Tag Archives: fire

Fire From the Gods? Whats in Your Pocket?

Picture yourself, The Middle Pleistocene era walking up to the cave, your fellow hominids are sitting around trying to rub some sticks together to get fire going.  You reach into the medicine bag hanging around your neck.  You grab something, reach down to the fire and push a button and PRESTO, Flames from the gods ignite the fire.  The rest of your tribe gathers around you, making offerings of animal skins and baskets of fruit, and slabs of thick cut meat.  Yes, Life is good.    Fast forward 700,000 years, and you can do the same, but may or may not be given all the offerings.

Yes, this is a review of a simple lighter, and should probably be 3 paragraphs, but where would the fun be in that?   So Today, I had a little more fun in writing a bit of a whopper of a review on such a simple item.   Mostly just out of a sense of fun. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

The UST (Ultimate Survival Technologies) Wayfinder Butane Lighter with Compass

MSRP $14.99  Can be commonly found at Walmart for around $9.95.

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In the Package

Most comparable lighters online are in the $7:00 to $19.00 range.  Some similar lighters can be found much lower.  But I can’t judge quality of those in comparison having not used them.  There are some nice high end lighters with certified waterproofing and easier to use controls.  Look at the Delta Stormproof lighter for some of those higher end features in the $35+ range and you’ll see what I mean.

Before we get started, this question must be answered.  “Why a lighter?”.  You’re an outdoorsman, you can make fire with friction if you had to, matches are dirt cheap and easy to carry.  Heck, even a Ferro rod can make fire so easy, why on earth bother with a lighter?

To answer this question, I always start with a classic survival question.  You’re in a dire survival situation, sun is setting, temp is dropping rapidly, you have nothing on you but a ferro rod, a lighter, and the materials for a bow drill.  Which one are you going to light the fire with to save your life?  In a real survival situation, the lighter is the most immediate and effective means.  Could be windy, could be wet or raining and the match or ferro become a little more difficult to use, requiring more effort as your body reaches hypothermia.  You lose dexterity to operate some of these effectively.  (I have had hypothermia up to the point where my mind was starting to say “Lets just go to sleep, you don’t care anymore”.  Drown-proofing in a cold pool in October while in the Army.   I could barely grab a ladder to climb out of the pool, needed help.  Trust me, you lose dexterity in your fingers quickly and not long after that, you just don’t really care anymore).

Sure, out camping, just hanging out in the woods.  Take your time, make a fire with a ferro rod, or take the time to build a bow drill and do some fire by friction practice.    But even sitting around at work or at home, you need to melt some paracord ends?  The lighter is the quick, practical way to do that.   So, it just makes sense to keep a lighter on you.

I know some people are “Technology averse”, and may think technology is bad, and doesn’t belong in the field.  But even many of them still carry a lighter or other technology with them.  Mostly because it’s convenient and quick.  It’s just simply useful, but in the same respect, a lighter IS technology.  Just like a knife is “Technology” over a knapped piece of obsidian tied to a deer antler with some coyote tendons.  Technology isn’t bad, it’s just another tool to be used.  But like any tool, if you depend on it too much, if it breaks on you, your need to have the skills to use alternatives (like a ferro rod or a bow drill).  Dependence is never a good thing.  ANY piece of equipment can break or get lost (Even that $400 custom made specialty knife you love to death could accidentally be lost).  So make sure you have your alternatives, and your skills.   But don’t dismiss a tool because “Egads:  Technology”.  You’d still be carrying a knapped knife and wearing animal skins.  😊

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1 screw to access the inner workings

There are a lot of lighters available for all walks of life.  Some pretty high end super tough lighters on down to the cheap Bic knockoff lighters you can get at 50 cents each.  I used to carry the little Bics because they were cheap and disposable and the small ones ride in your pocket very well.   But they have the problem with the button being pushed while they are in your pocket and then the fuel leaks out and presto, you go to use it and it’s empty.    I’ve had them go empty in my pocket in less than a week and I’ve had them last for a couple months, but it’s a crap shoot.  Not something I feel confident enough in to trust my life to.

So, I have tried a couple of options.   In the Army I carried a Zippo, But soon discovered I didn’t care for them.  They tended to leak and dry out quickly.  And messing with transporting and carrying liquid fuel is a pain.  Sure, they looked cool, and it was fun to pull it out and snap my fingers and pop it open, but after a while I stopped carrying them.  I tried a peanut lighter and a forever match and a larger version, but would hate to try to use one if I was hypothermic, and both still leaked and aren’t as convenient as a thumb operated lighter.   After that I used Bic’s.  Then high pressure butane lighters started getting popular.  I have purchased a couple from gas stations in the $5.99 range on up to the $17.00 Spark Multi-tool butane lighter (Which turned out to be a total piece of junk, don’t ever waste your money on it).    Most just don’t stand up to pocket carry well.

My last butane lasted about 3 months before the cap broke off.  So, I have been in the market a for a replacement, but didn’t want any of the same old versions I see everywhere.  I was at Walmart and I’ve had mixed feelings about UST gear.  Some UST gear is a great value, the Spark Force Ferro’s are great, I LOVE the Polymer resin carabiners, lightweight, nonmetallic, tough enough and work great.  The small tarps are decent, (I don’t care for most of the cutlery as previous evaluations have shown).

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At this angle you can make out the rubber seal

The Wayfinder Lighter from UST was hanging in the camping section at Walmart.  I decided to give it a try.  I didn’t expect much.  Cheap plastic shell, button compass on the side.   But figured, it had to be better than the spark that had failed horribly.    Got it home and opened it up and was surprised.  It’s much more solid than I expected.   I popped the lid open and first impression was “No rubber O ring so not waterproof.    Which turned out to be my mistake. (Hey, I’m human, I make plenty of mistakes).   The lighter housing is chrome and there is a rubber gasket, but it’s so small and so close to the edge it’s lost in the reflection of the metal.

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Easy  flame control as long as you have a strong fingernail or knife

Once I figure out there was a gasket, I had to do some water testing.  This lighter is not billed as waterproof, it doesn’t say waterproof in the specs or on the packaging.  But I did 2 water tests.  I put it in a glass of water (This does not float, they do have some available that do but I don’t care for the more squared designs, I like rounded edges for pocket carry).    I did the first test for 5 minutes.  I was not surprised to see a lot of bubbles coming up.  Figured it was leaking.   But Pulled it out and low and behold, the chamber was dry.   (Turned out the water was going into the tiny chamber where the rocker arm is that houses the cap release, so the water didn’t enter the lighter at all.     After 30 minutes in water, it was still bone dry and worked fine.   There is a screw on the base that allows you to remove the lighter from the housing also.

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Latch Down, push button to release cap

The lighter works well, it does come empty so buy yourself a bottle of butane to fill it.  If you use butane lighters, you probably already have a bottle at home.  😊

The compass, It’s a standard button compass.  It works as well as any button compass.  Much like anything else, it doesn’t need to be there, but why not, doesn’t hurt anything and it’s still a compass and still works.

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With locking latch closed.  It has not come open in my pocket yet.

It has a great latch system.  Easy to operate 1 handed, and the flip up wire lock keeps the cap secured very well.

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Lanyard hole and compass

The flame is adjustable via a small turn screw on the bottom around the fill port.  This does require something akin to a knife or strong fingernail to turn.  Depending on the altitude you’re at it may need adjusting.

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30 minute water test was successful. The bubbles are from inside the thumb release, not the lighter itself.

All in all, it’s a decent lighter at a reasonable price.  There are probably better buys out there, higher quality, lower price, so find something you like or that fits you, but for the price, this is a decent little lighter and everyone should have a lighter in their pocket anyway.   Now, I’ve only had it for a week, so only time will tell if it’s tough enough to stand up to my pocket carry.  (I’m going to keep an eye on the rocker pins which I think are its weakest point).  I have high hopes and reasonable expectation. LOL   I’ll come back again in a couple months and let you know how it’s fairing.

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Lid Opens past 90 degrees, easier to get the flame to tight spaces.

Pros:

  • Tough plastic shell (I did more than 20 drop and toss tests with it and it’s still running just fine)
  • Adjustable flame
  • Cap is spring loaded and stays out of the way.
  • Solid latch to keep the lid closed and waterproof
  • Compass, (Why not? LOL)
  • Lanyard hole to add a lanyard if you like. (Could attached it to a pack if you wish.
  • Cap opens past 90 Degrees (many capped butane lighters do not, so they can be tough to get into tight spaces)
  • Bright Orange. (I like bright colors for pocket carry stuff, easier to spot in the grass when you drop it).

Cons:

  • No rubber grip. (This is more of a personal preference, it does have a good texture cutouts, but I like a non-slip rubbery grips)
  • No shock absorber built in like more expensive versions. (Not sure how useful that really is, as I have done dozens of 5 to 8 foot drop tests and a couple of 20 foot “Toss” onto concrete tests and it’s fared well.
  • Flame doesn’t get as high as some other lighters.

 

 

 

 

 

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Update on Firecord

6 months ago, I purchased some Firecord and did a review on it.  It’s a neat and simple way to keep some fire starting material with you.  Sure there are thousands of ways to make fire, but just for simplicity and availability on all your gear, this stuff is great.

I wanted to test the longevity of it under normal use.  I’ve had some tied to my packs for 6 months.  Been rained on, and had dew on it and snow and been through many freeze/thaw cycles.    Does it still work after it’s been hanging around on my kit for 6 moths?  Well, the answer is a resounding Yes!   I will rerun these tests every 6 months and see how long it really lasts.

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Just a little rubbing with the edge of a knife will fuzz it up to catch a spark.  Doesn’t take much fuzzing or sparking.

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One quick spark with a Fero rod and it took right off.

So all in all, I’m still a fan.  it’s so easy to tie some paracord off on your kit.  And just have it on standby “Just in case”.   I’m going to do an immersion test next to see what kind of water-logging it can really take and still light.

Thanks for stopping by and enjoy the trails!

Doc

 

 


Firecord Review

Firecord is an innovative little product from the guys over at Live Fire Gear (Also Equip-2-Endure).  I do have to admit I’ve known a member of their staff for a couple of years and they are some great people.  But be warned, I will test this product objectively.

Firecord is a type of paracord cordage with an extra strand (Paracord normally has 7 strands of internal fiber) of flammable fiber.   The paracord is just as strong as normal paracord out of the box.

Initial observations.  There is a very mild smell of accelerant from the cordage.  A bit of mineral oil type smell, but it’s not heavy.  It’s also not greasy at all.  There is no transfer of the accelerant beyond the single “Fire” strand.   This was one of my early concerns.  (You may not want to use this product with hunting gear if you do scent neutralization.  It’s a mild scent to humans but most likely quite strong to animals that defend themselves with a strong sense of smell)

Packageing

Packaging

It handles and feels just like any other paracord but it is a little stiffer but not enough to be any kind of problem.  (It does come in a variety of colors.  Last I checked on Amazon, it came in 12 different colors, both bright and subdued.  (I prefer the bright colors to denote it’s Firecord over the other colors).  So I ordered it in Orange.  Here is where it starts to get interesting.  You can still melt the ends after cutting just like regular paracord.  The accelerant is slow enough to allow you to melt/whip your paracord without igniting.  This works perfectly.  In fact I tried several times to ignite the internal strand and without air, it goes out quickly.  I like this feature.  Allows you to literally treat this cord exactly as any other paracord until you need the firestrand.

7 + fire strand

7 + fire strand

Now one of the points is that you can extract the fire strand and continue to use the paracord, which works well if you are cutting chunk’s less than 10 feet long.  But trying to pull a single strand on longer pieces creates a lot of friction.  But you really don’t need to pull out a 10 foot section to start a fire.  Most of my testing was done with 2 or 3 inch chunks which was more than enough.  So for my own convenience, I just cut off a 3 inch section of cordage.  I usually just pocket the trash.

For most of us who spend as much time in the woods as I do, we always have plenty of fire starting materials on us and most of the time it’s pretty easy to find or make something that will catch a spark.   So this may be a little bit “Gimmicky” to add to the kit, but it’s a pretty slick and easy way to have some very good fire starting material on you at all times.  (And it’s waterproof and essentially a “Tie it off and Forget about it until you need it” product.  Do you need it?  No, but its sure isn’t going to hurt to have it available.  I’d suggest using this for zipper pulls on all your bags and kits.  Each zipper pull would provide enough cordage for 2 or 3 fires.   Or you can make a small keychain with it and keep it on your ferro rod (or even use it as your ferro rod cord).  Then it will always be available to you.

Strand extended (Can be pulled and cut)

Strand extended (Can be pulled and cut)

Never hurts to have that little extra with you.  And since I have zipper pulls on all my bag zippers (If you’ve ever reached hypothermia, you will understand the importance Zipper pulls provide).  So without taking up any extra space or even having to remember where in my kit I’ve dropped my Firecord, it’s always available.

Scraped and prepped

Scraped and prepped

All in all it’s a pretty good piece of kit.  Think of it as insurance.  You may never need it, but that one time you really do need it, it will be right there.

Now let’s look at usage and performance.

Catches the first spark

Catches the first spark

First thing is, it doesn’t light well on its own straight out of the cord, unless you use a match or lighter (in which case you probably wouldn’t be using it).  But if it’s very rainy and windy and you need fire and do have a lighter or match, it will work well as a base tinder.   A 2 inch strand burned solid for 25 or 30 seconds on most of my tests.  (Some longer but I prefer to report on the minimums).

For best usage, with a ferro rod or if using something like a bow drill or fire plow to provide a coal, you need to “Fuzz” the cord up.  A fingernail will do an ok job, but a sharp knife will fuzz it up really well. Practice a little because it is very weak and will tear up if you apply too much pressure.  There is a waxy substance on the cord which will flake as you scrape.  The more fuzz, the faster it will take a spark, but also the faster it will burn.    What I discovered works best is to take about a 3 inch section.  Fuzz about 1 inch of the end, then curl the other 2 inches under it.  This provide nearly a full minute of burn time.

All in all, for the price, it’s a worthwhile investment.  A single 25 foot strand runs about $12.50 and will probably be all you’ll need for years.