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How to Start a Fire With Magnesium: A Beginners Guide

Knowing how to start a fire is critical, whether you want to stay warm or cook s’mores. Using a lighter or matches is the easiest way to get a campfire going. However, there’s a good chance you may not always be fortunate enough to have them on hand. We recommend that outdoor enthusiasts familiarize themselves with starting a fire with magnesium.

A magnesium fire is popular with outdoor enthusiasts, hikers, and survivalists. You can start a fire in almost any situation with practice, the correct tools, and the know-how.

Let’s dive in and get started!

Survivorman | Masterclass | Using a Magnesium Striker

What Is a Magnesium Fire Starter?

As its name indicates, a magnesium fire starter is a compact, lightweight tool for starting fires. Most starter kits consist of a magnesium block and a ferro rod, often kept together by a cord. It’s popular among outdoor enthusiasts and survivalists because it is lightweight, durable, and convenient. If you plan to spend time outdoors, this is one item you want to take.

Magnesium is a silvery-white soft metal and is the eighth-most abundant element. It is highly flammable and can ignite with as little as a spark. Users only need to shave off pieces of magnesium from the block to create a spark and start a fire. You’ll also find magnesium in most ferro rods due to its combustible properties.

AOFAR Magnesium Fire Starter AF-374 (2-Pack)...
  • 👍Magnesium rod is easily scraped off with striker,and is...
  • 👍FIRE STARTERS : Each box includes 2 Magnesium Fire Starters...
  • 👍Waterproof Fire Steel:Solid magnesium fuel bar with flint...

Pro Tip: Strike up a flame with our guide on What Are Safety Matches and How Do They Work?

Is Starting a Fire with Magnesium Hard?

Starting a fire with magnesium is relatively simple but takes practice. However, if you want the task to be as manageable as possible, following the correct steps and having the right supplies are crucial. Rushing the process is one of the biggest mistakes when starting a fire with magnesium.

If you plan to use this method, it’s a good idea to practice before you’re out in the wild and there’s more pressure. Starting several fires beforehand can give you confidence and help you remain calm. Additionally, you’ll familiarize yourself with the process and your equipment.

Making campfire with magnesium fire starter
Start your campfire with a magnesium fire starter.

Is Flint or Magnesium Better?

Flint and magnesium fire starters are highly effective methods for starting a fire. They’re both compact, lightweight, and durable. While you can’t go wrong with either option, magnesium fire starters have a slight edge over flint.

Magnesium’s most significant advantage over flint is that it is more reliable during wet conditions. Magnesium burns at substantially higher temperatures than flint fire starters. However, flint fire starters are typically easier to use, especially for beginners. If possible, it’s not a bad idea to carry both during your adventures.

Pro Tip: Make sure you pack these 7 Essential Items Your Fire Starter Kit Needs to Have.

What Happens When You Throw Magnesium Into a Fire?

If you can start a fire with magnesium shavings, what happens if you toss a high amount into an already-established fire? Let’s start by saying this is a terrible idea, and you should avoid doing it. The reaction can be perilous and make it very challenging to extinguish.

Throwing magnesium into a fire creates a blinding white light that generates a tremendous amount of heat. This reaction can ignite nearby materials and quickly get out of hand. You must only use magnesium in a controlled environment and follow proper safety procedures.

Spark from magnesium fire starter
With some practice, it is easy to start a campfire with a magnesium fire starter.

How to Start a Fire with Magnesium

Magnesium fire starters are an excellent option for building a fire. However, you must know how to use them correctly. Let’s consider what you need to know about starting a fire with magnesium.

1. Gather Materials

The first thing you need to do is to gather your materials. Not only do you need a magnesium fire starter, but also the materials you plan to burn. You must collect dry kindling and other fire-starting materials, like dry leaves, twigs, and small branches. 

This isn’t the most exciting step in the process and is one that many beginners rush to complete. However, you could waste your time if you don’t have plenty of dry materials to begin the process. 

You could have to start the entire process over if you don’t have enough materials to grow the fire slowly. We buy into the mentality that having too much is better than not enough. So take your time to gather plenty of kindling and other dry materials.

2. Prepare the Tinder

Once you’ve gathered plenty of dry materials, it’s time to start preparing them. Place the fuel onto a solid surface; a flat rock or piece of bark can do the job. Then create a nest-like structure with the tinder and use the softest, driest, and most flammable materials at the top of the frame.

It would be best to resist the urge to rush through this step. Like gathering your supplies, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t take your time to prepare the kindling.

3. Scrape Magnesium

Now it’s time to scrape your magnesium fire starter with a blade or other sharp object. You can collect the savings in a bowl or create a pile on a piece of bark. You’ll typically need to scrape the block for a few minutes to collect enough shavings to do the job.

Once you’ve collected enough magnesium shavings, place them onto the dry kindling. It’s best to create a magnesium pile and surround it with the driest tinder. This gives you the best chance of getting everything to catch.

Woman cooking over campfire
Spark up your hot dog and s’more cravings with the perfect campfire.

4. Create Sparks

Now it’s time to use the ferrocerium rod on the magnesium fire starter block. Use the blade you used to get the shavings to scrape the rod. It should only take a handful of strikes to generate enough sparks and heat to ignite the magnesium shavings.

The magnesium will burn incredibly hot and should easily ignite the tinder you’ve piled around it. Avoid piling too much fuel to avoid smothering the magnesium shavings.

5. Add Kindling

With tinder ablaze, it’s time to transfer it and add slightly larger kindling. The best kindling is pieces of twigs and sticks compared to tinder. This is the final step before you start adding firewood. Avoid adding too much at once, which can smother the flame and extinguish all your hard work.

You may need to fan or gently blow into the flame to provide a boost of oxygen and help it continue to grow. Avoid blowing too hard, or you could put the fire out and have to start over.

6. Build the Fire

If all goes to plan, it’s time to add firewood to your campfire. Again, avoid rushing the process and ensure you don’t place too much on the fire. The fire will continue to grow the longer and hotter it burns.

Once you have a solid campfire going, you’ll need to feed it every so often. While you don’t have to worry nearly as much about smothering the flame, you’ll want to toss a log or two on as needed. Just ensure you factor in how much firewood you have and how long you’ll need the fire to burn.

Pro Tip: First time building a campfire? Use these 5 Best Techniques To Start A Fire Like An Expert.

7. Grab the S’more Supplies

Now that you have a roaring campfire, it’s time to grab the s’more supplies. What’s a campfire without a s’more? The best way to cook them is over a hot bed of coals with minimal flame. It’ll get your marshmallows the perfect golden-brown color, so they quickly melt the chocolate between the graham crackers. Enjoy!

Making fire from magnesium fire starter
Being able to start a fire no matter where you are is a crucial survival skill.

How Long Will a Magnesium Fire Starter Last?

How long a magnesium fire starter lasts depends on several factors, the most significant of which is how often you use it. However, a high-quality magnesium fire starter typically lasts for years when you use and store it correctly.

The smallest magnesium blocks are typically enough to start dozens of fires. Additionally, the most enormous blocks are enough for hundreds of fires. However, the ferro rods can wear down over time, and you may need to replace them occasionally. Fortunately, they are inexpensive.

To help your magnesium fire starter last as long as possible, store it appropriately. You want to keep it in a dry, cool place. Exposure to extreme temperatures or moisture can drastically reduce its life.

Pro Tip: There are several types of campfire starters that you can bring on any adventure. These are our top picks.

Is Burning Magnesium Smoke Toxic?

The smoke created from burning magnesium is magnesium oxide. People do not generally consider it toxic, but it can create negative health consequences. An individual may experience minor respiratory issues. Additionally, it can also irritate the eyes and nose. Some people experience “metal fume fever,” which results in flu-like symptoms.

Just make sure not to get too close and breathe in too much of the magnesium smoke when starting your fire. If you lean in to gently blow oxygen into your fire, move back before you inhale again. By the time you have a roaring fire, the magnesium smoke should have dissipated.

$2.50 Magnesium Fire Starter - A Good Survival Kit Item?

Starting a Fire with Magnesium Is Easy to Do

Starting a fire with magnesium is straightforward. If you’re new to magnesium or starting fires in the wild, it’s a good idea to practice before heading out. You don’t want to be without matches or a lighter if you’re not confident in starting a fire with magnesium. Luckily, growing your skills means you can create a fire almost anywhere.

Do you have what you need to start the perfect campfire? Tell us your fire-starting tips in the comments!

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About Tom Morton

Tom, a Pacific Northwest native, is our technical genius. Born in Washington and raised in Alaska before settling in Michigan. He's the man who keeps our operation running, both figuratively and literally.

With a background in Electrical Engineering, Tom specializes in RV solar systems and lithium batteries. He made history as the first documented individual to use a Tesla battery module as an RV battery. Tom has personally assisted countless RVers with system installations and has educated thousands more through his videos and articles.

Cinematography is another of Tom's passions, showcased in his work on the Go North series. You can see his camera skills on display in The RVers TV show on Discovery Channel and PBS where he also stars as a co-host.

Tom's mechanical expertise extends beyond RVs to boats, planes, and all things mechanical. He's renowned for taking on maintenance and repair projects single-handedly and is often spotted underneath RVs, making him the technical backbone of our endeavors.

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