Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Fire Starter Review

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Now we concentrate on what to do in, and how to plan for, the long term via Prudent Prepping.

Keeping Things Hot

As the Get Home Bag is being re-done and a camping trip approaches, the chance to test my alternate fire starting devices arrived. I have two magnesium blocks and two ferro rods to put through my (not-so) rigorous and (less than) scientific test methods.

 First things first:
  • Items will be tested in as real a manner as possible by me.
  • Items will be tested with the supplied accessories and if there is a difference between what is included, I will make do with the closest possible item.
  • All tinder, lint and shavings were evenly split as closely as possible. 

Ferro Rods

I have used these to start fires in the past and am comfortable with how they work: lay your fire bed, assemble your tinder, scratch the rod, and spark spark spark, you have fire!


A Light My Fire 2.0 Ferro Rod with emergency whistle on an orange lanyard and attached striker. I paid $15.95 for it at my favorite local 'toy' store, but you can buy it from Amazon for just slightly more.,

I like this product. The molded grip on the rod and striker makes gripping both parts very easy and directing the sparks simple. I was able to get my pile of lint and pine needles started in just two tries! Everyone should have one of these.

Light My Fire makes many different products, from fire starters to pots and pans to a three way spice dispenser. Check them out.


Next, a Knife and Ferro Rod Combination from Mad Mike's Weekly Specials. I purchased 2 sets for $25 in late 2013. The ferro rod is about half the diameter of the Light My Fire, 1/8" vs. 1/4", and 2/3 as long. No striker is included, so the back of the knife was used to get sparks. Four tries were needed to get a good fire started, as I didn't quite get the tinder centered under the sparks on the third try. Sparks were less than the Light My Fire, but not 50% less in my opinion. 

This is a very good rod and knife for the price. I'd buy more to use as gifts if/when they are available. The knife (shown in the topmost picture) will be be tested later.

Magnesium Bars


This was my first trial with Magnesium, even though I've had one in my camping gear for a long time.


First up, the Doan Magnesium Block (right side of both photos), found on Amazon for $8.75. I don't recall what I paid for mine, but anything between $9-$11 seems average.

This is a real fire starting surprise! Since this was my first attempt to use magnesium, I think (okay, I know) there was a bit too much magnesium the first time around. A little sparky sparky made a LOT of fire, very quickly! The ferro rod is molded into one edge and the block has a very smooth finish, which seems to make very fine particles as you scrape it with a knife. The directions I've seen recommend holding the blade of the knife almost 90 degrees to the block, so that dust is produced, not shavings like would be produced in whittling. As no sparking tool was supplied, I used the spine of the Mad Mike knife on the ferro rod attached to the non-scraping edge of the block. Very nice and easy to use. Everybody should have one or two of these!
[Editor's Note: For sake of clarity, I would like to point out that the blade of the knife is used only to scrape the (much softer) magnesium. Do NOT use the edge of your blade on the ferro rod!  You will dull your knife and possibly damage the rod.  Instead, use the blunt spine of the knife for striking sparks.]


Next, the Harbor Freight Magnesium Fire Starter. I admit it, I'm a sucker for stuff at Harbor Freight. As long as everyone is aware that the low prices are matched by the low quality, we are all good. I paid $2.50 for the block and attached hacksaw blade!

The block does not have a smooth surface or texture like the Doan, and does not produce scrapings as fine or as easily either. That being said, with a bit more work I made as nice a fire as with the Doan. The hacksaw blade worked well as both the shaver (just not very fast) and sparking tool. One small quibble with the block - the ferro rod is glued into the side of the block. If you look at the above right picture, the odd texture around the rod is the glue holding the rod down. This could be a failure point, long term.

These are items everyone should have several of, placed in all your gear. I'm buying more.

Other Purchases

  • 10 lbs Pinto beans, Sam's Club, $8.18

As always, if you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

NOTE: All items tested were purchased be me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.


1 comment:

  1. I had a mag block years ago (since misplaced), and found I could acquire decent enough shavings from the mag using the spine of my blade. Even though mag is soft, it is still a metal, and will dull the heck out of a blade. Not sure if the back of the hacksaw blade would scrape well enough or not, but it might be worth a test.


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