Open main menu

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.

Disclosure: Trailspace never accepts payment for gear reviews, product placement, or editorial coverage. When you buy through affiliate links on our site, Trailspace may earn a small commission, which helps cover the costs of running the site.

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)

UST WetFire Tinder

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

I like having a couple of these fire starters in my bag. Not many things are more frustrating than having trouble getting a fire going.

Reasons to Buy

  • Small
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to use
  • Long burn time
  • Works wet or dry

Reasons to Avoid

  • None

I recently bought these in a 5-pack from Walmart just to try them out. I am so pleased with them! These things come individually wrapped and are very small (about the size of a strawberry) and lightweight. I like these things because it kind of takes the hassle out of trying to get a fire going.  We gathered wood and kindling and piled the kindling around this little fire starter and let it do the rest. You can either shave some of the fire starter off or you can burn it all at once. I burn mine all at once and just let it burn for the full 5 to 6 minutes.  I like these things because it's a "surefire" way of getting the flames to rolling.

Read more: UST WetFire Tinder review (1)

UST Sparkie

user rating: 4 of 5 (2 reviews)

Ultimate Survival Technologies' Sparkie is a decent flint-steel emergency backup for starting a fire. At 1 ounce and $8, it's an easy addition to your emergency kit.

Reasons to Buy

  • One-handed operation
  • Usable after becoming wet
  • 1 ounce
  • Price
  • Compact size

Reasons to Avoid

  • Heavier than a Bic
  • Requires knowledgable firebuilding skills (see below)

The Sparkie provides an inexpensive, lightweight backup for starting fires. I use to always carry a small Bic lighter, along with a book of waterproof matches as backup. But "waterproof" is not "Denatured Alcohol-proof," as I recently discovered from a very minor spill. My matches were ruined. So for $8, I picked up the Sparkie and have been satisfied with it. I have found this to be a pretty good product. The Sparkie does require knowledge for building a fire from tinder (or a product like "Wet Fire").

Read more: UST Sparkie reviews (2)

UCO Waterproof Matches

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

Last fall, I reviewed a very disappointing brand of "waterproof" matches. Since then, I have obtained two types of UCO matches, and both are amazing upgrades, and are dependable components of our fire kits. When canoe camping, and tent camping in all types of weather, we need to have reliable matches. This review is for the UCO WATERPROOF MATCHES, which we have used through last fall, winter, and early spring.

Reasons to Buy

  • They light even when wet
  • Reasonably priced
  • Sticks do not easily break

Reasons to Avoid

  • Not easy to light if striker strip is wet
  • May sputter a bit
  • Box is not waterproof, just resistant

These are dependably, easy to light matches, which we use for camping in all weather conditions, year-round. We like the "waterproof" aspect, since our gear may get wet in rain, or from snow, and though we keep matches in plastic cases, prior experience has taught us that all matches that are reported to be reliable, are not. These matches come in a 4-pack (4 boxes, with 40 matches in each box), so they will last a long time. There are two striker surfaces on each box, which adds to the reliability.

Read more: UCO Waterproof Matches review (1)

More Reviews of Fire Starters

Trailspace reviewers have shared 110 reviews of 65 different fire starters.

Show All »

or add yours

Other Types of Survival Gear

Find more survival gear reviewed in these related categories:

Emergency Shelters

Survival Kits

Whistles and Horns

+1 more type

Review Your Outdoor Gear

If you've found this site helpful — or if we've missed something important — please consider paying it forward by some of your favorite outdoor gear.

Why? From professional gearheads to outdoor novices, everyone has an important point of view to contribute. will support the outdoor community and help others find the best gear.

Trailspace reviewers are outdoor enthusiasts like you: hikers, climbers, paddlers, backcountry skiers, and trail runners who share our experiences with the gear and clothing we rely on to get outside. Learn more about Trailspace