When it comes to picking the best survival fire starter, you need a plan.
It is awesome to live in modern times. If you are in a great 1st world area, then the majority of your life has been safe and comfortable as compared to centuries ago. Except for the planned visits to the outdoors through camping, hiking, and hunting.
However, every once in a while, something happens that brings 1000's of years of civilization to a grinding halt, and you are left out in the cold wilderness to fend for yourself.
It's called survival, and hopefully you never have to experience it with your life on the line.
But just in case, let's make sure you are prepared for one of the most fundamental of human needs: fire.
Your plan should be a tiered approach with several items so that you are prepared for many different types of situations.
In case one or two items get lost or are damaged, you have more options.
This plan starts with the easier to use items to get a fire going, and then is designed to accommodate more harsh conditions that sacrifice convenience for functionality.
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Best Survival Fire Starter Criteria
When you evaluate the best fire starters, price is a big factor for most of us. We want to have several items as part of our plan, so it's important that we don't break the bank while we're at it.
Ease of use is another key parameter. Will we be able to use the item with gloves on? What happens if we have broken a few fingers, our hand, a wrist, or something else? How quickly can we get a fire going while under tons of stress?
The next thing to look for is how does it perform under different working conditions like rain, wind, and snow.
We care about whether or not the item requires fuel to work, and if so, how many fires can we start with it. Will the fuel evaporate out of the item over time?
Do we need to carry around extra fuel as well, and how safe is it to store? Will the extra fuel expire over time?
There are many things to look at here, and I did a ton of research developing this plan taking into account all of these factors. Then I built my kit and tested it. It works.
So let's jump into the plan next.
The first tier of the plan is the classic cheap lighter, which is one of many different types of lighters. This modern technology is so convenient and price effective, that most of us take it for granted, and think we need something much more complicated for survival.
However, under 75% of conditions, the classic cheap lighter works flawlessly and really is the best firestarter. It has earned a spot in our fire starting strategy. You can pick up these at any of your local stores for less than $2. For the price, this is one of the best lighters you can have in your pack, so get two.
High Quality Lighter
The second tier is a high quality lighter. Now there are many options here, so you should choose based on your home area environment, or wherever you plan on needing your fire kit.
There are many expensive lighters out there that claim to be wind and water proof, but the reviews reveal that these are marketing gimmicks because the performance is terrible.
Now, most people love their Zippo lighter, and what is not to love. However, a Zippo is not sealed, and the fuel will evaporate out of it in less than a month, which means you'll have to also store replacement fuel and have it handy.
I personally chose a crowd favorite among the bug out bag experts. It's called a peanut lighter and it is by far the best survival lighter.
The idea is that its fuel chamber seals with a good o-ring screw capsule, preventing the fuel from evaporating out of it.
I field tested this by storing one for over a year, and when I went to use it, it worked perfectly with plenty of fuel still inside.
The peanut lighter is very tough. The only downside is there is no wind guard, so if you are in a windy area, you might consider another solution.
The third tier is windproof and waterproof matches. This is the line of defense I use for extreme harsh conditions for wind, rain, and snow.
The UCO Stormproof Match Kit comes with a nice canister that has a waterproof seal, and these matches will still work even after being submerged in water.
Ferro Rod and Striker
The fourth and final tier is a classic ferrocerium rod and metal striker. I personally use the Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter since it's one of the best in the industry.
The ferro rod and striker is the final layer of ignition sources.
Tried and true, this method will help you start fires when all else fails.
For those that don't know, Bear Grylls is a famous survivalist and has teamed up with Gerber to make some awesome gear, especially their fire starter.
Check out the video to see it in action.
An honorable mention, if you expect the sun to be your friend in a survival situation, is to have a fresnel lens fire starter in your kit.
There are many options out there, including a credit card sized pocket version.
This is a great way to show off your knowledge of physics, but if you have more efficient tools available, then why not use those instead.
Did you know that you have some of the best fire tinder in your home right now and its free? That's right, it's dryer lint, that stuff that is always annoying and has to be cleaned out frequently.
So save a bit of it next time, and shove it into a decent quality zip up plastic bag to put in your fire kit.
To get a lift in severe weather, it's important to have some supercharged tinder available.
This is where Wetfire, a great product by UST Brands, comes in.
With only a few shavings from a small piece, you can have a fire up and going quickly in the worst weather.
For general lighting on a camp site, it's also critical that we have a long burn candle handy.
I recommend the UCO 9+ Hour Candles.
Here's a pro tip: if you have a stubborn fire, there is no loss of honor in using the tools available to you.
Good candles love to burn steadily. So if we have one in our kit, why not light the candle first, then use the lit candle to start a stubborn fire?
This was one of the best tips that a pro has ever given me. So simple, yet not so obvious until it is revealed.
In summary, it's important to have a tiered approach plan to handle the different possible situations you might find yourself in during a survival situation. Therefore, the fire plan includes a multi-tiered approach.
We start the plan with the cheapest and easiest to use, a classic plastic lighter. Then we go to a high quality lighter as a backup in case something happens to the cheap lighter.
If the weather is acting up, we can dip into our weatherproof match kit. If all else fails or we get into any other kind of situation, the final tier is the classic ferro rod and striker.
Along the way, our dryer lint that we are protecting in a water proof bag will help us get most stubborn piles burning. If that doesn't work because of wet weather, we call in the Wetfire to help us out.
Let us not forget using our candle trick to save fuel, tinder, and matches on those extra stubborn fires.
Don't forget that you won't always be able to rely on fire to make light during night, and that is why having the right flashlight is important.
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