Strike Force Fire Starter
BY DAVID WILKES
April 06, 2008
Yakima, Washington USA
5' 11" (1.80 m)
210 lb (95.30 kg)
I started backpacking about 13 years ago when I moved to Washington State. Since then I have backpacked in all seasons and conditions. I have usually only managed time for 1-3 trips a year averaging 2-5 days, and as many day hikes as I can. I am currently getting into condition to summit some of the higher peaks in Washington/Oregon/California. I prefer trips on rugged trails with plenty of elevation gain. While I continuously strive to lighten my load, comfort and safety are more important to me. My current pack is around 30lbs (14 kg) not including consumables.
Manufacturer: Ultimate Survival Technologies
Year of Manufacture: Purchased in 2007
Manufacturer's Website: www.ultimatesurvival.com
MSRP: Not listed (available through a number of online dealers)
Listed Weight: 3.7 ounces (104.9 g)
Measured Weight: 3.55 oz (101 g)
SPECIFICATIONS (from manufacture's web page)
• Length: 5 inches (12.7 cm)
• Material, Flint Unit: 0.5-inch (1.3 cm) diameter flint bar embedded in ABS case
• Material, Tinder: Trade secret material
(Measured dimensions match manufacturer's listed specifications)
The Strike Force Fire Starter is a large [0.5 in (1.3 cm)] flint enclosed in a bright orange ABS plastic container with a steel striker built into the protective cap and a small tinder storage area in the handle. The manufacturer's web page states that the sparks are 3 times hotter than a match is.
With the protective cap removed, the flint extends 1.75 in (4.45 cm) from the handle and the steel striker bar extends 1/2 in (1.27 cm) from the cap. An included lanyard is threaded through holes in all 3 pieces (cap/striker, handle, & end cap). It was immediately clear that the lanyard was well designed to keep all the components together while allowing enough length to use the striker.
The Strike Force arrived with one cube of WetFire chemical tinder. The WetFire cube fits nicely into the compartment in the bottom of the handle.
The first thing I noticed was how much larger and heavier this is than any of my other fire starters (matches, lighter, magnesium block, etc). I immediately wanted to know if it was worth the extra weight.
When I opened the cap, it was clear that the flint was large and should be good for many strikes. In addition, the way the striker bar is mounted in the cap was well thought out. Therefore, I was quite surprised when my first strike did not produce a single spark. After about three more attempts, I realized that one side of the striker bar worked much better at producing sparks than the other and that I needed to apply more pressure.
Subsequent strikes resulted in an impressive spray of sparks, far more than I was used to from my small magnesium block/flint combo that I have used for years. Glancing around, I noticed a few dry leaves on the patio. I placed the end of the flint close to the leaves and half heartedly applied the striker to the flint. Despite only producing about half of the sparks I had previously, the leaves immediately caught a flame!
After stomping out the burning leaves, I wanted to test the claim that this was an "all weather fire starter" that works even when wet. I repeatedly dunked the flint and striker in water and attempted to produce sparks. The water did not seem to affect its ability to produce a high volume of sparks.
Image from manufacturers web site
I tried lighting the WetFire tinder that came with the Strike Force as well as a Trioxain stick. The Trioxain stick lit on the first try and the WetFire took three strikes before it took a flame. However not only does the WetFire block fit well inside the handle, but according to the manufacturer's web site it is also non-toxic (the same cannot be said about Trioxain).
Just for reference I timed the WetFire block and it burned (in my fireplace) well for about 9 min. It continued to burn with a very small flame for about 1 min more before going out entirely. Since I only had a single WetFire block, I was unable to test it further.
During two weekend (2 nights each) family camping trips this summer, in the Washington Cascades (South of Clear Lake) at around 3000' (900 m), I tried using the fire starter to see how it would operate in field conditions. The weather during the first trip was warm and sunny, but it had recently rained, so much of the available tinder material was damp. During the second trip, there was intermittent light rain. On both trips, the mornings were very damp. On both trips, I collected tinder from available materials (leaves, bark, twigs, etc) and attempted to light fires, 2-3 on each trip (practice for me, education for my kids). Despite the damp conditions I had no trouble getting fires started. I also used the striker to light a propane camp stove a few times on these trips. It worked well (like having an unlimited supply of matches).
I used the fire starter during a 3 night backpacking trip with my daughter (Washington Cascades around 4500' (1400 m). Since I do not normally use a camp fire while backpacking (often not allowed) I used it only to test the product, hone my skills, and educate my daughter in survival skills. We would collect materials available, mostly moss, bark, rotten wood, and pine needles, and attempt to get a fire started. The conditions were cool, 50's during the day and near freezing at night, but dry so we had little trouble finding suitable materials and was able to get a fire started rather easily on every attempt. I have had it with me on a few other backpacking trips and while I have not had a "need" to use it, I have used it to start small practice fires with available materials (again mostly pine needles, bark, moss and rotten wood).
When used in conjunction with shavings from a magnesium block, or some tissue I was able to get a flame with 1-2 strikes of the flint. I was able to start fires with a little effort, a few strikes and some blowing, using bark shavings and small twigs (even when slightly damp on the outside) for tinder. When used with only natural tinders I found it was necessary to have at least some very dry material such as wood/bark shavings, and was able to get a flame after a little effort. When I used dry moss and/or dry rotted wood, I was able to get a flame with between 1-3 strikes. Obviously, when I used the Trioxain sticks I was able to get a flame on the first or second strike and light even slightly wet tinder. After a little practice, I feel comfortable that I could use this to start a fire using only natural materials, assuming some dry material was available. Moreover, with the WetFire chemical tinder stored in the handle, I can expect at least one fire even in wet conditions.
On a side note I have read that these fire strikers produce a flash of light bright enough to be effective at attracting attention in case of emergencies. While I cannot say from experience if this is true, I must note that when I was attempting to light the WetFire block in my dark fireplace the flash of light it produced caused me to be unable to see for a few seconds after each strike. It seemed to me to be almost, if not just as, bright as the personal emergency strobes I have seen in survival kits.
The Strike Force is not currently available from the manufacturer but it is available from a number of retailers.
This immediately became my primary emergency fire starter. When lighting things like a camp stove it is like having an unlimited supply of matches. It, along with a chemical tinder, has a permanent place in my survival kit, providing me with confidence that if in need I will be able to start a fire in almost any conditions that I may encounter.
Overall I figure I have started 10-15 fires, and due to playing or showing it to others have used it the equivalent of 10-20 more. With that amount of usage, I can see some flattening of the side of the flint that I have used most, but it does not appear to me that I have utilized more than a very tiny fraction of its potential. In addition, the striker, while showing clear signs of usage, charring and discoloration, but no visible signs of wear.
THINGS I LIKE
Easy to use
Works VERY well
Integrated tinder storage
THINGS I DON'T LIKE
Heavier than other fire starters I have used
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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