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Creating fire is, without question, one of the four most essential components to everyone’s overall survival plan.

Unlike food, water and shelter, however, the creation of a fire can assist with numerous tasks and necessities. It can warm you when you’re chilled. It can dry out your waterlogged supplies and clothing. It can cook your freshly killed game and can purify stagnant, pathogen-filled water for drinking. It can also give you a soothing and more relaxed peace of mind.

But your first mission, before anything else, is to create a flame, and the less work it takes to produce it can leave more time for other life-prolonging survival tasks at hand. Fire-starting devices are very diverse in function and accomplish their goal in a variety of ways. Your task is to not only find the one that works best for you but to be versed in a variety of devices to follow the old survival adage of having at least five ways to create fire when needed!


1. GERBER Bear Grylls Compact Fire Starter

MSRP: $26

Key Features: Compact rod and striker; integrated emergency whistle; waterproof tinder storage

Description: Compact yet loaded with survival goodies, the Bear Grylls Compact Fire Starter is a welcomed necessity whenever a warm or comforting fire is needed. This amazing unit houses two simple-to-use components, the Ferrocerium rod and metal striker, to produce fire easily even in the most extreme conditions. The Fire Starter stays tightly secured to your hand or supply pack by its included lanyard cord, complete with built-in emergency signaling whistle. A waterproof storage compartment in the unit keeps your tinder dry and immediately available for use. With time being a precious commodity in a survival situation, dry tinder is a lifesaver. The kit comes complete with starter, rod, lanyard and Bear Grylls pocket survival guide with survival tips and S.O.S. instructions.

Manufacturer’s Comments: “The Compact Fire Starter combines a sleek new design with a pocket-friendly size, making it ideal for attaching to your keychain or backpack or for carrying with your personal effects. The simple, two-piece design makes using it in the cold or with gloves on a breeze. To use, simply break the tool apart, rake the fire starter’s exposed metal flange across the tried and true Ferrocerium rod, and Gerber Bear Grylls Compact Fire Starter will produce the high-quality, fire-starting sparks you need when it matters most.”  —Jared Schoening, Category Marketing Manager


2. ZIPPO Fire Gift Set

MSRP: $29.95

Key Features: All-in-one fire-producing set; survival or everyday use; reusable and refillable

Description: The perfect gift for any outdoorsman, survivalist, prepper or even yourself, the Zippo Fire Gift Set has everything you need to get a fire started quickly and efficiently in the outdoors or in your own backyard. The flex neck utility lighter incorporates a dual-flame advanced-burner technology, an adjustable flame and precision lighting focused through its slim yet powerful nozzle. Premium butane fuel included in the kit provides optimum lighting performance while the included cedar fire-starter made from compressed wood and wax ensures quick lighting and will start up to four fires. Be sure to buy two, one as a gift and the second to add to your own survival supply kit!

Manufacturer’s Comments: “A great gift for preppers, the Fire Gift Set includes essential kindling for your bug-out bags and survival packs.” —Chris Funk, Outdoor Brand Manager



MSRP: $19.95

Key Features: Durable construction; child-safety switch; wind-resistant flame

Description: Your go-to lighter when you need a fire starter built for durability and ruggedness in harsh outdoor environments, its wind-resistant dual flame withstands the elements with ease to provide a flame and, ultimately, a comforting fire whenever and wherever you need it. An adjustable flame dial allows a multitude of flame levels to suit all your requirements. A patented child-resistant safety button keeps young ones safe from accidental exposure to dangerous flames. Use Zippo premium butane fuel for optimum performance. Backed by a three-year warranty.

Manufacturer’s Comments: “The OUL’s durable metal construction takes on all elements and is perfect for home emergency kits and as a pack-along lighter for your car.”—Chris Funk, Outdoor Brand Manager


4. SOLO SCIENTIFIC Tinder HOT Box Solar Fire Starter

MSRP: $39.95

Key Features: Easy operation; dry tinder storage; integrated signal mirror

Description: When the sun is shining, fire is only moments away with the revolutionary Tinder HOT Box Solar Fire Starter. This amazing device utilizes the sun’s unlimited energy to heat tinder positioned at the unit’s singular impact point. No moving parts, no flint, no batteries and no gases or fuels of any kind are necessary. Tinder can be stored and protected from the elements in the air- and water-tight portion of the device and the tinder support unit can be easily stowed in the top housing when not in use. The top portion of the Tinder HOT Box can be used for a signal mirror if and when you need it. This unit is compact enough to fit into your pocket with ease and can be ready to use in mere seconds. Weighing only 4 ounces and barely 1 by 3 inches in size, the Tinder HOT Box takes up virtually no space in your bug-out bag, yet it could become one of your most valuable supplies!

Manufacturer’s Comments: “Created and manufactured by Solo Scientific Inc. in the U.S., the Tinder HOT Box Solar Fire Starter (patent pending) is a tinder storage box that can start a fire using solar energy, and the inside top cover is also a signal mirror! And it will fit in your pocket! Also safe to bring with you when you fly!” —Andy Putrello, Founder And Inventor



MSRP: $69.95

Key Features: Limitless uses; easy to operate; compact pocket size

Description: Create fire from air with the TERA-Light Micro II compression fire starter. Using only a single push of your hand, air molecules in the cylinder release high heat when rapidly compressed. This heat, in excess of several hundreds of degrees Fahrenheit, ignites organic plant material found in nature. That’s all! No fuels, batteries or chemicals needed! The unit requires no fuel to produce heat and never needs recharging. Easy to use and small enough for your pocket, backpack or vehicle’s glove compartment. Features a hidden fire steel for secondary fire creation. Made 100 percent in the U.S. and comes with a lifetime replace/repair warranty.

Manufacturer’s Comments: “Master the survival skill of fire without matches with the new TERA-Light device from the Wilderness Solutions Company. TERA is ‘Thermal Energy Released from Atmosphere.’ Similar to a diesel engine, the TERA-Light device utilizes the thermodynamic principle of adiabatic compression—gas molecules release heat when rapidly compressed. With a single push of the hand, the TERA-light device causes instantaneous combustion using organic plant materials and the same air we breathe.” —Jeff Wagner, Owner



MSRP: $59.95

Key Features: See-through cylinder; hand operation; uses organic plant material

Description: The FireLight II boldly illustrates the explosion of heat created from this amazing fire-starting tool. Its transparent piston flashes brightly as air molecules are quickly compressed and heated to ignite your awaiting tinder. No other supplies are needed to create a fire during harsh times when materials may become scarce or unavailable. Use any organic plant material you may find along your path as tinder. The unique pressure-release mechanism eliminates trapped air with a simple twist of the tool. The unit contains fire steel within the piston shaft as an added fire-creating tool. Available in clear, amber or firefly green color. Made in the U.S.

Manufacturer’s Comments: “The transparent body of the FireLight model reveals the burst of light emitted at the moment of ignition. Available with an optional hidden Ferrocerium rod (secondary fire-starting method) and carries a lifetime performance warranty.” —Jeff Wagner, Owner


Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the June 2014 print issue of American Survival Guide.