A fire steel is the quintessential bushcrafter’s tool for starting fires in the wilderness. If you’re looking to get into backcountry camping or just want one more way to start a fire then look no further.
A fire steel is a traditional two-piece fire-starting tool consisting of a metal rod and a striker. Unlike other starters, a fire steel doesn’t require fuel, is completely weatherproof, and can be used at any altitude.
There are quite a few reasons why a fire steel is a go-to piece of kit for any outdoors enthusiast and even more products to sift through. Keep reading to find out what to look for in a quality fire steel.
What To Look For In A Fire Steel
Choosing a fire steel may not seem as big a moment to some as it is to others. Keep in mind that you will more than likely be using this tool for many years.
Here are some of the key things to pay attention to when you’re on the hunt for a new one.
The Type Of Alloy Matters
This is something that is often overlooked when purchasing a fire steel. No two products are the same and which one you pick up can really make a difference in performance.
Try to stick to the larger name brands that have an established presence in the market.
Cheaper brands can be bought for less money but are often of poorer quality which greatly shortens the lifespan.
Investigating the company to find out how transparent they are about their product is important before you buy.
If the metal is a soft material then it will have a shorter lifespan, the benefit is that you will have larger sparks for starting a fire.
Harder metal will last you a long time but also throw smaller sparks, potentially making it difficult to light tinder.
Choose The Right Grip
Using a fire steel that has a small grip makes aiming your sparks into the tinder quite difficult.
A grip that sits nicely in the palm of your hand will give you the stability you need to shoot sparks confidently into your tinder pile.
Alternatively, you want a material that grips well, even when wet. Slippery plastic can make life harder than it should but a nice long wood handle can be gripped even in slick conditions.
What Kind Of Scraper Can You Use?
A good quality fire steel will be able to be scraped using the back end of your outdoors knife, as long as it has a sharp edge.
The idea is to expose the material underneath to oxygen so that it ignites into a spark.
There are a variety of scrapers on the market and most fire steels will come with their own scrapers.
You can find them in different shapes that may or may not work better than the other.
Quality Of Life Improvements
The most notable addition to fire steels is the coating that is used on the rod itself.
If you’ve just purchased a fire steel you may have noticed that it has a black coating on it, this is to stop the iron inside from oxidizing and turning into rust.
Sometimes they come with handy carrying pouches that offer other benefits such as a built-in whistle or a little bit of extra storage.
The Advantages Of Using a Fire Steel
Being the ultimate fire-starting tool (in my opinion), there are a plethora of advantages to using these over conventional means.
They Are Extremely Reliable
Need something to work in almost all conditions? Your lighter will need fuel eventually, matches can’t get wet and both don’t work in the snow very well.
A fire steel will last you until the final scrape of the bar.
Can’t Get More Portable Than a Fire Steel
If you’re looking to lighten the load in your pack then a fire steel is the best way to go.
Not only are they small and light but you can keep them just about anywhere. They even have mini fire steels that can go around your neck.
You Can Get Them Wet
Even if you take a dunk in the lake with your fire steel, just dry it off and it’ll shoot sparks in no time.
Any other fire starter will need to dry out and is questionable to use even after that.
Frequently Asked Questions About Fire Steels
Here are some questions that first-time buyers have when searching for their fire steel.
Absolutely yes they will. Gas-fueled types of starters stop working at certain elevations but a fire steel will still shoot a spark as the metal ignites.
Even though the sparks being thrown off are incredibly hot they still can light a piece of wood on fire.
The best way is to start small with some tinder and work your way up through sticks to branches.
A fire steel is often considered to be a traditional method of starting fire, along the same lines as the flint and steel.
Keeping one of these in your day pack is one of the best choices you can make since you will essentially always have something to light a fire with should you need it.
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.