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When you think of camping, you think of a campfire. A gentle breeze hisses through the open air, and it’s cold out there, but you and your family or friends are sitting around a crackling fire, enjoying its blazing warmth, eating together and trading stories.

Yes, you have the fire, but how you make that fire is the question you should be asking yourself. The answer: fire starters – and there are so many types out there, but which one in particular should campers consider? Fire pistons and ferro-rod strikers are the modern and best methods of fire starting for camping trips.

Types of Fire Starters

Before we pick out the best type of fire starter for campers, we will look at the various types which a camper can rely on, because we are all about giving you choices.

Basic fire starters for a camper are a lighter or a matchstick, and many of us have been using them for years. However, what about the more modern fire starting methods out there?

The two main types of modern fire starting devices are ferrocerium fire starters aka ferro-rod strikers and fire pistons.

1. Ferro-rod striker

The ferro-rod striker is the modern version of an ancient fire starting technology: striking flint against steel. The main difference is that the ferro-rod striker uses ferrocerium rather than flint.

This alloy (ferrocerium) generates sparks which burn for longer and with more readiness than the sparks created by the traditional flint and steel. As a result, ferro-rod strikers are easier to ignite.

The advantage of this type of fire starter is: it works well, no matter the moisture conditions. This is a very important point to campers, because out there it’s unpredictable and you sometimes have to make a fire in dewy, wet or freezing conditions.

Furthermore, this type of fire starter is very light and easy to pack.

2. Fire piston

The fire piston is also referred to as a slam rod fire starter or a fire syringe. It operates using a property of physics known as the first law of thermodynamics.

The device comprises a thick-walled tube which has one opening where you insert tinder. You then push a rod that perfectly matches the tube’s interior inwards, causing the air within the tube to compress rapidly and then heat up to the point of ignition.

The ignition occurs as a demonstration of the first law of thermodynamics, which states that energy is incapable of being created or destroyed.  While compressing the air, the rod creates kinetic energy. The extra kinetic energy transforms into heat.

The beauty of a fire piston is that it does not have many moving parts. In addition, it is rather light and portable, so you can easily carry it around with you when you go camping.

Fire pistons require an airtight seal to enable the compression of air within the tube. Rubber gaskets are used for that purpose. That means if the rubber gasket or seal gets compromised in any way, your device is ruined.

It is also worth noting that the fire piston is not successful with all types of tinder. Char cloth is the tinder of choice.

Best Fire Starter Features to Look Out for When Going Camping

If you are going camping and you are wondering what to look for when shopping for a fire starter, use these:

Spark-making Capacity

This point applies to strikers in particular. A ferro-rod striker has a limited number of strikes. The more strikes a device can provide, the more durable it is. You want something with a large strike capacity to use for a long time, on numerous camping trips..

Igniting Period

How long does it take to create the fire?

The traditional flint and steel might require several strikes because it creates small sparks that don’t burn for long.

A modern ferro-rod striker is an upgrade because its sparks burn longer and more readily. You can therefore start a fire quicker when using a ferro-rod striker.

Ability in Versatile Weather Conditions

How long it takes to light a fire will also depend on the weather conditions. For instance, if you are trying to light a fire using a matchstick when the wind is blowing, you are going to have a seriously annoying session during which you could go through half the sticks in the box before you finally succeed.

This is why fire pistons and ferro-rod strikers are the best fire starting devices for a camping trip. Strikers are able to function even in wet conditions.

The Take Away

A great camping fire starter is portable, long-lasting, makes a fire fast, and is successful in a variety of weather conditions. With these points in mind, it is easy for us to conclude that the ferro-rod striker is the best option, with the fire piston following closely behind.

Kelvin Mwathi