A Guide To Fire Starters

What Is A Fire Starter?

A fire starter is any tool that helps you light a fire much quicker & easier than basic kindling. Fire Starters are great to have in your emergency kit, backpacking kit, or car camp kit as a backup in windy or wet conditions. They also function as an educational tool for supervised kids when learning the age-old tradition of building a fire (and how to keep it going in less-than-ideal situations).

The Best Fire Starters

Fire Starters really are a combination of two pieces - a tool that produces a spark and a material/fuel source that combusts when the spark hits it. There are many fire starters, including basic implements (like a Bic lighter) and natural ones you can make at home (think vaseline-soaked cotton balls). Below we’ve laid out different categories of fire starters and the pros/cons of each so you can explore which one suits your needs.

A Propane or Rechargeable Lighter

If you’re looking for a tried & true classic that takes minimal effort - a lighter is going to be the best option. Lighters offer a consistent source of flame (no sparks needed), which is crucial when starting a fire quickly. Lighters are also compact, lightweight, and easy to find at just about any gas station or convenience store. They sustain well in damp & windy conditions, which is a huge advantage in choosing a fire starter (or for having it as a backup).

We recommend a rechargeable or refillable lighter vs. a disposal butane lighter, which will ultimately end up in a landfill after use. If you’re looking for a rechargeable option, consider the Pivot Arc Lighter which utilizes electric plasma technology.

Ferrocerium Rod

Similar to flint & steel, A ferrocerium (ferro) rod is probably the most well-known fire starter in survival circles, and for good reason. Ferro rods are durable, can produce sparks in various weather conditions, and do not rely on fuel or batteries. Ferro rods are made of a combination of metals such as iron and cerium. When scraped with a hard object, typically a striker or the back of a wilderness knife, a ferro produces hot sparks capable of igniting tinder. This is a tried & true fire starter option but can be harder to learn how to use and heavier than other options.

Long Burn Wicks

Long burn wicks work well with lighters or Ferro rods. By fluffing the end of the wick, you can spark and emblaze the wick. But unlike a match, these are designed to burn for up to an hour. Long burn wicks are a good compact option and last longer than matches.

Storm Matches or Fire Starter Points

You’ve probably been in the situation where you go to light an old match, only to try the entire box before finding (hopefully) one that will go. While matches are super convenient, they are not typically set up to withstand humidity and wet conditions. That’s where storm matches come in.

Storm matches, also known as windproof or waterproof matches are specially designed matches that can ignite and burn in harsh conditions, such as strong winds and heavy rain. They are coated with chemicals that make them resistant to water and ensure they stay lit even in gusty weather. The match heads are typically larger and more robust than regular matches, providing a longer and more intense burn time to help ensure a fire can be started in challenging environments. They’re excellent as a backup in your emergency kit as well.

Fire Starter Points are a great alternative to matches. These points are made from bagasse, a sugarcane byproduct that's used around the world as a renewable biofuel. They are windproof & waterproof, making them ideal for all conditions, and contain a stormproof stickable tip. Plus, unlike the quick life of a match, Starter points can burn for up to 6 minutes.

Magnesium Fire Starters

This is what it sounds like: A block of magnesium with a built-in striker. To use this fire starter, scrape off magnesium shavings and ignite them with a spark from the Ferro rod side. Magnesium shavings make an excellent fuel source to start your fire. Similar to using a ferro with a fuel source, magnesium blocks can be hard to get used to and can take a while to ignite without consistent practice.

Solar Fire Starters

If you really want to go low-tech, consider a device like magnifying glasses or parabolic mirrors that focus sunlight to create an ignition source. Or, if you live somewhere with a lot of sunny days, consider a solar fire starter. The biggest con here is that these are truly weather-dependent. (This also makes a great science experiment for a young & budding scientist.)


DIY Fire Starters

There are many different DIY fire starters out there. We recommend making a few different ones to see which works best for you. The most important thing to remember is that a spark needs a flammable object to ignite with. Then, that spark needs sustaining fuel to keep it going, otherwise, your tiny flame will diminish before it has enough energy to turn into a fire.

We love sawdust & wax squares, Vaseline-soaked cotton balls, and Cedar and Lemon Egg Cartons. If you’re looking to go truly Au Naturale, consider foraging for birch bark, dried leaves, or pine needles - all very flammable materials that will ignite when a spark is created. This material can be kept in a water-tight container until it’s ready to be used.

Pro Tip: Fire Starters are great accelerators to use with the Pivot Arc Lighter.

"My favorite fire starter is basic: Laundry Lint & Wax. Finding a use for something you'd otherwise throw away always feels good! Plus, it's easy to collect and make and fires up instantly with the Pivot Arc Lighter." - Nelson, VP of Marketing, Barebones.

Now, Build A Campfire

There are various ways to build up a campfire based on weather conditions, types of available wood, fire restrictions, and, if you plan to cook on it. Now that your fire starter is picked out, you can learn how to build a proper sustaining campfire for your backyard or camping excursion.

If you’re having trouble keeping your fire ablaze, try a Fire Blower. With pinpoint precision, this tool can transform glowing embers into a roaring fire with a little human-powered energy. Equipped with an adjustable length feature for optimal comfort, you can effortlessly channel air directly to the desired area. (The one-way valve ensures accidental smoke inhalation is never a concern.)


Learn To Cook Over A Fire

At Barebones, we love Open Fire Cooking and have tons of tools and resources to use when learning to be your own outdoor chef.

In outdoor cooking, The bulk of the cooking time is spent managing heat, so the food cooks evenly to tender perfection. The heat of a well-established fire (not necessarily the flame) is what cooks food. Embers and white-hot coals are the cooking medium for outdoor chefs - whether you choose to use wood charcoal or charcoal briquettes.

You can also use a charcoal chimney starter to get perfect coals. The purpose of a chimney starter is to hold a cluster of charcoal briquettes tightly together so that all of the coals light easily, and heat is equally distributed. This creates a stable and enduring heat source for cooking. While chimney grill starters are primarily used to heat coals for a large outdoor cooking pit, they can also be used as a miniature camp charcoal grill.

Our travel-friendly Cast Iron All In One Grill is an excellent option for grilling on the go. If you’re looking to completely elevate your backyard grilling experience, check out the Cowboy Fire Pit Grill.

Fire Safety & Prevention

When cooking with any type of grill or elevated fire pit, remember to use a Fire Grill Mat in areas with burn restrictions or dry climates. Made of extremely durable and heat/fire resistant silicone, the Fire & Grill Mat helps to prevent hot, burning embers and particles from landing on the ground.


How To Put Out A Fire

Ready to put out your fire & continue on your journey? We’ve created a complete campfire safety guide to ensure your fire is out for good - with no threat of reignition.

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