There is something I find really interesting about the Outdoor industry: It’s backwards. Backwards from almost any industry I can think of. We start off using the most up to date gear and technology, and then we start learning the old ways. The love of wilderness skills usually comes after we have all the tech and gadgets. Most industries are constantly moving forward as fast as they can. You wouldn’t even dream of using a cell phone from even 10 years ago. Outdoor people, we forge our own path, and we do the opposite. We are wanting to learn skills from hundreds of years ago, to use today. This is especially true when it comes to making fires out in the wild.
Recently, I asked a question on our Facebook page out of sheer interest; What method of fire starting do you use in the backcountry? There are many different ways to do it, and the answers I got back reflected just that.
Not surprisingly, the majority of the answers I got back from that question were either “matches” or “a lighter”. A few responded back with awesomeness like “frustration fueled bug spray flame throwers” and even “Superman laser beam eyes”. (I love you guys lol). However, there were many people that answered “Flint” to my surprise. (And 1 that said bow drill: Which we want to give out the Manly award for.) It seems, more people than expected are using old school methods of starting fires. Not surprisingly, we didn’t hear anyone say anything about the fire piston. That got me thinking, which always a dangerous thing. Do you know what a Fire Piston is? How it works?
Starting a fire (matches and lighters aside) is an art and everyone has their own way of doing. When you’re trying out an unfamiliar method, there are certain criteria that you want to look for.
- Does it work?
- Is it reliable?
- How long will it last?
- How much of a Fire God will I look/feel like when using it?
Ok maybe the last one isn’t for everybody.
I know many of you like your ferro rods, flints, fire steels and all the other names they go buy, but I want you to consider a fire piston for all of the above.
A fire piston works fast, works every time, and can be run on natural materials. You can’t say that about matches or lighters. Fire pistons have been used for hundreds of years, and proved to be effective time and time again. They can be used for years before replacement is need. You can’t say that about your lighter, matches or your flint. They all have some sort of fuel that eventually runs out. Because a fire piston relies on a small piece of tinder, you never need to return home or to a store in order to refuel it. If you can’t find tinder to burn in the wilderness, you may want to rethink what you’re doing out there lol. (Tinder is a small piece of burnable material for those who aren’t familiar: dry moss, small bits of wood, bark, grass, etc)
How it works:
Using just a piece of tinder and a good hard hand slam, a fire piston creates air pressure that rapidly heats up to a ignite the tinder on the end. Drop that ember into a tinder bundle, give it some air by blowing it or holding it in the wind and BAM! Instant fire.
How about reliability?
Matches and lighters stop working as soon as they get wet, leaving you fire-less. Let’s face it, you WILL get soaking wet on your adventures, whether that is from rain storms or a good old fashion canoe dunking, it WILL happen. Flint’s and fire pistons have the advantage here. Both will work when wet.
So far, Flint and Fire Piston have the edge. Don’t get me wrong, I like Flint’s. It’s fun to spray shards of fire! Who wouldn’t want to do that!?! However, those sparks will only last for so long until the rod breaks as it becomes thin. My fire piston is going on year 4 and is still working the same as when I bought it. You can’t say the same for your fire steels.
On to the piece on the list, Fire Godliness. Starting a fire with gasoline aside – Getting an ember, and turning it into a fire is pretty much the ultimate (woodsman) way to showcase the power you hold over fire 🔥. The bow drill does this in a badass, yet manual way, but let’s face it, if you have this skill, you aren’t looking for other methods to start your fires. The fire piston does that same job, with much more speed and a quarter of the effort. Create that fire, hold that ball of flame high in the sky, and declare your fiery wrath over all of ManCamping kind!!!!!
If you haven’t tried one, let this be the year to step up you fire skills. Try one out and let us know what you think. You’ll soon master the skill and be throwing fire balls at your friends in no time. It will take you a step back in time, and a step forward in your hunt for wilderness knowledge.
We carry the Bushcraft Tools Pyro Fire Piston in the ManCamping gear shop, if you decide to take the plunge. (Hint: there is a hidden getting rod inside this fire piston just incase you do want to shoot sparks!)
How do you start your fire in the wilderness?
- Flint - 4
- Matches - 2
- Lighter - 1
- Bow Drill - 0
- Fire Piston - 0
- Gasoline/Explosives - 1
- Flares - 0
PSA: I once set my half my beard on fire with one of these, so be beard-careful!