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Firesteel vs. Bic
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Gordon Smith
(swearingen) - MLife

Locale: Portland, Oregon
Firesteel vs. Bic on 08/11/2009 10:02:12 MDT Print View

I see a lot of folks here on BPL mentioning they use a firesteel. I have a couple of these and I like them well enough but I honestly can't say I prefer them over a plain old Bic Mini.

To me the Bic just seems less fussy and easier to use. It lights an Esbit tab in seconds and it can usually set flame to tinder without using any firestarter. For canister stoves I'd say it's about a draw between the two but I will give the nod to firesteel for an alcohol stove (just barely).

As to weight, a Bic Mini and a Light-My-Fire Mini weigh exactly the same on my scale at .5 oz each.

As to longevity the claim for the Mini Firesteel is that it's good for 1500 strikes whereas a mini butane lighter is supposedly good for 600 lights. OK, Firesteel wins that one but 600 back country meals is a lot.

There's the issue of the ligher being useless if it's wet. That's true but they're also pretty easy to dry out as demonstrated by this fellow. And even if the Bic runs out of fuel it can still toss enough sparks to get a fire going if you've got some good firestarter to work with.

So I'm just wondering why folks like the Firesteels so much. Is it just aesthetics or is there something else I'm missing? For now I've gone back to my trusty old Bic.


Edited by swearingen on 08/11/2009 10:14:24 MDT.

Troy Ammons
(tammons) - F - MLife
Firesteel vs. Bic on 08/11/2009 10:08:07 MDT Print View

I think its the caveman aesthetic.
I carry one as a backup and carry one on my keychain.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Firesteel vs. Bic on 08/11/2009 10:24:00 MDT Print View

I carry a firesteel for simplicity and reliability.

I know Bics are pretty reliable, but here are some of my gripes:
While unlikely, I've seen a Bic wheel pop out of the housing. I've also seen the wheels jam, especially when out of gas and repeatedly striking it for sparks-the flint inside is not that big. They're useless wet or frozen. They're also harder to manipulate with gloves/frozen fingers. If you step on it, it's dead. I also doubt that the sparks they throw are hot enough to light anything but the very best/driest/finest tinder. A firesteel's sparks can light wood shavings/feathersticks easily; unlikely a Bic could do this without gas.

Now I know we're not going survivor(wo)man out there and I know that the chances of a Bic failing are low, but I also know that a firesteel can't fail. I also like the idea that it's a tool you can carry in your kit for a VERY long time without worry about replacement.

Tom Caldwell
(Coldspring) - F

Locale: Ozarks
Firesteel vs. Bic on 08/11/2009 10:46:35 MDT Print View

List the Mini Bic on your sub 2 pound gear list, but when you pack, throw in 2 mini bics, a firesteel, and a book of matches.

Dave .
(Ramapo) - F
Firesteel vs. Bic on 08/11/2009 11:18:46 MDT Print View

Fire steels work no matter what. Dunk them in water, 2 seconds later, they'll still throw sparks.

Bic...not so much.

I pack a bic and use it 99% of the time. But I carry a fire steel in my cargo pocket at all times.

todd h
(funnymoney) - MLife

Locale: SE
Re: Firesteel vs. Bic on 08/11/2009 11:20:40 MDT Print View

I agree w/Dave.

A BIC is convenient and in my pack.

But the Firesteel is sooooooo reliable. Always with me, too.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: Firesteel vs. Bic on 08/11/2009 14:57:34 MDT Print View

I have had several bics let me down over the years. A firesteel is bombproof. I still carry a bic as a convenience though, especially since I cook a lot with Esbit.

Acronym Esq
( - F

Locale: TX
Re: Firesteel vs. Bic on 08/12/2009 00:15:07 MDT Print View

I have pulled 2 new bics out of my pack over the last 6 months that somehow don't have gas in them any more.

I have yet to get a firesteel to light natural materials in the back country (grass, bark, and leaves have all failed). This is not for lack of training or trying.

I enjoy playing with my firesteel, so that's what I carry. It has no trouble lighting an alcohol stove. I bring a little dryer lint to help get fires going.

acronym 8/12/2009 1:13 AM

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: Firesteel vs. Bic on 08/12/2009 13:58:29 MDT Print View

"I bring a little dryer lint to help get fires going."

My striker has a block of magnesium attached to it, to shave and get a flame going. It's never let me down, though I also carry a few cotton balls.

Mike Clelland
(mikeclelland) - MLife

Locale: The Tetons (via Idaho)
I heart Mini-Bic on 08/12/2009 15:46:59 MDT Print View

The mini-bic is an amazingly reliable tool. I have one in my pack at all times.

The lightest fire starter is a humble book of paper matches in a small plastic bag. That's my back up.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: I heart Mini-Bic on 08/12/2009 15:53:09 MDT Print View

"The mini-bic is an amazingly reliable tool. I have one in my pack at all times."

These are the lighters that have failed me several times, so I will politely beg to differ.

Rick Cheehy
(kilgoretrout2317) - F

Locale: Virginia
Re: Re: I heart Mini-Bic on 08/12/2009 16:13:05 MDT Print View

I go bic (never had one fail) and matches and 2 petro jelly cotton balls as backup. I have a firesteel, kind of a pain to use maybe too hard in a "really real" type situation. Especially when you consider a fluidless bic can still throw sparks.

Sanad Toukhly
(Red_Fox) - MLife

Locale: South Florida
Re: Firesteel vs. Bic on 08/12/2009 16:58:06 MDT Print View

Technically, Firesteel IS more reliable than a Bic lighter.

That's not to say that Bics are not reliable... because they are. I have never had Firesteel or Bic fail on me.

With that said, the Bic is easier & faster to use IMO. For that reason, I carry a mini Bic as my main source of fire, with some matches as backup.

If I was in a survival type situation, I suppose I would rather have Firesteel because it has a lower chance of failure. However, for my backpacking needs, I take the Bic because it is more convenient.

Todd Forbes
(TF) - F
Try the Aurora Survival Fire Starter by Solo Scientific on 08/12/2009 18:22:19 MDT Print View

I have a few different fire steels and I have always had a hell of a time getting a fire started unless I used "char-cloth" which is what remains when you burn cotton material. Then I was placing an order on Basegear and somehow my search came up with the Auroa fire steel and I decided to give it a try because they claimed it was so much better than other fire steels - yeah right I have heard that one before and have a drawer full to prove it! I did a little research on this product and found that they use a higher content of magnesium (sp?) and claimed it produced a much hotter spark so I decided to give it a try thinking it would just be another "drawer queen" with my other steels.

Man they were not kidding! This thing throws one hell of a hot spark and from the first time I struck it I knew it was different as the sparks did not go out when they hit the floor - they bounced and danced all over the place! It comes with two regular cotton balls for pratice tinder so I took it outside and gave it a try - it caught on fire the first strike! This was not a cotton ball soaked in petro jelly, just a normal cotton ball. I was able to catch fire to all kinds of stuff with only one or two strikes, paper towels that I fluffed up a bit, dried wood shavings, etc. It really is a different animal.

It's not a tiny steel and comes with a top that has a striker built in, you can pay a little extra and get a high-carbon striker that never wears out and I do suggest that - there were some complaints that the regular striker got dull very quickly and they have now replaced it with a harder metal, but the high-carbon one is still and option.

It cost me $28 with the high-carbon striker, something like $24 without. It's housed in an machined aluminum tube and you can leave the top at home to make it a bit lighter and just use your knife for a striker.

(dirtt) - F

Locale: So. California
aurora firesteel on 08/12/2009 20:07:52 MDT Print View

save yourself alot of money, this is pretty much the same _steel_

these are a hundred times better than the crappy light my fire steels.

(mountainwalker) - MLife

Locale: SF Bay Area & New England
which one? on 08/12/2009 20:12:05 MDT Print View

Dustin, which one? There's a whole page of 'em displayed.

Jack G
(NomadJack) - F

Locale: Midwest
Firesteel vs. Bic on 08/12/2009 20:21:46 MDT Print View

I think it also depends on where you are going. If you are hiking on the AT and there is likely to be 10 people within shouting distance that cumulatively will have 20-30 firemaking methods you are fine with your mini bic and a book of matches as backup. If you are going to try a Chris McCandless and go "Into the Wild" that is a very different story.

Gordon Smith
(swearingen) - MLife

Locale: Portland, Oregon
Pullling a McCandless on 08/12/2009 20:31:01 MDT Print View

Well, there's always the bow and drill option. Yes, I'd rather have a Firesteel. I'm just saying.

Edited by swearingen on 08/12/2009 20:32:26 MDT.

Buck Nelson
(Colter) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
There's a reason more Bics are sold! on 08/12/2009 20:43:16 MDT Print View

I got a fire steel years ago, one of those combo fire steel/magnesium rod units. I carried it around off and on for a few seasons but never used it in the field. Likely a very common scenario. The striker steel part fell off and is lost somewhere.

I prefer a Bic because they are ridiculously easy and fast to use. If I am in the middle of nowhere I'll have two mini-Bics and a book of matches in a tiny Ziploc.

Yup, fire steels are cool and fun to use. If I could only have one fire starting tool that's probably what I'd take. But in the real world I'll be firing up a Bic.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: There's a reason more Bics are sold! on 08/12/2009 21:04:33 MDT Print View

Using a fireteel is an acquired skill. You have to learn about tinder/kindling/ and fire lays.
Bics require no skill and thats why most people will use them and thats why you will get lots of stories about people who tried firesteel and couldn't get it to work.
Firesteel is easy to do AFTER the skill is acquired and you have a better understanding of fire building in general and thats a good thing.