Fire Starter

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.



As we continue in our series on the Ten Essentials for outdoor activities, we will next look at matches and/or a fire starter – item 8 on the Boy Scout list. On The Mountaineers classic list, the two are split out as items 8 and 7. We will also consider fire starters in a separate post. On The Mountaineers updated list, the two are consolidated together, under fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles).

Matches are ubiquitous, having many uses beyond outdoor recreation or wilderness survival. This is one of those items that many of us take for granted, but do we really know what they are? Just to be sure, we looked up “match” at and found this definition:

a slender piece of wood, cardboard, or other flammable material tipped with a chemical substance that produces fire when rubbed on rough or chemically prepared surface.

The word originated between 1350 and 1400, from  Middle English “macche” wick, Middle French “meiche,” OldFrench “mesche,” or Vulgar Latin “mesca” lamp wick.

The Mountaineers updated list indicates that the matches should be waterproof. This can mean that the match heads are coated with a waxy substance, or that they are stored in a waterproof container. It is also important to have an appropriate striking surface, against which to rub your dry matches.

We carry waterproof matches in waterproof containers. We also carry Bic lighters (no, we don’t smoke), flint & steel, and other fire stating devices, in addition to a bit tinder.