Widely considered one of the pioneering tools of fire starting, flint and steel is still commonly used today in a variety of situations. This is largely due to its versatility and effectiveness in adverse conditions.
Traditionally, starting a fire with flint and steel is considered a bushcrafter’s favorite method and you can easily start fires in rainy and wet conditions using it.
However, If you’re using it as your sole method for starting fires how long will both the striker and flint last you?
A steel striker will last for 10,000 strikes or more depending on the quality and thickness of the metal. A flint flake can last 3,000 strikes or more if it is a larger piece and good material.
Let’s take a closer look at how flint and steel works and why it lasts so long, even with repeated usage.
Why Would You Use Flint And Steel?
Aside from the little bit of nostalgia that wilderness enthusiasts feel when using such an original method of starting fires, there are a few other reasons why using flint and steel can be your go-to tool.
Each time you strike a flint flake and create sparks a little bit of the steel is shaved off. It is such an insubstantial amount that you can get up to hundreds of thousands of sparks off of one piece of rock.
These tools are designed to withstand the harshest conditions, and as such, can be left out in adverse conditions without fear of ruining it.
Just ensure that you are getting a high-quality steel striker. You can even find them at antique shops or thrift stores.
They’ll be old and maybe a little rusty but the older ones were always crafted better anyways. Some strikers have lasted so long that they get passed down through generations.
Works In Adverse Conditions And Situations
This is a requirement for any good fire starting tool and flint and steel can be used in almost any condition at any elevation.
As long as you clean the steel before using it you will get a spark, even if you have a wet piece of flint.
Flint Is Easily Replaceable
Sure, you can buy flint from the internet but you can also go down to your local river and see if you can find any of the flaky goodness there.
Quarries are also another good place to search if you are able to gain access to them.
If you think about it this way then flint and steel can become a possible sustainable source of firestarter as long as the striker stays in usable condition.
If you don’t have a piece of flint handy then you can use other rocks if you have them on hand.
Just make sure that the rock you are using is harder than the steel or it won’t cause a spark and just break apart.
Some examples of rocks that can be used instead of flint include:
How Long Does Flint And Steel Last vs Ferro Rods?
This is a common comparison that you’ll come across in the bushcraft forums as the debate is hot about which firestarter lasts the longest. Ironically, they are both so similar that the conversation about it will never end.
Ferrocerium rods (Ferro for short) are comprised of a man-made alloy that includes iron, magnesium, and cerium.
They are known for generating incredibly hot sparks and can be used in many conditions, much like flint and steel.
Depending on how big the Ferro rod is you can easily get up to 10,000 sparks using just one.
While that is a large number, you still have to buy a new one when it wears out, unless you know how to make your own alloys. This means that whatever you get out of the rod is effectively all you’re going to get.
This means that flint and steel are the clear winners in how long they last since you can keep replacing the rock with other natural resources.
As you already know, steel strikers can last for years and you can make a good striker out of readily available metal.
How long does flint and steel last compared to a magnesium bar?
A magnesium bar can be shaved onto tinder and ignited with a spark. It is commonly used with a metal bar that produces the spark.
They can last upwards of 10,000 strikes. The renewable quality of the flint still makes it outlast the magnesium bar.
Will flint and steel last longer if you use an aluminum striker?
Aluminum is a soft metal and is not ideal for creating sparks off of flint. In this case, it will only ruin the flint and the aluminum if you use both together. You want steel as it flakes off tiny micro shards when struck.
Will my flint and steel last longer if it’s dry or wet?
Drying your flint and steel off before use will give you better luck generating sparks since there will be less moisture to put out the hot spark.
That being said, flint and steel will not work while submerged in water, but could possibly work during a rain event.
This traditional method of starting fires is what got a lot of aspiring bushcrafters into the wild.
There is something that is fulfilling about using the natural resources about you to get a fire started.
Flint and steel will last you as long as you can start fires and it’ll do it in a lot of environments that conventional means may not succeed at.
No camping kit should go without it and at the very least it should be kept in a survival kit for emergencies.
Perrin is an adventure guide and naturalist currently living a nomadic life in the Canadian wilderness. His education and expertise is in wilderness survival and wildlife tracking. He enjoys teaching people about the outdoors and has managed large groups on expeditions.
With several accredited certifications, including being a wilderness first responder and a leave no trace expert, Perrin believes it is important for all of us to reconnect with the natural world.