Getting a fire started when you’re camping and hunting is one of the first things most folks do, and if you’re “turned around” in the woods then having a fire can be critical to survival during autumn and winter.
Fires are soothing. They help keep us warm, can be a signal to others, provide heat for cooking, and connect us with our ancestors. For land management purposes, fire is beneficial to rid the ground of leaf litter and help with vegetation control and regeneration. Native Americans and earlier explorers, “cavemen” if you prefer, used fire for the same reasons we do today.
Getting a fire started can be tricky if you’re cold, wet, injured or have lousy materials. Ever tried starting a fire with damp leaves? Even with dry tinder, it’s a chore. Add some wind or frigid temps and you’re even more at a disadvantage.
One cool item to have in your backpack is a nanoStriker from Exotac (www.Exotac.com), an incredibly well-designed ferrocerium rod firestarter that could save your life. When you don’t need it, you don’t even know it’s there.
The nanoStriker is about 3.25 inches long and weighs just 17 grams. It’s a little fatter than a cigarette, or just about the size of a small Tootsie Roll candy. Both ends have lanyard holes; one is bigger, and I attached a FreeKey (www.exotac.com/freekey-system/) ring to it and cord that I can attach to my pack zipper or internal pocket. The nanoStriker also is light enough for a key ring.
The nanoStriker ferrocerium rod is housed inside one of the two removable ends of the nanoStriker. Unscrew the section covering the rod, unscrew the other end holding the tungsten carbide insert, and then put the one that covered the rod into the other end. This gives you some grip as you use then sharp edges of the tungsten carbide insert to shave off hot, burning slivers of the ferrocerium rod.
These sparks are, literally, glowing white-hot. They’ll burn just about anything. Dry tinder materials don’t stand a chance. Whether you’re using your home-made tinder — clothes dryer lint, cotton balls, etc. — or woods material such as leaves, bark shavings or a bird’s nest, you’ll likely get a fire going in short order. Point the rod near the tinder, hold the striker at an angle, use a firm and rapid motion to scrape the ferrocerium rod, and the hot bits should fly into your tiner.
The nanoStriker works when wet, too, and the ferrocerium rod is replaceable. These are great for your pack or, if you’re a minimalist, to have on your key ring. It could help you in a pinch.
— Alan Clemons, Southern Managing Editor