Smoking Hot – The Bear Grylls Fire Starter
There are numerous devices on the market that serve to get a fire going – from magnesium blocks to an everyday lighter. But what happens when you don’t have that instant flame gifted by a lighter? Your answer is the common fire-striker. In this article, I’ll be putting the Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter through its paces to see if it’s better than the average, cheaper firesteels it’s up against.
First of all, I want you all to be aware that the Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter is designed with the survival theme in mind, so a couple of features I’ll mention below automatically set this product apart from the firesteels that are a quarter of the price. Think of this as an all inclusive package deal, rather than self catering.
The Bear Grylls colour scheme and branding is present once again in the form of a dark grey and orange textured plastic. Thankfully for the people wanting the ‘survival edition’ items from Gerber, the BG logo is somewhat smaller on the casing of this product – and not centralised either. The Fire Starter comes in two sections that fit tightly together, with an orange rubber seal for total waterproofing right in the middle. One half contains the striker and the other houses a generously sized ferrocerium rod.
As with all firesteels, this one comes coated black and you’ll need to scrape this off – using some metal, or just the striker itself. For those of you wondering what this rarely mentioned black coating is; it’s actually a safety precaution to prevent accidental sparks and potential fires.
The striker slides neatly into a dedicated cut-out space inside the ferro-rod handle, giving it only one way to be clicked back together. The reason for this is to allow strength where the rod is attached to the inside of the handle. If it could be slotted in all the way around, the rod would only be supported right at the bottom and would most definitely fall out. A good call by Gerber – definitely a neat one too.
The striker itself is 1.5mm thick and 3cm long. Not the longest of strikers on the market, but the thickness means it feels completely solid. My two other fire-strikers, both by Light My Fire have incredibly flimsy bits of metal, which are easy to bend and no doubt make it harder to fire a large group of sparks. The ferrocerium rod is 0.9mm in diameter which is again a very generous size. I found it much easier to group a load of sparks, every time, using the Bear Grylls Fire Starter than any of the others I own. The beauty of this device is really the size, ruggedness and the ease with which you can use it.
I always found fire-strikers to be ergonomically poor after prolonged periods of use and it was also more difficult to direct the sparks. With the Bear Grylls Fire Starter, the beefy handles on both ends allow you to have a proper grip, not solely your thumb and fore-finger which in turn allows you to use more pressure and have more accuracy.
It’s weightier than most fire-strikers, at 74g~ simply because it’s bigger and is of course a cased product, where others are just a rod and steel with a piece of string between them. It comes in at 4.7in (11.9cm) in length, which surprisingly is only 2cm or so longer than your normal ferro-rod – which excludes the striker attached to the other end.
In true survival and Bear Grylls fashion, there are alpine rescue, SOS, need help and don’t need help signal prompts on the sides of the product too (plus the BG priorities of survival guide separately). This time though, unlike with the Bear Grylls Field Knife Sharpener I reviewed last week, there is a whistle included on the end of some paracord which means you’ll actually have a form of signalling device to hand. The whistle is the older, slightly less rugged design, unlike the one seen on the new Ultimate Pro Knife. While it’s not built quite as sturdily as the one that replaced it, you’ll still find it does a perfectly good job and you’d still be hard pushed to break it.
Now for the second great part of the product – the end cap. In the ferro-rod end is a cap, tightly secured with two notches that gives a water-tight seal to a small, but incredibly useful internal compartment. The inside is 2cm deep and nearly the full diameter of the case at 1.9cm, which means there’s plenty of room for stuffing in a couple of cotton wool balls which act as the perfect tinder. The inside of the cap also has a small amount of space (10mm diameter) where you can fit another piece in. While you can only store a few pieces of cotton wool, that could prove incredibly useful in a situation where everything is saturated – that tiny element that gets things going. A small but hugely important feature that’s been very well thought out.
I wasn’t convinced about how waterproof it would be until I threw it in a tub of water for a few minutes and it came out bone dry. The cotton wool was just as it was before I threw it in and the ferro rod and striker were water-free as well. If there was going to be a problem with this product, that was it. Fortunately, it passed the test.
That leaves the price. The Bear Grylls Fire Starter retails at around £14. Though, most retailers offer it closer to £12 and Amazon currently have it discounted below £10. In the second paragraph of this review, I mentioned the average firesteel being a quarter of the price and that isn’t strictly correct. It’s true that you can pick up a firesteel for around a quarter of the price, but there are also a handful that are more expensive and offer significantly less. I forgot that I picked up my Light My Fire Swedish Army Firesteel (pictured) for £15. The terribly made plastic clip on the lanyard connecting the rod and striker together broke quickly and I replaced it with a piece of elastic.
It offered nothing other than a striking device. It’s harder to hold and manoeuvre sparks and the low-quality metal striker flexes like a sheet of plyboard. The 38 five-star-reviews on Amazon suggest it’s very good – and it is. But being priced at £14.99 means you could save yourself a fiver and buy the Bear Grylls Fire Starter. It’s a no brainer when you compile a list of features for both products.
The Light My Fire firesteel comes with a striker and a ferro rod. The Bear Grylls Fire Starter comes with a firesteel, a striker, easier-to-use handles, a waterproof shell, a tinder compartment and a whistle. See what I mean?