With all our whirling, blinking, beeping world of gadgetry, we sometimes forget that should the lights go out we’re going to quickly be reverted to prey animals pretty low on the food chain. While we survive behind the thin veneer of civility, we should also be prepared for a world where we can’t trust the power plants to continue steaming, burning, turning, and running our high-tech little existence. That means gearing up for blackouts and major emergencies. Without the magic of electricity, we need a way to light up our lives, scare off predators, cook our food, keep us warm, and kill off those offensive trees providing us oxygen.
As Shere Khan of the Jungle Book pointed out, the thing that separates human beings from other animals is really our ability to harness, control, and utilize fire. Perhaps the only reason we’re still on Earth is how adroitly we’ve learned to use the burning red flower, which is why it is imperative to learn how to always keep it on hand. You’ll never want to find out what life is like when you’re miles from the nearest Bic lighter, which is why keeping one of the 14 best firestarters nearby is a safe way to live.
Though you wouldn’t think of them as being a supremely effective way to make a flame, cheap, plastic Bic lighters perform as well as nearly anything out there. If you’re in a pinch, having one of these on hand could spell the difference between life and death. Even if you’ve wasted your life by never smoking anything, having a few of these around is never a bad survival notion. Purchase: $10/8
A good set of waterproof matches are as important now as they were during The Great War. You can’t go with whatever might work, or whatever happens to be in your first aid kit. Keep some tough as hell, real survival-tried and tested stormproof matches to ensure a flame when you need it. Not only able to light nearly anywhere, also supremely easy to strike under duress. Purchase: $9/kit
Magnifying Glass/Other Lens
It never hurts to have a lens of some kind on hand, should you need to examine a thorn in your paw, or light a flame in the brush to help you eat another day. The thicker a lens you have with a deep curvature, the easier it is going to be to start a fire with the power of the sun. If you aren’t the bespectacled among us, consider keeping a serious Sherlock-grade piece of glass in your car for tough situations.
Solo Scientific Tinder Hot Box
Rather than having a magnifying glass or a prism that does the job, get the Hot Box. Perhaps the best, if not the only true solar fire-starter out there. Using a set of lenses to reflect light, all you need is some sun, some tinder, and the ability to follow printed directions. Then, viola! Fire! Purchase: $28
Flint & Steel
We’re going to suggest a few different variations, but knowing what real flint and steel look like, and having a set of them in your glove box, your survival kit, your emergency bag, and anywhere else isn’t a terrible idea. It’ll cost you a few dollars for the cheap variety, and that’s all you need. Purchase: $28
Flint, steel, and all the ridges and rough edges you need to get a spark with every strike, there’s very few flint and steel products that improve on the original. This does so, and does so at every turn. It has a large grip surface, which is helpful for anyone with larger hands or those who like to actually see what they’re doing. Little practice is needed to strike tinder into flame, and the whole thing compacts back up to fit on your keychain.
Holland Lightning Strike Fire StarterView in gallery
As close to point and click as a ferrocerium rod system gets, the whole build of the Lightning Strike makes it almost idiot proof when it comes to striking sparks toward tinder. If you can move your hand, you can make a fire with this little wonder. Purchase: $68
Balloons & Condoms
Anything that can hold water and allow light through can be turned into a lens for capturing sunlight to start a fire. You’ll need to learn how to do it, but then those prophylactics or water bottle might just be enough to get you warm and kill all the bacteria on your meat.
Metal & Chocolate
An aluminum can or other piece of metal can quickly be polished up using toothpaste or even chocolate. By rubbing the chocolate or toothpaste on the bottom of a can or similarly-shaped piece of metal, it creates a parabolic reflector. Angle this over some tinder, catch the heat and rays from the sky, and let the chili cookoff officially begin.
Batteries & Steel Wool
You’re not likely to be stuck in a situation where you have batteries and steel wool handy, but no matches. Though unlikely, it never hurts to know a little more about staying warm in all circumstances. By running a 9V battery on steel wool – aim for the finest you can if possible – it will begin to spark. A little dry tinder is all you then need to have a roaring inferno.
Gum Wrapper & Battery
Take a foil gum wrapper, stretch it across the two ends of a battery. It will create a weak circuit that will burn the paper. Instant fire.
Instafire Fire Starter
Capable of burning while sitting on top of water, or create a flame that rests atop snow, a single pouch can burn for half an hour without needing fuel. Free of harsh chemicals that go out into the air when lit, easier to carry than fluid, and safer to use than any other type of accelerant, having this can start a blaze anywhere, and build it without much help. Purchase: $5+
Zippo has been baptized in the same flames that forged such a fine product in Bic’s lighters. Using replaceable fluid and a windproof wick system, Zippo might be a brand carried by jackasses, but the lighters made by the company are still solid should you need something that can spark in the wind, water, rain, and other ugliness nature likes throwing about. Purchase: $27
SOL Fire Lite Kit
The whole kit comes with tinder you can spark up, but even after that’s been exhausted the simple flint spark twist apparatus that SOL uses is basically having most of a Zippo on hand. All you really need is something to ignite. Purchase: $10