Doan Magnesium Fire Starter (update)

Doan Magnesium Fire Starter

This magnesium fire starter is the real deal.
One that’s made by Doan, made in the USA:

DOAN magnesium fire starter, military issue Made in the USA

A Real Doan magnesium fire starter made in the USA

UPDATE: Since this original post (below), the Doan company no longer makes this fire starter.

The Tag-Z Magnesium Fire Starter is an exact replica of the Doan Government Military Fire Starter, adopted by the US Armed Forces for use in their survival kits.

“The Doan company went out of business and is not making these anymore, and we wanted to continue on, so we had these Doan replica fire starters manufactured especially for us using the exact specs from the originals.”

Tag-Z Doan Replacement Magnesium Fire Starter

Tag-Z Magnesium Fire Starter
(view on amzn)

This is one life-saving tool no outdoorsman should be without. Its size makes it convenient for pocket or tackle box. You can count on it to work, wet or dry, even with damp kindling.

How Magnesium Fire Starter Works

By scraping the “shaving edges” with the blade, you will accumulate a pile of magnesium shavings. Simply scrape the “sparking insert” to ignite the shavings to temperatures of 5400°F. That’s hot enough to light even the most stubborn campfire.

STEP 1 Support edge of tool on ground. Scrape narrow side of tool marked “SHAVING EDGE” with knife blade held perpendicular to tool. Amass small pile of magnesium about the size of a quarter next to tinder. (paper. leaves, small twigs, bark, etc.)

STEP 2 Support edge of tool on ground within 1″ of magnesium shavings at approximately 45° angle. Scrape entire length of side marked “SPARKING INSERT” rapidly with knife held perpendicular to SPARKING INSERT. This action will cause generate sparks, causing the magnesium shavings to ignite, providing a white hot flame. If you don’t want to dull your knife, a small hacksaw blade works great!

A Doan Magnesium Fire Starter In Your Pocket

A quick short story inspired the post a few years ago:

I was talking with a friend the other day who said something that I thought was very much worth mentioning here on the blog.

We were out in the White Mountain National Forest. Doing more work on our snowmobile trail system getting ready for winter.

Here in the Fall we tend to get windstorms that inevitably take down trees, which we in turn must clear. Several of us will take our ATV’s loaded up with gear, chainsaws, and other complimentary tools to get the job done.

During a break while on our last outing I was showing him my survival kit. I keep it in the compartment under the front hood of my Polaris.

I had joked about how I was using up my drinking water that day faster than I thought (lots of tree work and sweat!). And I mentioned how I wish I had taken along more water (although it turned out I had enough).

The conversation turned towards having a water filter. I opened the compartment and showed him the LifeStraw which I keep there among my other gear. We then started comparing what we each had with us on our ATV’s for ‘kit’. (I had the most toilet paper – a squished roll in a ziploc bag.) Actually I had the most survival related ‘stuff’ (because I purposely had that in mind when I put it together).

Now  with that said, this person has his own ATV. It’s loaded down with enough stuff to withstand a nuclear disaster if you ask me. I feel pretty good riding with him knowing that he is well equipped. You really need to be when out in the middle of ‘nowhere’ in the forest without cell phone reception!

Anyway, during this break the third man on the crew was replacing the chain on his Stihl. We would constantly kid him about it because that chain was seemingly dull beyond what any more filing could possibly fix. Since it was a Stihl chainsaw, my friend asked him about magnesium, because apparently he had heard that Stihl was utilizing magnesium die-casting.

This led to a joke that he better not catch a spark on that thing… It might flare up in flames and you’ll never be able to put it out! This then led to the mention of the magnesium fire starter – which I keep in my kit (an original Doan magnesium fire starter) along with other fire making means.

So by now you are wondering where am I going with this…

Well here it is. My friend says “I always keep a fire starter in my pocket”. (which could be any number of things – a lighter, magnesium fire starter, a FireSteel, etc..).

I said, “Really?” He said, “Yes, especially when I’m riding (snowmobiling, 4-wheeling, ). Because you never know if you get thrown off, or some accident where you can’t move (broken bone, etc..) and can’t get back to your kit, at least you can start a fire.”

I thought what a very good tip!

To have on your person a way to make a fire, especially during activities while alone which may risk getting into a jam…

Of course the other guy on the crew joked, “I don’t need that!” “I’ll just rub two sticks together!”

Another excellent fire starter, made in New Hampshire:

[ Read: A Firestarter Kit List ]


  1. Good point. I never would have thought of an extreme situation. However I do keep a lighter on my person when out, there is some sort of comfort in having it on me.

  2. OK, so what did the guy have in his pocket as a Fire Starter?
    Thinking Thermite or a little C-4 with a match???? :-)

    1. A flare,,,,
      Friend of mine who hunts on the big island for the DLNR doing eradication/invasive species control carries flares, ever try lighting a fire in a rain-forest in pouring rain? He said that’s the only thing that works, has had to spend the night more than once when the extraction chopper couldn’t get to the pull out site because the weather/visibility went to shiff.

      1. Is that a flare in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?
        (Seriously this is a good idea, especially for wet climates)

  3. Ken,
    Is that your pants pocket?
    If it is, what sort of pants?
    That’s the thing I really don’t like about most military/tac pants is the slash pocket, cant hook a tape measure on em, those look like the angle is good

      1. Bummer,
        The slash pockets just arent conducive to hooking thumbs nor tape measures, well, guess ill be stickin to my faded 501s!

    1. Thank you Ken,,
      I have a bunch of tac style pants but i hate them for doing finish work or shop work, tons of pockets but being able to hook a tape on them and not have it drop off is a big one, especially in the shop where im trying to be efficient,
      So thank you for finding that…

  4. I quit smoking in 2005 but I still carry a lighter. I have other fire starting option in each vehicle but the lighter is always in my pocket. DW and I used to watch “Man, Woman, Wild” with Michael Hawke and his wife. He had a hundred ways to rub sticks together and make fire but he would always say “just carry a dadgone lighter.

  5. I just picked up a couple of the magnesium fire starters at harbor freight last weekend. They were $2 a piece. I needed to setup another GHB for another vehicle. You make a good point about caring them with you at times like that. Looks like another trip to harbor freight this weekend. Another good artical Ken.

    1. Bender; You might want to actually check out those “magnesium” fire starters as many of the starters on the market are a very low level of magnesium and something else, aluminum maybe. I had a few from sports/outdoor stores that I tried. They were difficult to get any magnesium off the block (too hard of a compound) and when you did, it would not light! Not a product I would recommend as (IMHO) when you need it, you dont want to find out you have an inferior product. There are some made here in the USA and yes they do cost a little more. But they WORK! I’m sure that Ken has done an article on them somewhere if you search the site. YMMV, Loclyokel.

  6. Duct taping a similar length piece of fat wood, trick birthday candle, or compressed particle fire starter to a Bic can be very beneficial in wet conditions.

  7. When I was schooldays, you were cool if you could start a match by ripping it across your blue jeans zipper. And if you could light your cigarette with your Zippolighter with your head out the window of a car cruising for chix on Lake street heading towards Porky’s you were cool too, but you also banked some valuable survival skills. The Zippo always went into the watch pocket.

  8. I ALWAYS have a firesteel, Zippo (top it off every 4 or 5 days) and a Bic lighter.

    Never smoked (have not taken a single puff of one in my life) but I always seem to find it handy to have a fire-starting method on me.

  9. – I started carrying a Zippo when I went into the Army in the early 70’s. I carried one of three Zippos my entire Army career, then in the 90’s I changed to a Bic. I still carry a Bic today as a matter of course. I don’t, never have smoked. I replaced the whetstone on my ‘pilot survival knife’ a Camillus M5 (after epoxying a piece of sandscreen to the back of the sheath) with a magnesium and flint striker bar. It currently resides in my GHB, which is in my vehicle I will be driving tomorrow. IMHO, the ability to create a fire quickly is one of the most critical tasks in living through any really adverse situation.
    – Papa S.

    1. A Bic is nice in that it doesn’t need filled every 5-days. But it’s problem is it’s made out of plastic and can not sustain a flame for more then 15 or 20 seconds without destroying itself by melting. Also you have to keep your finger on the trigger all the time to keep a flame going.

      A Zippo can run for 10-min and not damage itself, and it can be set down and have a flame without me needing to keep pressing a button. I have found both of these handy.

      But I do keep both a Zippo and a Bic on me as both have their place, as does a firesteel.

      I also always have y Swiss Champ Swiss Army Knife on me all the time.

      1. PS: I no longer will buy or support Camillus as the company that now owns the name no longer supports the lifetime warranty that the old Camillus did.

        Go to a store and read the fine print on the back of the package and or look on-line.

        The old Camillus knifes were good (I have a few of them) but the new ones, not so much…

  10. I always have at lest one lighter on my person . I favor the refillable piezoelectric type over here they are a pound or 2 each ,for cheap lighters they are very reliable and long lasting .

  11. Agreed – I keep a WHITE bodied BIC lighter (easy to see fuel level held against the light) on my person all the time I am out of the house.

    I also keep a BSA spark rod on my keychain, along with a short magnesium rod w/ spark insert and hacksaw unit on as well.

    I’m set pretty much for fire I think.

  12. I carry the shoe lace starter on a ring on my keychain. Worth every penny and have added them to numerous pull tabs on backpacks as well as on my boot lacings.

    1. Great idea regarding adding a FireSteel to pull tabs.

      For those of you who haven’t visited this MSB sponsor yet, you should check them out. You won’t find a better ‘spark’ maker ;)

    2. Is there a name for it – I’m searching the site and can’t find anything shoe lace related.

  13. For what it’s worth, and I know it’s not as nifty as the pocket magnesium firestarting kits, but you can get a 1/2 gallon jug of magnesium filings from Amazon for less than $20. You could fill a lifetime supply of small prescription bottles for emergency fire starting with a cheap Bic lighter for ignition (even if it’s out of butane). FWIW.

    1. I’ve been seeing reviews that the magnesium being sold in bags isn’t catching a spark and that it’s an alloy that at best isn’t small enough to ignite

  14. Unless your in the wilderness, meaning in civilized area’s like towns or city’s there are literally millions of ways to start a fire
    Millions of identical but viable ways.
    I used to carry a ferrocerium rod on my key chain back when I didn’t mind 2 pounds of keys and junk in my pocket.
    I do keep magnesium rods and ferro rods in my car and my car bag.
    I ordered pure magnesium rod stock, a tiny bit softer than the Chinese magnesium you might get from wallmart.
    I did like my doan bar but they get expensive.
    I will add after having it around 15 years the doan firestarter has kept it’s ferrocerium rod intact, the cheaper ones tend to fall out.

    My cheaper ones, 3 I have reamed the channel out to install a 3/16″ x 3″ ferro rod with good epoxy.

  15. Forgot to add, for the apocalypse I have about 20 zippo lighters, hundreds of those little flint things, 20 wicks and packing.
    Apoc fire trade items.
    This includes over 20 ferrocerium rods average 3″ x 3/16″ and magnesium rod stock but that is only about 3′ worth 1/2″ thick.

    1. last I looked my collection of bic lighters numbered about 55.
      I store them on the side or upside down to keep the seal wet.
      I opened one 6 pack a month ago that I put away in 2017 and the fluid level was slightly
      less than a new one by a couple millimeters, could be long term storage or just a fluke.

      Zippo lighters are very long lasting, in years if you care for them.
      I thought they would be a very good barter item, the bic lighters also a good item.

  16. I got a supply of good Zippo’s, in addition to the several really old ones I’ve used for years. But they’re $30-$40 for the good ones. They do have a cheapo base model Zippo that I had to get a dozen of for $12.99 each. They light, they seem to stay wet as long as the real good ones. But they will still dry out after a while of non-use. The only downside is needing to add lighter fluid (and flints and wics that I have a bundle of). What else can you use in them that will work and not blow up on you? I’m thinking gasoline is a no. Maybe diesel? Charcoal lighter fluid? I don’t really know. Thoughts?

    1. Prepared,

      While probably not the best alternative for Zippo lighter fluid, my Dad told us that probably close to 100% of G.I.’s in WWII had Zippos and every one of those on the front filled theirs by hooking a wire in the wind screen and lowering it into the jeep fuel tanks.

      Will it work now? I have noticed that modern gasoline formulations seem to be less volatile than when I was a kid. Higher flash point?

      I’m sure there would be some unpleasant odor using gasoline in a Zippo and we’ve been conditioned to believe the fumes of burning gasoline cause all kinds of health and environmental problems…but should conditions deteriorate to the point we are making do with emergency improvising, unpleasant smells will be among the least of our worries.

      1. – Went through a phase when I was a young soldier of trying various fuels in my Zippo lighter. In general, anything that is marked ‘flammable’ will burn in a Zippo. That said, you do get some interesting problems, like invisible flames, smoke in a few instances, Diesel will work but stinks and smokes heavily.
        I have used the wire to dip-fill my lighter from my Jeep, MO-gas (I’m told it stands for military operations gasoline) is not as ‘hot’ as regular gasoline., it will work but both stinks and smokes a bit. Acetone is one of the invisible flame sources. As I mentioned diesel will work but it would be a last choice. Kerosene will work but stinks. Gasoline as for automobiles fuel, I would not use at it ‘’may’ explode, which would not be optimal. Jet fuel will explode.
        Lamp oil will work, as will several cooking oils, but I would prefer not to use it. What do I keep for my Zippos now? Lighter fluid, and I have washed out the lighter I experimented with, with lighter fluid (naptha).
        – Papa S.

  17. Found my magnesium (retail) fire starters, 4 oxidized and they look pretty bad but it’s just looks.
    The Doan is in the best condition visibly.
    I remember the few times I used these to light fires, annoyingly slow and tedious.
    The go to will be bic lighters or in civilized area’s things like battery’s, matches..
    I have a good stock of matches sealed in cans/ jars.
    I will always have the doan or similar available.

    As for zippo’s, oil of any kind does not work for me including diesel and kerosene.
    Lighter fluid, that stuff for lighting charcoal grills works reasonably and gasoline.

  18. Forgot to mention, china has been putting out magnesium fire starters that look identical to the Doan version.
    If your getting it at wallmart, it’s not doan, ebay? likely not doan.
    Look for the packaging to soecify or web sites that clarify they are original or Ken’s link.

    The chinese things do work, badly and the ferrocerium rod tends to fall out.

  19. I like the Bic. Have one or 2 on my all the time. Use them daily. But they do have their place. One of the many things I have (tried) to use them for is melting frozen padlocks. They don’t work very well at all for that. My next go to for padlocks is always the Bernzomatic Propane Torch TS400. Classic boyscout fire starter, at least that what I tell my kids ;-) They thaw a padlock out quick and in a hurry. However a lot of newer locks come with plastic parts, for decoration or weather protection…. whatever. The Bernzo don’t care about plastic. It just melts the lock and whatever is on it. Bic lights just have no power to even call finesse. Been trying to find one of those neat butane torches, many of which you can get at a gas station. They don’t last as long as a Bic for daily use, but they are refillable. I just can’t find one reliable enough to carry with me to unfreeze those pesky frozen pad locks. I’m thinking maybe the Mag-Torch Micro. I’m tired of trying all the cheapo’s I find at the gas station. Anyone got a recommendation for a small pocket carry butane torch? I do have one of those that you peel the thumb latch off two Bics and put them into the handle. But just doing 1 lock sucks them both down half way, and they are not refillable. Searched MSB and found nothing on these little butane pocket torches. Anyone got a handle on a good one?

    1. Prepared, Do you mean butane torches used by pastry and culinary chefs? Unless one is doing very fine decorative work they seem to all be about the same. They’re available lots of places. Wouldn’t consider them pocket carry though as those nozzles can get hot.

      1. Kinda like those. But there are slightly smaller units that I’ve seen. I see that Bernzomatic has couple of the model ST2200T which is about like the culinary ones you are talking about, but more utilitarian. I’m going to get one today and try it. But really what I want for “pocket” carry is the Bernzo LTR16. But I can’t find where to buy it. I don’t do Amazon where they are only $9.62 each.

  20. Hey Ken, another item I haven’t been able to find coverage on on MSB is the Wiseway gravity feed pellet stove. If you’ve covered it can you point me to the thread. Otherwise I have about 5 years operating one at my cabin that I can share experience. I love it. A $5 bag of sawmill byproduct produced pellets can get between 12-18 hours of burn. With the low burn basket last weekend I got 37 hours in 20 degree weather at the cabin. All that was left was 2″x2″x6″ bin full of ashes to throw away. Maybe subject for a new thread?

    1. To ‘Prepared’, although off-topic for this article, feel free to email me your experiences with this product (it’s great that you have hands on real-world use), and I will consider an article. I’ve been curious about this stove myself…

  21. I have realized I’m weak.
    I tried to chill my hands down, ice water left out overnight to see how hard it would be to start a fire with:
    a bic
    magnesium thing like doan
    stick matches
    book matches
    waterproof emergency stick matches

    I couldn’t handle more than 30 seconds with hands submerged but I was able to use the bic, magnesium thing with reasonable ease, so not a good test.
    The matches?
    the goats ate my matches because I left everything outside overnight to simulate possible conditions, damp/cold.
    the bic I had to light it inside my coat because of the wind, tiny flame, previously removed the safety guard to make it easier to use/.

    I will have to try another day after being out long term cutting wood probably.
    tinder was just tp.

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