At the time of this publication, Lightning-Strike Fire Starter is not an advertiser with SurvivalCommonSense.com. I was not reimbursed for this review.
During a backcountry emergency, you may stake your life on your firemaking tools. Here is a system worth considering.
by Leon Pantenburg
It has been well over 12 years, and thousands of fires, since I used anything but traditional flint, steel and charcloth to start a campfire in the wilderness: I enjoy practicing survival skills.
The Lightning-Strike is compact, portable and contains a complete firemaking system.
As a Boy Scout and community volunteer, I have done extensive research on what survival firemaking tools and techniques work best. In the past 12 years, I have helped teach well over 12,000 scouts, students, outdoorspeople and others the flint and steel technique. In 2007, I received a Boy Scouts Fremont District Award of Merit for the survival firemaking teaching program I designed and helped implement.
The point of this bragging is that I can claim some expertise in survival firemaking. Typically, SurvivalCommonSense doesn't do fire tool reviews, because, many of the "new" products are nothing but re-organized and re-packaged versions of the same old techniques and tools. And it would be really, really hard to improve upon my go-to survival firestarting standard of cotton balls infused with petroleum jelly, ignited with a ferrocerium rod.
So Darrell Holland, inventor of the Lightning-Strike Fire Starter, had a sales job before I would agree to review the product. The product came into existence after Holland and his son, an Eagle Scout decided to come up with a new and improved firestarting tool.
The Lightning-Strike contains firestarter in the handle, and disassembles to allow the ferrocerium rod to be used with the striker.
Here are the advantages of the Lightning-Strike, according to Holland.
- Completely self-contained: A Lightning-Strike is light (about 8 ounces) compact and easy to pack. It provides everything you need to start an emergency fire.
- Waterproof: The Lightning-Strike Tinder is kept in a waterproof container that also serves as the handle.
- Hotter sparks: The sparks produced by the ferrocerium rod in the unit are between 4,000 and 5,000 degrees, according to the company, and the focused stream makes for better and faster ignition.
- Works in any environmental situation.
If all that was true, then this method did have something new and different.
In my experience, a common problem with survival firestarting is making the transition from ignition to smaller twigs. Generally, most people can light a match or lighter to produce the initial flame. Where they fail is lack of transition time, which would allow the flame to light the twigs or other tinder.
A match may be good for a few seconds of flame, and a lighter for longer. But during nasty, rainy weather, if the wood is wet or damp, that may not be enough time. I always carry emergency firestarter along just because of that. In a survival situation where hypothermia is a possibility, time is critical.
My first impression of the Lightning-Strike out of the box is that it shows quality materials and workmanship. About the size of a mini-maglite, it doesn't take up much room. The ferrocerium rod throws showers of sparks, and it is positioned in a tube that concentrates them. This makes for a much hotter ignition.
The ferro rod readily ignites the firestarter that is stored in the hollow handle.
I was amazed - my old reliable ferro rod that I have been carrying for a couple years only appeared to be about half as bright as the Lightning-Strike. I'm assuming this means the Lightning-Strike produces about twice the heat.
A special firestarter comes with the Lightning-Strike, and it is designed to fit in the handle. The material appears to be some sort of petroleum product, that is infused into a cotton (?) pad. The firestarter can be ordered from the company. My thought is to continue carrying a separate container of cotton balls and petroleum jelly, and use that first.
And the system can be used one-handed. All you do is remove the firestarter from the handle, and position it at the end of the tube. Stand on the end of the Lightning-Strike to hold it in place, and scrape the ferro rod with the striker. Fire.
All in all, I really like the Lightning-Strike. It seems eminently practical, and it produces a hot spark stream that lights tinders quite well. The quality workmanship means the product should be reliable, and pretty much foolproof. A Lightning-Strike could be a valuable addition to a bug out bag, daypack or any other emergency/survival kit. This product is a keeper.