Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel Scout - Fire Starter
9 October 2008
The Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel Scout is a self-contained, lightweight means of generating sparks for igniting fires.
Name: Hollis Easter
Height: 6'0" (1.8 m)
Weight: 205 lb (93 kg)
Email address: backpackgeartest[a@t)holliseaster(dah.t]com
City, State, Country: Potsdam, New York, USA
Backpacking Background: I started hiking as a child in the Adirondack Mountains
of New York. As a teenager, I hiked my way to an Eagle Scout award. I
love winter climbing, and long days through rough terrain abound. The
peaks have become my year-round friends.
I am a midweight backpacker: I don't carry unnecessary gear, but neither
do I cut the edges from my maps. I hike in all seasons, at altitudes from
sea level to 5,300 ft (1,600 m), and in temperatures from -30 F (-34 C)
to 100 F (38 C).
Manufacturer: Industrial Revolution, Inc.
Year of manufacture: circa 2007
Actual dimensions (ferrocerium bar): 0.23 in x 1.7 in (6 mm x 44 mm)
Actual dimensions (total): 3.1 in x 0.94 in x 0.47 in (79 mm x 24 mm x 12 mm)
Actual weight: 1.0 oz (28 g)
MSRP: not listed
The website lists weights and dimensions for the packaged product.
Product features (from product website):
- Lasts 3,000 strikes
- Produces a 5,500 F (3,000 C) spark
- Works when wet
- No "dangerous goods" shipping restrictions
- Bright spark - can be used as emergency signal
- Makes fire building easy in any weather, at any altitude
Description of locations: trails and forest bushwhacks, mountains up to
5,100 ft (1500 m). Anywhere I've been trying to light fires.
Weather conditions: Highly variable, ranging from calm to winds gusting above 35 knots (65 km / hour). Temperatures from 90 F (32 C) to around 32 F (0 C). I have used it in heavy and blowing rain as well as clear weather.
FireSteel with striker on edge
The Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel Scout (hereafter "the FireSteel") is a lightweight spark generator, intended to help light (my) fire(s). It's a modernized version of the old flint and steel, and I believe it's made using ferrocerium, an alloy of various metals that demonstrates pyrophoricity (the ability to generate sparks when scraped). As such, the FireSteel doesn't involve any new technology, but it implements the older stuff well.
The FireSteel involves a ferrocerium bar set into a bright red plastic handle. This is connected via a lanyard to a steel striker, which has teeth at one end and a stamped ridge for rigidity. The striker has teeth suitable for use by both right-handed and left-handed users.
The FireSteel is small and light, and fits easily in my pockets. The lanyard's plastic clip came undone at one point, which could have made me lose part of the kit, so I rarely carry the FireSteel by its lanyard. It always lives in the same pocket of my pack lid during the day, and when I'm in camp, I always put it in one of the right hand pockets of my cargo shorts. It is small enough that I sometimes forget that it's in my pocket.
I use the FireSteel primarily to ignite my liquid- and gas-fueled camping stoves, although I have used it to start campfires as well. The method is simple: I hold the plastic-and-ferrocerium piece in my left hand, and scrape away from myself using the steel striker. Sparks fly.
A small point: one side of the striker is stamped "UP". It's quite difficult to get a spark with the "UP" pointed away from me. Orientation matters. So, I always make sure to use the striker with "UP" facing toward me.
FireSteel with lighter for comparison
In the year I've been using my FireSteel, it has acquired some scratches on the ferrocerium bar, which is unsurprising given that the bar is designed to be consumed through use. I haven't kept track of how many sparks I've generated, but I'm satisfied by the rate of wear. It looks like I'll be able to keep using my FireSteel for a while yet.
The striker sometimes picks up a brownish residue from the burning metal. This is easily wiped off with a leaf, but I only bother if I'm wearing nice clothing. Otherwise, a little gunk on my pockets doesn't bug me.
It's possible to strike the ferrocerium with another steel object, like the back of a knife blade. Gram weenies could save another 0.49 oz (14 g) by leaving the striker and lanyard at home.
I've tried any number of times to use the FireSteel to kindle campfires using natural tinder, and I can't yet claim success. I've tried using grass, tinder polypore fungus, leaves, fuzz sticks, and rotted wood powder, and haven't yet been able to coax a flame into existence. I try not to belittle myself because of this—I've done single-match cooking fires in rainstorms using only downed wood, so I know how to light a fire—but in truth it irks me. I will keep playing with the FireSteel and trying to light campfires with it. To its credit, the FireSteel does very well at lighting dryer lint.
Where the FireSteel really shines is in lighting my stoves. It is the easiest way I've found to light my MSR Reactor canister stove, Optimus Nova liquid-fuel stove, and homemade alcohol stoves. I just throw a few sparks toward the fuel, and everything's set. This is a particular boon in windy conditions, such as when lighting the stoves to cook dinner near Johns Brook Lodge in the Adirondack Mountains of New York two weeks ago. We got stuck in a rainstorm that came with really strong winds. I couldn't convince my butane lighter to make a flame, and I doubt that matches would have worked without some significant effort to construct a windbreak. The FireSteel lit my stoves so easily that I almost felt I was cheating.
I bought the Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel Scout because it was a cool-looking gadget that had to do with fire, and as a gear wonk who's also occasionally pyromaniacal, that was too much to resist. It looked like a toy, though, and I had my doubts about it.
To my surprise and lasting pleasure, it has earned a permanent place in my pack. Since I bought it, my butane lighter and matches have become dead weight, because I've only used them to start the occasional campfire. Every time I've lit my stoves, I've used the FireSteel. I hope I never lose it, but if I do, I'll replace it immediately. It's that good.
- Small size
- Light weight
- Ignites my stoves really well
- My friends like to play with it
- I haven't figured out how to light tinder with it
- My friends like to play with it
Read more reviews of Light My Fire gear
Read more gear reviews by Hollis Easter