Best Magnifying Glass Fire Starter for Survival

This is an updated review guide on the best magnifying glass fire starter. Our first review roundup was several years ago and we will continue to update as new products are released and as new survival magnifying glass fire starters are introduced.

A good magnifying glass fire starter is a huge upgrade for a variety of survival kits. Sure, being able to start a fire with nothing but a lens is pretty darn cool, but there are also several advantages to having a magnifying glass handy. For starters, they are not consumable (meaning they don’t get used up, like matches, lighters, or ferro rods) and they are extremely versatile.

There are several options to consider when it comes to magnifying glass fire starters: lens material, focal length, durability, etc. This is where we come in. We’ve researched the best magnifying glasses, tested them, and now the results are in: the overall best, a lightweight everyday carry option, and an upgrade option. If you need a magnifying glass that will add tons of versatility in a survival situation, one of our picks will keep your survival in focus.

Contents (Jump to a Section)

Carson Magniflip 3x Magnifying Glass

The Best Magnifying Glass Fire Starter

Carson MagniFlip 3X

Versatility, Durability, and Value

Withstands punishment with the built-in durable case.

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

This magnifying glass is a small, lightweight magnifying glass solution designed to be durable enough for everyday use. With a 1.6″ diameter lens, it is just the right size to easily get a small focal point for fire starting. The 3X magnification helps put the focal distance not too far or close to the lens itself.

The lens itself is constructed from impact-resistant optical plastic, which means you don’t have to worry about it breaking. This also makes it incredibly lightweight (1.6 ounces), even with the attached protective case. All of these features make the Carson MagniFlip 3X Pocket Magnifier an excellent choice for BOBs, GHBs, and standard survival kits.

ASE Best Glide Fresnel Lens Magnifying Glass

EDC Magnifying Glass Fire Starter

ASE Fresnel Lens

Thin, Lightweight, and Cheap

Magnification anywhere.

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

The Best Glide Credit Card Fresnel Lens is a marvel. If you don’t have one already, you are missing out. Fresnel lenses are so thin (0.4 millimeters) that you can store one pretty much anywhere- not just in your wallet. Stash some in your survival books, playing cards, or auto repair manual- you can keep a powerful magnifying glass in all of these. If you do keep one in your wallet, you won’t notice it because it only weighs 5 grams.

Best of all, they are darn tough and durable. You won’t have to worry about breaking your glass magnifying lens since they are made of razor-thin flexible polymer. Best Glide prints some survival quotes on the protective sleeves, and three of them come in a pack.

British 6x Magnifying Glass

Upgrade Magnifying Glass Fire Starter

Bushcraft 6X Solar Glass

Clear, Lightweight, and Consistent

Professional quality solar fire starting.

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

This little piece of glass shipped from the UK is the real deal. Created just for bushcraft and to make solar fires, it is optimized for fire starting with its size and focal length. The 6X magnification combined with the 2″ size (50mm) makes it easy to light that tinder in sunny conditions.

The velvet carry bag is essential because it is a glass lens that you will need to care for. Pick up a Bushcraft 6X Solar Glass if you want to start a fire with a magnifying glass like the pros.

Everything We Recommend

Carson Magniflip 3x Magnifying Glass

Carson MagniFlip 3X Pocket Magnifier

Withstands punishment with the built-in durable case.

Where to Buy

$5* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

ASE Best Glide Fresnel Lens Magnifying Glass

ASE Credit Card Fresnel Lens

Magnification anywhere.

Where to Buy

$5* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

British 6x Magnifying Glass

Bushcraft 6X Solar Glass

Professional quality solar fire starting.

Where to Buy

$17* at eBay

*at time of reviewing

What is a Magnifying Glass Fire Starter?

A magnifying glass is a unique way to be able to start a fire. It is just one of many methods that we touch on in our article 16 Ways to Start a Fire Without Matches.

A magnifying glass is a convex lens made from a transparent material. Usually, magnifying glasses are used to magnify images although they can magnify other things as well: namely, energy.

Using one as a fire starter relies on solar energy to light a fire. Both the diameter and the focal length are important since they must be close in order to effectively pinpoint this energy in a way that is useful for fire starting.

The type of magnifying glass is important since it rules out what can and can’t start a fire. For instance, if you are nearsighted, your glasses cannot help you start a fire since they will disperse the energy. If you are farsighted, however, then you are in luck. You could use your glasses in a pinch to focus the sun’s energy to a point and start a fire. If you have a low prescription, it may be more difficult though since your focal length will be pretty far away from the glasses, and hard to hold steady.

The most common materials that are used for optical fire-starting are:

  1. Glass
  2. Plastics
  3. Water (and Ice!)

Many magnifying ‘glasses’ are actually made out of plastic. Plastic is usually cheaper to manufacture, but it is usually also harder to break. There are many different types of plastics, however, so plastic magnifying glasses can have a few drawbacks including:

  • optical impurities (distortion and filtering)
  • easy to scratch
  • lower melting point than glass

Despite these drawbacks, a plastic lens is superior in a survival setting simply because it is less likely to break. A scratched lens is much easier to work with than a broken one. Plastic magnifying glasses are usually lighter weight, which can help when packing a bug out bag since every ounce can matter. The durability of a well-made polymer magnifying glass pushes it ahead of glass almost every time.

All that said, if you are exceedingly careful with your lens, a glass lens may produce better results with its clarity.

How to Use a Magnifying Glass Fire Starter

A magnifying glass is a versatile survival tool and makes for an excellent backup fire-starting solution. Using a magnifying glass as a fire starter can be more difficult than it seems. Several factors come into play that could derail your attempt:

  • Weather – In order to start a fire with the sun, you need to harness solar energy with the sun in the sky. Cloud cover or rain will prevent this.
  • Tinder – Bad tinder can ruin your chances of starting a fire before you even start. Make sure you have good, feathered, dry tinder.
  • Magnifying Glass – 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.
  • Training – 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.

This video demonstrates very well how to use a magnifying glass fire starter:

You’ll notice in the video that she goes for the char-cloth for tinder, which is very forgiving and takes much less time to ignite. Even with the perfect conditions that we laid out above, one of the most important things you need to keep in mind is patience. A magnifying glass fire requires a steady hand, attention to detail, and plenty of time.

Who Needs a Magnifying Glass Fire Starter?

A magnifying glass can be a cheap, lightweight tool that boosts the functionality, versatility, and redundancy of a survival kit. The gear you carry is one of the most important factors in your preparedness. A magnifying glass is a smart tool to include in your:

We even suggest considering it for:

Everyone should be familiar with these kits and have a disaster survival kit at the very least.

Why a Magnifying Glass?

Solar power, while not always reliable, is incredibly powerful. If the sun is out and you need to get a fire going- you can easily harness the energy to do so with just a small tool. A magnifying glass is an elegant solution. There are no moving parts to break. It doesn’t need electricity. Best of all: magnifying glasses are not consumable.

Using a magnifying glass to start a fire doesn’t leave you with any less potential to start a fire the next time. Matches, lighters, and even ferro rods eventually run out of strikes.

Magnifying glasses are versatile. You can use a magnifying glass to signal with pinpointed light. You can use it to see smaller objects and far away objects better. Magnifying glasses are often used with detailed maps. Some people even need them to see clearly since they are the lenses in glasses.

Lastly, magnifying glasses are found everywhere. Even if you don’t follow our suggestion and add a magnifying glass to your survival kit, chances are that you have one around the house. If you bug out, there are magnifying glasses found everywhere. Some TVs are basically one giant Fresnel lens. Take a look at this ingenuity by harnessing the power of the sun:

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.

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. You can support us through our independently chosen links, which can earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. 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 magnifying glass 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:

Essilor News. (2018). Missed Boy Scouts? No Problem. Learn How to Use Your Glasses to Start a Fire. Essilor USA. (Source).

Fowles, G. (1989). Introduction to Modern Optics. Dover Publications. (Source).

Slyusarev, G. (1962). On the Possible and Impossible in Optics. Armed Services Technical Information (Translated, Unclassified AD 284847). (Source).

The Final Word

Magnifying glasses have been around since before 400 BC, and some of the earliest uses were to start fires. It may be old technology, but it is a great tool to include in any survival kit.

Our subscribers have also found these reviews and guides 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 Carson Magniflip to be the best option given its value, lens material, focal length, profile, and durability.

Take care of your gear and it will take care of you. Don’t stash it away, but get it out to get familiar with it if you are not using it every day. Be sure to get familiar with the magnifying glass you go with and practice using it so you can get used to the focal length.

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.

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The Best Magnifying Glass Fire Starter

Rusty Collins

I am an engineer, Air Force veteran, emergency manager, husband, dad, and experienced prepper. I developed emergency and disaster plans around the globe and responded to many attacks and accidents as a HAZMAT technician. I have been exposed to deadly chemical agents, responded to biological incidents, and dealt with natural disasters. Check out my full story here: Rusty's Story

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