Pros and Cons of Using Popular Fire-Starting Tools


Being able to build and start a fire is one of the most-important survival skills that anyone can develop.  Fortunately, we have a lot of fire-starting options to choose from that can make things easier on us during an emergency.  However, even the best ones have some drawbacks that are worth considering before packing them away in your survival kit or bug out bag.  Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of using some of the more-popular resources out there.


Ferro Rods

Ferro rods are arguably the most-popular due to their simple design, resilience to the elements and ease of storage.  All you need to do is scrape the rod in the direction of your tinder and keep striking until the sparks cause the material to ignite.  However, a lot of people don’t realize that it takes a little bit of practice and finesse to get develop a good and efficient scraping technique.  Ferro rods also work best when it’s dry out and there’s not a lot of wind.  It’s also important to remember that you need some kind of hard, metallic tool to use for scraping the material in order for it to work.


Magnesium Fire Starter

Similar to ferro rods, you use a blade to scrape off flakes of magnesium into a pile that can then be ignited with a flame.  These tools can be easier to get the hang of, and they are also more-effective in adverse weather conditions when compared to the average ferro rod.  However, they also come with a limited amount of material, so the rod will need to be replaced once most of the magnesium has been scraped off.


A bigger concern is that magnesium ignites violently and burns at a very high temperature.  Consequently, it’s easy to get burned if you’re not careful, and there’s also the risk that sparks can fly and ignite combustible material nearby as well.  While both of these risks are minor, and can be avoided by taking some basic precautions, they’re worth remembering nonetheless.



Everyone should carry lighters for emergencies, even if they also have other fire-starting tools on hand.  If you have a functioning lighter, then it will most-likely be more effective at starting a fire than almost any other tool.  Of course the drawbacks are many as well, including mechanical failure, running out of fuel at the wrong time and not being able to get a flame going when lighters are wet.  Consequently, while lighters should be our first, go-to choice, we should back them up with other options just in case.



Matches are also a mainstay in emergency kits, and they work well as long as they’re not wet, your strike pad is coarse enough, and the wind isn’t blowing too strong.  It’s also important to remember that it’s pretty easy to go through a lot of matches just to get a single fire going, so supplies can run out a lot sooner than we think.  As a general rule of thumb, everyone should keep a pack or two with them, but be sure to have some other resource available as well.


Homemade Fire-Starters

Lint, cotton, steel wool or even wood shavings and dust can be formed into little discs, balls or cubes that are coated with petroleum jelly or other flammable material.  They are compact, slow-burning and easy to ignite.  They’re perfect for getting difficult fires going, and you can ignite them with almost any source of sparks or flame.  Heck, you can even ignite them with a magnifying glass and sunlight under ideal conditions as well.


Their main drawback is that they are messy, and they also need to be stored properly.  Depending on the flammable substance you’re using, they may also produce noxious and potentially-dangerous fumes, and you may need to keep your supplies separate from other items.  It’s also important to handle these packets with care to avoid getting flammable material on your hands or clothing that may ignite during mishaps associated with starting fires.


At the end of the day, the tools that we decide to use will all have some benefits as well as drawbacks.  Consequently, it’s always a good idea to pack away more than one so that you’ll have options to choose from in the field.  Take some time to explore what choices are available, and come up with a system that works best for you and your preferences so that you’ll reduce the chances of running out of options in the midst of a survival situation.

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