8 Types of Fire Starters: How to Start a Fire Anywhere

When the power's out, or days spent camping out in the wilderness, the only real challenge is how to keep the fire alive. Nothing beats gathering around a campfire to keep yourself and your companions warm, cook meals, drive off predators and enjoy the beauty of nature — at least if you know how to start one. While knowledge of how to make your own firestarters is useful, there are a variety of ready-made products available on the market today. With this in mind, we've put together a comprehensive look at eight different types of fire starters and how to use them to light a fire quickly, safely and reliably anywhere, including damp environment boggy areas and windy conditions. So, what are the best methods and tools to light a fire in any environment? Let's find out!

Quick Summary of Key Points

There are many different types of fire starters, including lighters, matches, flint and steel, magnifying glasses, and Ferro rods. The type of fire starter you choose will depend on your needs and preferences for starting a fire.

What is a Fire Starter?

A fire starter is any substance or device used to facilitate the ignition of fuel for a fire. Fire starters can be instrumental when making a campfire, charcoal fire, wood fire, and more. Fire starters are helpful for outdoor activities such as camping, backyard fires, and even emergency situations. They can also be used by professionals such as chefs, who often use them to heat up charcoal in grills.

Fire starters come with both advantages and disadvantages; while they make it easy to start a fire, they can be expensive and may be unavailable or unreliable in certain situations. Additionally, some fire starters are made using fuel sources that generate additional pollutants like smoke when lit, which can cause air quality problems if used regularly. Some of these fumes are hazardous if inhaled and can cause respiratory problems if not properly managed. On the other hand, when used correctly and safely, fire starters can save time and energy needed to light a fire since they offer an easier option than manual ways of starting a fire such as using matches or building kindling.

Now that we have provided an overview on what a fire starter is, let's look at the different types of natural fire starters available to help you make any kind of fire from anywhere.

  • As reported by Hearst Media Services, approximately 72% of campers use a standard lighter as their primary fire starter.
  • According to an article published in The Journal of Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, approximately 10–20% of campers prefer to use matches to start a fire.
  • According to the National Fire Protection Association, one out of every five residential fires is caused by using improper fire starting methods.

Essential Highlights

Fire starters are substances or devices used to ignite fuel sources and are helpful for outdoor activities like camping, backyard fires, and emergency situations. However, they can be expensive, unreliable, or cause additional pollutants to the atmosphere if not used correctly. There are natural fire starter sources that can make any kind of fire from anywhere.

Natural Fire Starters

Natural fire starters are a great way to create a flame without the use of modern items such as lighters or matches. They often require minimal effort and can be gathered quickly, making them a preferred option for those who find themselves in emergency situations.

The most popular methods of starting a fire with natural materials involve the use of flint and steel tools, spark-based techniques, and friction-induced combustion. Flint and steel tools are an easy way to create sparks in order to start a fire since steel striking flint usually produces sparks. Although it's an effective means of starting a fire, due to modern production techniques, some may argue that it requires more skill than other options. Spark-based techniques consist of generating sparks by striking one piece of rock against another. While this method is not always reliable, if done properly and the rocks strike at the correct angle, sparks will start to fly and eventually ignite whatever kindling you have placed nearby. Friction-induced combustion is when wood is rubbed together quickly until enough heat is generated and causes a burn—a bow drill is an example of this method. When done properly and with enough patience, this technique will produce replicated results each time.

However, these methods require time and skill—which may be limited in certain scenarios—so caution should be taken before attempting them. Additionally, depending on your climate and environment, gathering all of the necessary components may prove problematic.

Despite its limitations, using natural forms of fire starters can be an effective means of creating a flame when modern methods are unavailable—but practice beforehand to avoid being caught off guard in case of an emergency. With that said, it is also important to consider gathering kindling and tinder as well in order to increase your chances for success when starting a fire as we discuss in the following section.

Gathering Kindling and Tinder

Gathering kindling and tinder is a key step to starting a fire, especially if you need to do it outside. Kindling is the small twigs and branches you use to fuel your fire and keep the flame going. Tinder is the flammable material which will catch the spark and start your wood burning.

There are several methods for collecting kindling and tinder when in the wilderness. The most common approach is to look for deadfall—the trees that have fallen over enough time due to weather conditions or high winds. Deadfall can provide great fuel sources, as long as they’re not too wet or frozen.

Another popular method is to gather deadwood from trees and shrubs. These should be extremely dry and thick enough to burn without becoming a pile of ash. If possible, add some smaller pieces of wood around the larger ones so that you can build up your campfire quickly.

Tinder is even easier to find, with materials like dried grasses, pine needles, bark chips, and leaves being easy sources for quick combustion. However, it's important to remember that these materials burn quickly and must be constantly watched or replaced with dry fuel from kindling.

Debate: Some argue that gathering kindling and tinder from deadfall and trees should be avoided because it could harm local vegetation. While understanding this concern, other counterargue that as long as people practice good conservation techniques such as proper pruning practices and refilling old animal dens with new materials, there should not be any significant damage done to the environment by gathering additional trimming or fallen trees.

Once you’ve gathered sufficient kindling and tinder for your fire, the next step is to select a mechanical fire starter that can help get your flames up quickly and efficiently.

Mechanical Fire Starters

Mechanical fire starters, such as lighters, matches and flint strikers, provide an easy way to get a spark lit consistently and quickly. They don't require lots of skill or practice and provide users with an efficient and reliable fire starter.

Lighters, the most commonly used mechanical fire starter, are inexpensive and come in multiple forms including gas-powered, electric, and disposable options. Gas-powered lighters emit a spark which then lights a combustible material placed within them; this type is usually the most reliable and consistent for use in outdoors activities. Meanwhile, electric and disposable lighters depend on electricity to start a spark, making them more difficult to rely on when outdoors or in cases of emergency.

Matches are another common form of mechanical fire starter but typically come in the form of strike-anywhere or strike-on-box varieties. Strike-anywhere matches produce their own ignition source through friction when struck on any surface—making these a great choice for outdoor activities since they are not impacted by wind which can frequently extinguish other types. The strike-on-box variety requires a specially treated box surface to ignite with friction; although they may be slower to light than the strike-anywhere variety due to needing this specialized box, they can still be very effective in producing consistent results.

Finally, flint strikers provide users with an ample amount of heat when striking the flint materials together. This intense heat is what will ultimately create sparks needed for combustion; however, much like traditional methods mentioned before (e.g., bow drills) this method requires some skill and practice to master properly so it is typically not recommended for beginners.

No matter which form of mechanical fire starter you choose to use, each offers various advantages over traditional homemade tools like magnesium bars or ferro rods; having a quality option always on hand provides you with quick access to a dependable spark source quickly and efficiently. It’s important to assess your needs responsibly – after all, no one wants to find themselves out in the wilderness without any means of starting a fire!

Leading into the next section: With both lighter and match options readily available—as well as flint strikers for those who prefer a more traditional “sparking” approach—there’s no shortage of easy ways to start fires on demand. But what about using history's favorite way? Next we'll take a look at how fire starters harnessing the power of flint & steel have evolved over time.

Flint and Steel

Flint and Steel is one of the most trusted ways to develop a consistent and dependable flame. This method has been used by humans for centuries as it can easily be packed up, transported, and stored. Flint and steel fire starters consist of a piece of high-carbon steel that is typically shaped like an axe head, with flint next to it. When struck together, the sparks generated from this action will ignite tinder or kindling.

Although it has been historically used, flint and steel presents some challenges in creating fires today. The main issue lies in correctly striking the particles together with enough force for sparks to fly and light up tinder or kindling. Additionally, it may take practice before users are able to create sparks with consistency and so confidence when striking is key. This is particularly challenging in damp weather where tinder is more difficult to ignite which requires additional skill from the user.

Finally, not all flints are created equal. Some are quite hard while others may be too soft to generate adequate sparks – so investing in quality materials must also be taken seriously when using flint and steel to start fires.

With these important considerations addressed, chemical fire starters remain one of the safest and most effective methods for starting fires outdoors regardless of weather conditions. In the next section we'll explore five common chemical fire starter options available on the market.

Chemical Fire Starters

Chemical fire starters are an alternative way to start a fire with the use of fast-acting, lightweight fuel tablets. These tablets generate intense heat and are usually made up of various combustible components, including a magnesium-based material and fuel. The most common chemical fire starters are Esbit solid fuel tabs and Hexamine tablets, but they can also come in other forms such as gel and paste blocks.

Despite their convenience, there are some drawbacks to using chemical fire starters. Toxic fumes may be released if used indoors or in an enclosed environment, which could be hazardous to both you and your surroundings. Additionally, many commercial fire starters contain heavy metals that, when burned, release dangerous carcinogenic particles into the air.

Nonetheless, chemical fire starters provide an excellent alternative for enthusiasts who don’t have access to another reliable or suitable fire starter. They are much safer than burning unsafe materials such as gas or paraffin wax, as these materials will produce higher emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Plus, chemical fire starters typically weigh less than 0.4 ounces (about 11 grams) each and can last for nearly 10 minutes once lit.

All in all, chemical fire starters have both benefits and drawbacks worth weighing before making a choice on which one to use. However, when handled correctly and with proper ventilation, these types of fire starters can be a great option when looking to create a short-lived flame quickly.

Now let's take a look at lighters and matches–two other popular methods of starting fires outdoors.

Lighters and Matches

When it comes to using lighters or matches to start a fire, there can be advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, these are items that you can easily find, are light and portable and have been used to start fires for hundreds of years. The use of lighters and matches don’t require additional materials, such as tinder and kindling, which can be more difficult to collect in some areas.

On the other hand, some people argue that they can be unreliable in wet climates or when there is strong wind. Furthermore, warm environments can cause matches to become soft and plastic-based lighters have the tendency to dry up quickly in warmer weather. For this reason, it is important to inspect a lighter before using it or do a check for signs of wetness on the matches before using them.

It should also be noted that although lighters and matches offer an easy way to start a fire, they are not very cost effective since they often need to be replaced after just a few uses.

In conclusion, while matches and lighters may offer convenience in starting a fire when all else fails, there are drawbacks that make them unreliable in certain conditions. That leads us into our next section about windproof and waterproof fire starters which could be the solution for getting your campfire started no matter where you are or what the weather is like.

Windproof and Waterproof Fire Starters

When discussing fire starters, the windproof and waterproof options are the crème de la crème. Not only do they allow you to start a blazing fire in even the harshest weather conditions, but they are also usually easy to carry around. As such, these types of fire starters could be the difference between life and death in an extreme wilderness environment.

However, in certain climates and settings, regular matchsticks can prove just as useful when retrieving dry kindling. Being able to find dry twigs and sticks are key even when using waterproof and windproof firestarters, so spending time searching around for these materials should be a priority whichever type of fire starter you opt for.

Overall, windproof and waterproof firestarters can be great investments if you will be braving the elements during your next outdoor adventure. But depending on your environment, standard matchsticks might be just as suitable – or even more suitable – for the job.

Next up: Easy to Carry Fire Starters. These no-fuss solutions make it easier than ever to have a fire burning within minutes – no matter where you are!

Easy to Carry Fire Starters

When it comes to easy to carry fire starters, natural and man-made products are the go-to option for those looking for convenience. Natural products like dryer lint, cotton balls, or wood shavings make excellent material for starting fires with minimal effort. As long as the material is completely dry and free from contaminants, these materials can be carried without any added bulk.

Similarly, man-made products like lighter cubes, matches, and lighters provide a convenient way to start a fire without carrying too much weight. From an environmental standpoint, it should also be noted that using lighter cubes can help lower the amount of fuel and acceleration needed to light a fire.

On one side of the argument, there are those who believe that it is best to use natural materials whenever possible due to the lack of synthetic chemicals found in them. They may feel this keeps the environment healthier as well as provides more sustainable options for fire starting.

Then there are those who prefer the convenience of man-made products because they are less cumbersome and allow one to light a fire with minimal fuel or extra tools needed. Furthermore, they argue that certain products like waterproof matches, emergency fire starters and windproof lighters offer superior reliability compared to natural materials which can suffer due to exposure to moisture or extreme temperatures.

Regardless of which route you take when seeking out an easy to carry fire starter, both options have benefits and drawbacks depending on your circumstances and preferences. In conclusion, it is best to choose something that works well in your particular situation while keeping safety as a top priority.

Now we will move onto our conclusion where we will put all this information together in order to provide our overall thoughts on different types of fire starters.


Starting a fire can be done in many ways, however the best methods depend on the environment and how well prepared you are. The 8 types of fire starters we discussed in this article are all viable methods to get a fire going in diverse and challenging conditions. When camping or hiking, it is important to prepare ahead of time by bringing matches, lighters, tinder, and any other necessary items. In cases where these items are not available, you may have to resort to other more primitive methods. Ultimately, it is up to the individual to weigh their options and carefully choose the method they find most reliable.

No single method is perfect for all situations, however each one has its own unique advantages and drawbacks that should be taken into consideration before use. Matches, lighters, tinder boxes, friction-based methods and lenses can all provide an effective means of starting a fire. However, chief among these are the flint and steel and magnifying glass methods because they do not require any physical resources such as wood or oils.

Regardless of which method you choose, always make sure it’s safe to start a fire; never light a fire in conditions where it could easily spread. Be mindful of your surroundings and follow the necessary precautions when starting a fire.

Most Common Questions

Are there any safety precautions to consider when using fire starters?

Yes, there are several safety precautions to consider when using fire starters. Make sure to always start a fire away from any structures or flammable materials such as trees and shrubs. Be sure to keep an eye on the fire at all times and do not leave it unattended. Also, be aware that some fire starters can be hazardous to your health if inhaled or ingested, so use caution and wear gloves to avoid coming in contact with any of the chemicals. Follow all instructions clearly when using each type of fire starter and ensure you have proper ventilation while using them indoors. Lastly, make sure that you put out any fires completely before leaving them.

What are the benefits of each type of fire starter?

  1. Matches: Matches are an easy and reliable fire starter choice. They are simple to use, the flame they produce is easily controllable, and they can be stored and transported safely.
  2. Lighters: Like matches, lighters are an easy choice for starting a fire due to their convenience and safety. With some lighters containing refillable butane tanks, they can be used multiple times before needing to be replaced.
  3. Magnifying Glasses: A magnifying glass is a good option for starting a fire if you don't mind spending time focusing the sun's rays on the tinder until it ignites.
  4. Ferrocerium Rods: Ferrocerium rods create sparks when scraped with metal, and can be used even in wet or windy conditions if sheltered from the wind. Initially this type of fire starter may take more effort than some of the other options, but it is a great survival tool that can be used again and again with little maintenance.
  5. Char Cloths: Char cloths allow you to easily ignite tinder since they already have pre-ignited material on them once lit. They are also a long-lasting item that doesn't need to be constantly replaced like paper matches or lighter fuel.
  6. Battery & Steel Wool: This method of creating sparks uses materials easily found in most homes and is fairly simple to execute. The steel wool must be fine enough so that it receives current from the battery, creating sparks which in turn can be used to ignite tinder with no additional instrumentation required.
  7. Flint & Steel Fire Starter Kits: These kits provide both flint rock as well as well crafted strikers which create reliable sparks and work even in wet conditions. The kit provides everything you need to make a fire in any environment.
  8. Solar Sparks: Solar Sparkers consist of compressible lenses which concentrate light from the sun into one point, producing a spark capable of lighting exposed tinder bundles instantly. While sunlight does not need to be present for this method to work, its efficacy will depend on weather conditions such as cloud cover or smog reducing visibility near the lens surface area.

How do I use different types of fire starters?

The answer to this question depends on the types of fire starters that you are using. Generally speaking, some of the most common fire starters include matches, lighters, tinder, flint and steel, magnifying glasses, ferrocerium rods, battery-powered fire starters, and chemical fire starters.

Matches and lighters are easy to use, generally reliable options for starting fires as all you need to do is light the match or lighter and then add small pieces of tinder. Tinder burns quickly to create large amounts of hot sparks that can easily ignite larger pieces of kindling.

Flint and steel is a great way to spark fires in any weather conditions and is particularly useful during wet weather as the sparks from flint are much more resistant to water than other methods such as matches or lighters. To use flint and steel, you will need a metal striker (also known as a firesteel) and a piece of smooth flint rock. Strike the flint with firm pressure against the steel creating sparks which should land on top of your pile of tinder. Again, these sparks will be hot enough to quickly ignite any dry tinder that may be present.

Magnifying glasses require sunlight in order to start fires and operate by concentrating sunbeams onto small pieces of tinder to create a high heat source. The process works best when there is no wind or humidity present so it's important to choose your location carefully before attempting this method, although you may find yourself able to get away with using this option even on an overcast day too.

Ferrocerium rods are rod-shaped objects made from an alloy which produces long-lasting showers of sparks when scraped with a harder metal object like a knife blade or key chain style scraper tool. Scrape the ferrocerium rod with force at an angle into your tinder pile – sparks will fly off which should expectly result in lighting your fire starter material.

Battery-powered fire starters look similar to normal BBQ lighters but they run off batteries rather than gas. Such devices can be used just like normal lighters, although they cannot reach the same temperatures they are still more than capable of getting any fuel source lit up fast enough for practical usage.

Finally chemical fire starters rely on combustible chemicals such as phosphorus or magnesium which ignite upon contact with air giving off intense heat that can be used to start fires instantly. Depending on the product you choose they may come in pastelike form or wrapped up in paper that needs to be then ignited before adding it onto your pile of tinder – make sure you follow safety instructions printed on the packaging for information.