Sunday, April 8, 2018
A metal match or fire steel, is a collection metals designed to throw off sparks when scraped with a piece of steel. Often they are formed into rods and come with a small steel striker. That's the type I've been using for years now. They are not to be confused with a flint and steel.
A metal match is what I use to start my Coleman gas stoves and propane grill 99% of the time. There are a couple of advantages to using one. They throw a good shower of sparks a good distance. Sure beats using a Bic lighter and getting the hair burned off the back of my hand. They also work when soaking wet. That's one of the things that make them so useful as a survival tool.
While they start stoves and grills instantly, it takes a bit more work to start a campfire with one. Sure, they throw a lot of hot sparks, but you need something to catch those sparks. Crumpled up paper works, if you've got it. The key is to get those sparks to land into the folds of the paper where their heat can do some good. I've also used very dry pine needles or thin strips of birch bark. I recommend practicing with one to find what works for you. A char cloth cloth would be ideal. However, I always thought that if you had the foresight to prepare a char cloth, you'd have the foresight to bring a regular lighter. That's why I practice with stuff I happen to have with me or things I find in the woods.
Right now I travel with two metal matches. One is on my key chain It was a smaller size. Over the years it's shrunk to less than half its original length. My second one is bigger and bulkier and is kept with my camp stoves.
The metal match is one of those “survival tools” that I use all the time. Even at home I'll sometimes use one to start the woodstove. If you use one all the time you get good with it. Should a true survival situation come up you'll be able to make a fire while wet and with half frozen fingers.