The ability to make a fire during an emergency situation can save your life. But what is the best survival firestarting method? My money is on the ferrocerium (also commonly referred to as a flint or magnesium stick) rod. Here are five reasons you need one.
by Leon Pantenburg
Several years ago, the late Dr. Jim Grenfell and I set out to research the most effective practical firemaking method. After extensive research, the ferro rod, combined with cotton balls and petroleum jelly, came out the winner. (To read the rest of the story, click on the top survival firemaking methods.)
Ferro rods are easy to come by and cheap. The Boy Scout Hot Spark on my keyring survival kit costs about three dollars at any scout store. It has a good handle and the ferro rod is very effective.
Ferro rods are also available at most sporting goods stores. But I’m surprised more outdoors people don’t include them as part of their survival gear. Here are some things to consider:
- Extreme reliability: A ferrocerium rod, when scraped with a hardened steel striker, will produce sparks with temperatures of up to 5,500 degrees. These sparks will readily ignite many forms of tinder. (Check out the video on finding tinder under survival conditions) A ferro rod is also good for hundreds, if not thousands of fires. Matches, lighters and many other methods are finite.
- Compact and easy to carry: I carry a tiny ferro rod in my wallet, another on my keychain, and a third in my survival gear. (Some people might say I obsess about firemaking tools, since I also carry a BIC mini lighter in my pants pocket, my jacket pocket and my pack!) If a survival tool is not compact and easy to carry, it may get left behind. Your only survival tools are those you have along with you!
- Work under conditions that would disable other firemaking methods:This is one of the
most important reasons to carry a ferro rod. Butane lighters are easily disabled by cold and moisture or a grain of sand. Matches are unreliable and degenerate over time. Every firemaking method has some disadvantage, but I believe a ferro rod has the fewest.
- Easy to learn: Every survival technique should be practiced before you rely on it. Making sparks with a ferro stick is easy, but you have to use the correct technique to get a fire started. Check out the video on starting a fire with a ferro stick.
- Wide range of uses: I use my ferro rod as a survival tool, of course, but also use one to light my propane Camp Chef double burner stove, my barbeque grill, backpacking stoves and wood stoves.