Fire Starting Kit List of Essentials and More

I keep a fire starter kit in a Ziploc bag for each of my various packs (hiking, any outdoor excursion), 72 hour survival kit, and other emergency kits that I may have:

  • 72-hour kit (generic)
  • emergency kit in my vehicle
  • bugout, evacuation bag
  • get home bag (one at work?)
  • day pack for hiking
  • packed while hunting / fishing / outdoors
  • camping
  • Emergency kit in my ATV, 4-wheeler
  • E-kit in my snowmobile
  • boating emergency kit
  • EDC, everyday carry (at least a lighter)

The ability to make fire is one of the essentials of survival. And having more than one way to start a fire is very good preparedness. It’s suggested that you have the ability to make a fire within 5 minutes.

Fire Starter Kit List

Have More Than One Way To Start A Fire

Fire Starter Kit
(photo: one of my day hike packs)

Within my fire starting kit (in a Ziploc bag), or kept in its own pack compartment, I may keep any of the following items:

BIC Lighter

BIC lighter fire starter

While a BIC type lighter won’t work reliably under all conditions, it is by far the simplest and quickest way to get a fire started. It’s easy to keep in a pocket for every day carry too. It will perform better in cold weather if it has been kept warm in your pocket.

Do you want to set yourself up for awhile? Buy a bunch of these lighters for just-in-case…

>> BIC Lighter Classic (dozen)
(view on amzn)

Zippo Lighter

Zippo Lighter made in the USA
>> Zippo Eagle Lighters
(view on amzn)

I also have a Zippo lighter (the one pictured above). The Zippo is nice in that it can light up, burn for a while without melting. It can be placed on a surface and it will stay lit (this has advantages!). This frees up both hands for tasking.

A plastic Bic type of lighter (though it has its uses) requires your thumb to always be on the valve to keep it lit. And it will get hot (and melt?), come apart after a minute or so of being lit…

A disadvantage of a Zippo lighter is that it does requires refueling. The cotton material (or whatever it is) inside will eventually dry out of fuel, even if not in use. Though it takes awhile. It’s just something to keep in mind.

Strike Anywhere Matches versus Strike On Box

Strike Anywhere matches firestarter

‘Strike Anywhere’ matches are a great backup to a lighter. They’re even more effective as a fire starter when bundling two or three of them together. Strike into a nice big flame.

UPDATE: Strike Anywhere Matches (with the white tip) are hard to find. I suspect this is a safety thing. Rubbing together / smashing a box, etc. may cause them to light. Nowadays, it’s mostly Strike On Box matches.

Many years ago when I was a young lad, this is how I learned to start a fire. No cheating with a lighter. Instead, just matches. Period. I recall taking a test (to get one of my badges)… I had to start a fire with one match, in a wet environment! Though nervous, I did it!

Dip the head of stick matches in hot wax to waterproof. And keep them in a waterproof container.

>> Diamond Brand Classic – Original Strike on Box Matches

FireSteel Rod

Fire Steel Sizes

This incredible firesteel rod will shed gobs of sparks onto a pile of tinder while firmly scraping down its edge with the metal striker that comes with it, or your knife, etc..

Contractor for the U.S. Military. All different lengths and diameters. These are the best!

Magnesium Fire Starter

Real magnesium fire starter
>> Original SE – Full Magnesium Body
(view on amzn)

Make a quarter size pile of magnesium shavings using the scraper on the magnesium portion of the bar (or a knife). Use the striker (or knife edge) to direct sparks from the flint onto the pile of shavings. Have tinder ready.


Tea light firestarter

This little candle will burn for several hours and could be lit first under wet conditions to help with a consistent flame to get a tinder / kindling pile burning.

I have kept a tea light candle in my fire starter kits. Nowadays I’ve switched to a bit more robust ‘votive’ candle instead. It’s about 1.5 inches tall and wide. Will burn a lot longer too.

>> Votive Candles
(view on amzn)

>> Tealight Candles

Vaseline Coated Cotton Balls

Vaseline and Cotton Balls

Simply smear some vaseline on a few cotton balls for a nice little ball of fire when lit. I keep pre-smeared cotton balls in a small sandwich bag (to keep the goo from getting on everything else) and I keep that bag within the fire starting kit Ziploc bag.

Fire starter Squares

Fire Starter squares

They sell various types and sizes of fire starter squares or pucks. Right now I have the ones pictured above. They’re recycled wood chips blended with wax. When lit they will burn for awhile, plenty of time to get some kindling going!

I also use these to “cheat” while starting fires in my outdoor fire pit.

>> Fire Starter Squares, 144 Squares

Fresnel Lens or Magnifying Glass

Fresnel Lens fire starter

I keep a small flexible Fresnel lens in my wallet at all times as part of my everyday carry. If the sun is shining, I can probably make a fire with it. You could just as easily keep one in your kit, just like a magnifying glass.

[ Read: Fresnel Lens For Your Wallet ]

>> Credit Card Fresnel Lens

Fatwood Fire Starter

Fatwood firestarter

Fatwood is harvested from the stumps of pine trees that contain a high concentration of natural resin. It burns well. You can get some yourself, or buy it:

>> Fatwood

Road Flare – The Best Fire starter

Road Flare fire starter
Don’t laugh, but a road flare is an excellent fire starter! While it’s fairly large and won’t be practical for all kits, it WILL start a fire! When it’s so cold that your fingers don’t work, this could save your life.

[ Read: Paraffin Candle & Road Flare for Your Kit ]

Cold Weather Fire Starting Advice

Comment from a reader here on Modern Survival Blog:

Starting fires with flints and burning metal chips all works under ideal conditions; in which case just use your Bic lighter.

Emergency fire starting does not typically take place under ideal conditions! When you are so cold and wet your fingers don’t work anymore and your own thoughts betray you: You need a way to get a roaring fire burning when everything in your environment has been dampened by rain and fog for weeks on end.

When the best tinder you can find is damp, you must sustain a flame for several minutes to ignite it.

A paraffin candle on its side, dripping into your tinder has been successfully used since the days of the mountain men. I still carry one in my kit.

(Road Flare – Fire starter during Hypothermia)

But I have found the standard road flare is the best bet now. If weight is a concern, break it off, down to 5 minutes worth. Keep the end with the striker and cap of course. If it gets wet, light the striker end with your trusty Bic lighter or waterproof matches and you are still in business. The 3800 degree blasting flame will ignite the most stubborn tinder and in fact, you really don’t need tinder.

Take it from me; all of the fire making scenarios pale in comparison to the misery of hypothermia setting in because you slipped crossing a creek, fell through the ice or simply because you have been rain soaked for days and are starting to wear out. Keep it simple!

Another commenter said “Put your hands in a bucket of ice water for half an hour then try to start a fire with a match. Bet you can’t. Now try to light the highway flare, bet you can, been there done that.”

More Fire Starting Ideas:

Here’s a comment from “Crow Bait” here on the blog who added to the discussion:

“So, what do I do? Most of the above, plus:”

Saw Dust & Paraffin

Option 1: Get a Dollar Store ice cube tray, fill it with saw dust, pour in enough paraffin to fill the cubes. Let sit for a few minutes, the saw dust/wax and paraffin mixture will shrink a little.

Then using a pencil, or something a little smaller, poke a hole in the middle of the solution. Stick in a wick that is about an inch above the mixture and add more saw dust, then press the mixture around the wick.

Now add some more parafin. Wait about 15 minutes or so, then put in refrigerator for about an hour.

Take out of fridge, pop out ‘cubes’ and you have a 15-20 minute fire source. Fuzz up the wick and you can actually get it lit with a ferrocerium rod!

Scrap Denim & Paraffin

Option 2: Got scrap denim? You got a fire starter. Cut strips of denim, about 1/2 inch wide and about 4 inches long. (Not from your current wearables. Unless you’re weird.)

Dip the strips in melted paraffin up to about an inch of where your holding it then place on wax paper or a piece of glass or the bottom of an empty coffee can. Do this to as many as you can get on whatever you are using to let them cool.

Dip them again in the wax and put back on whatever you let them cool on. Now, how to use: Fuzz up (fray) the non-wax end, apply a real flame or sparkledies from Ferrocerium rod and….viola….you have a flame source that will burn for about 10 minutes.

I usually vacuum seal 6 at a time. Not touching another. Or, as I found out at a far later time, wrap each one in a small amount of paper towel. Helps keep them from sticking to each other and helps to ignite.

The above two options originated from being cold/wet/in snow/wind/rain and not one thing I had would create a fire.

I have since created and tried the above two options which work well, and also found that the first thing on the fire creating list is to eliminate the wet/snow/wind/rain part. So, I now have a Mil Spec Rain Poncho on my pack to create a primary shelter.

I must add that I also have kindling in all packs. Vacuum sealed bags of a couple of dozen tongue depressors, coffee stirrers (available in most coffee shops), or ‘craft sticks’……things that look like large tongue depressors. They can be split into smaller pieces and work quite nicely as kindling.

Plus……I now vacuum seal several sets of 6 paper towels folded down to about 6×6 inches. I use about 1/2 sheet of one, torn into small pieces, as the initial fire source. They will ignite with Ferrocerium quite nicely.

[ Read: Tinder For Building A Fire ]

[ Read: The Best Knife for Batoning Wood ]


  1. Excellent comprehensive list. I have most of these in my bag. Funny thing though, built a “bag” for grand daughter a while back. I probably went over the top with fire starters. Keeping warm can save your life. Anyway, included a diy penny stove with a small bottle of fuel (yellow bottle of heet gasoline line drying agent). That fuel will dramatically increase the odds of starting a fire. Just a tiny squirt would do. Strange how when thinking of others, you discover things you hadn’t thought about for yourself.

  2. I have a couple of these magnesium blocks with the ferrocerium rod embedded in them.
    I purposefully dropped them each a few times until the fero rod fell off, reamed out the channel the rod was glued in and installed a much larger ferro rod with epoxy.
    It’s a 1/4″ ferro rod I put in two of them.

    Even tried dropping them on concrete and the new ferro rods did not fall out.

  3. I have been through the ‘Fire Kit” thing a few times. When in the boy scouts I found a way to smuggle a dozen or so kitchen matches to camp. I really hated those bow things. Been through several attempts at ways that were described various web sites. Most weren’t what I thought were acceptable. So, here’s my three cents worth:

    Bic lighters: Check them constantly. I have found that a 50% failure rate is average. I checked my ‘BOB’ a few days ago. Out of 6 Bics…..4 were totally empty.
    Zippo…..nope. Fuel is to finicky, evaporates.

    Strike anywhere matches. Great stuff. Coat heads with parafin, they won’t abrade each other in to dust, as the article says.

    Firesteel. AKA Ferocerium. Works well. Gets lost easily. Or at least mine do. I have 3-5 in each pack, vehicle, house, garage, everywhere. Small is good for weight, but really bad for old eyes.

    Magnesium. Works real nicely. But a pain to prepare. I do have one in each area listed above.

    Candles…..yes I do have a couple in the bags. Hot vehicles are a problem. I vacuum seal each of mine because of the heat thing.

    Vaseline/cotton balls. Not any more. No matter what you put them in the damn Vaseline gets on everything.

    Fire starter squares. Works nicely. I break them apart and vacuum seal them since breaking them apart for one fire and having the rest in a Zip Lock bag, or whatever, they abrade each other into a mess of waxed dust.

    Fresnel lens. Never got one to work. Got close, but no cigar.

    Fat Wood. I have been shown how to use that stuff so many times I can’t remember. I do have some Fat Wood pieces in my packs, but I’ll be damned if I can make it burn. But I will keep it around since I have seen it work.

    Flares. Them thangs do work! And work amusingly well. I don’t have them since I have seen them turn into powder and be a horrendous mess to clean up. Maybe when I find a Food Saver bag that can hold one.

    [ Ken adds: The rest of this comment has been placed up in the article, at the end, “More Fire Starting Ideas” ]

  4. – I like Crowbait’s list as added above. I do carry a mil spec poncho in my bag., in fact I have two and a ‘space’ (Mylar) blanket, the kind with two colors and grommets to match my poncho.

    I also carry one of the cheapie ones the size of a cigarette pack, in case I need to supply another person. I have one of the dollar store ponchos, too, just for in case. They actually work quite well, just don’t last well. Cargo tape helps with that.

    I have a Bic in my pocket. Don’t smoke, but I use it pretty regularly. Two more, with girl’s hair ties to keep the button from being depressed and gorilla tape wrapped around the ones in my bag. That stuff also makes pretty fair tinder.

    I have one of the Coughlan’s plastic match cases, with lifeboat matches in it. if you go further down the page, you will find a metal one. I have one of those with homemade waterproof matches in it. I have once seen a plastic case smashed.

    1. Candle? Absolutely, in a metal case and that inside a pair of zip lock bags. I keep a small package of Vaseline and several cotton balls in the same bag, but wait to smear one with the stuff until I need it. Cuts down on the mess. My candle is a 12-hour beeswax one with a higher melting point than paraffin.

      If I am going out in the really cold, I include a road flare. Haven’t had to use one but once, but it’s a comfort to have.

      I also have a ferro rod in my pocket, and one of the magnesium blocks in the sharpening stone pouch on my knife sheath. I’ve described its use elsewhere.

      Yes, I think fire is that important. Sometimes what you have isn’t going to work, and you need to try something else, or another way of using it.

      – Papa S.

  5. These days, I still carry the bic lighters with me and I pull them out to check if they have fuel and if they actually work before taking them on a journey. (this is also when I remove the battery cover on flashlights and travel alarms to make sure the batteries are working and have not exploded or leaked inside the device) I am still enough of a cheapskate that I save those remnants of the tea-light candles and salvage the wax from them by dipping pieces of dry wood and cardboard onto melted wax to create my own version of moisture resistant kindling. Dipping pieces of 100% cotton and bits of cotton string in melted wax also works well to hold the flame and ignite something larger.
    My ferro rod sparking kit contains a wad of 0000 size fine steel wool to catch the spark thrown by the sparking tool. Most all of the above can be obtained at a hardware store or a discount hobby store for the tea-light candles.

  6. Just received a package the otherhalf ordered.
    Combatfire Dot com
    The vid was quite impressive on this type of firestarter.
    She ordered one stick for each vehicle.

  7. Forget where I found them but road flair two packs that were four inches long.
    The burn time was about 5 minutes, but convenient for packs.
    hey are buried in my car bag.
    I just can’t remember where I found them.. probably rei years back.

  8. Remembered a story about a dude hiking, on cold days when getting close to him camp site would place his bic lighter in an arm pit to warm it.
    Would do this with within a mile of his destination.

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