Last Updated on 27/08/2023
In this guide to the best tinder fire starters, we share the different kindling and ignition we use to start fires outdoors. You will learn which tinder fire starters are the best for stoves and campfires as well as which are the easiest to light from a spark.
There is almost nothing in this world like a cozy campfire at the end of the day to sit around and chill next to whilst out camping. We took a deep dive into tinder fire starters that ensure you can get your campfire up and running in no time. Things we tested were how easy they are to light and use, their burn times, the materials they are made of, and even how much smoke they produce.
Whether your fire is for cooking or warmth, camping or backpacking, we highlight the best use for each tinder fire starter, their weights, and ease of use. With some of these tinder fire starters in your arsenal, you will be able to get a fire going in almost any condition to ensure warmth and a hot meal. These little bundles of tinder make lighting a fire so simple and easy that anyone can do it.
7 Best Tinder Fire Starters for Stoves, Ferro Rods, and Campfires
Bigfoot Bushcraft Fire Plugs
- PACK SIZE: 80 per pack (medium pack)
- WEIGHT: 215 g / 7.6 oz
- BURN TIME: 5+ minutes
- MATERIALS: Cotton and Jetfuel Wax Blend
The Bigfoot Bushcraft Fire Plugs are the best tinder fire lighters for camping and bushcraft, period. They burn incredibly hot for over five minutes and are completely waterproof and windproof. Because they are made here in the USA, you can trust their shelf life of over a decade, but in theory, they will work for many decades. And don’t be put off by the pink color. They are completely nontoxic and food safe, so you can use them on your grill or cooking stove.
What is most impressive about these waterproof pellets is how big of a flame is generated from such a small amount of tinder. Each Fire Plug is just 38 mm long, 9.5 mm in diameter, and weighs just 2.7 grams which is tiny and mean you can carry a small handful of them in a pouch for whenever you need them. You can light them directly from a flame or break them open to expose lots of fluffy fibers that will easily take a spark.
VERDICT: The Fire Plugs from Bigfoot Bushcraft are one of the most compact fire starters to use as tinder for campfires. The plugs are tiny and create a massive flame that burns for much longer than you might expect. They are so easy to light and throw into a stove full of kindling or to form a blazing tinder bundle for a much-needed campfire in treacherous conditions.
Kaeser Wilderness Supply Charcloth Char Cloth Fire Starter
- PACK SIZE: 4 rolls per pack, can start 72 fires
- WEIGHT: 36 g / 1.3 oz
- BURN TIME: 1 – 2 minutes
- MATERIALS: 100% Cotton Canvas Duck
The Kaeser Wilderness Supply Charcloth is one of the best tinder fire starters for ignition by a spark. It is incredibly lightweight and quite fragile, but with just a small amount and a single spark, you can get a fire going anywhere.
A roll of charcloth like this can easily be torn into pieces and combined with other tinder that isn’t so easy to catch from a spark. Because it is so lightweight and fragile, it does need to be kept in a solid container. Thankfully it comes in its own waterproof tin to ensure it remains dry and ready to use, as it doesn’t work if wet.
The Kaeser Charcloth is very easy to light as it’s highly flammable – a spark from a Ferro rod, steel flint, or focused beam of a magnifying glass will have it burning in as little as a few seconds. Once burning, the cloth will stay alight for a few minutes, and the embers spread very slowly, making it ideal for beginners. Charcloth is also one of the few tinders that you can use with a fire piston which works using manually compressed air.
VERDICT: The Kaeser Charcloth really is for anybody who wants to light an outdoor fire using a primitive tool. Its super compact tin will fit a Ferro rod inside or a lighter and is pocket-sized for easy storage in your backpack. Its hot and slow burn makes it great in different climatic regions where your fuel may vary from dry grass to wet sticks. Every bushcrafter should have a little charcloth in their arsenal.
Walden Backyards Natural Sure-Fire Starters
- PACK SIZE: 24 per pack
- WEIGHT: 680 g / 1.5 lbs (bag)
- BURN TIME: 10-15 minutes
- MATERIALS: Soy and paraffin wax, natural materials
The Walden Backyards natural fire starters are perfect for campfires and wood-burning stoves because of their size and how easy they are to handle once lit. You can hold the little cup in one hand while lighting it with the other and then place it into the heart of the fire pit before slowly building up your fire.
These tinder bundles are not as lightweight as others (each stick is approx. 16g) and is certainly aimed at campers or even backyard fire enthusiasts rather than hikers or backpackers. Similarly, it doesn’t start quite as easily either – needing a sustained flame or some kind of accelerant, but once going, the paraffin wax keeps it burning for over 10 minutes, even in harsh weather.
The Walden tinder fire starter nests are perfect for wet and windy conditions, it lights best with matches or an open flame as opposed to a spark or magnification. Because each bundle is about the size of a cupcake, you can often skip the smaller twigs and gently stack a couple of larger sticks on to speed up the process and create a bigger fire.
VERDICT: The Natural Fire Starters from Walden Backyards will ignite a large fire in almost any condition making it very reliable and easy to use when camping. Best for stoves, campfires, and fire pits but not the most compact for hikers and backpackers.
Billy Buckskin Co. Fatwood Fire Starter Sticks
- PACK SIZE: 140 – 160 per 10 lbs pack
- WEIGHT: 4.535 kg / 10 lbs (bag)
- BURN TIME: 10+ minutes
- MATERIALS: Resin Rich Pine Wood
The Billy Buckskin Fatwood Kindling is one of the easiest tinders to store in your backpack without damaging them. They are made from resin-rich pine wood infused with more resin that will burn for around 10 mins. They do not have as strong a smell as other chemical firestarters which makes them less undesirable to pack with your food and clothing.
The Fatwood sticks are easily placed in the bottom of a set fire and then lit with an open flame or a match or lighter. You can use them to create shavings or a feather stick using a knife so that you can ignite it from a Ferro rod or spark. Once lit, there is a bit of black smoke from the resin for the first 30 seconds and a slight smell, but it will burn hot and light, even damp wood.
VERDICT: The Fatwood Kindling from Billy Buckskin comes in boxes of 2 lbs to 50 lbs for everyday campfires or for the occasional camping trip. Each piece can be used in multiple ways depending on your ignition source, which makes it super versatile as well as durable. Just like with charcloth, and good outdoorsman will have a fatwood supply somewhere.
GOLDACE 100% Windproof, Rainproof Fire Starters
- PACK SIZE: 30 per pack
- WEIGHT: 90 g / 0.20 lbs
- BURN TIME: 25 minutes
- MATERIALS: Wax-dipped ignition hemp rope
The GOLDACE 100% Windproof, Rainproof Fire Starters are made from hemp ropes dipped in wax which makes them different from most other tinders. They are like giant wicks cut into short lengths, which is perfect for using a lighter, but they can also be roughed up and broken apart for using a Ferro rod or fire steel. They are so flammable and soaked in wax that you could drop one in some water, and it would still ignite.
Each section of hemp rope will burn for around 25 minutes but you can break each section into four smaller ropes which will burn for about 15 minutes each. You can then break these four sections down into extremely fine fibers to make a tinder bundle for primitive fire lighting. The wax contains bees wax which can feel a bit sticky but makes them smell less than most other firestarter tinder.
VERDICT: The GOLDACE Fire Starters are the ideal tinder fire starter to use for campfires and small wood-burning stoves. Because it is basically a giant wick, you can hold it like a candle to light a fire in multiple places before inserting it into the center. If you have a little tin you take camping or a survival kit, then adding a couple of these is a no-brainer.
EasyGoProducts Eco-Stix Fatwood Fire Starter Kindling Firewood Sticks
- PACK SIZE: 120 per pack
- WEIGHT: 4.535 kg / 10 lbs (bag)
- BURN TIME: 5-8 minutes
- MATERIALS: Resin-rich Ocoee pine wood
The EasyGoProducts Eco-Stix Fatwood Fire starters are slightly thinner than the Billy Buckskin kindling further up but use sustainable Ocoee pine wood with no added chemicals. The naturally high resin content makes this tinder kindling perfect for lighting in wet and windy conditions. You can create some shavings using a knife which can then be used to ignite from a spark.
The Eco-Stix will have your fire up and going in no time. Even with damp firewood in humid conditions, they burn long enough to dry out thin twigs, which can then be used to ignite larger sticks until your logs start to dry out. Each stick is relatively lightweight, and you only really need one per fire if you use it sparingly. By adding a couple of these as tinder to start a fire, you give yourself the best chance to get a fire going when you need it the most.
VERDICT: The Eco-Stix from EasyGoProducts is a great natural tinder fire starter for campfires, stoves, and bushcraft tools. You can get them in a small box if you aren’t using them every day on a wood burner stove, and they last for a lifetime if stored in a dry place. These are especially useful for charcoal fires and so, as well as camping, can be used with a BBQ or fireplace.
Rutland 50B Safe Lite Fire Starter Squares
- PACK SIZE: 144 per pack
- WEIGHT: 2.22 kg / 4.9 lbs
- BURN TIME: 8 – 10 minutes
- MATERIALS: Wood and wax
The Rutland 50B Safe Lite Fire Starter Squares are made from compressed wood fiber blended with wax to burn for a good 8-10 mins each. You will need an open flame to light the squares, but once they are lit, they will burn fast and hot to get your campfire going quickly. They can be used anywhere from the home to the campsite and will even boil a small pot of water without any additional fuel.
While these multi-purpose fire starters can be used anywhere, needing an open flame to light will reduce their effectiveness in colder and wetter environments. When it is wet and windy, you can easily break up the squares and fluff them up to make a finer tinder which can also be used with magnesium fire rods.
VERDICT: The Rutland 50B Safe Lite Fire Starter Squares are designed for stoves and fires but are ideal for taking a couple camping wrapped in tin foil or in a little bag. They don’t light instantly as some other tinder does, but if you break them up a little and get a small piece lit it soon turns into a powerful flame.
Natural Tinders for Bushcraft
This guide focuses on tinder products as opposed to natural materials you can forage with some wilderness skills. We aim to write a full guide to natural tinders very soon, but for now, here are some of the best natural tinders you can find all across America as well as Canada and Europe:
- Birch Bark
- Dry Wood Shavings
- Reed Mace (aka Bulrush or Cat’s Tail)
- Thistle Heads
- Dandelion Heads
- King Alfred’s Cakes Fungus
Hoof Fungus (aka Amadou, Tinder Fungus)
- Old Mans Beard Moss
- Dry Leaves and Grass
- Abandoned Birds Nest
Why leave something as important as your campfire to chance? Starting a fire from scratch without some carefully selected tinder is almost impossible without using petrol or lighter fluid. Tinder fire starters are small, easy to light even in wet weather, and have long burn times.
Different Types of Tinder Fire Starters
As you can see from the different types of tinder we recommend above, there are plenty to choose from. Here are the main pros and cons of each type:
Cotton and Parrafin Wax
Bushcrafters and explorers have been dipping balls of cotton wool into things like petroleum jelly (vaseline), wax, and other flammable substances to use as little fire-starting tinder bundles for almost a hundred years. One company that has mastered the process is Bigfoot Bushcraft which soaks the cotton in paraffin wax and then compresses it for easy storage.
Cotton and wax fire-starting tinders are perfect for wet conditions and getting a fire blazing quickly. You can break them up and ruffle the fibers so that they will take a spark from a fire steel tool or light them like a candle using a flame.
Fat Wood can be made from any tree that has an abnormally high resin content that lights fast and burns hot and slow. Pine is often the wood of choice for Fat Wood, and you can easily find it yourself if you know what to look for. The best place on a dead pine tree to find Fat Wood is where the branches meet the trunk, as these knots are extra dense and hold the most resin.
Fatwood is good for campfires, camp stoves, and cooking. They come in 1-inch sections of kindling, which you can then use to create tinder shavings or a feather stick using a sharp knife. Fatwood sticks are one of my favorite fire-starting tinders to keep in my backpack when camping because they are so versatile and hassle-free to carry.
Wood and Stearin Wax
Many modern firefighters that people use at home are made from wood fibers and stearin wax, which is used in candles. The Rutland 50B Squares are made of this blend, and it is incredibly reliable when you have a lighter or matches to get it going. They have a good burn time and can be broken up to light a large campfire from multiple sides.
Hemp Rope and Wax
Hemp and wax tinder is a unique combination that acts like a giant wick from which you can start a fire. The benefit of hemp rope and wax tinder is that each piece is made up of multiple strands, which can be broken up to make one section of rope last for dozens of fires if you are frugal. They are very ecologically friendly and don’t use any chemicals, which makes them have a very low odor that some might even find pleasant.
Char cloth is made from cotton fabric that has been heated inside a tin to become a thin and flexible sheet of charcoal that is one of the very best tinders for magnesium Ferro Rods and flint and steel tools. Charcloth is also one of the few tinders you can use with a fire piston which works with pressure instead of sparks.
Char cloth won’t crumble when you pick it up, but it is fairly fragile, so it does need to be stored in a rigid container like a tin. You can make it yourself or buy it ready-made for very little money. If you want to give primitive fire-making a go, then char cloth is the best tinder to use.
Guide to The Best Tinder Fire Starters
To find which tinder fire starter works best for camping, there are a number of considerations to make. Ferro rods and other primitive flint and steel tools require the finest tinder to catch a spark, and so the tinder needs to be able to hold an ember. If you have a lighter or matches, though, you can use almost any tinder and choose one that is easiest to carry.
Ease of Lighting
The reason why tinder and firefighters are so important when camping is that without them, it’s pretty darn hard to get a fire going in damp conditions. Some do light easier than others by the nature of their design and can be lit with just a few well-placed sparks, like the Kaeser Wilderness Char Cloth or the Goldace Hemp rope. Others require a sustained flame for a few seconds to ignite, like with fatwood or the squares.
For the chunkier fire-lighting tinder, you may have to process it using a knife or break it apart with your hands to get the tinder as fine and fluffy as possible. It’s a good idea to practice at home before taking plodding into the wilderness.
Most tinder fire-starting materials are designed for a burn time of between 5 – 10 minutes. This is long enough to dry out some slightly larger tinder and start to build up some embers. The smaller, easier-to-light, and waterproof fire starters often have a faster burn time due to their extreme flammability.
A longer burn time of up to 15 mins is a much better choice for starting a bigger fire, as the burn time will allow you to skip the tinder and small twigs stage of your fire and get middle-sized logs up and burning quickly. It’s also good for damp or wet wood and twigs, and the extended burn time will dry and then ignite them.
I almost always break my tinder bundles up to use the minimal amount possible, which often means that one fire starter made from fatwood can be used to start multiple campfires or stoves.
Pack Size and Weight
All of the fire starters come in a multi-pack for more than a single use. The prices range from $10-$40 for a pack, but when you only use one or two a day, each box can last the entire winter. If you are just using for them for occasional camping trips, then a small two-pound pack will last all year.
Individual Size and Weight
Each individual tinder fire starter can be used to start one or more fires, and so you only want to take a couple for a weekend camping trip (if you know what you are doing otherwise, take more). So when you are trying to stay lightweight for hiking or whatever, the smaller, more compact tinders are more appealing.
I like keeping a small tin of charcloth tinder for lighting fires from a spark as well as having a few Bigfoot Bushcraft Fire Plugs and sticks of fatwood. This trio has never let me down, and you can use each one to light the other as you build up your fire around it.
Materials and Odor
Some of the fire starters are completely natural, while others are not. The more natural starters use pine wood which is naturally high in resin. While they can produce a lot of smoke initially, they don’t leave the fire smelling like chemicals when cooking. Others use cotton, paraffin, wax, and wood blends to ensure they light very easily and stay alight long enough to get your fire roaring. They can produce a slight chemical odor, but this will pass once it burns off.
Waterproof and Windproof
In many cases, working in all weather is what tinder fire starters are made for – lighting a fire in summer is easy. By using highly flammable materials (paraffin) combined with longer burning materials (hemp or dense wood) and a waterproof element (wax), most fire starters will work perfectly fine in these bad conditions.
The GOLDACE hemp rope will even light while saturated with water (due to the wax) and will maintain an ember in the windiest of conditions.
Most fire starters are very durable as they use solid fuel like wood or hemp that in itself will hold up to the elements. The Kaeser cotton cloth is not, however, and it can be torn or broken up inside your pack if you are not careful, which is why it comes with its own waterproof and protective tin. In the end, they will be destroyed by burning up anyway, but keeping them dry and intact will ensure an easier time of it.
What Tinder Fire Starters Are Best for Ferro Rods?
When using primitive fire lighting methods like flint and steel, friction, or magnesium rods, the best tinder to use on a dry day is char cloth combined with something a little larger. But because charcloth needs to be kept dry and has a very fast burn time, we recommend using something like cotton and wax, hemp rope and wax, or some fatwood which can all be processed to create much finer tinder when needed for sparks.
We hope you found this guide to the best tinder fire starters useful. They are all designed to work in wet and windy weather so that you can light your campfire or stove no matter what the conditions are.