Magnesium fire starter tools are cheap, reliable, waterproof and readily available at your local outdoor recreation store as was well as dozens of online retailers.
They’re also lightweight, relatively safe, easy to use, highly transportable, and compact, which is why they are one of the most popular fire starter tools among outdoor enthusiasts, survivalist and preppers.
A magnesium fire starting tool usually includes a block of magnesium with a built-in ferro rod or flint and a scraping and striking tool.
Simply scrape-off some magnesium shavings onto a dry leaf or other kindling and strike the built-in ferrocerium rod with the back of your knife or the included scraper to produce a shower of sparks and the magnesium shavings will ignite.
Once ignited, the magnesium will burn very quickly producing flames that reach over 5,000 degrees so it’s very important that you have your fire bed and kindling prepared and ready to go.
If you’re planning on getting a magnesium fire starter but have never used one before, it’s a good idea to practice with it a few times before you find yourself in a situation where it’s your only option for fire or survival.
How To Use A Magnesium Fire Starter
Here’s how to use a Magnesium fire starter in 7 simple steps:
- Prepare your fire bed, preferably in bare soil or on exposed rock. Make sure your fire bed is at least 10 feet away from dry grass, leaves and other combustible material that could accidentally catch fire.
- Gather your tinder and kindling and set it aside. Dry leaves, bark, twigs, pine needles, fatwood shaving or even cotton balls dipped in petroleum jelly can be used for your tinder. For kindling, use fatwood or smaller twigs and branches that are completely dead and dried out.
- Create a pile of magnesium shavings. Use the included scraper or the back of you knife to shave off a small pile of magnesium that’s about the size of a quarter. Collect the shavings on a dry leaf, bark or even a piece of paper.
- Sprinkle your magnesium shavings on top of a small pile of kindling in your fire bed.
- Use the ferro rod and the scraper (or the back of your knife) to ignite the magnesium shavings. Tip: Hold the ferro rod close to the magnesium shavings at about a 45-degree angle. Place the scraper near the top of the rod (so it makes solid contact with the rod). Pull the rod back (away from the tinder) with a slow and steady motion to create a show of sparks that will eventually ignite the magnesium. Tip: see our How To Use A Ferro Rod article for more info.
- Add more tinder to the fire to help build a solid flame-foundation for the rest of your fire.
- Carefully add larger sticks (less than 2 inches in diameter) and twigs to the burning tinder. Be careful to not smother out the flames… fire needs to breathe.
Tip: Check out our How To Build A Campfire article to learn more about how to build roaring fire.
Magnesium Fire Starter F.A.Q.
What is the best magnesium fire starter?
The best magnesium fire starters are compact, durable, come with a striking rod and attached scraper, and are made of high-quality materials. Though you can use your own knife to make a magnesium stick work, I prefer to always get one with an attached striker and scraper as a backup in case you forget or lose your pocket knife.
There are magnesium fire starter kits that come with a lot of extras that may seem nice to have, like a compass or a whistle.
If you do think things like a whistle and compass would be useful – and I personally think any camping or survival kit should have these things – then it’s better to buy quality versions so you know they’ll work when you need them.
Here are 6 Best Magnesium Fire Starters (I may earn a commission from Amazon for qualified purchases)…
- Fire-Fast Trekker Magnesium Fire Starter
- The Friendly Swede Magnesium Flint Fire Starter 3-pack
- SE FS374 Magnesium Firestarter Kit
- Doan Magnesium Fire Starter (U.S. Military Government Issue)
- Survival Spark Magnesium Fire Starter
- Fire-Fast Inferno Magnesium Fire Starter
1. Fire-Fast Trekker Magnesium Fire Starter
The Fire-Fast Trekker is a combination Ferro Rod and Military Grade Magnesium Fire Starter tool of massive proportions that’s made in Austria for old-world reliability and craftsmanship.
The Trekker has a hardwood handle that provides for the surest of grips, even under the most extreme weather conditions including freezing cold temperatures, snow flurries and even pouring rain. An added bonus is that the hardwood handle can be shaved-off and used for tinder in an emergency situation.
The included striker/scraper is made from hardened steel and is sharp enough to create a shower of sparks to light your fire with ease, but not sharp enough to cut your hand.
The paracord strap has a tensile strength rating of 550lbs and is made in the United States by a certified U.S. government contractor, so it shouldn’t rot or break even under the most adverse conditions.
The Fire-First Trekker hardwood handle and the striker/scraper both come with pre-dilled holes that allow them to be attached to the paracord strap, so you’ll never have to worry about losing one the most important pieces of your fire-starting kit (try that with those chintzy little steel-ball straps that other lower-quality fire starter tools come with).
The Fire-Fast Trekker is durable, reliable, waterproof, and designed to light thousands of fires, even when wet. It’s one of the toughest fire-starting tools around, and it’s built to stand-up to years of use and abuse.
Click here for the best price for the Fire-Fast Trekker on Amazon.
2. The Friendly Swede Magnesium Flint Fire Starter – 3 Pack
If you’re looking for a smaller Magnesium fire starter tool, then the Friendly Swede has you covered. It’s only 3 inches long, less than ¾ inches thick and less than 1 ¼ inches wide and only weighs a few ounces, which means it easily slips into your pocket, your EDC backpack, your get home bag, or anywhere else where your gear needs to be compact and lightweight.
This handy 3-pack of The Friendly Swede Magnesium Flint Fire Starter means you’ll be able to keep one in your glove box (which is what I do), one in your bug-out bag or with your camping equipment, and one on your keychain or around your neck so you’ll always have quick access to a dependable waterproof fire-starting tool when you need one.
Each of the three magnesium fire starting kits can be use approximately 5,000 times and contain a solid block of magnesium, a steel scraper to shave off the magnesium, an embedded flint rod and steel striker for producing sparks hot enough to ignite the magnesium shavings and a steel ball chain that helps prevent losing the individual tools. It even has a built-in bottle opener, so you can use it to enjoy your favorite cold-beverage in front a roaring fire!
The Friendly Swede Magnesium Fire Starter is waterproof, lightweight, compact, dependable, provides its own tinder and it’s own spark to light your fire, and it’s easy to use even under the most severe weather conditions including extreme cold, snow, rain, high winds and high altitudes. Try all that with a butane lighter!
Click here for the best price available for the Friendly Swede Fire Magnesium Flint Starter on Amazon.
3. SE FS374 2-in-1 All-Weather Magnesium Firestarter Kit
If you’re looking for an inexpensive pocket-sized Magnesium Fire Starter that you can toss in your fire-starting kit, then the SE FS374 is worth checking out.
It comes with a solid magnesium bar that should last for a few hundred uses, a built-in flint striking rod, a metal striker with a serrated edge, a ball chain link, and a bonus mini-compass (I wouldn’t bet my life on the accuracy of any compass included as a bonus at this low of a price, but it’s nice to have around for a quick bearings check).
SE FS374 Magnesium Fire Starter Kit may not be the sexiest option, but it is a reliable option that gets the job done.
Click here to check-out the best price for the SE FS374 on Amazon.
4. Doan Magnesium Fire Starter U.S. Military Government Issue
This is an Authentic Doan Magnesium Fire Starter that’s made in the U.S.A. and ships in the exact same packaging that is supplied to the U.S. Military. It even includes that same easy-to-follow instruction sheet that is standard U.S. Government issue.
They manufacture the Doan U.S. Military specs to be durable, reliable and dead-simple to use. They even clearly mark the Magnesium shaving block side with big, bold letters that read “Shaving Edge” and the flint rod side with the words “Sparking Insert”, so there’s no confusion about which side to use during even the most stressful emergency situations.
All you have to do to do is shave the magnesium into a pile the size of a quarter, sprinkle the magnesium shaving on a small mound of kinder, flip the tool over and strike the built-in flint rod with the edge of your knife and a shower of red-hot sparks will ignite the magnesium to start your fire.
The genuine Doan Magnesium Fire Starter is designed to be one of the most reliable and dead-simple fire starter tools you’ll ever use.
5. Survival Spark Magnesium Fire Starter
The Survival Spark Magnesium Survival Fire Starter is wind-resistant, waterproof, lightweight, easy to use and consistently provides a huge shower of fire-starting sparks up to 15,000 times.
It includes an extra-long striker/scraper that is easy to grip (even when you’re wearing gloves). Use the serrated edge as a scraper to create a small pile of Magnesium Shavings from the included rod, and then use the flat side as a striker to create a cascading shower of sparks to ignite the Magnesium.
The Survival Spark also includes an integrated emergency whistle that has been tested at 150 DB, as well as a small compass to help you find your general bearings in the wilderness.
The Survival Spark Magnesium Fire Starter is a 3-in-1 survival tool that makes a great addition to any fire starting or survival kit.
Check out the lowest prices on Amazon for the Survival Spark Magnesium Fire Starter.
6. Fire-Fast Inferno Magnesium Fire Starter
The Fire-Fast Inferno features a superior European Flint made from rare earth metals, a large chunk of highest quality Magnesium that is 97% pure, and a generously sized spine and handle made from hardwood which can be scraped for wood shavings and used as tinder for your fire.
It also includes a spring steel striker that is attached to the hardwood handle with U.S. made high-tensile strength paracord.
The Fire-Fast Inferno is the probably the most functional (and coolest looking) Magnesium Fire Starter you will ever own!
Click here for the best Fire-Fast Inferno price on Amazon – you won’t be sorry!
What is a magnesium fire starter made from?
A magnesium fire starter is typically made from a solid block of magnesium with a ferro rod or flint embedded in one side. You shave the magnesium off the block into a small pile of magnesium shavings and then you strike the ferro rod or flint with a metal striker (like the back of your knife) to create sparks and ignite the magnesium.
Most magnesium fire starter tools will also include a striker and scraping tool made from steel that is attached to the magnesium block with a small metal ball chain or a paracord strap.
Is magnesium a good fire starter?
Yes, Magnesium is a good fire starter because it’s highly flammable and burns even when wet. Plus, magnesium fire starter tools are inexpensive, reliable, simple to use, and waterproof.
They’re also lightweight, relatively safe, compact and highly transportable, which is why they are one of the most popular fire-starting tools used by outdoor enthusiasts, survivalists, and just about anyone that needs a reliable way to start a fire, especially in adverse weather conditions.
How does a magnesium fire starter work?
Magnesium is a soft and highly flammable metal that burns by reacting with the oxygen and other gases in the air. Shaving the Magnesium block creates greater air flow and more surface area for the magnesium to react with the oxygen and other gases. That’s why you shave your magnesium block… it allows the magnesium to ignite more easily and burn more intensely.
Magnesium also reacts with water to create hydrogen gas, which is an extremely flammable gas that provides the magnesium with even more fuel to burn. That’s why you should NOT try to put out burning magnesium with water. Use dry sand to smother it out.
Magnesium fire starting kits usually come as either a single magnesium stick with a flint or ferrocerium rod (ferro rod) embedded in the side, or as a set with the magnesium block and sparking rod attached to a chain. Sometimes, a small blade will be included in the set or you may need to use your own pocket knife; A pocket knife is a useful tool you should always carry with you while adventuring, and you should always include one in any emergency bag!
In order to get a fire started, you will need to use the attached blade or your own knife to shave bits of magnesium into a quarter-sized pile. Be sure to situate this pile in easily-flammable material such as moss or wood shavings. Once your pile is ready, ignite it by striking the blade with the flint or ferro rod. This will eventually produce sparks which will ignite the magnesium shavings.
It should be noted that the best way to do this is to hold your blade still and strike the flint or ferro rod against it, scraping your sparking material upwards toward you with considerable force at a 45-degree angle to the blade. This will put the sparking point closer to the ground which will increase your chances of igniting your magnesium powder faster. This also reduces the chances of having the blade slip and potentially injure yourself.
Magnesium burns at 5,610 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to catch even damp materials on fire if necessary. Once your initial material catches fire, quickly add small sticks to the pile and work your way up to bigger sticks and eventually logs. While magnesium burns hot, it also burns quickly, so you’ll want to work fast once you get it going. Just be sure you don’t put out the flames or smother your fledgling fire in your hurry.
How to store a magnesium fire starter
Magnesium is incredibly stable in block form and difficult to ignite when it is packed densely together. Getting it wet will not decrease its effectiveness a fire starter, and it tends to be light and easy to carry. Because of these properties, there is really no precautions that need to be taken when storing magnesium in block form. You could carry it around in your pocket or throw it in your bag if you wanted to.
Some people choose to carry magnesium in its own plastic bag, store it in a metal tin like those used for breath mints, or wrap duct tape around it for added safety and convenience. While not strictly necessary, these measures will help protect your magnesium stick so material doesn’t get scraped off unintentionally.
It should be noted that if you have pre-shaved magnesium powder or flakes you need to keep them dry and as sealed-off from the air as possible so they don’t oxidize too quickly. If shavings get wet or oxidize they won’t ignite as well, but as long as it’s in its block form, magnesium is pretty hassle-free when it comes to storage.
How safe is a magnesium fire starter?
Magnesium is highly flammable so you should handle it with caution, but it’s hard to ignite unless it is broken down into shavings or powder and exposed to an intense energy source such as a open flame or sparks from a ferro rod or flint. That means a magnesium fire starter tool can safely be left in a hot car or direct sunlight without fear of it bursting into flames.
Warning: Burning magnesium can NOT be extinguished with water. In fact, adding water will only intensify the fire and cause it to burn more violently, which is why dry sand is traditionally used to smother-out the flames of burning magnesium.
How long will a magnesium fire starter last?
How long a magnesium stick lasts will really depend on how frequently you use it, and how good you are at getting it to work. Most sticks say that the flint or ferro rods are good for up to 15 – 16 thousand strikes. If you can shave off a small pile of magnesium powder (and make sure the wind doesn’t blow too much of it away) and strike a spark on the first few tries, your kit will last longer than if you have difficulties getting it to light or keeping a magnesium pile in place.
Having said that, the fact that only a small amount of material is needed and the rods can produce thousands of sparks means that these kits can last a long time, even for the clumsiest of users. You should be able to get a minimum of 100 fires from a good kit, but it’s possible they can last longer. They don’t expire or need replacing unless the material is gone, so theoretically you may only need one of these kits in a lifetime, especially if you are using it for emergencies or the occasional camping trip.
What happens when you throw a magnesium fire starter in a fire?
Magnesium in block form is very stable and hard to ignite, so you shouldn’t be too worried about dropping it in your fire when trying to get one started. Magnesium needs to reach 883 degrees Fahrenheit to burn, so a small or even moderately sized fire will take a while to have an effect on a magnesium block. This means you should have plenty of time to use a stick or something similar to knock it out of the fire before anything too drastic happens.
However, it’s important to know that magnesium blocks aren’t completely impervious to fire. If you were to throw your fire starter into a hot enough fire it will eventually ignite after a few minutes. When this happens, it will burn with a bright, white light for around 5 minutes or so depending on the size of the magnesium block. Eventually it will go out and turn into a pile of molten slag. If a magnesium block catches on fire, it’s not easy to put out, especially with water. If you do need to extinguish burning magnesium, then you should try to smother it out with dry sand.
Due to the intense heat and the difficulty in putting out a magnesium fire, I would not recommend throwing your starter kit into a fire for fun. However, it should be noted that magnesium in these small amounts doesn’t explode, and it does burn incredibly brightly for a few minutes. If you are ever in a situation where you need rescue, this could be a good way to get the attention of a helicopter or search and rescue team. The downside is that the blaze won’t last long, and once it’s out you’ve lost your means of making a fire, which greatly decreases your chance of survival. I would only burn an entire magnesium block in a signal fire in very rare cases and as a last resort.