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on February 7, 2011
I spend most of my free time outdoors. Im proficient using flint and steel, ferro rod, bow drills, and the other obvious methods. I had to get a Fire Piston to add to the mix.

I got a nice ember the very first time I tried this. I was impressed by the ease of use. It is well made and attractive on top of functional. Using this tool to make a fire starting ember is as easy as it gets. Most people would have a harder time making the tinder bundle to put the ember into than using this to make the ember.

The package comes with a small roll of char cloth, probably good for at least 20 embers. That is where my problem with this type of device comes in. You need char cloth to use it. It SAYS you can use natural materials instead of char cloth, but the specific types that will work are hard to find and even harder to get to work if you do manage to find them. This makes char cloth the only realistic way to use or rely on this. That being said, there is no place to put it. You have this great firestarting device on a cord you can carry around your neck or however else you wish, but you ALSO need a baggie with char cloth in it. You will also need a metal can to make more char cloth when the time comes. If this item had a small compartment or something to hold some char cloth, it would be 10x more useful.

This is a great item. Well made, works great. Anyone should be able to use it after only a couple of attempts. If you are going to rely on ONE firestarter, this should NOT be that one. At least a ferro rod, or blast match, will work without the char cloth, they work great with it, but still work fine without it.

If you order this product directly from the manufacturer, there is an option to add a ferro rod to the kit. Hides nicely inside so it doesnt make it any larger or change the look. In my mind this SHOULD NOT BE AN OPTION, SHOULD BE STANDARD. I would advise anyone wanting this for more than a novelty to order it direct from the manufactuer and pay the few dollars more for that option. That way, when you forget, lose, or run out of char cloth you can still make a fire.

In short, it is a great way to start a fire. It is fun and attractive as well. I would advise not to make it you only way of starting a fire, unless you add the ferro rod option from the manufactuer. Otherwise, carry a back up. (I always carry a backup anyway, but not everyone does)

4 out of 5 stars due to the ferro rod only being an option that must be made ordering from the manufacturer, and the need for char cloth but no place to store any. Other than those two issues, it is functional, attractive, and fun.
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on October 19, 2012
First, fire pistons are a little bit twitchy. You don't want to relie on them as your only source of making fire. A flint/steel tool is a requirement because it will work even if you get it completely wet. second, it takes a bit of strength to pop these hard enough to generate enough heat for combustion. Odds are your wife and teenagers will not be able to get it burning. Third, what you use to burn in them are not things you'd find naturally. Consequently, you have to have a supply of dry cotton, char cloth, or tinder fungus AND some grease to go along with this tool. If you contaminate any of the materials listed above with even a small amount of the grease, it will not light.

The small rubber ring, which is essential for creating a seal, seems at first like a single point of failure. However, if you know a little history about where/how fire pistons originated, you'll find that you can use waxed or greased string/thread in a pinch. BUT, it has to be small diameter string or thread so there's another complication.

One of the really nice features of this tool is that the piston will store inside the cylinder because the cylinder has a pressure-release valve. That keeps dust and dirt out of the greased cylinder.

Here's why you probably want one of these: It's a fun way to start a fire. It fascinates kids so it's a good hook for teaching them how to make a fire. Adding some history about where/how they were invented as well as how the western world discovered them, adds an interesting story to the teaching process.

Here's how you work this tool:
Put a small piece of char cloth, tinder fungus, or dry cotton into small cup (about 1/8in diameter).
Lightly grease the rubber ring. Don't do this first or you'll contaminate the fuel.
Put the base of the piston in the palm of your left hand if you are right-handed. Vice versa if you're left-handed.
Carefully thread the piston into the cylinder.
Put the palm of your right hand on the base of the cylinder.
Jam down hard and fast. slow will not work because it allows pressure-heat dissipation.
NOTE: This is why you put the piston in your left hand. If you put it your right hand, the tinder falls out when you jam it down.
Carefully but quickly pull the cylinder off and blow on the coal to make it burn more completely.
Use a stick, knife point, etc. to put the burning coal onto a bigger piece of tinder (char cloth, tinder fungus, etc) that's embedded in a tinder bundle.
Blow on the fire piston tinder to spread the coal to the large piece. Keep blowing on the large piece to ignite the tinder bundle.

A few more notes:
o do not use petroleum-based products, like petroleum jelly, as the grease because it will corrode the rubber ring, vegetable lard works
o before you use it for the first time, take a cotton swab and lightly grease the cylinder (not the piston)
o contact lens carriers are cheap and great for storing the grease and tinder - they are waterproof, which keeps the tinder dry, and prevents the grease from making a mess.
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on August 21, 2012
I have had my eye on this device for a few years, now, and I finally own one. I haven't had the chance to use it with anything other than char-cloth, so I cannot attest to its' ability to ignite them. I make char-cloth in such abundance, that I'll likely never need to find out. Char-cloth is easy to make. Instructions can be found on the internet. Insofar as igniting char-cloth, this item is bar none, the best. The free firesteel is a novelty to me, and little more than that. I have better firesteel, already, but I will keep it just in case all else fails.

The wood of the piston is treated with the same resin found in knife handles and rifle stocks. The shaft of the piston is aluminum, as is the plunger of the piston. This makes the piston very consistent during ignition and less prone to wear and tear, than if the shaft were made of the same wood as the outside (or even the buffalo horn pistons they offer) It is best greased with chap stick, but petroleum jelly works well too. A tremendous issue when using fire pistons is that once the plunger is pulled from the piston, it will never fully insert again. What this, typically, means is that after the first use, the plunger and shaft must be carried separately, however Wilderness Solutions has solved this problem. This is their 2nd Generation design and there is a screw where the lanyard attaches that allows one to relieve the pressure of the piston, thus allowing the piston to be fully inserted and held in place by the suction. Cleaning the piston is a bit of a chore, but can be done with a Q-Tip or a pipe cleaner. This must be done to take care of the device and ensure that it will last a lifetime.

Lastly, this device is small. As such, it will easily fit within the width of the hand. Care must be taken when using this device, unless it is your desire to jam your fingers each time (which prevents ignition due to the pain and the dropping of the piston). There are many companies that make similar devices, however, Wilderness Solutions was the highest rated that I could find and the device's lanyard makes it easy to carry.

It took me two tries to get a coal ignited, but now I can consistently do it on the first try. I highly recommend that you purchase a cheap set of tweezers to use along with this item so that you can securely grasp the coal and transport it to your tinder pile. I used to use a knife or whatever was around, but found that I could not always control where the coal landed or keep it lit (if it needed constant blowing). I tend to use char-cloth as my primary ignition method, but you can use any combustible material that has some robustness, such as rotten wood or the inner part of cattails. Anything else, like dried pine needles, tends to burn up too fast to be of any use. If there was an item I would like to have, in an emergency, for fire making situations, this is it.
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on March 11, 2013
I found the ( SCOUT ) to be a better unit than the ones with the valve.I think the valve would be in the way.The scout works great it lights the char cloth with ease.It's not difficult to get the rod in for storage evan with out the valve.They talk of the cord for around the neck,not my neck!They say it's a good bow string,too short for a arrow type bow.Fire bow why? You have the fire piston,may be the valve broke off!!!! Stick with the SCOUT cost less and less do-dads to be in the way and cause problems.It's fun but not a toy.If you must carry around your neck their's very nice carry pouches for that.True it's not diffcult to make one but think of the gas & time to round up the stuff to make it then the time to make it. Cheeper to go to amazon and pull the trigger!
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on January 14, 2013
this product works pretty well but I wish I would have paid closer attention to the fact that it is not one of the metal versions. Dont waste your time and money on this, go ahead and pay the few extra dollars for the next step up. The product works fine but was very disappointing for the price
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on October 25, 2011
When this fire piston arrived I could not wait to give it a try. I had never tried anything like this before and watching videos of people using them interested me to say the least. I was very pleased with the quality and design and the directions were easy to follow. My very first try was a sucess and everytime after that. Beginners luck? I think it had alot to do with the design that went into this product.
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on January 24, 2011
First an introduction: I've been camping all my life and have recently gotten interested more and more in survival skills and primitive camping. I have used matches and magnesium fire starters until now. I heard about fire pistons in connection with diesel engines and was intrigued both as a science nerd and as a paranoid self-sufficient survivalist.

Now that I have a fire piston, i can tell you this will probably become my main way of lighting fire without matches from now on.

I received the charcoal fire piston earlier than expected in the mail and opened it up. My first impression is that the wood is like a high quality rifle stock. It fits nicely in the hand and looks mildly artistic despite being fairly minimalist in styling. The interior tube is brass polished to a mirror finish. If it were smaller, it might could pass for a necklace, as it is it's approximately the diameter of a broom handle, maybe a quarter of an inch smaller.

When you take it out of the package, don't assume you will get it to light. I managed it consistently after an hour or so of frustrating practice. Keep trying, it will work. Experiment with your hand positioning and the amount of tinder you put in the bowl. If it won't light, hit it harder! the important dimension here is that you depress the piston a sufficient distance to ensure enough compression. Then, pull it out and blow on the tinder. I suggest you keep a knife or a twig nearby to shift the coal out once you finally get it lit for real.

That's my first impression. I plan on making a real fire this weekend and I may update with the results of that experiment.
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on March 7, 2013
The item had good instructions and works well!!! The cub scouts were just as amazed as I. I will use this fire starter a lot in the future.
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on April 18, 2013
Wanted this after I saw Les Stroud use a similar item. Did not disappoint. Fun tool to have around. Recommended for any level.
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on January 30, 2013
The product itself is very nice, has a great fit and finish, feels very quality.
My main issue is getting it to work!
I've probably screwed around with this thing and tried to produce an ember over 100 times, hoping I'd get lucky this time.

Out of all that trying, I've only achieved an ember once.

I've watched the 'how to' youtube videos etc. but still can't get much out of this guy.
If you know what you're doing, it may work great for you, but for me, I'll be sticking to other fire making methods.
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