As an alternative to matches, a “fire starter” shows up on the list of Ten Essentials. It shows up as part of item 8 on the Boy Scout list, and would fit under item 6 (Fire) on the updated Mountaineers list. On the classic Mountaineers list it garners its own position as item 7 (“Firestarter”). The most familiar form of a fire starter is probably some variation of the flint and steel.
Over at The Art of Manliness, Darren Bush has an article on how to start a fire using flint and steel, first giving an explanation of the components of the system. The flint can be from a family of rocks with a hardness rating of about 8 on Mohs scale, with chert being an example. The typical steel component is made from high-carbon tool steel. Being slightly softer than the flint, a small curl of the steel peels off and ignites from the pressure induced by the motion when the two components are struck together. The ignited steel, visible as a spark, can be directed to a piece of tinder as part of the fire building process (more on this later).
According to Bush, what is called a flint in a disposable lighter is actually a compound of cerium and iron (also known as ferrocerrium), which is actually the part that becomes a spark in this device.
While no one in the FamilyTrivium household smokes, we do carry a disposable lighters as part of our Ten Essentials kits – at least the adults do. Even if the lighter runs out of fuel, it retains its ability to spark and can still ignite tinder, though other sparking device work better. As a backup, Mr. FamilyTrivium carries a ferrocerrium rod which puts off a wicked spark when used in combination with his favorite EDC knife: the Opinel No6 Carbon.