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#183822 - 10/01/09 03:44 AM Re: Fire starters which one is the best? [Re: raptor]
Art_in_FL Offline

Registered: 09/01/07
Posts: 2432
Depends on how you define 'best'.

Calling in an air strike works first time and every time. The only requirement is that you have friends with airplanes and ordinance, and some way of telling them when and where you want it.

On the other hand if I was tossing a fire source into a capsule set to be dug up in a thousand years a good size lens might be the way to go. Flint and steel, packed in wax, might be a close second. Both are light, compact and will last a long time and light many fires without wearing out.

Ferro rods are the basis for a lot of units. Ferro rods can, if exposed to moisture and salt, corrode away. The Doan's mag bars are even more prone to corroding away if exposed to moisture, salt, or in contact with dissimilar metals. But, of course, the risk has to be put into context. In normal use and a limited time , say five years, you may never see any sign of a problem. Wrapping them in wax paper or oil cloth, both of which make good tinder, largely eliminates the issue in the near term.

Blastmatch and similar are great, some can be operated one-handed, but they are mechanical devices and so subject to failure and they are not as small or compact as they might be.

All the spark based sources, lens, ferro rod, flint, depend on having dry tinder. Finding dry tinder in the rainy Pacific NW or the damp Southeast can be quite a challenge. Having to carry your own tinder and being dependent on it means the source of sparks and the tinder have to be viewed as a unit.

Simple and disposable Bic, Cricket or mini-Bic lighters are remarkably reliable. So much so that the armed forced, which used to demand waterproof matches in a match safe and/or ferro rods, allow the butane lighters as a substitute for either. Small, light, cheap, reliable and producing a relatively strong, hot flame without resort to fine, dry tinder they have a lot going for them. Which explains why they are the mainstay for fire lighting in a lot of groups.

When a forestry crew needs fire they often carry glorified road flares, called fusees, they are bulky, heavy and entirely one-time-only, expendable, they have their issues. But they are reliable self-contained units that are rugged and once lit they produce a very hot and relatively large flame that lights damp materials quickly. Once lit they are difficult, verging on impossible, to put out.

Ground troops use either a trip flare or a thermite grenade to guarantee a fire gets going. About one and two pounds respectively they are pretty heavy and bulky. They are also likely to raise eyebrows, and require some heavy duty 'splainin', if they are spotted during a routine traffic stop.

Matches are still a viable option. One you don't see as much of in the last quarter century. IMO the best, the gold standard for matches, are the genuine "Lifeboat matches" that are truly waterproof, burn strong even in wind, and come in their own protective vial that keeps them viable for decades. Strike-anywhere, blue tip kitchen and even the old-time, but often free, paper matches are lesser varieties but they are often good enough.

The weakness of matches are that they are to some extent vulnerable to moisture and they are single-use devices. On the other hand they are so light and compact that a half-dozen strike-anywhere matches dipped in shellac and tightly wrapped in wax paper and foil with a striker can be slipped into a pocket or two or the seam of a coat may some day save the day.

There are also the traditional woodcraft methods of using a fire bow, fire cord and fire plow. They work and perfecting the creation of, and use of, one of these devices is a worthy skill. The fire bow seems to be quickest, easiest and most efficient of these friction methods. Nothing quite so impresses people as collecting a few select sticks and using nothing but a knife and a boot lace to crate fire. Kids will idolize you. Hard core fire makers will dispense with the lace and manufacture their own cordage. Fanatic hard-core survivors will do it without the knife.

It is comforting to know that in a pinch you can produce fire with such primitive methods but they aren't always reliable. Damp materials, misting rain and fog can make the method difficult, verging on impossible. Pulling out a Bic or Zippo is far easier.

In the end the term 'best' depends on a lot of factors. How much weight are you willing to dedicate to lighting a fire. If your car camping a set of three fusees, are not to burdensome and you can use them as road flares. The same flares would be a real burden to an ultra-light backpacker. Air strikes and thermite grenades work for the US Army but aren't realistic for most civilians. Methods that are highly resistant to moisture and corrosion, or a really good method of preserving vulnerable devices, are going to be preferred for long-term storage, cashes, remote stocks. Cost, bulk, weight, ease of use, and ability to overcome difficulties like wind, rain and wet materials are values that vary in importance according to the situation.

My preference is for a couple of mini-Bics, one wrapped in wax paper and sealed in foil, and a ferro rod with steel striker attached is generally sufficient. In the remote area I might add a small match safe with lifeboat matches.

Many of my coats have small packets of matches stuffed in various places. making and using a fire bow, or a lens from the binoculars are both options. IMO carrying more than three, perhaps four in a very remote area, dedicated fire starting methods is counterproductive.

#183841 - 10/01/09 08:36 AM Re: Fire starters which one is the best? [Re: Mnt_Man]
Jeff_M Offline

Registered: 07/18/07
Posts: 665
Loc: Northwest Florida
Originally Posted By: Mnt_Man
Thanks for al the suggestions, I was asking about back-up starters. I have lighters and wind proof matches I have used wetfire tinder a number of times. I am just curious about the experiences some of you have had. I have used Mag. blocks and found that as long as its not windy and you have a good file they work rather easily.

If you carry duct tape, make a loop, sticky side out, stick it in a sheltered spot, and scrape the Mg onto the upper sticky side. Less of it will blow away. If yo pinch the ends together, it creates a little canoe shaped hollow.

Edited by Jeff_M (10/01/09 09:12 AM)

#183843 - 10/01/09 08:56 AM Re: Fire starters which one is the best? [Re: Jeff_M]
MostlyHarmless Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 06/03/09
Posts: 982
Loc: Norway
I'd like to tell a little military story fit for this topic.

A young soldier stumbled upon one special forces, really tough guy who was on his own doing the hardcore outdoor survival training. He was struggling with the bow-and-arrow method of firemaking, it was pouring down and tough going.
- Howdy, what's up? What are you doing?
- I'm making a fire with this bow drill method.
- Good luck with that. Personally, I'd rather use THIS (producing a BIC lighter).

Whereupon the SF guy gives a long and windy lecture of why and how lighters can't be trusted. (They leak, get emptied, crushed, forgotten and so on and so forth... this gives him motivation for working real hard on the bow drill, which STILL won't work). The soldier consider this for a moment:
- You know what? You're dead right! That's why I always carry two! (producing second BIC lighter...)

#183853 - 10/01/09 11:10 AM Re: Fire starters which one is the best? [Re: comms]
Stoney Offline

Registered: 04/21/08
Posts: 55
Loc: Michigan
Originally Posted By: comms
Yup. What they said. And try a bunch of different fire starters while your at it. Find one you like.

I believe there is a lot of truth to this! What you need more than the "best" firestarter is the one that works for you and you've worked with it in different environments and weather conditions. Any firestarter will likely fail if you wait to take it out of the box when the emergency is in progress. I know I can start a fire with a $1.29 bic lighter simply because i've done it and i'm a far cry from any sort of survival expert.

#183897 - 10/01/09 03:31 PM Re: Fire starters which one is the best? [Re: Art_in_FL]
KenK Offline
"Be Prepared"

Registered: 06/26/04
Posts: 2132
Loc: NE Wisconsin
Originally Posted By: Art_in_FL
Calling in an air strike works first time and every time.

But doesn't that mess up the waterproofing on a tent fly?


#183946 - 10/01/09 11:57 PM Re: Fire starters which one is the best? [Re: Basecamp]
Stu Offline
I am not a P.P.o.W.
Old Hand

Registered: 05/16/05
Posts: 1058
Loc: Finger Lakes of NY State
Originally Posted By: Basecamp
Originally Posted By: Stu
Anybody tried the new metal spark lites yet?

This one? http://www.tadgear.com/shop.php?id=503main_page=product_info&products_id=10

No I mean the real metal Spark lite, not some copy of the idea.
Our most important survival tool is our brain, and for many, that tool is way underused! SBRaider
Head Cat Herder

#183959 - 10/02/09 01:30 AM Re: Fire starters which one is the best? [Re: MostlyHarmless]
dougwalkabout Offline
Crazy Canuck
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/03/07
Posts: 2919
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Originally Posted By: MostlyHarmless

- You know what? You're dead right! That's why I always carry two! (producing second BIC lighter...)

True, redundancy in critical equipment is very important.

But so is the awareness of technique, the awareness of local materials, the ability to make good kindling in a proper location in the worst conditions. These things are learned the hard way, which is why primitive firemaking is excellent training. It's the attention to the fine details that ensures reliable results.

Now give your two guys identical firemaking equipment in tough conditions. Who would you put your money on?

#183966 - 10/02/09 02:31 AM Re: Fire starters which one is the best? [Re: KenK]
Eric Offline

Registered: 09/09/06
Posts: 323
Loc: Iowa
Originally Posted By: KenK
Originally Posted By: Art_in_FL
Calling in an air strike works first time and every time.

But doesn't that mess up the waterproofing on a tent fly?


And doesn't it depend at least a bit on munitions are used.
- Napalm has the highest reliability
- B-52 ArcLight is also highly reliable
- cluster munitions/multiple 5" rockets are pretty sure bet
- a single 500lb bomb, the results depend a lot on the target environment
- MOAB not very reliable as a source of lasting fire
- New Small Diameter Bomb - not enough data to determine reliability

- Eric
You are never beaten until you admit it. - - General George S. Patton

#183967 - 10/02/09 02:44 AM Re: Fire starters which one is the best? [Re: Mnt_Man]

Registered: 09/18/09
Posts: 10
I am partial to the Sparklite tinder ignited by the Blastmatch

#184269 - 10/04/09 10:24 PM Re: Fire starters which one is the best? [Re: SCKAUTOCRAFT]
fasteer Offline

Registered: 09/01/09
Posts: 63
Loc: away
Being new to this, I read a bunch of info here & elsewhere, then bought a Coghlan's magnesium firestarter & a Swedish Fire-steel Scout.
I collected the lint from the dryer for a week (to my wife's amusement) and mixed it with a liberal gob of Vaseline.

In the warm dry calm environs of my garage, I begin to practise.

Using a sawzall metal blade, I grated off a small pile of magnesium onto a strip of duct-tape.
I tried several square edge blades to create a shower of sparks onto the magnesium.
Lots of sputtering & sizzling, holes melted through the duct-tape, no flame.

Added the lint/vaseline to the mix & tried to fuzz it up to create as much surface area as possible. No flame.
Maybe too much vaseline in the mix (?)

Next tried the fire-steel. Lots of brilliant sparks, no flame.

Next tried the fire-steel with shredded Fire-fly beeswax/cotton tinder. After dozens of tries, managed to get this to ignite.

The fire-steel & mag fire-starter are looking a bit ragged by now.
REALLY glad I did not use a good knife on either the fire-steel or the mag block.

Tried the lint/vaseline tinder with a Bic lighter.
Messy as hell, not really easy to ignite, but once going burns well & long.

Tried the beeswax/cotton tinder with a Bic lighter.
Easier to ignite, far less messy, burns well & long.

Next is to find a place that sells the Djeep lighter, which I read about here.

Edited by fasteer (10/04/09 10:32 PM)

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