About a month ago I had headed out on a field test for a few days but omitted reporting on a rather interesting discovery about FireSteels. There are cheap versions and more expensive versions of what appear to be identical products. Believe me, there’s a difference.
I’m a great fan of using the FireSteels to light my campfires and find it’s a great tool to make you a better fire starter whether you use the FireSteel, a match or a lighter. If you’ve ever used one, you know it’s important to have your tinder and kindling at hand and ready to go as soon as a flame is ignited.
For years, I’ve carried and used the “Light my Fire” brand, Army sized Swedish FireSteels with great success. They strike an incredibly hot spark and work great in damp environments. They’re made in Sweden and one of the most expensive on the market.
About a year ago I started paying attention to some of the inexpensive knockoffs showing up and was curious about the difference. I picked up one of the Chinese clones for around $6 and took it out and used it a few times. While I know the sparks it throws aren’t as hot or abundant as those from the Swedish FireSteels, it worked okay. Appearance wise, for the most part they looked identical.
One evening I grabbed my ‘field test bag’ with me and I happened to come across the knockoff. I started to strike some sparks and found out it had the typical oxidation on the surface so I started to scrape it off when I came across some significant pitting on the rod.
In addition, I noticed some oxidation or corrosion on the striker.
I didn’t think a whole lot about it until I actually tried to get the fire lit. I don’t know the difference in the composition of the two rods, but the knockoff was almost impossible to get a decent spark thrown. I scrapped the surface of the rod to clean any oxidation off and even tried the striker from the Swedish FireSteel with only a minimal improvement. Both of these FireSteels had been in my kit for about the same length of time and the Swedish FireSteel is about 3 years older then the knockoff.
It feels good to save a few bucks but this is one product I’d be cautious about. Today you can find the smaller versions on Ebay for just over a buck with free shipping from Hong Kong! (now I understand why) But IF you’re buying a FireSteel for a potential survival situation or if you spend a fair amount of time in the woods and want to carry equipment you know won’t fail …. buyer beware. It would probably work in a pinch, but when you’re sitting in the rain, trying to light a fire with cold fingers and things aren’t working out to well, that $10-15 savings isn’t gonna be worth much. I want the balance tipped in my favor!