Best Pocket Bellows to Stoke a Fire

by Vern Evans

A good pocket bellows can be a godsend if you are trying to start a fire in poor conditions. By injecting a steady flow of air (and oxygen) into the core of the embers you can quickly get a fire going or even make an existing fire burn hotter. The best pocket bellows can be difficult to find since there are a few types but many different brands.

This is where we come in. We’ve researched the best pocket bellows, tested them, and now the results are in: the overall best, a budget option, and an upgrade fire bellows option. If you need to push some airflow to stoke a fire, one of our picks will bring the heat.


Contents (Jump to a Section)


The Best Pocket Bellows

Epiphany Outdoors V3

Quality, Lightweight, and The Original

The original creator of the pocket bellows is still at it with their third iteration that extends smoothly and performs reliably.

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

Made by a father-son US veteran duo, this piece of gear has just as good of a story as it works. It’s won plenty of innovation awards, which is a bit surprising considering it’s just a collapsible tube.

Besides supporting veterans, you can count on this to be manufactured in the US to tight standards- which makes their action smooth and quality yards above the competition. I love how small it is and it fits perfectly into a pen slot in my fire kit that uses a repurposed admin pouch.

Here is what you get with the V3 Pocket Bellows:

  • Stainless steel
  • 20″ extended, 4″ collapsed
  • 0.88 ounces
  • Carrying tube included
  • Made in the USA

These are quality-made, effective, and lightweight- so it’s easy to see why the Epiphany Outdoors V3 Pocket Bellows is the best.


Budget Pocket Bellows

Generic Pocket Bellows

Stainless Steel, Inexpensive, and Ridiculously Cheap

It might take a month to arrive, but it’s hard to pass up a deal like this if you don’t need it immediately.

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

While we’re extremely skeptical of mass-produced Chinese gear, this is still worth a look if you don’t need it shipped fast and are looking to try a pocket bellows without breaking your budget.

I’m not quite sure how they make a profit shipping an expandable tube of stainless steel halfway around the globe for less than $2, but the darn thing works.

Here is how this extremely cheap option measures up:

  • Stainless steel
  • 19″ extended, 3.6″ collapsed
  • 0.92 ounces
  • Made in China

If you are looking to try a pocket bellows or get one in your survival kits for cheap, this GenericPocket Bellows is what you need.


Upgrade Fire Bellows

Zippo Firefast

Easy to Use, Reliable, and Effective

If you aren’t up for blowing through a straw, Zippo has you covered with their battery-powered bellows that is extremely consistent.

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

This small handheld impeller is heat-resistant and consistent. Let it pull your ember into a flame quickly and easily without any elbow grease or tube blowing on your part.

If you like to live life in the lap of luxury, this is the bellows for you.

Here are the full specs:

  • Rugged plastic w/ non-slip grip
  • Powered by 2 AA batteries
  • 180-minute runtime
  • 2.25″ x 2″ x 9.5″
  • 4.5 ounces
  • Made in China

If you are looking for a fire bellows that will make any campfire, firepit, or charcoal grill stoke a flame in a snap, grab a Zippo Firefast Campfire Bellows.


Everything We Recommend

Epiphany Outdoors V3

The original creator of the pocket bellows is still at it with their third iteration that extends smoothly and performs reliably.

Where to Buy

$15* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

Generic Pocket Bellows

It might take a month to arrive, but it’s hard to pass up a deal like this if you don’t need it immediately.

Where to Buy

$2* at eBay

*at time of reviewing

Zippo Firefast

If you aren’t up for blowing through a straw, Zippo has you covered with their battery-powered bellows that is extremely consistent.

Where to Buy

$20* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing


The Bellows We Compared

Our research narrowed the field down to several brands and types of fire bellows that we compared: Epiphany Outdoor, Zippo, Liberty Mountain, Texas Bushcraft, Spitfire, 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 wide range of bellows but ruled out larger hearth bellows due to their size, and several larger powered bellows due to their weight. We also didn’t consider paper or powered fans which could also be used to stoke fires.

We’re always looking for new and better solutions, so if you have a pocket bellows that you swear by, let us know in the comments. We review most of our tested gear annually so we can try to get it in the next roundup round and see if it will beat out our top picks.


What to Look For

The best bellows have a few features to look for:

  1. Value
  2. Air Flow
  3. Ease of Use
  4. Size & Weight
  5. Durability

When you get the right blend of these, you can find a fire bellows that will reliably stoke a small flame into a large, hot fire. Below, we break down what each of these features means for the bellows that truly set themselves apart.

Value: Cost vs. Benefit

The amount of money you spend on something as simple as a portable blow poke shouldn’t blow out your entire budget. It isn’t necessary to start a fire, it just makes it way easier.

You never want to spend too much money on one thing when it comes to survival gear. It’s better to diversify your equipment to make sure you are covered for a wide range of scenarios.

Air Flow

The difference between a pocket bellows and just blowing on fire is that they give you reach, but they also concentrate and direct the airflow. This is important for making the fire larger and hotter quickly.

Different designs of bellows put out different amounts and concentrations of air. You don’t want too little or it will be no help, and you don’t want too much or it could put the fire out. Once you find the sweet spot, any fire bellows is much better than a manual or powered fan.

Ease of Use

There is no need to overcomplicate a fire bellows. While they are easy to use, they do take some getting used to. Getting that ‘sweet spot’ of airflow that we mentioned above can take some practice with real embers and fire.

Also, having a longer bellows can make it easier to use since you won’t need to bend over as far to reach a fire. This makes expandable bellows very versatile since you have plenty of reach and can continue to use them to increase heat while the fire is already going.

Size & Weight

The whole point of a pocket bellows is to fit in a pocket. Otherwise, you could have a hearth bellows or lug a blacksmith-style bellows everywhere. All of our picks came in extremely lightweight and fit in your pocket.

While the collapsable bellows don’t even crack an ounce, our upgrade pick still sits below a quarter pound- so none of them are that heavy.

Durability

Bellows can be made of a wide range of materials, but each material can affect durability. Expandable pocket bellows tend to be made of stainless steel so they can withstand the heat of fires and maintain their precise shape when they expand and collapse over and over.

Our upgrade pick is a bit different, using robust ABS plastic but still being heat-resistant. It is made for convenience rather than durability, but you shouldn’t be getting as close to fires as the expandable bellows, plus the only moving part is the impeller.


How to Use a Pocket Bellows

To make a fire, you need the fire triangle: oxygen, heat, and fuel.

A bellows adds more of the first part, oxygen. By blowing focused air into a fire, you are adding more oxygen which can speed, amplify, and increase the life of a fire.

With expandable pocket bellows, you expand the bellows and place the tip near the fire source. Then you blow steadily into the far end to stoke the fire hotter, reignite embers, or help a birdnests catch a flame.

Luke shows off our top pick, how to use it, and gives his take on it in this video:


Who Needs a Fire Bellows?

Nobody needs a fire bellows, and it isn’t considered essential for a fire kit. Still, they are worth investing in because they can help start fires in a wide variety of conditions.

Depending on your situation and resources, we suggest considering a pocket bellows for your:

They come in handy anywhere you are making a fire, from the fireplace in your home to your campfire on the trail.

How We Review Products: We research thoroughly before selecting the best products to review. We have vast prepping and survival experience and bring in outside experts when needed. Hours on end are spent testing gear in stressful conditions and using specialized testing gear to verify claims. We assign performance criteria and impartially rate each tested item. Learn more about how we test.

Sources and References

All of our experience and the testing we do to determine the best pocket bellows are 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 survival experience:

Aston, D. (1989). Ancient Egyptian “Fire Dogs” – A New Interpretation. Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts Abteilung Kairo. Volume 45. Pages 27-32. (Source)

Hough, W. (1926). Fire as an Agent in Human Culture. U.S. Government Printing Office (Civilization). Issue 139. (Source)

Rehder, J. (2013). Blowpipes versus Bellows in Ancient Metallurgy. Journal of Field Archaeology. Volume 21. Issue 3. Pages 345-350. (Source)


The Final Word

A portable pocket bellows can make starting everyday fires easy, but they also make starting near-impossible fires possible. Having one in your fire kit isn’t necessary, per se- but they are definitely worth including in our opinion.

Here are a few other guides and reviews our subscribers have 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 Epiphany Outdoors V3 Pocket Bellows to be the best option given its value, air flow, ease of use, size/weight, and durability.

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.


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