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Published Oct. 5, 2021

Few things match the satisfaction and comfort of building a roaring fire. But, the trick is often getting the fire going. That task is made easier by using a fire starter to ignite your kindling. The best fire starters will light easily and stay lit to ignite your firewood. 

To help you find the best fire starter, I evaluated the top brands on the market in a series of tests. I tested each fire starter to determine burn time, waterproofness, wind resistance, and ease of lighting. The below fire starters are the best of the best for different applications. The burn time and waterproofness rating in the key features section of each review are based on my test, not on advertised time or rating. Here are my top picks:

Best Fire Starter: Pyro Putty

Key Features

  • Burn time: 8 minutes 
  • Stays lit in high wind
  • Waterproof

Why it Made the Cut

Phone Skope’s Pyro Putty is waterproof, easy to light, stays lit in harsh weather, and burns for a long time. 

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Easy to carry in a pack or survival kit
  • Easy to light
  • Long burn time 
  • Weatherproof

Cons

  • Slow to light if wet
  • Not all-natural 

Product Description

The Phone Skope Pyro Putty is a well-thought-out fire starter with more uses than just starting fires. If your tent springs a leak, you can rub Pyro Putty on the area to waterproof it. It’s available in different formulas that are optimized for different times of year. Pyro Putty makes a cold-weather and warm-weather putty, as well as an all-natural and ultra-lite version. I tested the warm weather Pyro Putty on a sunny 80 degree day. 

The Pyro Putty I tested came in individually wrapped packages with a small amount of putty in each package. For the first test, I removed the putty from the package, lit it with a lighter, and started my stopwatch. It produced a good size flame for five minutes and then started to die down. At 8 minutes the flame went out. That’s a respectable burn time for just .1 ounce of material. It was also extremely easy to light, taking less than a second to catch fire. 

For the waterproofness test, I removed the putty from its waterproof packaging and submerged it for 7 minutes. After its dunk the Pyro Putty was slow to light and didn’t burn as hot as it did completely dry. The good thing is the waterproof packaging would protect the putty from such a long exposure to water. In my high wind test the Pyro Putty stayed lit with a leaf blower simulating a strong wind. So, if you’re trying to get a fire going when the rain is blowing sideways, Pyro Putty is a great choice. 

Pyro Putty is an all-around solution to your fire starting needs. It will work well for a survival kit, bug out bag, campfire, and fireplace. The only drawback to the version I tested is that it’s not a natural fire starter, but Pyro Putty has an all-natural formula available.

Best Fire Starter for Survival: FireFlame

Key Features

  • Burn time: 5 minutes
  • Waterproof

Why it Made the Cut

This is a fire starter that will light in a rainstorm and after being completely submerged. It will also light with either a lighter, match, or ferro rod. 

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Easy to carry in a pack or survival kit
  • Easily lights wet or dry
  • Natural materials 

Cons

  • Breaks apart 

Product Description

The FireFlame fire starter is a paraffin wax fire starter that’s completely waterproof. It doesn’t contain any harsh chemicals, which is great for getting a cooking fire started. It’s also lightweight and comes individually wrapped in plastic. In my test, it burned for five minutes with a good size flame for getting a fire going.  

In the waterproofness test, when I took it out of water it was completely unfazed. It burned just as hot and for just as long as it did dry. It was also just as easy to light wet or dry. It did not perform as well in the high wind test, but it performed far better than any of the other fire starters in the waterproofness test. Given that it is so easy to light wet or dry, and is lightweight, I’d recommend it as my pick for a survival kit. 

Best Fire Starter for Camping: Superior Trading Co Light a Fire

Key Features

  • Burn time: 14 minutes 
  • All natural
  • Great performance in the wind test. 

Why it Made the Cut

The Light a Fire is a natural fire starter that offers a lengthy burn time to get even the most stubborn fires burning. 

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Long burn time
  • Large flame

Cons

  • Not a great option for a backpack  
  • Not waterproof

Product Description

In testing, the Light a Fire stood head and shoulders above the rest in the high wind and burn time tests. It burned longer—with a huge flame—than the other fire starters. It also stayed lit in high winds. With all that good comes the drawback that it did not like getting wet. It struggled to light, and wouldn’t stay lit after its dunk in the water. 

Its design isn’t suited to being carried in a backpack. But, the Light a Fire is an excellent choice to keep at home, a cabin, or when car camping. With its long burn time and wind resistance, it will get a roaring fire going for you in the conditions you’d want to enjoy a campfire in. 

Best for the Fireplace: Midwest Hearth

Key Features

  • Burn time: 11 minutes 
  • Natural
  • Flat design is easy to store

Why it Made the Cut

The Midwest Hearth’s long burn time and natural materials makes it a great option for your home fireplace or campfires. 

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Easy to light
  • Safe to use for cooking fires

Cons

  • Not waterproof

Product Description

The Midwest Hearth fire starter resembles a thick piece of cardboard. But don’t let the pedestrian looks fool you—these small flat squares are excellent fire starters. In the burn time test, it lasted 11 minutes, which is enough time to get all but the most stubborn fires blazing. It’s not waterproof, and like cardboard, became waterlogged after its 7-minute submersion. It also did not fare well in the wind test. But, my favorite feature of the Midwest Hearth is that its flat design and mess-free construction makes it ideal for storing in the home. That combined with its all natural materials and long burn time makes it my top choice for a fireplace fire starter. 

Best Natural Fire Starter: Eco-Stix Fatwood

Key Features

  • Burn time: 6 minutes 
  • Natural wood

Why it Made the Cut

Fatwood is a classic natural fire starter that can be harvested or bought. The high resin content in fatwood makes it burns hot and light easily. 

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Sustainable 
  • Acts as kindling and fire starter

Cons

  • Takes longer to light than other fire starters 

Product Description

Fatwood is harvested from the heartwood of dead pine trees. It’s naturally high in resins that make it easily catch fire and stay lit even wet. In the burn time test one piece of Fatwood burned for 6 minutes. When wet, it took longer to light, but once lit it burned well. I think it’s best to use multiple pieces of fatwood as your kindling and fire starter in one. The wood catches fire in a few seconds with a regular lighter. If you really want to make the job of starting a fire easy, pair the pieces of fatwood with one of the other fire starters in this list. 

Best Ferro Rod: Exotac fireROD

Key Features

  • Tinder capsule
  • Waterproof
  • Machined aluminum body
  • 5/16 inch diameter ferro rod

Why it Made the Cut

The Exotac fireRod throws sparks better than any other fire rod I’ve tested and is beautifully crafted.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Ferro rod is easy to replace
  • Easily lights tinder 
  • Ergonomic handle

Cons

  • Price

Product Description

While you can start fires with lighters and matches, a ferrocerium rod is an excellent option for survival and for skill building. They’re a great survival option because they’re waterproof, portable, and with one ferro rod, you can light hundreds of fires. They take time to master, but building the necessary skills to use them is a worthwhile investment for outdoor enthusiasts. There’s no better ferro rod on the market than the Exotac fireRod. The aluminum handle is ergonomic and gives you a firm grasp in all weather conditions. Whether you use a knife with square spine or a dedicated striker, the 5/16 inch diameter ferro rod throws a hail storm of sparks. It also has cool features like a tinder capsule that holds Exotac quickLIGHT tabs, so you’ll always have fire starting tinder. If you ever wear out the ferro rod you can easily replace it by threading in a replacement. The fireRod’s downside is its price. It is more expensive than other ferrocerium fire starters, but it has features that others don’t and will last indefinitely with replacement ferro rods.

Final Thoughts

Each of these tested and vetted fire starters will help you get a roaring fire going so you can spend less time building a fire and more time enjoying it. The key is to choose the best fire starter for your application, use fire starting fundamentals, and always put safety first when building fires. 

How to Choose a Fire Starter 

All of these fire starters are fantastic, but the key is choosing the best fire starter for you. Do you need a packable and weatherproof fire starter? Then the Pyro Putty or Fire Flame would be your best choices. If you want a fire starter for your home, cabin, or car camping your choices are more broad. It’s also a good idea to consider the ignition source for your fire starter. Will you be lighting it with a lighter, matches, or ferro rod? Even the best ferro rods, won’t light certain fire starters like the Midwest Hearth, but they’ll easily ignite Pyro Putty

The Best Fire Starters to Light a Fire in any Condition
Wateproof testing the best fire starters by submerging them in water. Scott Einsmann

Methodology

Whether you’re starting a fire in your fireplace or on a remote backpacking trip, you need a fire starter to easily light and start your fire. To find the best fire starters, I tested them under the same set of conditions to gauge their performance. I wanted to find out how they performed in the following conditions: 

  • Burn time (How long does it burn for?)
  • Wind performance (Will high wind extinguish the flame?)
  • Waterproofness (Will it light when wet?)
  • Ease of ignition (Is it easy to light?)

To test the burn time, I lit the fire starter and timed how long it took to burn out. This test is helpful because a longer burn time means there’s a better chance it will ignite your fire’s fuel. This was also a good baseline test to see the size of the flame and how well each burned. How each performed in the burn time test is noted in the key features section.

For the wind performance test, I lit the fire starter and then positioned a leaf blower three yards away on idle. The steady stream of air simulated high winds. 

For the waterproofness test, I submerged each fire starter in a bucket of water for 7 minutes. For the individually wrapped fire starters I opened the package before submerging them. Then I attempted to light each fire starter. 

The last thing you want is a fire starter that’s difficult to light. To test how easy the first starters were to ignite, I used a bic lighter and timed how long from the moment the flame touched the fire starter to how long it ignited. 

FAQs

The most pressing questions—and answers—for buying your next fire starter(s).

Q: What is the best fire starter for a fire pit?

The best fire starter for a fire pit is the Superior Trading Co Light a Fire. It burns for 14 minutes with a large flame to easily get a fire going and it’s also excellent in high wind.

Q: Do you need a fire starter?

You absolutely do not need to buy a fire starter, but you do need a tinder of some kind, whether that’s a feather stick, birch bark, or harvested fatwood. 

Q: Do fire starters expire?

Some fire starters can expire, and others can absorb moisture if not stored properly. Refer to the manufacturer’s info on expiration dates and proper storage.

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Outdoor Life editors don’t just enjoy hunting and fishing as hobbies—the pursuit of these passions make us who we are. Our writers are diehard outdoorsmen and women, too. For more than a century, OL has been evaluating the latest and greatest outdoor gear and providing our readers with no-B.S. reviews. We test products in the field under real-world conditions. We write about the pros and cons of every product we review so that you know exactly what you’re getting if you decide to purchase the gear we cover. Only the best hunting, fishing, backpacking, camping, and survival gear will make the cut in our reviews and roundups. If we’re covering it, you know it’s legit.

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