Fire Starting Equipment

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We chose to research firestarting tools, and how to use these to start fires using both manmade and natural tinder.

The question often comes up as why not just to stay with matches or disposable lighters.

Matches of the "strike anywhere" type can be coated in wax and carried in a match safe. These appear to work well. The problem is the supply and the possibility of running out. A typical match safe holds less than 25 matches. While more than one match safe can be carried it is unlikely that these will be carried on the person - which gives the possiblity of loss.

Disposable lighters may run out of butane. In this case it may be difficult to find tinder that can be lit with the small spark. A more likely problem is the possibility of the lighter getting wet. While the lighter is waterproof, the sparking mechanism takes a great deal of drying out. Typically you may have to try 200 or more times to get a spark under dry warm conditions, after shaking the lighter for three minutes to get as much water out of the striking mechanism as possible. This is not the case with the Spark-Lite. Why it looks like a lighter, it dries rapidly.

Disposable lighters are fairly durable on average. What we're saying here is that some will withstand drops onto concrete - while others of the same brand will break apart on the first few drops. If you want to use a disposable lighter as a sparker, then you really have to remove the metal casing around the gas jet. This is what protects the striking mechanism so the lighter will then be VERY fragile, typically breaking apart and becoming unuseable on the first drop.

The lighters shown - after having the metal shields removed for sparking purposes - failed within two drops onto concrete.

The advantage of even a small ferrocerium rod is that it will give thousands of sparks, and it will spark after less than five tries (worst case) even after being soaked, and with one shake to remove larger water droplets.

The five tools tested so far are (from left to right) ANEW (Greg's) ferrocerium rod, Coglan's magnesium fire starter, Ferrocerium rod from "Camper's Village, Blastmatch, Strike Force:

Here you can compare the amount of ferrocerium you get with a 3/8" rod (top) a 3"x 1/2" rod and an Epcamps 4" x 1/2" rod (bottom). Remember that when you add to the radius of a cylinder the total volume goes up dramatically. So the 1/2 rods contain more than 2/3 more ferrocerium and so are pretty heavy. Well you get the idea from the pictures...

The first consideration is robustness. All five were tested by dropping 100 times from a height of two metres onto concrete. They were dropped 25 times held by each end, and 25 times dropped to expose mid sections. Mostly they hit one way due to centre of gravity.

The results are shown here:

Measurements are shown here:

Jimbo's attempts at using firestarters to light fire.

If you have questions, criticisms, or things to add - email me please.

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