Best Survival Fire Starter Tools for When SHTF

Survivalist writer, Tom Conroy, gives us his picks of the best survival fire starter tools for the next SHTF event, or if you just want to go camping, either way.

Survival Fire Starter Tools
Best Survival Fire Starter Tools for When SHTF
AmmoLand Gun News
AmmoLand Gun News

Midwest USA –-( If you’re ever lost in the woods on a cold night, or face a long stretch without any power or electricity, you’ll realize quickly why making fire is one of humanity’s oldest skills. Good fire starter tools make that job a lot easier.

Thankfully, technology has progressed to the point where everybody can now easily carry around simple, effective fire-making tools.

Sure, you can spend hours rubbing two sticks together, or trying to construct a bow drill out of vines and branches, but why?

Modern fire making is fast and easy, both important qualities in a true emergency situation, when failure to start a fire can mean death by hypothermia or the loss of your toes to frostbite.

No matter what fire-making method you choose, always remember the old “fire triangle” you learned back in middle school, or maybe saw at a Smokey The Bear presentation. All fires require a heat source, fuel and oxygen. All fire starters find some way to combine those three to produce a flame.

Also remember there’s much more to a fire that just starting one. If you don’t have enough tinder, kindling, and then large chunks of fuel to keep the blaze going, then it won’t matter how effective your fire-starting kit is. You can buy tinder, like the SOL Tinder Quik Fire Starters, or make your own out of petroleum-jelly-soaked cotton balls, or cotton string soaked in paraffin. I often carry around some old dryer lint in a sandwich bag, and have used it to start campfires, controlled burns, and even light my wood stove in my previous house out in the woods.

The following fire starter tools list focuses on ways to produce a flame or a spark, and not really on the tinder. Some of these things can be purchased from the Brownells website, or from other quality vendors. To be fully prepared, it’s a good idea to always carry at least two ways to make a fire in your emergency gear, backpack, and your pockets.

So here are my Top 5 Survival Fire Starter Tools.

  • A Magnifying Glass
  • Matches
  • Flint & Steel
  • Torch
  • Disposable Cigarette Lighters

5) Magnifying Glass

So long as there’s sunlight, a magnifying glass is a handy way to make a fire. All you have to do is focus the sun’s rays on some tinder, and you’ve got a fire in short order.  You can even make it work on mostly-cloudy days. Most magnifying glasses are fairly compact and easily fit into emergency bags like the Gerber Bear Grylls Magnifying Glass Fire Starter .

The best part is that a magnifying glass can help you do all sorts of other tasks, like seeing that tiny splinter in your finger so you can tweeze it out. So long as the lens doesn’t break, the same magnifying glass you use today could still be your go-to fire starting tool 100 years from now. The worst part is that this method doesn’t work at night, or on really over-cast days.

It does have its limitations, and it’s best to pair this with at least one other method. 

Gerber Bear Grylls Tinderbox with Magnifying Glass Fire Starter
Gerber Bear Grylls Tinderbox with Magnifying Glass Fire Starter


4) Matches

The classic match is hard to beat as a fire starter tool. Matches are commonly available, and you can still find the old “strike anywhere” matches if you look for them. Matches must be kept dry, with something like the waterproof Stansport Match Box .  You can really up the ante with specialized “survival matches” like the Stansport Waterproof/Windproof Matches that will light and burn even when wet.

Besides sensitivity to moisture, matches have one other downside. They consume themselves with each lighting attempt. If you’ve got only four or five matches, you had best make them count.

Like all other fire starting tools, it’s best to pair matches with other methods to increase your chances.

Stansport Waterproof And Windproof Matches
Stansport Waterproof And Windproof Matches


3) Flint And Steel Strikers

Flint and steel is an ancient fire starter tools. There are all kinds of variations on this simple system. All of them involve scraping a flint or similar material across a length of steel, or vice versa. Either way, the result is a spark that can ignite tinder.  You can go advanced, like the UST Blastmatch , or simple, like the Micro Spark Wheel . They both use the same basic principle.

Zippo, famous for their cigarette lighters, has come out with an Emergency Fire Starter that packages a thumbwheel flint and steel striker with some tinder in a blaze-orange, waterproof box. Flint and steel fire starters work wet or dry, and you typically get hundreds, if not thousands, of spark cycles out of them.

Zippo Emergency Fire Starter
Zippo Emergency Fire Starter


2) Torch Lighters

Torch lighters run on butane or similar lighter fluid, and produce very hot, intense flames that can light just about anything that’s flammable. Those sold as survival lighters – like the UST Trekker Stormproof – are touted for their “windproof” feature. The flame is so hot and intense that not even 80 mph gales can snuff it out. Of course, such a wind just might blow away your tinder, kindling, and smaller chunks of fuel. Torch lighters are fairly high tech for fire starters. They are reliable and operate literally at the push of a button.

They also require fuel. And if you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere, chances are low that you’ll have a handy resupply of fuel. Used sparingly to conserve fuel, torch lighters would be a fantastic fire-starting tool. It’s probably best to pair them with a more low-tech method that doesn’t rely on fuel resupply.

Ultimate Survival Technologies Trekker Stormproof Lighter
Ultimate Survival Technologies Trekker Stormproof Lighter


1) Disposable Cigarette Lighters

The humble disposable cigarette lighter has to be the greatest emergency fire starting tool ever invented by man. Not as hot as a torch lighter, they are impervious to wet weather. They combine the simplicity of a flint-and-steel with their own little reservoir of lighter fuel. They work day or night, and can be found everywhere, usually for around $1.00 or less apiece. Even when out of fuel, the striker wheel can still make a spark you can start a fire with. And for what they cost, you can easily stock a lifetime supply, and carry one in every single pocket, pouch, gear bag, backpack, glove compartment and vehicle cup holder you have, – with some left over to tuck into your sock.

I once watched a TV show wherein the host showed the traditional, ancient “bush tucker” secrets of the Australian Aborigines. The main course was a carpet python roasted in a Kap Mauri – a “bush oven” that was a hole scraped in the sandy soil, and layered with chunks of Melaleuca tree bark.

Guess how the elderly Aborigine started his fire for this very ancient, very traditional cooking method? By flicking his disposable cigarette lighter, that’s how.

If you had a time machine, and could travel back a few thousand years, and show the best bow-drill expert on the planet how easily you could make fire with a cheap cigarette lighter, he’d probably worship it as an artifact from the spirit world. For what they cost, it only makes sense to drop $20 on a 100 Pack of Disposable Lighters  and never again be more than an arm’s length away from one of these marvelous inventions.

100 Disposable Classic Lighters
100 Disposable Classic Lighters

Carry Fire All The Time

All of us carry things with us every single day. Keys, pocket knives, cellphones – and for lots of Ammoland readers – concealed carry handguns. Modern fire starter tools are so small and convenient, it only makes sense to slip a lighter, or flint-and-steel unit, or a tube matches into your pocket. You never know when or where you’ll need to be able to make a fire. It could, absolutely, save your life or a loved one's some day.

Thomas Conroy is a survivalist and firearms aficionado and writer who lives in the Midwest.

Uhh,,,Fire Good!
Grr, Uhh,,,Fire Good!
  • 8 thoughts on “Best Survival Fire Starter Tools for When SHTF

    1. Keep a few tampons in the glove box, go box and backpacks.

      They are water tight factory sealed, high quality as they are US FDA regulated,
      just open one up, pull out some fluff and light it up as kindle.

      They are also good for stopping bleeding from severe wounds.

      1. What a wonderful idea about the tampons to keep in an emergency kit. Thank you so much.

    2. I used to smoke a lot and found butane lighters to be undependable in cold weather. Then I read somewhere that it won’t ignite below some particular number of degrees (sub-freezing). So I agree the torch is great – but not dependable for a northern winter unless you carry it inside your clothing to keep it warm.

      Buy a can of butane refill gas if you get a torch. It’ll last a very long time and keep your torch powered up. A full one weighs only a few ounces.

      IMO, redundancy is your friend in a survival situation – or hunting / fishing / day hiking adventure. I usually carry at least two different methods for fire (sometimes three), and in different places, and multiples of each. So I may have a fire-steel in my belt bag and my pack, lighter or torch in my pocket w/ refill in my pack, and maybe a skateboard wheel (for a bow drill cap) in both my belt pack and back-pack. That way I can make a fire even if I fall into a river and have to ditch my pack to get out. One of my fire-steels is also usually a ‘push’ type like a Blast-Match in case I’ve hurt one hand or arm.

    3. One thing about disposable lighters is that if you carry one in your pocket eventually it will run out of fuel even if you never use it, I assume because the fuel release button gets bumped from time to time. I carry mine lying at the bottom of my back pocket under a handkerchief; maybe there’s a better way that will do a better job of preserving fuel.

    4. I believe in the rule of 3s when it comes to emergencies.

      So for the top 5 items of survival you need three ways to get there.

      No, “one way,” can be 100% effective in all situations.So pick your fire kit with that in mind. Maybe a cheap lighter, ferro stick, and matches, would work for you.

      While these folks discuss the mostly guaranteed way. Remember the greatest asset you have is your mind and knowledge. You do not have to use fast techniques ALL the time. If your lost or incapacitated, do the obvious, Stop and think!

    5. Besides having their obvious reasons for being, a fresh 9 volt battery and some fine steel wool will aid in starting a fire. Be very careful NOT to store these two item together. Separate bags are a must.
      Also Hemlock tree boughs have a knack for burning in a started fire as well.

    6. The disposable lighter is a great survival tool, but……BEWARE.

      I kept a couple in the center console of my truck. One day, I opened the door and was greeted by a strong smell of butane. The Texas sun had heated the truck interior to the point that BOTH lighters had ruptured. In an enclosed area such as a car or truck interior, such a concentration of butane could cause one HELL of an explosion.

      1. Oct. 1982 I was packing up for a tour as a US Peace Corps Volunteer
        to Papua New Guinea. On purpose I went into a liquor store and went to where
        there were lots of disposable lighters and picked up two cards of 15 each.
        I cannot begin to state their value a year later.

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