*Coach Helder may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post
We all agree that being able to start a fire during any emergency situation is imperative. A fire can help to provide nourishment, warmth, security, illumination, rescue, serenity and a plethora of other viable benefits. But just like any other skill, fire building must be continuously practiced.
You may have to build a fire in a wet environment, which will be a completely different experience than fire building in a dry climate. You may need to build a large teepee fire for signaling or to build a simple crossfire if the mission is food preparation. These are just a couple of the scenarios that you may encounter when emergency and survival scenarios occur.
You need to be flexible and experienced in as many fire building techniques as possible. The more options and skills that you possess, the better that you will fare when SHTF. You may not only need to produce for you, but also for your loved ones.
Failure is NOT an option!
There are three critical components to a fire…and if one of them is taken away, you will no longer have a fire. Those 3 components are:
- Ignition Source
For the purpose of this post, I would like to focus on #1, the ignition source. If you think about it… We actually need a “fire” to start a fire. Luckily, there are many ways to accomplish this. These are just some of the options we can use to start a fire:
- A Lighter (Zippo, Bic, etc.)
- Battery & Steel Wool
- Bow & Drill
- Natural Flint & Steel
- Magnifying Glass
- Ferrocerium (Ferro Rod)
I have started countless fires with each of the options listed above. My go to igniter is a Bic lighter but if I had to pick just one ignition source for any SHTF scenario… It would have to be a ferro rod.
There seems to be an ongoing debate on which fire igniting source is the best. Some may choose a Bic lighter while others prefer the ferro rod. I have to admit that I carry various Bic lighters in my go bags. Their convenience, lightweight, and ease of use make its simplicity very desirable for fire starting. But if you -Held me to the fire- and I had to pick just one fire starting tool as I headed off to “zombieland”… It would have to be a quality ferro rod.
What I would like to share with you are my reasons why a ferro rod should be included in everyone’s survival kit.
Ferro rods are composed of mainly Iron, lanthanum and cerium. For convenience, there is usually a handle attached to the ferro rod made of wood, plastic or other material. When this rod is scraped with a piece of steel, the sparks that are sent to your bundle of tinder can reach temperatures in excess of 5,430F (°3000C). This is possible because of the oxidation that occurs during the scraping or striking process.
Ferro rods also have a long lifespan. I have ferro rods that can be struck up to 12,000 times. I also have “beefier” ½” ferro rods that can be struck over 20,000 times. Keep in mind that it will be difficult to get your first strike to start your tinder; Multiple strikes are usually needed. But with some good practice, you can get your tinder started in 3 strikes or less.
Since the ferro rod is constructed of alloy materials, it makes it quite durable. It is a piece of gear that you can place in your pack and forget about it. There are no moving parts to concern yourself with and there is no fear of rendering it unserviceable from various tumbles you or your gear may take. It doesn’t require any special containers or housing like my lighters and matches do. I keep one strapped to the molle setup inside of my pack and it is always ready when I need it.
A ferro rod will work in virtually any weather situation. It can be soaked from the rain or it can be stuck in the mud. Just wipe it down, scrape it with some steel and you have seriously hot sparks flying at your tinder.
I also prefer my ferro rod in windy conditions. Matches and lighters tend to not bode very well in the wind. But a ferro rod will place hot molten metal on whatever tinder that you are trying to ignite, even in the wind.
If you are in snow or other freezing conditions, your ferro rod will still operate flawlessly. Keep in mind that the same principles apply to tinder regardless of your ignition source. If your tinder isn’t good to go, it really doesn’t matter what you are using as a starter.
Tinder Isn’t weatherproof… That’s an obvious statement but some still have trouble grasping it. Just realize that by having a tool that can send “fire” or sparks in any weather condition is only half the battle. You need to have dry tinder, kept away from the elements, in order to have a good chance of getting your fire started. Sending countless sparks into wet or damp tinder will only waste your ferro rod or lighter for that matter.
The fact that the ferro rod is weatherproof and durable makes it a tool that you can depend on. I have had countless lighters break on me over the years. I have also gotten my matches soaked from downpours, spilled drinks and taking the occasional swim without fully clearing out my pockets.
Granted, these were all in recreational scenarios but my lighters and matches didn’t know that we were just having fun. So if those instances rendered my ignitors useless… what would make me think that they would function differently in an emergency situation?
Knowing that I have a fire starting method that I can depend on gives me greater peace of mind. This mindset is not only for SHTF situations but also while I am out in a recreational or work related capacity.
Ferro rods are very convenient. They are streamlined, compact and lightweight. Many quality ferro rods even come with a steel scraping tool. These steel tools have a 90 degree edge that is ideal for sending the sparks to a targeted location. Some of my ferro rod scrapers even have additional features such as a small ruler, flathead screwdriver, paracord lanyard attachment, bottle opener and a can opener. Those can be useful tools in a pinch.
In a cold environment, it is extremely convenient not having to shed my gloves in order to strike my lighter. Usually in the colder, freezing situations, a lighter tends to not work well causing multiple strikes to be needed. When my hands are frozen and nearly frostbitten… That is not something that I would enjoy – EVER AGAIN! 😉
I have other ferro rods that come in the form of a necklace. They are not only cool looking jewelry, if that is your preference, but they also work like a charm! They are a bit trickier to operate but with the right amount of practice, they function really well.
When I travel overseas I keep a ferro rod necklace in my Airport Go Bag. It basically looks like a keychain strapped to the interior of my pack. After countless miles in the air, I have yet to be questioned by security about my ferro rod. Unfortunately, that is something that will never happen with my lighters and or matches. They would have to be discarded way before I ever contemplate entering the plane. Damn Shoe-bomber…
I don’t anticipate a Tom Hanks Castaway moment in my flight travel plans, but we are either prepared or we are not. If I can add an extra measure of security for that -Just In Case moment- Then I’m all in!
Ferro rods are relatively inexpensive for what you get. Since so many have jumped on the “survival bandwagon” as of late, there seems to be new options being offered on the market almost daily. I mentioned necklaces earlier but you can find them contained in various paracord devices and many other gadgets.
Since there is more popularity and manufacturers, there is more competition in the marketplace. What that means to us is Cheaper Prices!
I have quality fire starters that cost me less than $9. My ½” thick ferro rod was just under $20 and will probably outlast my lifespan. As far as blowing your budget, it’s definitely not a factor when it comes to ferro rods.
Ferro rods work great for getting your tinder bundle started but it also comes in handy for igniting other sources. Backpacking stoves can be annoying at times to ignite. The angle on which these stoves need to be lit can be awkward on some models. Being able to spray some sparks from the ferro rod can be quite effective for getting these portable stoves lit.
I use my ferro rods to get my backyard firepit going. I also use them for igniting my wood burning grill. It makes it convenient for me on windy days but also gives me the continual practice needed to hone in and maintain the skill. Take any opportunity that you can to practice. Once you become more proficient with your ferro rod, you will find yourself using it a lot more.
I can refer back to my cigarette smoking days for this one… While training at the Mountain Warfare Training Center as an active duty United States Marine, we were training at over 10,000 feet in elevation for over a month. When we tried to use our Bic lighters to light our cigarettes, there always seemed to be an issue. We had to resort to matches to get our “fix” in while the Smoking Lantern was on.
Now, I’m not suggesting to light your cigarette or cigar with a ferro rod. I am giving an example of why I’d prefer my ferro rod over my Bic lighter if I had to fire build in high elevation. A spark from a ferro rod will have the same intensity, regardless of the elevation.
I have to admit that starting a fire with a ferro rod certainly has that… Cool Factor. There is a degree of skill required to operate the ferro rod as opposed to just, striking the wheel on a Bic. It brings a bit of the bushcraft feel to the fire building experience. It’s not the same as starting it with a bow and drill but still cool nonetheless.
When I hand out ferro rods to my Boy Scout troop members, the excitement is almost instant. I see some of them become a bit nervous but that is a temporary effect. Once they learn to move the ferro rod, not the actual scraping tool… And get that tinder bundle going, they walk away from the experience looking as if they had just won the lottery.
It is always best to be redundant and carry various ignition sources. Just like most things in life, balance is key. If you can carry a Bic lighter, waterproof matches and a quality ferro rod… Then you are definitely good to go.
We never want to make things more difficult than we have to. This statement expands exponentially in an emergency scenario. Expand your skills and options whenever possible. Store as many ignition sources as you can for emergency use. If you are not familiar with a ferro rod, get one and start practicing. Get your family involved and practice together. You may need to rely on them for fire building in an emergency.
Right now we have the ability to choose our preferred methods and options. When SHTF… We may not be so fortunate.