Buyer’s Guide: Fire Starters
Keep reading for our guide to understanding fire starters and choosing among the available options.
A toasty fire is a welcome addition to any chilly evening. Less welcome is the hassle of wrestling with wet wood or crumpled-up newspapers to get the first flames going.
Fire starters are a wonderful convenience for anyone with a fireplace, wood stove, fire pit, chiminea, hibachi, food smoker, or even a trusty old-fashioned charcoal grill.
Ahead, learn what to keep in mind when navigating the options—and don’t miss our top-favorite picks among the best fire starter options available.
As handy as fire starters may be, their usefulness is, to a degree, dependent on their convenience. Look for fire starters that are lightweight and compact, ranging from 3 to 6 inches in length. Typically sold in cases of 12 or 24, these pocket-sized pouches, pods, or cubes can be stored in plain sight or tucked out of sight.
Look for lengthy burn time.
Fire starters are meant to facilitate the sometimes painstaking process of starting a fire by providing a persistent flame that can then catch on nearby kindling. To do so, the fire starter has to burn long enough to actually get the fire established. The longer the burn time, the more likely you can achieve a robust blaze.
The nose knows.
Tthe earliest fire starters were impregnated with flammable chemicals, which made them infamous for their smell. Today’s best fire starters, on the other hand, are nearly odorless—a big plus for using fire starters as an alternative to lighter fluid when starting the grill or smoker.
Pick what’s best for the planet.
The best fire starters tend to be made of environmentally friendly materials, be it wood waste (sawdust or shavings), non-toxic wax, recycled paper, or waste textile fibers. Bear in mind also that using fire starters typically results in faster and more complete ignition, which reduces thee emissions of particulate matter and carbon monoxide.
Our Top Picks
1. BEST OVERALL: Light-a-Fire by Vision Home Products
These remarkable all-natural fire starters are easy and safe to use—and effective, too. Usually only one pod (from the supply of 30) is needed to light a fireplace, and each pod burns for 15 minutes to help ensure your fire roars. Made from wood shavings and food-grade wax, the Light-a-Fire pods are odorless, non-toxic, and environmentally safe.
2. RUNNER-UP: Lightning Nuggets
Forget about newspaper and kindling. Usually just one small nugget from this batch of 50 is all it takes to get the fire started. Each burns for up to 15 minutes, thanks to a blended composition of all-natural, recycled, and non-toxic flammable materials.
3. BEST FOR CAMPING: QuickFire Instant Fire Starters
These innovative compressed oil pouches are 100 percent waterproof with an infinite shelf life. Come time to use them, the packaging material itself acts as a wick. Light a corner and the pack burns for 10 minutes—all without odor or toxicity.
4. ALSO CONSIDER: Duraflame Firestart Firelighters
These individually wrapped, easy-to-use fire starters from Duraflame are made from a blend of wax and renewable, recycled biomass fiber, Duraflame Firestart Firelighters burn for up to 30 minutes.