Our two new challengers are UST Wetfire Tinder Cubes and FastFire Tinder. Instafire was also revisited for part of this test.
Upon inspection, the Wetfire and FastFire cubes appear to be an identical material. Both are white, formed blocks, light in weight, with a dry texture similar to a bar of soap. They can be cut or shaved very easily with a pocketknife, and can even be crumbled under moderate hand pressure, which allows them to be broken down for easy fire starting. Both come in individually sealed foil packets, allowing them to be dispersed throughout various gear packs.
|Clockwise from top: Wetfire, Esbit tabs (for scale), FastFire|
|The basic fire lay. Larger kindling would be added to this after starting.|
|Burning hot and tall.|
Instafire as Fuel
Instafire packaging also touts it as a useful fuel source (Wetfire and Fastfire both state on their packaging not to use them as cooking fuels, only as fire starters; this likely has to do with them being petroleum-based), so it seemed the perfect time to test this claim while I had my fire testing area already set up,
A full pouch of Instafire will fill an Esbit and then some, as I learned pretty quickly.
|Instafire on the Esbit.|
I used my Esbit stove as a test bed, mostly because it was available and convenient to do so. It holds a pan of water at an ideal height over flame to cook, no matter the flame source.
Speaking of flame sources: Instafire, sadly, did not start with a fire steel. However, it remains very easy to light with an open flame, and the least expensive of the group. It took flame immediately with a single match, but was a bit smoky under the pan. Make sure that any place you use this setup is well ventilated, like mine:
On the Esbit rig, the fuel needed regular stirring to maintain a good flame, but a good flame did result.
|The fire and fuel test setup.|
On a pan filled with 16 ounces of water:
- Small bubbles started rising at 13 minutes.
- At 17 minutes there were large bubbles. It wasn't what I'd call truly boiling, and definitely not rolling, but it was close to it.
- Unfortunately, the fuel self-extinguished at 20 minutes.
As a TV host from my youth used to say, you don't have to take my word for it. In fact, you shouldn't. Pick up a pack of Wetfire or FastFire, and pull out a couple cubes and practice with them. Know your gear before you need it!