  The problem is how do you sort through this mess.  I have had the chance to try quite a few different types and will share what I have found.

The best fire starters I have found is plain old matches or a good cigarette lighter.  Normally I would use a Bic, you can’t beat them for price and reliability.  With matches, I prefer the strike anywhere matches.  The storm proof matches are nice but expensive.  But the bottom line is almost any matches or lighters will get the job done.  The trick is to have enough.  I know many people who think it is easy to start a fire with one match.  If you haven’t done it for a while go and try it, especially in a bit of bad weather.  Most of us will go through matches a lot faster than we expect, have plenty on hand.  Buy extra now while they are plentiful and inexpensive.  In a disaster situation I think they will be great trade items.

Products like the Strike Force, Sparkie and the Master Blaster are all good tools.  They will start fires.  Both the Sparkie and the Master Blaster have an advantage in that you can use them one handed.  Basically, they are a spark producing device.  Both the Sparkie and the Strike Force come with a limited amount of fire starting material.  For what one of these devices costs, you can buy a lot of matches.

Firesteels are a good product and work well.  I have several and carry one with me all the time.  These will start fires, but take some practice to learn to use.  Don’t put one in your kit and think that you will be able to use it in an emergency.  When you practice, try it in bad weather.  You will learn a lot about kindling quick.

After all this, I will tell you what I carry in my pack.  My fire starting kit contains several items, a waterproof case filled with matches, a magnesium fire starter I bought at Harbor Freight on sale for $1.99, and the fire steel I carry in my pocket.  An additional item that I carry is a Speedy Sharp, a handy little device that can be used to sharpen a knife, but is great for shaving the magnesium block into fine power.  It is also a good tool for making spark on a fire steel or even a good rock. Speedy Sharps are available at https://www.speedysharp.net/.   I also carry a 35mm film canister with cotton balls soaked in vaseline. These are excellent fire starters and are to be held I reserve for a really bad situation. Everything in my fire starting kit will fit inside a military soap dish with room left over.  Don’t forget to practice fire starting.


7 thoughts on “What Type of Fire Starters Do You Carry?”

  1. If all you are trying to do is start a fire in your woodstove or fireplace, I like the extra long matches. I lay up my teepee fire with the kindling and “little bits” at the bottom in the middle, and use the long match to reach into the middle. When lighting the extra long matches, get a firm grip about an inch from the head to prevent breakage. I have also used a sparker for lighting propane barbecues to get a bit of tinder going. This requires laying up the fire as you go.

  2. What types? All. haha. Really, a BIC lighter and something else, magnesium is good. Credit card size fresnel lens in my wallet can work sometimes, 12″x12″ fresnel lights instantly. Dry tinder is important, dryer lint is excellent.
    OT: I was amazed to find out my friend just let his charcoal burn away when the grilling was done. Get a bucket with water, take tongs and drop the charcoal in the bucket. Later drain and dry. Doesn’t everyone know this?

  3. Ultimate back up is an acetylene torch igniter. You can use it one handed and it produces a hot spark. Costs less than three bucks and if you by a five pack of replacement flints for another buck and a half it will last through your grandkid’s lifetime. Made of steel and works when wet. I have never had one fail me. You find them in any big box hardware store.

  4. I carry and use a GobSpark Firesteel. What is great about the GobSpark is that it never fails and the steel has enough in it for many many thousands of fires. 1) you cannot carry that many matches. 2) matches get wet or fail – there is a shelf life for matches but many people do not know this 3) lighters break, run out of fuel, fail for various reasons.

    Get a firesteel and put it in your stores or pack as at least a backup. But once you learn how to use it, you may decide that the matches and lighters are your backups!

    Firesteel.com is a good place, they have a wide variety to choose from and the sparks this brand gives are the biggest and best I’ve seen.

  5. Matt in Oklahoma

    I carry a tin with dryer lint and vasoline in straws, charcloth, a bic, a steel and striker and a magnifying glass in the pack. My knife has a steel and my camelbak has a steel and my keychain has a swiss steel and a small waterproof container of lint.
    I used to carry a sparkie but it got crushed, love that thing
    I always go for the easiest route when in need but during everyday stuff i try and practice as much as possible. I see alot of “preppers” just using matches and lighters and not taking advantange of training opportunities
    Like Paul said Firesteel.com has great stuff

  6. Petroleum Jelly Infused Cottonball Tinder
    Cotton balls infused with petroleum jelly are reliable wet-weather tinder which has been used by ski patrol and search & rescue units for many years. This is how we teach “PJCB Basics.”
    Start with a 6 oz. jar of Vaseline and a big bag of pure cotton balls from the drug store. No synthetics!
    Melt the Vaseline, then pour most of the molten liquid into a #10 can with its top cut out, or a GI canteen cup. Then fill the emptied out, but still well-coated Vaseline jar with dry cotton balls. Work / knead the CBs with your fingers to take up the melted Vaseline coating the inside of the container. If necessary grab another handful of dry cotton balls, repeating the process until the original Vaseline container is wiped virtually dry.

    Now grab more dry cotton balls, put them into your #10 can or canteen cup, and knead them with the rest of the melted Vaseline, knead, repeat, and repeat. A large CVS bag of cotton balls soaks up an entire 6 oz. jar of melted Vaseline. Take the whole batch of infused cotton balls, knead and work them together so that the Vaseline is evenly distributed through all of them. The CBs should be totally infused, so as to be both fueled and waterproofed, but not so highly saturated that they will ooze Vaseline when squeezed. This enables compressing a large number of them into a small container, so that they are easy to separate, pull apart and fluff to readily take the spark from your ferro rod or Doan Machinery too!

    Pack your finished PJCBs into a tight, compressed mass in 35mm film cans, snuff cans, the crannies of your Altoid survival tin, etc. Then put your fire tinder containers everywhere in the odd corners of your truck, PSK, coat pockets, etc. If you don’t smoke, yank the filling out of an old Zippo and mash about ten of these LIGHTLY infused, highly compressed cotton balls, into its fuel cavity. With good flint you’ve now got ten fires in your pocket! I buy old lighters at garage sales, etc., field strip them, pack and stow them everywhere.

    To build your fire pull an infused cotton ball out from your stash, pull it apart with your fingers to fluff well, then place it onto the tip of your metal spade or K-bar. This makes it easy reposition it after lighting into your toothpick, matchstick, grass ball and wood shavings “bird nest tinder ball.” As soon as your birdnest catches, start by laying on “chop stick” sized split wood in a small “tipi fire,” then go upward in size to the “pencil sticks,” then to “tent peg sticks” and so on until you can go on real split firewood.
    Our Master Chief told us to start with at least a canteen cup full of tinder, shavings and chopstick to up to pencil-sized small dry wood. If you don’t have that much, then you better go out and get some more!
    I have to say something about Wetfire Tinder because I see this brand mentioned a lot. It is a gimmick which is not as reliable in long term storage as PJCBs. I checked some 2-year old Wetfire tinder in a friend’s aircraft survival kit and all we tested was bad, so we ditched it all. Tender Quick is a different product, and all tested, though 3-4 years old was OK. https://www.bestglide.com/Tinder_Quik_Info.html
    My pocket “firebox” is packed in an Altoids tin and contains:

    Four Esbit solid fuel tabs https://www.bestglide.com/esbit_stove.html

    Aviator’s Sparklite Kit https://www.bestglide.com/Spark_Lite_Info.html

    Fresnel lens https://www.bestglide.com/fresnel_lens_firestarter.html

    A twist-type hand pencil sharpener, which is great for making thin wood shavings from sticks, etc.

    As many PJCBs as I can cram into the nooks and crannies of the box so its contents don’t rattle.

    Box is held closed with two Ranger Bands cut from bike inner tube. Rubber is also good expedient fuel.

    I always have a K1 ferro rod and striker on my key ring https://www.bestglide.com/K1_Info.html

    Best Glide ASE is a major supplier of survival kits and individual items to the U.S. government, military, commercial and general aviation. They carry only quality, tested items, most of which are the actual U.S. and NATO specification survival equipment identified by NSN number, from the original government contractors. Survival gear is their only business, they have been at it a long time and have a stellar reputation in the military and aviation communities. I have no connection with the firm, other than being a satisfied customer, for many years. I owe my life to their gear being available to me and performing when I needed it do so. There is no higher testimonial that I can provide.

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