Best Survival Tinder for Fire Starting

by Tommy Grant

Fire is a versatile tool, but you can’t plan for it to be easy. Sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate- and that’s the worst time to find out that you are missing a key piece to fire-starting, or have something that won’t hack it in your weather conditions. If you have the best survival tinder on you, it won’t let you down and will get a fire started in no time.

There are a lot of options to consider when it comes to tinder: ignition, burn time, weather resistance, etc. This is where we come in. We’ve researched the best tinder, tested them, and now the results are in: the overall best, a natural option, and an upgrade option. If you need to make a survival fire, one of our recommendations will bring the heat.

Contents (Jump to a Section)

The Best Survival Tinder


Lightweight, Consistent, and Proven

Dependable long-burning compressed cotton with easy ignition makes fire starting easy.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Sometimes it is the simple solution that is the best. These little braids of cotton work can do work in any environment and weather conditions. They’ve been trusted in SERE operations and in backyards for years and are a consistent and reliable option, making them the top survival choice.

Here is how they measure up:

  • Waterproof
  • Windproof
  • 50 braided cotton tabs
  • 60-second burn each
  • 8″ H x 5″ W x 1″ D bag
  • 2 ounces
  • Made in the US

With specs like these, it’s easy to see how the TinderQuik is at the top.

Steve Kaeser Fatwood Fire Starting Kit

Natural Survival Tinder

Steve Kaeser Fatwood

Natural, Versatile, and Comprehensive

A great fatwood starter kit to get a fire going in a wide range of weather conditions.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Technically, this is a lot more than just a pile of fatwood. This small kit is designed with survival in mind, which makes it a great natural option for survival kits or bushcraft. Carefully thought out with inclusions of shavings, waxed jute, and a small tin- this lightweight kit will get you going quickly when you need to get a fire started.

Here are the full specs:

  • Approx. 15 pieces of natural fatwood
  • Bag of fatwood shavings
  • 5/16″ x 3″ ferro rod (plus striker)
  • 36″ waxed jute cord
  • 3.5″ x 4.5″ x 1″ storage tin
  • 4.6 ounces
  • Made in the US

If you are looking for any kind of tinder kit (natural or not), you can’t go wrong with the Steve Kaeser Fatwood Kit.

Black Beard Fire Starter Rope

Upgrade Survival Tinder

Black Beard Fire Starter Rope

Compact, Efficient, and Weatherproof

Plunder one of these fire ropes for your bug out bag for a premium weatherproof tinder option.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Black Beard is relatively new, but they’ve got the burn rope down to a science. It is a dried, braided cotton rope infused with oils and waxes to extend the burn time to a whopping 4 1/2 hours if you are inclined to burn the whole thing at once. It is odorless and easy to handle and separate into smaller portions/strands.

It can be completely submerged in water and lit right away, so it can more than handle a wide range of weather conditions. The team over at Black Beard is a good crew that answers questions quickly and is eager to show off their fire starter.

Here are the details:

  • Waterproof
  • Windproof
  • 5.5″ L x 1″ D
  • 14 ounces
  • Made in the US

If you are looking for the best of the best, pick up a Black Beard Fire Starter Rope.

Everything We Recommend

TinderQuik Firestarting Tabs


Dependable long-burning compressed cotton with easy ignition makes fire starting easy.

Where to Buy

$13* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

The Tinder We Compared

Our research narrowed the field down to several types and brands of tinder that we compared: TinderQuik, UCO Sweetfire, UST Wetfire, SOL Cubes, Bagasse, Black Beard, Fatwood, Squatch Rope, and more.

You can see our full list of review criteria below in the What to Look For section, with an explanation for each.

We considered a huge range of tinder- from Doritos all the way to steel wool. There are many, many options, and having something on hand is better than nothing. Still, our mission was to find the best tinder for survival- not just tinder that works. This is why we weighed the many options against our review criteria and immediately ruled out less portable tinder options like fire-starting logs.

We’re always looking for new and better equipment, so if you have some tinder that you swear by let us know in the comments. We review most of our tested equipment annually, so we can always get it in the next roundup round and see if it makes the cut and we can see if it will beat out our top picks.

What to Look For

The best survival tinder has several important features to look for:

  1. Value
  2. Ignition
  3. Burn Time
  4. Size & Weight
  5. Weather Resistance

When you get the right blend of these, you can find tinder that will consistently ignite in a wide range of weather conditions and burn long enough to get stubborn kindling and other fuel sources lit. Below, we break down what each of these features means for tinder which truly sets itself apart.

Value: Cost vs. Benefit

The amount of money you spend on something like tinder shouldn’t blow out your entire budget. There are plenty of cheap or free options if you just do a little planning ahead.

You never want to spend too much money on one resource, especially something you quickly burn up in a fire. It’s better to diversify your preparedness gear to make sure you are covered for a wide range of scenarios.


Tinder is the first thing that your spark or flame comes into contact with, so you want it to ignite easily.

Burn Time

If your tinder ignites easily but burns out within a few seconds, you won’t have enough time to stoke the fire and get the kindling lit.

Burn time can also be a factor in how much tinder you use, but pre-packaged tinder makes it easy and predictable.

Size & Weight

You could go around carrying a fire-starter log in your bug out bag… but I would advise against it. Ounces matter for survival on the go, so you’ll want your tinder to be small, compact, and lightweight.

Weather Resistance

It’s been played out in plenty of movies and shows- the protagonist gets a flame going just to have wind or rain snuff it out. Don’t have your hopes dashed when there are plenty of tinder options that can power through intense weather conditions to stubbornly help you create a fire.

The Many Types of Tinder

There are plenty of things that catch fire. Even after going through the survival criteria laid out above, there is a huge plethora of tinder options for mobile survival kits. You may end up going for more than one (two is one and one is none), so we’ll list out the main ones that impressed us in each category. Here are the categories:

Two of our picks come from this first category which has a lot of survival favorites.

Cordage & Fiber Tinder

Char cloth, cotton balls, and even some types of paracord are some of the main survival tinder options. These options are usually lightweight and compressed making them ideal for survival kits. You may need to spread the fibers apart so they are not so condensed when you are lighting.

Here are the top cordage and fiber contenders:

These few that overlap with paracord are interestingly versatile picks, and that last one shows up as our upgrade pick in our paracord review roundup. Versatility in your gear can give you great backup options.

Natural Tinder

Using natural tinder definitely has its advantages, because it can get you used to finding and using your own materials as tinder. Some of the main natural materials sold are fatwood and bagasse.

Fatwood is the resin-dense part of a pine tree from the heartwood. Dead trees have their sap harden from evaporation to create this hard and very flammable natural material.

Bagasse is a processed sugarcane byproduct that is common in pre-packaged fire starters and readily available in many stores.

Here are the top natural options:

The UCO is an interesting choice, with packed bagasse around one of their stormproof matches. They were a great contender in our stormproof match comparison review.

Fuel Cubes

Fuel cubes are usually made of a combination of petroleum products which helps them ignite easily and burn for up to five minutes. When high-heat matters, like for camp stoves, fuel cubes are usually a good option.

Top fuel cubes to consider:

The Esbit is the best of the bunch here, burning at up to 1300 F for a whopping 12 minutes.

Metal Tinder

Magnesium creates intense flames, and shavings are perfect for igniting stubborn tinder. Steel wool is an interesting and versatile option. It is well known in survival circles that steel wool combined with a 9V battery is an easy fire starter. Superfine (#0000) steel wool works best.

Best metal options for tinder:

Plenty of firestarters combine magnesium and ferrocerium rods although we prefer rods on their own in our ferro rod review roundup.

Other Types of Tinder

There are a lot of things you can burn, and people have been using a wide variety of stuff as tinder since fire was discovered. A few of the more interesting options include:

  • Stale bread
  • Dried fungus
  • Dried poop
  • Tuna cans (in oil)
  • Dryer lint
  • Toilet paper
  • Doritos
  • Crayons

Quick Tip: Plastics, such as polyester, are not great to burn. Stick to cotton and other non-plastic options if you are using dryer lint.

How to Make Homemade Tinder

Homemade tinder could be just finding stuff around the house (see the other types of tinder above) to burn, but a little pre-planning can help you make some tinder that performs a little closer to the real deal you find in stores.

One of the easiest is the homemade cotton ball and petroleum jelly fire starter.

First, you’ll need cotton balls and a container of Vaseline. Coat the balls in the jelly and store them in a watertight container.

That’s it! It’s the simplest homemade solution and the petroleum jelly extends the burn time significantly.

Who Needs Survival Tinder?

Tinder isn’t necessarily essential to survival, but it is good to have on hand. It also pays off to understand the importance of tinder as a step to creating a fire, whether you are using bought weather-resistant tinder or feathering a stick with your knife to create some natural tinder.

We suggest putting tinder in your:

Depending on your situation and resources, we also suggest considering it for your:

Tinder can come in handy anytime you are starting a fire, so you’ll find uses for it at campsites and around your firepit as well.

How We Review Products: We research thoroughly before selecting the best products to review. We consult experts in the field for a better understanding of what makes the gear great. Hours on end are spent field testing gear in stressful conditions. We assign performance criteria and impartially rate each tested item. After our review process, some of the items reviewed end up in our giveaways.

Sources and References

All of our experience and the testing we do to determine the best survival tinder is useless without listing our research sources and references. We leaned on these for the book knowledge that we paired with our hands-on testing and practical military and prepping experience:

Smith, W. (1967). Wood for the Campfire and the Fireplace. Pages 95-98. (Source)

Davidson, D. (1947). Fire-Making in Australia. American Anthropologist. Volume 49. Issue 3. Pages 426-437. (Source)

Hough, W. (1890). Aboriginal Fire-Making. American Anthropologist. Volume 3. Issue 4. Pages 359-372. (Source)

The Final Word

Being able to create fire can help you stay warm, cook food, and purify water- all survival necessities. All of the tools you have to create fire are useless without something to ignite, and tinder makes it easy. Have some with you in your survival kit in case conditions are stacked against you.

Here are a few other reads our subscribers have also found helpful:

We presented quite a lot of information, but as always: if you have any questions let us know and we would be happy to help. Our research and testing found the TinderQuik to be the best option given its value, ignition, burn time, profile, and weather resistance.

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.

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The Best Survival Tinder

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