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Fire Starters

Top Picks

How we choose: The best fire starters highlighted here were selected based on 110 reviews of 65 products. Our top picks are those that are readily-available in the United States and have received the highest overall ratings from reviewers.

How we test: Trailspace is powered entirely by our community of readers. The reviews posted here reflect the real-world experiences of outdoor enthusiasts just like you.

If you've used a fire starter that you think should be listed here, please share your experience.

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UCO Stormproof Matches

user rating: 5 of 5 (2 reviews)

The UCO Stormproof Matches are great for all types of weather. No matter the conditions, you can count on getting a fire started with these matches.

Reasons to Buy

  • Flames lasts a long time.
  • Product lives up to claims of being stormproof.
  • Comes with extra striking surfaces.
  • Waterproof container.

Reasons to Avoid

  • Striking surface does not appear to be stormproof

These matches are amazing. They are definitely stormproof. I’ve taken these matches with me in all seasons in all sorts of weather conditions. They haven’t failed me once. I live in Washington where it’s wet and cold seven months out of the year. I’ve started a fire with these in the rain and snow as well as in the humid summer air. These matches have a long burn time too, so if something doesn’t catch right away, that’s okay! You have some time to adjust some things before the match burns up.

Read more: UCO Stormproof Matches reviews (2)

UCO Sweetfire Strikable Fire Starter

user rating: 4 of 5 (2 reviews)

An interesting eco-friendly product that is excellent for lazy lighting of campfires and wood stoves in good conditions. It is extremely easy to use and burns longer than most fire starters, but does not perform as well as alternative fire starters in adverse weather. It would not be my go-to fire starter if I anticipated adverse conditions such as wind and rain, but will likely be in my pack for those weekend trips where the weather is more predictable and I want to get a fire going with the minimum fuss and maintenance.

Reasons to Buy

  • Easy start for a fire or wood stove (good weather)
  • Long burn time (over 7 minutes)
  • Burns when wet and in rain/snow
  • Environmentally sustainable product

Reasons to Avoid

  • Strike light is not waterproof
  • Needs shelter in high winds
  • Not strike-anywhere
  • Cost/unit higher than alternatives

For years I have carried UCO’s stormproof matches and in my experience they provide high quality fire-related products that are dependable and work in all conditions. Before getting into the details of the Sweetfire, I feel it is best to emphasize the intended function of this product. UCO does not claim that the Sweetfire is waterproof or windproof, which it does on other matches that are intended for that purpose. I shouldn’t say “other matches” as this is not a match. It is a strikeable fire starter and therefore bridges functions between a match and a compressed fiber fire starter, similar to the commonly found Coghlan’s fire sticks.

Read more: UCO Sweetfire Strikable Fire Starter reviews (2)

UCO Stormproof Match Kit

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Okay, hopefully my final review of matches! These matches are amazing, and are now kept in our emergency kits, should we ever need to start a fire in extreme conditions. The matches are heavy duty, definitely waterproof, and the case and extra strikers make this a solid, though not expensive, addition to any emergency outdoor gear kit.

Reasons to Buy

  • Waterproof
  • Easy to grab case
  • Extra strikers

Reasons to Avoid

  • More expensive than other waterproof matches
  • Can't blow them out!

We purchased this set of 25 matches,as part of the UCO set which includes a waterproof case, 25 matches, and 2 extra striker strips. These guys are heavy duty! Strong wooden sticks, with a treated end which will stay lit for 15 seconds. They will even stay lit after being immersed in water (see video below).We did learn early on, though, that you cannot blow out these matches...we found that out when lighting a camp stove, and then found us with a burning match that we could not extinguish...thankfully, we were near the campfire, so tossed the match in there.

Read more: UCO Stormproof Match Kit review (1)

Vargo Ultimate Fire Starter

user rating: 4 of 5 (1 review)

The Vargo Ultimate Fire Starter is a good idea and handy gadget that functions as a spark lighter with ferrocerium (ferro) rod and bellows. I would recommend it to folks who like wood stoves and building fires, but there are better options if all you need is a spark lighter to light a stove, as the dual function and convenience result in a couple of areas that could improve.

Reasons to Buy

  • Dual function—spark lighter and bellows
  • Convenient clip allows for safe and easy storage
  • Bellows are handy to start/adjust a fire even soaked wood
  • Strike lighter works in all conditions (water and wind proof)
  • Quality construction
  • Replaceable ferro rod and clip handle

Reasons to Avoid

  • Serrated striker slightly outperformed by back of blade or striker
  • Ferro rod could be a bit longer to produce more spark
  • Carrying clip sacrifices comfort on handle

Vargo subtitles this device with “Just add fuel”, and that is fitting.  The Ultimate Fire Starter (hereafter called UFS for convenience) is a neat product that provides a spark light off a ferro rod in wind and rain, while nesting in an extendable bellows. I considered the bellows function a luxury on first use, but now would really miss it for starting or adjusting wood stoves and fires. The UFS comes in a pleasingly simple package—a small plastic bag (now being used to hold some odds and ends in my equipment box) and a recyclable cardboard backing.

Read more: Vargo Ultimate Fire Starter review (1)

Coghlan's Waterproof Fire Sticks

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

Excellent, effective, and affordable fire starter tinder that light easily with match or lighter as well as with a ferrocerium rod. Perfect for inclement weather or for those occasions when you don't want to wrestle with seeking dry natural tinder. Great for backpackers, car campers, hunters, and more.

Reasons to Buy

  • Effective fire starter
  • Affordable!
  • Generous supply for the money
  • Works after being wet or soaked
  • Approximately 15 minute burn time per stick

Reasons to Avoid

  • Larger than some smaller manufactured tinders

Those who frequent backcountry areas with established campsites and fire rings often enjoy the classic thrill of being warmed by or even cooking over an evening camp fire, but adverse weather conditions, fatigue, or impatience may make it desirable to have a fire starter in one's pack. This product, Coghlan's Waterproof Fire Sticks, is just the sort of thing for these occasions. I received these after my mom picked them up for me on a whim while traveling. I've seen them listed at any price between $1.59 and $4.99—in other words, if you're interested after this review, shop around.

Read more: Coghlan's Waterproof Fire Sticks review (1)

MSR Strike Igniter

user rating: 4 of 5 (1 review)

The MSR Strike Igniter is a reliable fire starter that is not affected by wet conditions or high altitudes. Although it requires two hands to operate and weighs an ounce more than a Bic lighter, there are enough strikes in this unit to light a thru-hiker's stove and campfire as he/she conquers all three of the U.S. long trails. With this in your pack, you'll never fear of lighter failure.

Reasons to Buy

  • Reliable
  • Usable after being completely soaked
  • Not affected by elevation
  • 3,000-12,000 strikes

Reasons to Avoid

  • Two-handed operation
  • Heavier than other options
  • Poorly designed bottle opener
  • Priced higher than competing brands

When Trailspace assigned me the MSR Strike Igniter for Review Corps testing, they requested that I use it multiple time in a variety of settings, including cold and wet weather. In the month that I've had it, there has been nothing but cold, wet weather to test it in! I have used this in the flatlands of Illinois a few times, and I played around with it at 9,600' while snowshoeing in the Rocky Mountains (though I did not attempt an actual fire). In each and every attempt, the unit has functioned as it was designed to.

Read more: MSR Strike Igniter review (1)

Exotac MatchCap XL

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

A great waterproof match case that can hold approximately 20 UCO Stormproof matches and includes both strike anywhere and red phosphorous striking surfaces.

Reasons to Buy

  • Includes strike anywhere striker
  • Includes red phosphorous striker
  • O-ring sealed
  • Lanyard attachment point
  • Can hold about 20 stormproof matches
  • Durable aluminum construction

Reasons to Avoid

  • Strike anywhere striker only works for Strike Anywhere matches
  • Scalloped interior can be difficult to pack

I bought the Matchcap XL a few years ago as an upgrade from my Exotac Matchcap, which was a great match case, but a bit small for my taste. The Matchcap XL gave me another great waterproof match case, but extended the available striking surface and made it easier to carry both matches and tinder for wet day / emergency fires. After carrying this match case for the past few years, I can't imagine going off without it. It feels much sturdier in my hand than the old brass match cases we had in Boy Scouts, but is also lighter weight.

Read more: Exotac MatchCap XL review (1)

Mautz Fire Ribbon

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (2 reviews)

Instant fire in a tube.

Reasons to Buy

  • Seems to work all the time
  • Excellent backup fire

Mautz Fire Ribbon is a naptha paste in a tube (translate that to napalm). While it can actually be used to cook with, the odor would be somewhat displeasing.  My main use for the product is for priming my gasoline stoves, especially if I need to use them in a tent. The paste is easy to place in the spirit cup of the stove, and it burns hot without the typical flaring that occurs with gasoline priming. On the package Mautz advertises the Fire Ribbon will "light wet wood". One time during winter when my climbing partner and I had the conversation "I thought you brought the stove", we found out the Mautz was telling the truth! The Fire Ribbon not only lit the wet wood, but burned hot enough to dry the wood sufficiently to cook our dinner.

Read more: Mautz Fire Ribbon reviews (2)

UCO Titan Stormproof Match Kit

user rating: 4 of 5 (1 review)

These are some of the biggest matches that you'll ever find and that for the most part meet the manufacturer's claim of being waterproof and windproof. While the weight and size of the matches may be more than most backpackers would want to carry, these matches would be a great addition to someone's camping, emergency, or survival gear.

Reasons to Buy

  • These are some really big matches
  • The matches are water and wind proof
  • The storage case has a good water tight seal

Reasons to Avoid

  • A little on the heavy side for backpacking gear
  • The matches are dependent on a striker and the ones included are not waterproof

First off I would like to say that I received these matches as a gift from Trailspace for being a past Reviewer of the Month. When I first received these matches I was intrigued as these are some of the biggest matches you'll find for use in the outdoors. The picture below is of the UCO Titan Stormproof match kit I received and the packaging claims that these are the longest burning match along with being windproof and waterproof. The package contains twelve matches, three cardboard backed strikers that come packaged in a plastic sleeve, some cotton (not pictured) that is in the green cap that I assume helps prevent damage to the matches while they are being carried and could possibly be used as fire starter, and a plastic storage container.

Read more: UCO Titan Stormproof Match Kit review (1)

Vargo Titanium Flint Lighter

user rating: 4 of 5 (1 review)

A great lightweight and dependable fire starting tool that takes up hardly any space and works in any weather. The flint is readily replaceable, making this a good long term investment.

Reasons to Buy

  • Works in wet weather
  • Very lightweight (10g)
  • Small
  • Dependable

Reasons to Avoid

  • Awkward key/zipper clip

From Vargo Outdoors: A trusty Titanium tool which gives a dependable spark even in the worst conditions. This spark lighter even works after being doused with water, this is a great choice if you want a reliable way of lighting a stove whilst still being super lightweight. A built-in clip lets you easily store this little gem while you're out on the trail. With the function to replace the flint this tough piece of kit will last a lifetime. Specifications: Weight: 10g Length: 63mm Design features: There isn't too much to say about this little item, but I think it is neat enough that it is worth mentioning in a review and bring it some extra attention.

Read more: Vargo Titanium Flint Lighter review (1)

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