Fire is one of the most important aspects of survival, as we’ve discussed in our article the 5 C’s of survival. Fire brings with it warmth, light, and the ability to cook meat, create charcloth, and many more. Because of that, it’s essential to bring a great fire starting kit with you anytime you go outdoors.
Most of us already bring a waterproof match and a magnesium fire starting kit in our EDC packs. However, it’s always a good idea to bring another failsafe, in case your match is wet and the magnesium just won’t spark. Enter the magnifying glass.
A magnifying glass helps you focus the sun’s rays so that it will create a beam of concentrated light. This beam is really hot and will slowly ignite the area on which it’s focused on, which ideally should be your tinder.
Choosing the best magnifying glass for fire starting purposes can be daunting. There’s simply too much to choose from, all with different features and quirks. That’s why we’ve taken the liberty of reviewing the 3 best magnifying glasses for fire starting purposes.
This list will focus on survival fire starting, not for some science experiment. Because of that, we will focus on what really matters during these situations, which are durability and reliability.
If you’re interested in buying the best magnifying glass fire starters for your EDC pack, survival bug out bag, or just to keep in your jacket pocket in case things go awry, read on!
Why Use a Magnifying Glass For Starting a Fire?
This is actually a great question, by now you might be wondering why on earth would you use a magnifying glass compared to a trusty match or a magnesium rod to start a fire right?
The single best reason why you should always bring a magnifying glass as a back-up fire starter is due to it’s non consumable nature. Using a magnifying glass to start a fire doesn’t reduce your potential to start a new fire, unlike matches, lighters, and even magnesium sticks that can run out of strikes.
Another reason is due to it’s versatility. You can use a magnifying glass for a lot of things, in which starting a fire is just one of them. You can use it to signal for help, use it to see smaller objects, and might even help you substitute your glasses in the event of an emergency (although this is highly discouraged).
Lastly, magnifying glasses are very cheap and easy to find anywhere. Because of that, we think that this item is a no-brainer to carry inside your EDC pack or even your utility jacket everywhere you go. It’s also very easy to carry so it won’t hinder your movement one bit.
If you’re still on the fence regarding the utility of a magnifying glass, see the video below. The guy uses a large magnifying glass to do all sorts of cool trick, check it out!
If that doesn’t get you excited about the potential of starting fires with a magnifying glass, I don’t know what will. As he demonstrates, your imagination is the limit when it comes to harnessing solar energy with lenses.
Making the Right Choice When Buying a Magnifying Glass Fire Starter
When buying a magnifying glass for fire starting purposes and survival situations, there are several things that you need to keep in mind. Just like all survival gear, your magnifying glass fire starter should be durable, lightweight, and reliable.
Usually, plastic magnifying glasses check all those three boxes while also being cheaper compared to their glass counterparts.
However, plastic magnifying glasses sometimes have poorer optical qualities and might have more impurities on the lens. This will make it harder for you to use it in a traditional sense as a magnifying glass for reading aid or to see small objects.
During survival situations, it’s very important to have a reliable and durable magnifying glass that will not break easily. It’s easier to start a fire with a scratched or blurry lens compared to a broken one. Because of that, we recommend buying plastic magnifying glasses for your survival fire starting purposes compared to ones made out of glass.
What you Need to Know Before Using a Magnifying Glass Fire Starter
A magnifying glass is a versatile survival tool and will make for an excellent back up fire-starting gear. However, using it can be more difficult compared to the straightforwardness of a match or a magnesium rod.
Before learning how to use a magnifying glass to start a fire, you’ll need to know what factors affect your fire starting chance using a magnifying glass. Several factors come into play when trying to start a fire using a magnifying glass.
- Weather – Magnifying glasses work by concentrating solar energy in order to heat your tinder. During cloudy weather or during night time, a magnifying glass would be borderline useless because there is no solar energy available for them to concentrate
- Temperature – In general, it’s easier to start a fire on a hot sunny day due to the abundance of solar energy and the hotness of the ambient temperature. However, several of my friends have reported that they’re able to start a fire (with really great difficulty) in very cold conditions up north.
- Tinder – Magnifying glasses heat up the tinder rather than provide a direct spark. Because of that, it’s very important to have the best quality dry tinder and kindling ready on-hand. Read our guide on the best firewood for campfires for more detail
- Magnifying Capacity– We talked about how you can start a fire with many different things that magnify, but some materials are easier than others. Using ice to start a fire may be possible, but it is extremely difficult to do.
- Knowledge about the Magnifying Glass – Learning the focal distance of your magnifying glass and how to focus the energy into a point may seem like common sense, but without practice you may find it harder to accomplish in a survival scenario.
Now that you’ve understand what factors determine your success chance in starting a fire using a magnifying glass, we’ll delve right into the meat of it, how to start a fire using a magnifying glass.
Best Magnifying Glass Fire Starters — OUR TOP PICK!
OUR #1 CHOICE
[su_service title=”Best Glide Credit Card Fresnel Lens” icon=”icon: star” icon_color=”#2D3092″ size=”32″ class=””][/su_service]
The Best Glide Fresnel Lens is a great fire starting tool to have in your EDC pack. If you don’t have one already, you’re missing out a lot. These Fresnel lenses are so thin that you can store them pretty much anywhere you can stick a card in (Hint: It’s not just your wallet).
It’s also very light, weighing in at just 5 grams, you won’t even notice they’re there. Because of that, we recommend that you bring a couple of Fresnel lenses everywhere you go.
The Best Glide has a magnifying power of 4x which is really helpful for reading small texts and manuals. It will also enable you to light a fire by concentrating solar energy on a clear sunny day.
Best of all, they are very tough and durable. You won’t have to worry about breaking your Fresnel Lens since they are made of razor thin polymer.
All in all, this is one of the best Fresnel Lenses on the market, combining cheap price with great quality. However, you can’t go wrong with our other Fresnel Lens recommendations down below, check them out!
[su_service title=”PREMIUM GRADE Fresnel Lens Pocket” icon=”icon: star” icon_color=”#2D3092″ size=”32″ class=””][/su_service]
The Premium Grade Fresnel Lens is another great Fresnel Lens option from CZ Garden Supply Store. This Fresnel Lens is mostly targeted for home and backyard use. However, it’s build quality, durability, and it’s ability to start a fire makes it a great survival tool on it’s own right.
This Fresnel Lens has 3x magnification power, albeit lower than other comparable Fresnel Lenses, this is still adequate to start a fire using direct sunlight.
The lens is also very compact and lightweight. Like the Best Glide, it can be stored anywhere without hindering your movements, be it in your pocket, wallet, or EDC pouch. It even has a ruler as an extra feature to act as an emergency measuring tool in case your ruler or metering tool breaks down.
Overall, the Premium Grade Fresnel Lens is a great survival tool to have, both as a back up fire starter, as a reading aid, and also as a back up measuring tool.
[su_service title=”Lifesport Gear Fresnel Lens” icon=”icon: star” icon_color=”#2D3092″ size=”32″ class=””][/su_service]
The Lifesport Gear Fresnel lens is one of the best EDC Fresnel lens on the market right now. It’s very compact and lightweight so you can easily carry it anywhere with you, be it on your body or stashed inside your EDC pack.
It has a magnifying glass with up to 4x magnifying power. This will make it easy for you to read small texts, spreadsheets, and documents. It’s magnifying power also enables the Lifesport Gear Fresnel Lens to act as an emergency fire starting kit during survival situations.
This Fresnel lens also has a built in measurement tool in the form of a ruler with a 3 inch standard and 7,5 centimeter markings printed along the edges. Although not the most important feature, this may come in handy if you forget to bring your own survival rulers or tape measure during your outdoor activities.
Overall, the Lifesport Gear fresnel lens is a great tool to carry with you wherever you go as a back up fire-starter and reading aid. It’s small size and cheap price makes it a no-brainer in our opinion.
[su_service title=”Gerber Bear 31-002557 Grylls Tinderbox” icon=”icon: star” icon_color=”#2D3092″ size=”32″ class=””][/su_service]
The Gerber x Bear Grylls tinder box is a full service fire starting tool centered around it’s high powered magnifying glass. It has a built in magnifying glass, a tinder shaver and storage container and a emergency mirror specifically built for signaling.
The tinder shaver and storage container is very handy, they let you carry around the perfect amount of dry tinder to start a fire anywhere. This is useful if you’re active in wetter areas where finding dry tinder and kindling to start a fire might be hard.
However, due to all the added features, the Gerber x Bear Grylls tinder box is a lot bigger compared to other magnifying glasses we’ve used. If you’re just looking for a simple magnifying glass without any of the added features, then this might not be the product for you.
Besides the size, this is a great product with excellent build quality and features. It’s very durable and will keep working no matter what you throw at it. We’ve used Bear Grylls branded gear before, and even though some of them might be a little bit expensive, they always bring good materials and quality craftsmanship with every tool.
How To Use a Magnifying Glass Fire Starter
Now that you’ve gotten a general idea of what a magnifying glass is and which ones are the best for starting a fire, you’re ready to learn how to start a real fire using the magnifying glass you’ve just bought.
In general there are 6 steps you need to follow if you want to successfully start a fire using a magnifying glass
- Prepare your tinder and kindling
- Pick an area with plenty of sunlight
- Position your glass above the tinder and focus the beam on one point
- Hold the beam steady
- Once you have smoke coming out of the wood, prepare to nurture the ember
- When the flame blooms add extra tinder and some small twigs
At that point, you should already have a small fire going. After that, you’ll only need to maintain the fire by periodically adding extra tinder and wood logs to feed the fire.
During the whole process, you need to make sure that the kindling is dry so that it will ignite quickly. If not, you’ll need to spend a lot of time drying the wood first before it can catch fire.
Here is a more detailed step-by-step breakdown on how to successfully use a magnifying glass to start a fire
- Take a log roughly the size of your arm and place it down as the base for the fire
- Take your tinder and kindling (Dry leaves, pine straw, or charcloth) and crumble it up in your hands
- Place the kindling and tinder next to your log and then put a few more dry leaves on top of it
- Lay down some small twigs half the thickness of a pencil over these to create the “lean to” off the larger log
- Create a small opening between these twigs so that you can focus the light onto the tinder below the twigs
- Depending on your twig formation, it should be possible to brace your glass with some twigs and ensure it remains in the exact spot during the whole process
- Wait a few minutes until there is smoke coming out from the tinder. When this happens, add a few more tinder and prepare to nurture the fire
And there you have it, a fully working camp-fire courtesy of the humble magnifying glass!
At the end of the day, the core concept of survival and staying safe during outdoor activities boils down to planning and contingencies. Having a back up fire starting kit is essential in case your primary fire starter is out of commission due to unforeseen circumstances.
As you can see from our article above, having a magnifying glass is very useful during survival situations because it can fulfill multiple functions, fire-starting is just one of them. Because of that, we recommend that you always bring a couple Fresnel Lens or magnifying glasses during any outdoor trip, just to be on the safe side.