Hottest Bug Out Bag Fire Starters

Categories: Survival Gear


The market for different types of fire starters for preppers’ bug out bags has exploded over recent years to the point its almost information overload trying to sort through which ones you should carry. Gone are the days when a simple box of “waterproof” matches was your only choice for backpacking, camping, and outdoor survival.

As a prepper, you have more fire starting choices than you can possibly imagine. I have sorted through the mountains of products available to offer some recommendations on what I see are the best options out there for various bug out and go bags. Covering all of them would be impossible, but this article will outline everything you need to know and point you in the right direction for getting started.

I am not going to cover bushcraft firemaking skills here. Yes, you could learn to use a bow drill, hand drill, pump drill, etc. Those are all good skills to know, but they require ideal conditions, materials, and significant practice. I can build and use a bow drill, but would I want to rely on that to make a fire when bugging out? No way! Give me something far easier and faster when survival is on the line.

But, at the risk of stating the obvious, let’s fist establish…

Table of Contents

Why You Need Serious Fire Starters

outside fire cooking
How critical is fire in a survival situation? It often means the difference between life and death.

When did man discover fire? No one knows for sure, but one thing is certain, our use of it was a game changer for our survival as a species.

The ability to make fire means three things for survival:

  1. We can cook food. Cooking food improves our ability to digest it and increases our absorption of its nutrients.
  2. We can make light. Fire means we can light a torch or see by the campfire.
  3. We can have heat. Fire, even properly executed outdoor fires, can bring much needed heat to cold bodies.

Fire-making is a critical aspect of any bug out bag (BOB). Beyond the practical uses, a campfire does wonders for setting wearied minds at ease, and your mental fortitude is a significant aspect for any survival situation. You absolutely must have multiple ways to start a fire packed in your bug out bag.

Cost, Size, and Weight

Just like no one shoe fits every foot, no one fire starter fits every prepper. If you live in the desert, your fire starting needs will differ from someone who lives in colder, wetter climates. For that reason, the tools you want to start a fire will differ accordingly. Deciding what to buy (and pack) breaks down into three categories.

  1. Cost – Fortunately, buying bug out bag fire starters is not like buying other equipment needed. In almost every case, fire starters are low-cost items that won’t bust your bug out budget.
  2. Size – We are in luck here as well as almost every tool to start a fire is small in size. Some preppers recommend building more extensive fire starter “kits” for BOBs, but I would advise starting with just the fire starters themselves and a bit of tinder. If, after completing your BOB, you find you have room for both additional space and weight, then consider expanding your fire starter kit. (The exception here is vehicle kits, as you will see below.)
  3. Weight – Fire starters are like the perfect BOB gear. They are low-cost, small, and lightweight. Winning!

All of that said, building a good bug out bag is not cheap, small, or lightweight. Pennies, inches, and ounces all add up. You do not have to be as conservative here as you will with other types of gear, but the principals apply just the same. And with all things survival, two is one and one is none, so you need to pack more than one fire starter in your bag. Choose accordingly.

Best 3-Day Bug Out Bag Choices

Following are the top choices to consider if you are building the standard, 72-hour bug out bag most people recommend. These are products purchased, packed, and used by preppers all over the world.

Waterproof Matches and Bic Lighters

waterproof matches
Coghlan’s basic-level survival matches.

I said the days of your only choice being waterproof matches are gone, but that doesn’t mean they are not a choice. In fact, they are a fine choice, as are the standard Bic lighters. These are going to be the most economical choice for everyone. You probably already have a Bic lighter or two (or three) already stashed here and there throughout your house.

The downside to both waterproof matches and Bic lighters is that they are really not the best choice for adverse conditions, regardless of the “waterproof” claim. Matches give you limited burn time to get a fire going and Bic lighters struggle in cold, wet conditions. Trust me, I’ve been “burned” by this before.

Fire Starter Cost Weight Purchase Link
Coghlan’s Waterproof Matches 4-Pack $ Nil Amazon
Survival Waterproof Fire Starter Matches, 100 Pieces $ Nil Sportsman’s Guide
UCO Stormproof Match Kit with Waterproof Case $ Nil Amazon
Stormproof Match Case with Waterproof Matches $ Nil Sportsman’s Guide
Bic Lighter Full Size 5-Pack $ Nil Amazon

These are not the top choices for my bug out bag, but they are suitable for many preppers’ bags as secondary, redundant sources of flame.

Weatherproof Lighters

While a Bic lighter might fill the need in most circumstances, for about the cost of a 5-pack of Bics, you can buy a more serious lighter.

What do I mean by that? I mean a lighter better built to function in wind and rain. This would be my choice over a Bic, and I carry one in my own BOB.

Truly, there is no comparing these lighters with the standard Bic. They are constructed of higher-grade materials, are refillable (often with butane), have far stronger flames, and function in high wind. They are made for survival.

Some of these lighters are actually “flameless.” Instead of fueling a flame, they “ignite” an electric dual-arc to set flammable tinder ablaze. Since it’s not a flame, it can function in harsh winds and heavy rain. Bonus – these are also rechargeable via a USB port.

Fire Starter Cost Weight Purchase Link
Guevara Butane Torch $ 3.21 oz Amazon
TG Plasma USB Rechargeable Flameless Dual Arc $ 3.49 oz Amazon
UST Trekker Stormproof Lighter $$$ 2.5 oz Optics Planet

This category of lighters also make for the perfect EDC lighter. Rugged and reliable.

Striking Devices

There are a variety of products that could be classified as a “striking device” (my term). I am just going to focus on a few, but there are – literally – hundred to choose from. Over-analysis leads to decision-making paralysis, however. Keep it simple with these suggested products and you will be in good shape.

flint and steel
My basic magnesium flint fire starter, the 2nd fire starter I carry in my BOB.

This category of fire starters includes things like magnesium flint strikers and Ferrocerium (Ferro) rods. These are products that you do not just want to buy and toss in your pack and consider it done. These are unique tools that require a bit of practice – and tinder.

Fire Starter Cost Weight Purchase Link
HTS Magnesium Block Fire Starter $ .634 oz Amazon
UST SparkForce Fire Starter $ 1 oz Amazon
CRKT Spark’N Sharp Fire Starter $$ 3.2 oz Optics Planet
Fire-Fast Trekker $$ 3.2 oz Amazon

I highly recommend that you include one of these devices in your bug out bag. Buy one, and then practice using it. Take it camping and start your campfire with it. They are actually fun to use.

What, No Magnifying Glass?

Nope. I know many people recommend packing a magnifying glass as a fire starter. I do not. They are prone to breakage, weigh more than other products, and worst – require a sunny day to use. Fires, in many cases, are more apt to be made at night or on damp, cold days. These are the very times when a magnifying glass will not work. Skip the magnifying glass in favor of other products.

Best INCH Bag Choices

ferro rod kit
Ferro rod kit.

For those of you unfamiliar with the acronym, INCH stands for I’m Never Coming Home. If you are building an INCH bag, it means you will be relying on your pack for a more extended period of time. Thus, you need a fire starter that will not need to be recharged or refueled. You will need something other than matches. You need something that can start a fire hundreds if not thousands of times.

For that, I recommend a Ferro rod. The Bayite Ferrocerium Rod Kit is about 6″ long, includes 9′ of Paracord, and has a striker. Its extra-large size means a bigger shower of sparks for igniting fires, and they claim it will last for 12,000 strikes or more.

Fire Starter Cost Weight Purchase Link
Bayite Ferro Rod Kit $ 5.6 oz Amazon

Best Vehicle Kit Choices

The best part about bugging out by vehicle (beyond speed) is that you have much more freedom on what you can carry. Weight and size matter significantly less.

There is not too much I would change differently, except that I might pack 4 or 5 different fire starting tools in a vehicle kit instead of the 2 or 3 I would carry in a backpack. There is an all-in-one “complete” fire starting kit that I might consider for a vehicle bug out, however…

Fire Starter Cost Weight Purchase Link
Fire B.O.S.S. Survival Fire Starting Kit $$ Unknown Amazon

What I Keep in My Bug Out Bag

jet boil stove
My Jetboil is not just a stove but also a fire starter.

I have a whole variety of different survival fire starting tools, but the ones I keep in a bug out bag are my butane-fueled cigar lighter, which functions like a mini-torch, and a low-cost flint and steel tool. I seem to always have a small Bic lighter in there as well. The smaller Bics weigh a smidgen less and it doesn’t take up much space at all. I like redundancy, particularly for fire starters.

On the topic of redundancy, do not overlook other sources of flame. My go-to cooking set includes the Jetboil backpacking stove. Beyond being great for cooking, with a canister of fuel and the push of a button, I can start a solid flame in seconds. If I had to, this would be a great tool for starting fires in adverse conditions. It’s something that serves multiple purposes – cooking and fire starting.

Best Bug Out Bag Fire Starters Wrap Up

That’s my advice on bug out bag fire starters. These are tools that have all of the great attributes of being affordable, lightweight, and small in size. If only every bug out bag tool had these three attributes.

What’s your fire starting tool of choice? Spark some ideas and let me know in the comments section below.

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