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Featured Article - Review of Army FireSteel
can get wet, and each will only light once. Lighters can be better, but
most aren't water resistant and all are limited by the amount of fuel
they can carry. Enter the FireSteel. This device is supposed to be able
to create fires easily and reliably, be weatherproof, light thousands
of fires, and come in a compact package. Gear For Adventure
has sent us one to put to the test.
The FireSteel, made by Light-My-Fire of Sweden, follows a simple
concept: when a harder material scrapes across ferrocerium (an alloy of
mischmetals) a shower of sparks is thrown. The FireSteel is a
ferrocerium rod mounted in a strong, plastic handle, attached by a
lanyard to a metal striker. To use the FireSteel, one directs it at a
pile of tinder (such as wood shavings, shredded bark, or leaves), and
uses the included striker or back of a knife blade to scrape the rod.
5,500°F sparks are produced to ignite the tinder.
The FireSteel comes in three sizes: Mini, Scout, and Army. The
model is the largest at 3.75" (9.5 cm) long, and will last 12,000
strikes according to the manufacturer. This is the model being
reviewed. A complete list of dimensions is below.
The FireSteel's grip is the perfect size to be grasped between
and forefinger. The concave curves on either side afford a secure grip.
The striker is made of a ferrous metal, but appears highly resistant to
corrosion - I would assume it to be stainless steel. A raised groove
along its border keeps the thumb secure. The striking edge is scalloped
- an improvement over earlier models - and helps guide the striker
along the rod. The lanyard, 14" (35.5cm) total, is just long enough to
allow the striker to be used.
The simple design, devoid of moving parts, lends itself to
high-quality, durable construction. The FireSteel and striker would
never fail under any conditions that do not involve tremendous forces.
More Close-up Photos Below
I found the FireSteel
be very easy to use. The end of the rod is placed in the tinder
at forty-five to ninety degrees, and the handle is held with
hand between the thumb and forefinger. The striker is held with the
other hand between thumb and forefinger. The striker is then used to
slowly scrape the rod from top to bottom; this will produce ferrocerium
shavings that ignite and burn violently. In addition to being very hot,
the sparks are very bright. While working in dim light, I was dumb
enough to stare into them, and they ruined my night vision. I
approve of the manufacturer's claim that they can be used as a
signaling device in an emergency. In the dark, these sparks would be
easily visible at great distances.
In place of the supplied striker, I tried using the back of
and of a Leatherman's saw. They all worked very well. Since most, if
not all, outdoorsman carry a knife, it is possible to leave the striker
at home altogether. The snap which secures the lanyard can be undone
(and redone) to modify or remove the lanyard without damage.
If the FireSteel is brand new or hasn't been used in a while, a dark,
protective patina develops which is scraped off within a few strikes.
This done, many tinders ignite with a single strike. Char cloth, dryer
lint, shredded newspaper, and commercial tinders like MayaDust all
consistently light up on the first try. How would it work without
pre-prepared tinder though? I tried to ignite birch-bark, wood shaved
from the inside of a branch, dry pine needles, and dry
FireSteel worked well on each of them, even with my poor technique. You
can see the results for yourself in the video below. Note that in the
video, I did a minimal amount of tinder preparation (I did not shred
the leaves, bark, or needles as one normally would) and that I'm using
much less tinder than one would use if actually starting a fire.
Also in the video is a demonstration of the FireSteel's water
resistance. After being completely submerged and lightly dried with a
rag, it lit up without a problem. In fact, sparks will be made even
with water on the surface on the rod - wet tinder will become a problem
long before the rod becomes inoperable. The FireSteel also demonstrates
solid wind resistance. In winds that would easily blow out matches and
all but the best lighters, the FireSteel lit up tinder easily. This is
one of the major reasons I would recommend carrying a FireSteel in
conjunction with or in place of more traditional fire starters.
In the video, those are among my first tries with the
am trying too hard, and using too much pressure. Despite this, the
FireSteel works well. It was very easy for me to correct my mistakes,
and proper technique came naturally after a few dozen
The wood shavings shown were scraped from a dead branch with my knife.
The FireSteel has a lanyard included, which may be handy for
the FireSteel to objects or clipping it on, but is too short for the
FireSteel to be worn about the neck. I have some concern about the
durability of the included cord. After a couple of weeks bouncing
around in my pocket, it began to fray. My pockets aren't the most
hospitable environment, but the cord does strike me as a bit more
fragile than most. As previously mentioned, the lanyard snap can be
undone and redone by prying the slot. The lanyard holes on the
FireSteel and striker are large enough to accept most cords - including
the favorite Paracord 550 - so an upgrade for durability or for a
longer or shorter lanyard would be very easy. For
people like me who always have at least one knife with them
you better if you're starting a fire!), it may be a good idea to remove
the factory lanyard and striker altogether.
The FireSteel's shape lends itself well to being packed. I
found three great ways to bundle it with my gear. First, it
slide easily into the elastic loop in my Leatherman Wave Sheath. This
is very convenient, since I always have it on my belt. Second, it will
slip into dead space in the Khukuri sheath. Third, it will snugly lodge
itself into a loop on the shoulder strap of my day pack. If
there is concern about the security of a friction fit, you can always
secure the FireSteel with a short cord or lanyard. With a bit of
creativity, you can find dozens of places to pack the FireSteel. I
recently met a hiker who had his custom knife sheath designed with a
special loop for holding one.
I absolutely recommend the FireSteel. I thought at first that
be a novelty product, but the bottom line is that it gets the job done.
With a FireSteel, I would forget about matches altogether. A lighter
can be more convenient, but as well as one may be constructed, I would
never trust if fully - furthermore, it could simply run out of fuel.
From now on, I will be hiking with a well-made jet flame lighter
(review coming shortly) for primary use, with the FireSteel as a
necessary backup in case the lighter fails or the weather is too severe
for its use. It is quite possible that as I use it more, I
end up preferring the FireSteel for all use. When I set out on the 2200
mile Appalachian Trail in just over a year, where every ounce matters,
the lighter will be left at home, and a FireSteel (possibly a smaller
model) will have full fire-starting responsibility: gas stove in case
the piezo electric fails, camp fires, and survival fire.
Gear For Adventure
has great deals on FireSteels, is a superb company to work with, and
made this review possible.
Back of the FireSteel,
after it has started dozens of fires:
Overall Length: 3.75" 9.5cm
Rod Length: 2.5" 6.4cm
Rod Diameter: 3/8" .95cm
Grip Length: 1.25" 3.2cm
Grip Width: 7/8" 2.2cm
Total Cord Length: 14" 35.5cm
Striker Length: 2.75" 7cm
Striker Width: 7/8" 2.2cm