What is a firesteel and why is it essential?
Firesteels are perhaps the most reliable way to start a fire. They work after being submerged under water, at any altitude, have no moving parts, and are capable of starting many fires. They are utterly dependable when compared to other fire starters. This makes them a fundamental item for survival and emergency kits and for routine use with stoves and campfires. To use, simply prepare your tinder (either natural or manmade), direct the sparks to the tinder, and using a controlled motion, scrape the striker against the ferro (ferrocerium) rod. In some cases it is better to hold the striker in place and move the ferro rod upward, this will help keep the tinder in place.
Firesteels are known by several names- metal match, ferro rod, flint and steel, spark lighter, and fire steel (spelled as two words). Most all of them operate in the same way. A rod made of ferrocerium is scraped by a striker of some type, producing hot sparks. Contemporary firesteels made with this material produce a shower of sparks that are comprised of the friction-ignited, burning metal of the ferro rod. These sparks burn at over 5000 degrees F. and easily ignite tinder of all types. Almost all firesteels include a lanyard with an attached striker. If the attached striker goes missing, you can use the back of your knife, or other metal object as a striker.
Today’s firesteels are more reliable and much easier to use than the traditional natural flint and steel of our forefathers. These required great skill, practice and a high carbon steel striker in addition to the natural flint. At best, these materials produced a small spark or two, usually directed to a char cloth and patiently coaxed into a flame.
Fire as a survival priority.
Fire is an important survival priority in the wilderness. A fire can prevent hypothermia, boil water, keep animals and insects away, signal for help and more. Because fire is so critical, we believe that it is important to have at least three ways to start a fire in the backcountry. It should be noted that an ignition source that produces an actual flame can be important when your tinder is not completely dry. These three items provide redundancy and are an inexpensive way to be sure that you can make fire in most conditions:
1. A butane lighter produces a flame, can start multiple fires, and can be used with one hand, but is not reliable after submersion, at altitude or impact. It’s great as long as it works.
2. Stormproof matches produce a hot flame and are rain and wind resistant, but can only start a limited number of fires. Stormproof matches are usually not allowed on commercial aircraft.
3. Firesteels can dependably produce many fires, are light and compact, work in all weather, and can be transported without restrictions.
Experienced outdoorsmen often make sure to transport their firesteel in a secured pocket or around their neck, so that even if all else is lost, they can still make fire.