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Fire Steels (Firesteels or Ferrocium Rods) For Survival and Camping Fire-Starting

Updated on March 17, 2011

Making fire is always a concern in the outdoors, whether in a camping trip or in a survival situation. Matches are a great option, as are small lighters such as the mini-bic. However, matches are useless if wet. They can be waterproofed, but this is a lot of trouble and most people won’t bother with it. Lighters are excellent when they work, but they can break or run out of fuel. In either case, they obviously won’t be doing anything. Ferrocium rods or fire steels (also firesteels) - both names for the same object - are the answer to emergency fire-starting needs. Ferro rods are reliable survival gear that can be used when wet or under pretty much any circumstances and can start hundreds or thousands of fires.

Attribution: "Now Thats a Fire" from BRAYDAWG
Attribution: "Now Thats a Fire" from BRAYDAWG

There are two main kinds of ferrocium rods, although they work in an identical fashion. Regular firesteels, such as Light My Fire firesteels, are slightly easier to spark for most people, but give smaller sparks. Mischmetal rods, like those from and, are slightly harder to spark, but give huge sparks that light tinder a little better. Both are good choices, and the major difference is personal preference. The best way is to buy one of each and determine which type is best for you. I have both types and like both. Magnesium fire starters are very similar to the other firesteels. The attached ferro rod is not as good, but it comes with a supply of magnesium to use for tinder.


 Ferro rods are the modern version of the old pioneer’s fire-starting method of flint and steel.  When using flint and steel, the steel flint is usually struck against the steel, causing sparks to fly into prepared tinder.  When using a ferrocium rod, a sharp metal object is scraped along the rod, causing sparks to fly off.  These sparks are directed into a tinder nest.  Good choices for tinder include petroleum jelly-soaked cotton balls, very fine steel wool, birch bark, and fatwood (resin-soaked wood which can either be collected outdoors or bought at stores).


Firesteels can be easily put in a pocket or on a keychain and carried everywhere.  Prudence would dictate that matches and lighters should still be carried when camping or in other outdoor activities, since it is always better not to put all of one’s eggs in one basket.  With a little practice, though, firesteels have all the advantages of both in a weatherproof, long-lasting format. 


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    • Tim_511 profile image

      Tim_511 7 years ago from Huntington, WV

      Nice to meet you, too! This definitely is not an everyday item, but people who are interested in outdoor survival and wilderness skills are usually familiar with them.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 7 years ago from England

      Hi Tim, I had never heard of this, well, you learn something new every day! lol great to meet you, cheers nell