When choosing a fire starter, consider first your skill level, how and why you intend to use it and the general specs and makeup of your various options.
Magnesium vs. Flint vs. Ferrocerium
Ferrocerium is a pyrophoric alloy containing metals that include iron, magnesium, lanthanum and cerium. It’s a firecracker on a stick.
Comparatively, flint and steel starters will naturally send fewer and smaller sparks.
Magnesium requires a pile of shavings to really get a light, which can be difficult to near impossible in windy conditions.
A good deal of design goes into making a quality striker as well. Take into consideration the size and comfort of the handle and the length and thickness of the rod.
If you’re a man (or woman) after my own heart and really just want to shave down weight and size, go for the small stuff. The sheer thought of the 3.7 oz Strikeforce, however reliable it may be, may make you shutter. Instead, you could opt for the nanoSTRIKER or wear the Überleben as a necklace just to shave weight off your pack.
Though if you’re really going lightweight, do you even need a striker? or will you just use the fuel from your Jetboil for an emergency light?
If emergency situations, rather than weight, are your primary concern, get something that will really perform during panic mode. That 0.8 oz striker sounds nice for now, but won’t be as easy to handle under pressure. Under these circumstances, prescribe to ‘better safe than sorry‘ and go for the reliability.
You may be reading this article because you want to buy your very first fire starter. If so, you want something beginner friendly that you can practice on for long periods of time and that is really reliable. That’s why the Strikeforce won out in our tests. It is easy to use and effective, no matter your skill level.
First thing first, let’s make sure these babies actually work. What better way to ensure a flame than to dose a cotton ball with alcohol? This quick and ease way to identify how each starter handles allowed us to get a good feel for their ease of use and functionality.
Along with this, we did a preliminary gauge and comparison of the spark production. How big, bright and far do sparks fly from each strike rod?
As we’ve mentioned, ferrocerium is a sparkler of an alloy that produces firework-quality shavings. Magnesium creates shavings in the same way but with less spark. Flint works entirely differently.
When apt, we built up shaving piles to create and judge firecracker displays. We set the sparks to tinder and determined how various types handled our flames.We spent time lugging around each of the fire starters, tucking them in various bags, clipping them to keychains, living with them like we would a potential new pet.
You’d be surprised how much this can matter. You may adore that 8″ dream starter at first use, but once your thru-hiking pack is swollen with other gear and it’s the last piece to cram in, your thoughts change very quickly.
Read more about Recommended Fire Starters of 2018