Guest - Not logged in 

Reviews > Cook and Food Storage Gear > Fire Starters > Doan Magnesium Firestarter > Owner Review by alex legg

Doan Magnesium Fire Starter
Owner Review by Alex Legg
March 25th, 2012

(Picture from

Reviewer Information:

Name:  Alex Legg
Age:  30
Gender:  Male
Height:  6'4" (1.9 m)
Weight:  195 lbs (88 kg)
Email address:  alexlegg2 AT yahoo DOT com
City, State, Country:  Tucson, Arizona, USA

I grew up backpacking in the Rockies.  I hike ranges near Tucson, Arizona during winter, Colorado during summer.  I carry a light pack, mostly water.  I make shelter with a tarp whenever possible to reduce my pack weight from my two person tent.   I enjoy day hikes, but I am known to spend as many as 5 days out.  Temperatures range from to extreme winter to 100 F (38 C) , and elevations from 2000 ft (600 m) to 14,000 ft (4,300 m).  I bag a peak almost every weekend, and walk my dogs daily through deep sand and overgrown mesquite trees in our local washes.

Product Information and Specifications:

Manufacturer: Doan Machinery & Equipment Co., Inc
Year of Manufacture: 2012
Listed Weight: Not listed
Actual Weight: 3 oz
Dimensions: 3 in by 1 in by 0.25 in (8 cm by 3 cm by 1 cm)
Color: Metallic
MSRP: Not listed

Product Description:

The Doan Magnesium Fire Starter (from here on referred to as the fire starter, magnesium block, or block) is an emergency fire source.  It is a rectangular block measuring 3 in by 1 in by 0.25 in (8 cm by 3 cm by 1 cm)  that is made from magnesium.  On the front face of the block the manufacturer's name and address are imprinted.  It has a Ferrocerium rod mounted into one of the long thin faces of the block.  A hole is drilled through the front face of the block where a metal chain is strung so that the tool can be easily attached to my other gear. 

The manufacture claims that magnesium scraped from the block can burn at 5,400 F (2,982 C).  I have no way of measuring this, but I only care if it catches fire, not what the temperature of the spark is  The Ferrocerium rod allows me to create a spark by scraping a sharp metal edge against it.  WIkipedia claims that Ferrocerium sparks can reach 3,000 F (1,649 C).  With these two simple actions combined I can create fire and keep myself alive for a little while longer.

Field Conditions:

I went to the Rincon range in Saguaro National Park for a 3 day 2 night trip with one base camp.  It got down to 32 F (0 C) at camp in the early morning while making breakfast at 8,000 ft (2,438 m).  The block was in my pack on the summit of two peaks, Tanque Verde at 7,049 ft (2,149 m), and Rincon at 8,482 ft (2,585 m).

I carried the block on a 2 day 1 night, 20 mile (32 km) trip in the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area.  I began at an elevation of 2,600 ft (792 m), and climbed as high as 7,900 ft (2,408 m) on the top of Cathedral Rock.  The temperature ranged widely from the mid 30s F (0 C) before the sun came up, to the upper 70s F (20s C) in the middle of the afternoon.

The block also came along on a 3 day 2 night trip along a portion of the Arizona Trail from the Mexican border to the town of Patagonia.  I started at around 5,600 ft (1,707 m) and got as high as about 8,400 ft (2,560 m).  The temperature ranged from 40 F (4 C) before the sun came up in the mornings, to around 75 F (24 C) by mid day.


The manufacturer states that the steps to using this product are:

1.  Support the edge of the tool on the ground.  Scrape narrow side of tool marked "SHAVING EDGE" with a knife blade held perpendicular to the tool.  Amass small pile of magnesium about the size of a quarter next to tinder.

2.  Support edge of tool on ground within 1" of magnesium shavings at approximately 45 degree angle.  Scrape entire length of side marked "STRIKING INSERT" rapidly with knife held perpendicular with SPARKING INSERT. 

Well, it's not quite as easy as it seems, but it is not impossibly hard either.  If I do not have a good solid surface to place the block against, I just hold it close to the ground.  I have found it to be a good idea to scrape the magnesium shaving onto something that can catch them such as a bandanna or a shirt.  The shavings do not always fall in the perfect little pile shown on the  website.  Also, when in the elements, I have many forces of Mother Nature fighting against my pile of shavings. 

The STRIKING INSERT is made from Ferrocerium and can be fun or difficult depending on your experience.  To me, the manufacturer's suggestion of rapidly scraping the SPARKING INSERT implies that I should scrape back and forth vigorously.  I have not had much luck with this, but I found that if I hold the block an inch or so above the pile of magnesium shavings with the back edge of my knife against it and I pull the block in a fast single stroke towards my body, I have better luck.  By holding the knife steady and scrapping the block towards my body, I can basically rain down sparks from the STRIKING INSERT into my pile of magnesium shavings.

This is a cool tool to play with.  I can actually start a fire without incredible difficulty.  There is quite a bit more labor involved compared to striking a match, but it's worth it if I can make fire.  The shavings don't fall off all by themselves and it takes a lot longer than I would have thought to create a decent pile.

I have found that it is best to start with a lightweight tinder source that will catch relatively easy.  I drop my pile of shavings into the tinder.  I try to keep the pile of shavings as close together as I can.  In my opinion, the more shavings the better as I only want to have to try this once.   The more shavings I have, the better chance I have that my sparks will ignite the magnesium.  Once the shavings are in the tinder it's striking time and the sparks start to fly. 

Out of curiosity I dunked the magnesium block in a stream to see if it would work while wet.  Again I shaved off some of the magnesium, and I scrapped the back of my knife against the STRIKING INSERT.  Much to my surprise I was making sparks and the magnesium shavings were turning into tiny little coals.  It's good to know that my fire starter will work while wet.  It is a very comforting feeling.

The downfall to this product is that it wears out.  I do get a lot of uses, but it's not forever.  I believe that it is good to practice with my survival gear, so that in a time of need I will be fluent with the methods needed to be successful.  When the STRIKING INSERT wears down, the Ferrocerium rod is only half gone.  The rod is round and I have only worn down one side of it.  I imagine I could pry it out if I had to, but one of the things that makes Doan Fire Starter so sought after is the fact that the Ferrocerium rod is so securely attached.  If the rod were to fall out and I had to try and hold it, the rod would be tiny in my hand and difficult to clamp down on, therefore making sparks hard to form and project.  If the rod were wet it would be near impossible.  Due to the well built construction of this product, I am doomed to look at that fresh and beautiful other half of the rod and just imagine the fires I could start with it.

I decided to become slightly more responsible after I turned thirty, so I figured I would get a few backup plans for my wilderness survival.  I like the idea of having as many ways to start fire as possible, and this sounded like a fun way to do it.  The flick of the lighter and the strike of the match have been my allies in the back country and at home for years.  My only concern is that I am now embarking on longer and further trips, and my conventional fire starters can be prone to failure.  I also think that it's fun to play with fire (responsibly) so this is a cool toy.  I can even rain magnesium down into my campfire creating tiny little fireworks for my enjoyment.

I still carry conventional fire starters and I tend to use them more often but I always have the magnesium block with me just in case.  It is a lot more tiring to start a fire with the block, but for me it beats rubbing two sticks together and is pretty effective.


1. Effective
2. Works while wet


1. Striking rod wears out 50% and is useless.

Read more reviews of Doan Machinery & Equipment Co gear
Read more gear reviews by alex legg

Reviews > Cook and Food Storage Gear > Fire Starters > Doan Magnesium Firestarter > Owner Review by alex legg

Product tested and reviewed in each Formal Test Report has been provided free of charge by the manufacturer to Upon completion of the Test Series the writer is permitted to keep the product. Owner Reviews are based on product owned by the reviewer personally unless otherwise noted.

All material on this site is the exclusive property of
BackpackGearTest software copyright David Anderson