Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel 2.0
BY SHAWN CHAMBERS
November 04, 2014
sound_foundation AT yahoo DOT com
Lexington, Kentucky, USA
5' 10" (1.78 m)
177 lb (80.30 kg)
Backpacking Background: I love Appalachian hikes and being in the woods. My preference is for a hike that leads to a stellar view. Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina are my usual stomping grounds. I am a mid-weight kind of guy, but increasingly find myself enjoying longer, multi-day hikes and I am conscious about shedding some pack weight, but in a fiscally responsible way. I also climb and prefer clothing that can pull double duty.
Manufacturer: Industrial Revolution
Year of Manufacture: 2014
Manufacturer's Website: www.lightmyfire.com
Listed Weight: 27 g (0.95 oz)
Measured Weight: 26 g (0.92 oz)
Listed Size: 77 x 24 x 14 mm (~3" x 0.94" x 0.55") - manufacturer only lists size for the bar itself and not the striker
Measured Size: Same
Model Tested: Scout
Other Models Available:
Army - 95 x 26 x 16 mm (~3.7" x 1" x 0.6") - Weight 50 g (1.76 oz)
A quality fire starting system is on every 10 Essentials List that I have ever seen and for some very good reasons like heat, cooking, light, and even protection from nocturnal critters. With all a fire offers it is little wonder that my kit always includes a backup fire starter to guarantee a fire can be built even in adverse conditions.
I like to think that my trusty disposable mini-lighter and waterproof matches will always see me through my adventures - right up until they don't! Flints can pop out and a strong, ceaseless wind and driving rain can render matches virtually useless. Erring on the side of caution, it only took me minimal research to see that the old "flint-and-steel" was still going strong in the backpacking community and that modern advances have made this ancient method of fire starting better than ever.
I purchased Light My Fire's Swedish FireSteel 2.0 (hereafter FireSteel) after hearing good things about its reliability and durability. Compared to the original FireSteel the new 2.0 version is a real upgrade. The new models have an ergonomic design with molded plastic handles on both the bar and striker that are scooped to fit the user's thumbs for extra comfort and grip. A bright braided cord keeps the striker and bar together and makes it more visible if dropped. Best of all, the striker now has an emergency whistle incorporated in the handle. For gram counters or people who just like double-duty gear this can mean a few extra grams saved by not having to carry a separate emergency whistle.
Right out of the box the FireSteel is nearly ready to use. It only took me a around six or seven scrapes of the striker against the magnesium alloy bar (per the manufacturer) to remove the protective coating. Once the magnesium is exposed the stainless steel striker produced sparks instantly. I practiced striking it some more and by the time I hit a dozen attempts I felt like I understood the proper angle and pressure to produce a nice cascade of sparks. The manufacturer states that the Scout model will work for 3000 strikes and the Army edition (which is larger and heavier) has a life of 12,000 strikes. The smaller Scout model was definitely enough firepower for me.
In the Field
I have carried this on several day trips and overnight hikes, but have not had to use it in any type of emergency. It has been used at elevations up to 6000 ft (1800 m) in the peaks of North Carolina and elevations as low as 800 ft (240 m) in Kentucky. Temperatures on my trips with the FireSteel have ranged from 30 to 80 F (-1 to 27 C) . It has been used in hazy conditions with drizzling rain and bone-dry, sunny days. The most adverse weather has been on a very windy and exposed bluff where I used it to ignite my canister stove to make hot tea for my hiking partners. It has seen the most use around the house as I am constantly experimenting with different combustible materials both in a protected environment and in my yard where I am exposed to minor wind and other elements. I figure by understanding well ahead of time what the FireSteel is capable of doing will help me use it to my best advantage when needed.
It sparks great and creates fire on a wide variety of materials. Per the manufacturer's website the FireSteel kicks off 5400 F (2980 C) degree sparks. I will say that the FireSteel improves with use. As the bar is worn down a larger flat "sweet spot" is created which increases the surface area that the striker can contact. This creates more sparks.
I have tested a variety of materials and my results are pretty good. I can ignite my gas canister stove or denatured alcohol stove normally in 1-3 strikes. I have also had great luck sparking my tinder of choice - cotton balls impregnated with petroleum jelly. As long as I take a moment to fluff the fibers I can ignite a cotton ball consistently in less than three strikes. I have also had great luck igniting dryer lint (less than five strikes on average). Natural materials have been more difficult. I have been able to get birch bark lit, but it took me probably 25 tries. Dry leaves proved more difficult than I figured and I was only able to ignite them by crushing them to a coarse powder and creating a small mound. Even then, I was not always successful in igniting them. By practicing at home, I feel confident that I can manage to build a fire easily in the wild with the FireSteel - especially since I always carry tinder with me.
One tip I will mention that I have found to be useful when dealing with less than ideal tinder is to slowly scrape the magnesium surface with a knife (preferred) or the attached striker to deposit some magnesium dust onto the tinder. This should be done slowly to avoid sparking. The FireSteel is then sparked as usual and, ideally, this extra bit of flammable material will create a better likelihood of success. The user should not be shy about doing this. Yes, it will mean a shorter life for the FireSteel, but it could very well mean a longer life for a hiker in an adverse situation! I have done this, but since I don't always carry a knife I continue to improve my technique using only the attached striker.
The size, weight, and ability to be used thousands of times make the FireSteel a great value. The new ergonomic design is a comfortable and smart upgrade. The integrated "pealess" whistle is also a nice added bonus. It is also nice to have a pick between a smaller and larger size. Scout troops or guys with bigger hands may enjoy the bigger and longer lasting Army model.
As much as I love the whistle it is a bit finicky to use. I find it takes me several blows to produce a sharp noise and I usually have to reposition it slightly over and over to find the proper spot to achieve maximum volume. This is no big deal to me because if my life depended on being heard I would be thankful to have it regardless of this minor usage difficulty.
I am considering cutting off the cord that keeps the bar and striker together. It adds visibility, but I find it prevents me from doing a decent follow through with my downstroke. For others, this may not be a problem.
While I may never have to truly rely on this to create fire, I am glad I purchased Light My Fire's Swedish Firesteel 2.0 Scout model. It something that is easy to always pack and have at the ready during an emergency. The second generation FireSteel is truly an upgrade from the original and for me was money well spent.
Thanks for reading and happy hiking!
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.
Read more reviews of Industrial Revolution gear
Read more gear reviews by Shawn Chambers