Upon reading the title for this review you might be thinking, “why the heck would I want to start a fire by sparking it to life when I can use the lighter I brought with me?”. Our response, because that lighter won’t work if it gets wet or is at high altitude. “But they make high altitude, waterproof and windproof lighters? Why not just buy one of them?” Because they run on fuel and fuel runs out. Plus, the act of starting a fire from scratch by flint and steel (or in this case a magnesium alloy and steel) is a skill that must be learned and practiced, but once mastered is a invaluable confidence booster that will serve you well on any backcountry endeavors.
Enter Light My Fire and their Swedish FireSteel 2.0 Army. As their name will highlight, Light My Fire was a company started around the skill of fire craft. Originally started in 1995 the companies first product was MayaSticks which many in North America know as “Pitchwood” or “Fatwood”, pine resinous wood. The company admits the kindling sticks were a flop until they paired them with their Swedish FireSteel. The ability of both to work in tandem to craft a fire from scratch, in any weather, any climate or altitude, was a complete success.
The Swedish FireSteel produced by Light My Fire is sold in two varieties. The Scout version and the Army version. This review is based on the Army version but most points aside from weight and the amount of strikes available to the user are identical. The amount of strikes are 3,000 to the Scout and 12,000 to the Army respectively, and weight is 27 grams vs 50 grams. The cost difference between the two is negligible at only a couple of dollars. Personally I would just get the Army version because it has 4 times the amount of strikes available to the user and neither is anything close to what one might consider heavy. Both are about the same dimensions as well (77x24x14mm and 95x26x16mm). They come in a variety of colors, including camo, so you can get one to match all of your outfits! JOY!
The FireSteel 2.0 Army is the latest iteration of Light My Fire’s magnesium fire starter line and as simple and basic as it is, works brilliantly. The striking rod is made of a magnesium alloy that when sparked with the steel striker (or any other piece of steel, such as your knife blade) produces a shower of sparks in excess of 5,400°F (2,980°C). This is plenty hot enough to quickly ignite combustable material and works especially well with the resinous pine wood that is sold as Tinder on A Rope by Light My Fire. (Note: Quickly is relative. You will need to practice this to get it right and spark your fire quickly, but it won’t be the FireSteel 2.0’s fault if it takes you a while.) The magnesium rod is unaffected by moisture and you could drop this thing into a stream pull it out and immediately set to sparking up a fire and it would work no less effectively as when dry. The striker provided is made of steel and specially designed to make the sparking process as easy as possible. It is attached by a lanyard to the striking rod so that the two don’t get separated.
A cool feature that Light My Fire included on the plastic grip of the striker is building an emergency whistle into it. The whistle takes a little practice as well but once you finesse the technique you can emit a surprisingly sharp and loud whistle. Which very well may make the difference in a search and rescue team locating you if you find yourself lost, deep in the mountains or backwoods on one of your adventures.
The Tinder on a Rope, sold separately or as a kit with the FireSteel 2.0, is basically just a piece of wood on a rope as its name entails, but this isn’t a gimmick by Light My Fire. They source very high quality pine resin saturated lumber from Guatemala that works exactly as advertised. Much like the FireSteel, you don’t need to worry about storing this in a waterproof bag or container because even when wet, cold or dirty this pine-resinous wood will take a flame with little effort. The other huge advantage to starting a fire with “Pitchwood” is that it doesn’t burn up immediately. The wood takes a flame easily because of the resin and it has a long burn time because of it as well. During my time at Mountain Shepherd Wilderness Survival School this type of wood was stressed as a great source of tinder because of these benefits. It is likewise recognized by the outdoor community at large as a go to source of natural, eco-friendly, fire starting material. One of the cooler bits about the specific wood sourced by Light My Fire, is it’s sourced from local Mayan Indians and has provided many of them with a extra income source not previously available, improving their quality of life. People helping people, beautiful.
So don’t hesitate to add this combo to your gear locker because they will not disappoint. I am all for including redundancies in your kit for the more important tasks like fire craft, so go ahead bring along your high-altitude, windproof, waterproof, shockproof lighter, but when that sucker runs out of fuel you will be happy that you decided to forgo saving the extra 50 grams of weight and bring along your trusty FireSteel 2.0 Army. With 12,000 strikes it will keep you warm and happy for a long time. Also, as I have stressed before in this article and past articles, the ability to get a fire going from scratch without the use of a modern lighter is a very good skill to practice and can be really fun as well. Happy fire starting you little pyros! Maybe little dragons? Yeah, lets go with dragons, much less felonesque.