Camping Gear Essentials: Firesteel | Get Out and Go Camping

Camping Gear Essentials: Firesteel

After posting the video about the petroleum jelly ball fire starters, I heard back from several people asking what I used to start the fire.  This was timed well because I had been planning to write about this anyway as part of my camping gear essentials series.  It is called a firesteel.  This is a great tool that can be used for all types of camping.  I wouldn’t say it is more convenient than using a match, but in some cases it can be more reliable.  I got my firesteel about a year ago mainly because I wanted to become more skilled in fire starting.  With some practice and the right firestarters, this may just become your “lighter” of choice as it did for me.

What is a firesteel?

DSC02548A fire steel consists of two parts: a steel scraper and a magnesium rod.  The steel scraper can be several different things.  The one I have is about a two inch flat piece of steel with a straight edge.  The newer firesteels have small notches in the steel where you would strike the rod.  You can also use a knife instead of the steel to get the same effect.  The magnesium rod is what the steel is struck against to create a shower of sparks.  Sometimes it will come with a small handle on it for ease of use.

How do you use one?

Firesteels are quite easy to use.  The rod is placed near the tinder.  Then place the steel scraper at the top of the rod.  Push the scraper down the the rod with force.  The more pressure there is between the two, the more sparks there will be.

Hold the firesteel on or above the tinder (in this case dryer lint).

Hold the firesteel on or above the tinder (in this case dryer lint).

Put pressure on the scraper and push it down the rod.

Put pressure on the scraper and push it down the rod.

How effective are they?

Very.  I’m not saying you could start a wet stick with one, but with the right tinder, you should be able to get a fire going relatively quick.  The spark that is produced from the firesteel is said to be at 3,000 degrees Celsius.  It works great in dry conditions, but will also work just fine if it gets wet.

My take on firesteels

If you enjoy learning survival skills, knowing how to use a firesteel is a good one to have.  The key is to know how to light fires with different kinds of tinder.  I would venture a guess that someone who just picked up a firesteel for the first time is not going to be able to light a dead leaf.  It takes a little practice and skill to find what works best.

Tinder suggestions

I have tried lighting wood shavings, broken up dried leaves, and paper, but not had much success.  From my experience, the firesteel works better with tinder that has small fibers.  Here are some things that the firesteel lights well:


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