Fire Starting Kits
Fire Starting Kits
Whether you're a seasoned bushcrafter or simply enjoy going on the occasional weekend camping trip, you know that fire is a cornerstone of survival: While out on the field, you need it to cook, keep warm, purify water, and even signal for help.
That's where fire starters come in—but you can't depend on just anything to start a fire. Your fire starter needs to be completely weather-proof, reliable, and above all, easy to use and store away so that you can bring it anywhere you go.
Some of the most common fire starters are waterproof matches or lighters paired with kindling materials, but flint and steel or Ferro rods are also an excellent choice for those who crave working with their hands.
Whatever your preference, here's what you need to know about building your fire starter kit.
What Makes Good Fire Starters?
Although "good" is a subjective term, in the realm of bushcraft, a good fire starter uses environmentally-friendly and biodegradable materials. After all, one of the first rules of being an outdoorsman is to leave everything as you found it which means leaving nothing hazardous or unnatural behind.
Some excellent fire starter materials might be wood waste, like sawdust and wood shavings, or implements like non-toxic wax, recycled paper, waste textile fibers, cotton balls, dryer lint, petroleum jelly, or materials gathered from the ground, like leaf debris or pinecones.
But when you're purchasing a fire starter for your own survival kit, you'll want to do some research and ask yourself these questions before making any decisions:
- Burn duration: The longer the burn time, the more likely it is that you can achieve a powerful flame.
- Wind performance: A good fire starter is strong enough to become and stay lit in high winds.
- Waterproofness: Dampness and wetness are inevitable outdoors, so you want to ensure that everything you pack is either waterproofed or has waterproof capabilities.
- Ease of ignition: In windy, cold, or emergencies, the last thing you want is a struggle while lighting your fire.
- Size: The ideal fire starter is lightweight, compact, and easy to pack or store at somewhere between 3 to 6 inches in length.
Scent: Older fire starters always had a slight odor, the smell of releasing chemicals, but today's fire starters are nearly odorless, making them a perfect alternative to lighter fluid and the best choice for environmental consciousness.
What Should Be in a Fire Starter Kit?
A fully-stocked fire starter kit should have plenty of materials just in case one method falls flat. So while you might prefer using waterproof matches, you should also include other methods in your fire starter kit, like Ferro rods, flint and steel, a magnifying lens, and other lightweight, easy-to-pack items.
For example, simple yet effective fire starter kits may have:
- Waterproof matches, like the Stormproof Match Kit
- A lighter, like the TitanLight which is water-resistant up to 1 meter
- Fire starting tinder, like:
- Cotton ball
- Petroleum jelly
- Hot wax or melted wax
- Dried orange peel
- Egg carton
- Rubbing alcohol
- Cotton wool
- Pine needles
- Dry sticks
- Shredded paper
- Fire starters, such as:
- Ferrocerium rods: Synthetic rods that ignite a spark when struck against
- Flint and steel: An age-old method of fire starting that ignites spark when struck against
- Magnifying lens: A unique method to starting a fire by focusing a magnifying glass in sunlight on tinder
- Infernos: Mini infernos are lightweight and can burn for 5 to 7 minutes
How Long Does a Ferro Rod Last?
The average Ferro rod offers between 8,000 and 12,000 strikes which should last a lifetime for most outdoors people. But even if you're a frequent bushcrafter, Ferro rods are famous for their durability, so they're likely to work still even if they've broken.
Ferro rods are an excellent tool to have on hand and can prove to be helpful and last in even the harshest situations—but they do take some practice and getting used to since they require a very specific technique.
What are Ferro rods used for?
A Ferro rod will light tinder or a fire pit no matter the weather—be it rain, freezing temperatures, snow, wind, extreme heat, or even in water.
Ferro rods are also known as spark rod or a magnesium rod and are famous for its longevity. Despite their small size, they're an ideal tool in survival and emergencies: These waterproof tools are impenetrable to all types of weather.
Is a Ferro Rod the Same as Flint and Steel?
Ferro rods are often called the "ideal emergency tool," but many outdoorsmen might side with flint and steel instead.
Both flint and Ferro rods are excellent, easy-to-use tools that act as a self-igniting fire starter, but each poses its own challenge. It all comes down to what you're using them for and the percentage of metals they're made up of.
A Ferro rod is a single rod that, when struck, produces a spark. You can theoretically use anything sharp enough to shave a Ferro rod, but most Ferro rods come with a tool used for striking.
They are very durable and long-lasting and can be used in virtually any type of weather. Even if they break or become rusted, they are still dependable.
Flint and steel are made up of two components: A flint-based rock and a small, steel object that is easy to hold for striking against.
Flint and steel aren't as popular as they once were since they're harder to hit and don't produce as much of a spark. However, they can produce a roaring fire depending on the striking source's material.
Here's a more detailed breakdown of Ferro rods vs. flint and steel.
What are flint and steel?
Flint and steel are made up of flint, a sedimentary form of quartz that often occurs in sedimentary rocks like chalk and limestone. Flintstones were historically used to make stone tools and start fires.
The steel striker portion of flint and steel has a high carbon content that is heat-treated, so when the flint is struck against the steel, a spark is engaged.
When the steel is struck with the rock, the hard rock slices tiny metal particles off. Then, the iron in the steel oxidizes and ignites when exposed to oxygen.
Since matches and Ferro rods are standard, flint and steel aren’t used as frequently. However, the flint and steel method is one of the most historically famous methods, dating back to the Iron Age, and still remains popular among survivalists.
Advantages of Flint and Steel:
- Water- and wind-resistant: Flint and steel work regardless of moisture or wind conditions, almost always guaranteeing a roaring fire.
- Lightweight to pack: Flint and steel are small, lightweight components that can be packed without a second thought, taking up little space in a pack.
Drawbacks of Flint and Steel:
- Can be hard to ignite: Sometimes, the sparks created are dull since they require a charred material to catch, meaning it's harder to ignite, which isn't ideal in survival situations.
- Requires a particular technique: True flint and steel can take a fair amount of strategy to use which also speaks to its ignition complexity.
What Is a Ferro Rod?
A Ferro rod is a synthetic, man-made pyrophoric alloy called ferrocerium (which is made up of mischmetal, a mixture of various metals) blended in iron and magnesium oxides. It has explosive properties that spark when struck against.
They are lightweight, small, and straightforward to use, which is why they're considered the ultimate fire starting device for survival, emergencies, and general bushcraft.
When struck with another hard material, called "the striker," the mixture produces hot sparks because it is shed and oxidized. Small fragments are broken off when the striker hits the Ferro rod, exposing the inner alloy material to oxygen, which is ignited by the friction heat.
This ignition is possible because cerium has a low ignition temperature of 338°F, making lighting a Ferro rod practically effortless.
Advantages of Ferro Rods:
- All-weather resistant: Ferro rods are weather-proof, so they won't be affected by snow, wind, rain, or even water submersion
- Simple design: Ferro rods are lightweight and usually span somewhere between 3 and 6 inches in length, making them simple to store
- Easy to use: Ferro rods are easy to use once a technique is applied; all that needs to be done is to scrape the rod in the direction of the tinder and keep striking until sparks ignite the tinder
Drawbacks of Ferro Rods:
- You need the right tools: You need a sharp, metallic tool for scraping the Ferro rod for it to work correctly which means you either need to have a striker, knife with a 90 degree spine or find a proper rock
It requires practice and technique: It takes some practice to develop a method that works as a suitable striking technique