Top positive review
145 people found this helpful
Great, takes practice
on June 11, 2008
The Firesteel Scout is a great way to start a fire. I taught my Boy Scout troop and my 8yr old daughter how to start a fire with it. My daughter took 2 hours to start her first fire (she was very determined). After a lot of practice, she can now get it in a few minutes.
The secret to great sparks is a steady stroke and a lot of pressure. The stroke is more of a wrist movement than an arm movement. This allows you to keep the firesteel steadily pointed at your tinder and direct the sparks. The adults and older Boy Scouts were able to light a fire in a few strokes. The younger ones had trouble with getting pressure on the striker (like my daughter).
The best tinder I have found is cotton balls soaked in vasoline petroleum jelly (the original, unsented kind). I smash/work the vasoline into the cotton balls and store them in a water-tight 35mm film canister (you can stuff many balls into the canister). When you want to start a fire, take some cotton out and "fluff" it up a lot by pulling it apart a bunch. The little cotton fibers are what catch the sparks and light on fire. The more tiny fibers there are, the easier it is to set it ablaze. The cotton ball then continues to burn the petroleum jelly and cotton like a mini fireball. I routinely start a fire with one or two strokes.
Depending on how wet your kindling and twigs are, you can use more or less of the cotton from the film canister. A large cotton ball will burn for quite a long time and allow damp or wet leaves, twigs and sticks to catch fire.
Another useful tinder is an alcohol based hand sanitizer. Squeeze some onto leaves, dry grass, or small twigs and spark away. The alcohol flames are invisible during daylight, so be careful. Don't have it on your hands when you spark the Firesteel or you risk catching your hands on fire!
When backpacking, I carry the Scout Firesteel, matches and a BIC lighter. I haven't used the matches in a LONG time, and the lighter is used when I am lazy.
I plan on purchasing the Army model for general camping/scouting use since it is larger and longer lasting (the kids/scouts are always wanting to use it). The smaller version that fits on a keychain should also work, but having the longer piece of firesteel in the Scout (or Army) model allows for a nice big shower of sparks. Looking at the wear pattern on my well-used firesteel, the keychain model may be too short to produce the same quality and quantity of sparks.