The Best Ferro Rods, Tested and Reviewed

We should all carry an emergency fire starter into the woods, even if we hope to never need one
We tested and reviewed the top five ferro rods to help get you started.

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Starting a fire with a ferro rod may seem like a modern marvel, but it’s actually been around for over a hundred years. Capable of kindling a fire even when the tool is wet, ferrocerium rods – also known as a ferro rod – are a great addition to any set of survival supplies. There have been a wide range of makes and models over the past century and many different formulas for the fiery alloy we sometimes call flint. I’ve been teaching my survival students how to build fires with tools just like these for more than 25 years, and I will walk you through five currently available ferro rods to help you figure out which ones may suit you best.    

How We Tested the Best Ferro Rods

With so many products on the market, we couldn’t test them all. So we picked an assortment from the wide range of currently available products. We picked from the fancy ones and the cheap ones, and then we started making fires. While every product made sparks and was capable of its intended fire starting purpose, some really rose above the others in effectiveness (and they weren’t always the pricey ones). And unfortunately, some products left us wanting more. Here’s what we experienced when testing five popular ferrocerium fire starters.     

Best Ferro Rods: Reviews & Recommendations

Best Value: Bayite 4 Inch Survival Ferrocerium Rod

Best Value

Bayite 4 Inch Survival Ferrocerium Rod

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Key Features

  • Length: 4 inches
  • Weight: 2.35 ounces. 

Pros

  • There are six crisp striking edges on the tool steel scraper
  • 5 feet of paracord are included as a lanyard
  • This one is affordable enough to buy several for the price of some other ferro rods

Cons

  • Black and olive drab colors can make retrieval challenging if dropped in the leaves or grass
  • Lacks a handle

While this basic spark rod is a little heavy for its size and it lacks the bells and whistles that some other manufacturers add, it still gets the job done and the price is right. Once I scraped off the black shipping paint from the rod and exposed the gray ferrocerium alloy, the sparks flew, and I found them to be surprisingly large and long lasting. In fact, just as far and long lasting as the more expensive rods in this review. 

Even though it’s a little hard to grip without a handle, this ferro rod can hold its own against the larger Exotac and überleben ferro rods. The Bayite rod had the best scraper component. The scraper had a comfortable plastic handle with a stainless steel insert that had exceedingly good edges. This stripped down tool is simple, yet effective and affordable. For those who don’t care about brand names and bonus features, this ferrocerium rod is a great choice and a great value. 

Best Classic Rod: überleben Zünden Fatty 

Best Classic Rod

überleben Zünden Fatty 

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Key Features

  • Length: The useable section is just over 2 ½ inches
  • Weight: 3.19 ounces

Pros 

  • Huge and long lasting sparks
  • Large handle that’s easy to grip, even in thick gloves
  • Scraper is on a long lanyard for ease of operation

Cons 

  • It’s relatively heavy

This beefy spark rod is a ½-inch thick piece of trademarked Sånft-korr ferrocerium with a natural hardwood handle. Its classic design will fit in perfectly with other traditional “bushcrafting” gear (like Scandi grind knives and woodworking tools). The scraper is a nice piece of kit too, with six features – a straight-edge ferro striker, a curved denticulate scraper, a hex wrench, millimeter ruler, map scale, and bottle opener. 

Read Next: The Best Fire Starters

Rated for 20,000 strikes, I had high expectations for this thick ferrocerium rod, and it didn’t disappoint. Once I was through the shipping paint, the sparks matched the product name. Each separate one was a fatty. Typical of “fat sparking” ferrocerium, I didn’t get a wide spray of a hundred sparks as you’ll get with some alloys. On each strike, however, I got nearly a dozen large sparks with a lifespan of a second or two. Curious to see how far they would go, I actually threw sparks from an outdoor deck and had some reach the ground 8 feet away. This is definitely a quality product that is ideal for the discerning bushcrafter. 


Best Construction: Exotac fireROD

Best Construction

Exotac fireROD

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Key Features

  • Length: The usable section is just under 3 inches
  • Weight: 1.37 ounces
  • Tinder compartment in the handle

Pros

  • Top grade ferrocerium
  • Rod unscrews from the handle for easy replacement

Cons

  • Does not include a scraper

Like so many of Exotac’s fire products, the fireROD handle is CNC machined from high-grade 6061 aluminum and made in the USA. It’s also anodized to protect the aluminum from the elements. This mid-sized ferrocerium rod also has a tinder storage capsule, made waterproof by internal threading and an O-ring seal. Rated for up to 5,000 strikes, it’s a beautifully engineered piece of gear that’s meant to last. The spark rod is even replaceable, just in case you end up using it a lot. 

I’m not sure where Exotac is getting their ferrocerium alloy, but it’s high quality and the sparks are huge. In my “spark off the deck” tests, I had sparks dropping 8 feet and hitting the ground before they went out. This was an impressive surprise, when so many spark rods won’t spray their sparks more than a foot or two. But it doesn’t include a scraper. A nice square spine on a survival knife will scrape off these chubby sparks. I could even spark it with a sharp piece of granite (though the sparks were much smaller and short lived). This works ok, but would be much nicer if they included a scraper in the handle as they do with other products. 

Best Practice Gear: FOSTAR 2 pc Ferro Rod Kit 

Best Practice Gear

FOSTAR 2 pc Ferro Rod Kit

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Key Features

  • Length: Usable section is 2 11/16 inches
  • Weight: 1.7 ounces
  • Comes as a pack of two

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Colorful component to prevent loss
  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • Only a small shower of sparks

You get what you pay for on this one. The ferro rods are an inferior alloy, producing wimpy sparks. The striker is a direct knock-off from the überleben striker. That being said, these are perfectly functional and they present two opportunities. The first opportunity is redundancy. If you’re prone to losing your gear, you’ll have one to use and one to lose with this kit. The second opportunity is for practice. If you can light fires with these meager sparks, then you should have no problem lighting fires with a better quality ferrocerium rod. I’d recommend you use this kit as a training product for students, young and old. The short lived sparks will require good tinder selection and preparation skills to successfully make fires. 

Read Next: How to Start a Fire: The Ultimate Guide to Modern Fire Building

Best Keychain Model: Exotac nanoSPARK 

Best Keychain Model

Exotac nanoSPARK 

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Key Features

  • Length: 2 5/8 inches total
  • Weight: 0.58 ounces.
  • Tinder storage compartment including five tinder pieces

Pros

  • Lightweight and compact
  • One-handed operation

Cons

  • Smallest and shortest shower of sparks in our review

The engineering on the Exotac nanoSPARK is truly superb. The spark tool body is CNC machined in America from high-grade 6061 aluminum and anodized. It uses o-rings on both of its removable sections. This tool is also designed for one handed operation, which could save the day if you sustain an injury to an arm or hand. It also has a tinder storage compartment, and the flint is replaceable. The product comes with five quickLIGHT tinder tabs (four in the package, one in the tinder compartment). It even has an integrated attachment point for a lanyard or keyring. The designs employed in this product are impressive. 

But no amount of engineering excellence can make up for a ferrocerium “flint” that is the size of a grain of rice. The tiny ferro rod makes tiny sparks, and you’ll need fluffy dry tinder of the highest quality to catch them. Will it start fires? Yes, it will. Is it a cool product that would make a great gift? Yes, it is. Would I personally prefer the smarter application of a rice-grain-sized bit of ferro rod (the Bic lighter)? Yes, I would. While this product technically is a ferrocerium fire starter, I’m not sure I’d even class it with traditional spark rods. And I’d still rather have a Bic (which uses a small piece of ferro to ignite the butane) or one of the smaller Exotac spark rods that is roughly this size.    

Read Next: Best Fire Starters

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Final Thoughts

It’s important to understand that these tools aren’t the most versatile class of fire starters. Ferrocerium rods require some finesse to use, and more importantly, they require a dry fluffy tinder material to turn sparks into flames. Whichever ferro rod you choose to buy and carry, make sure you bring some top quality tinder from home (like cotton balls or dryer lint from a load of cotton fabrics). 

You’ll also want to know how to find and process the fluffiest “wild sourced” tinder in your neck of the woods. Cattail fluff, pounded inner bark fibers, and even fine wood scrapings can provide the high fuel quality you need when you run out of the stuff from home. It’s also wise to consider bringing a backup ignition method (or two), just in case you lose your ferro rod or it cannot light the tinder you have available. A flame-based ignition source can be a back-up for those tinder materials that prove frustrating or even impossible to light with sparks. In closing, I’ll say that ferro rods are a lot of fun to use, so have fun practicing with them – and pray you are spared from the stress and challenges of using them in a real emergency.

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