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Survival Equipment

Review: Lightning-Strike Fire Starter

Review: Lightning-Strike Fire Starter

At the time of this publication, Lightning-Strike Fire Starter was not an advertiser with SurvivalCommonSense.com. The product had to be tested and reviewed before advertising was accepted and I was not reimbursed for this review.

During a backcountry emergency, you may stake your life on your firemaking tools. Here is a system worth considering.

by Leon Pantenburg

Click here to buy survival kits

Click here to buy survival kits

It has been well over 12 years, and thousands of fires, since I used anything but traditional flint, steel and charcloth to start a campfire in the wilderness: I enjoy practicing survival skills.

The Lightning-Strike is compact, portable and contains a complete firemaking system.

The Lightning-Strike is compact, portable and contains a complete firemaking system.

  As a Boy Scout and community volunteer, I have done extensive research on what survival firemaking tools and techniques work best. In the past 12 years, I have helped teach well over 12,000 scouts, students, outdoorspeople and others the flint and steel technique. In 2007, I received a Boy Scouts Fremont District Award of Merit for the survival firemaking teaching program I designed and helped implement.

The point of this bragging is that I can claim some expertise in survival firemaking. Typically, SurvivalCommonSense doesn’t do  fire tool reviews, because, many of the “new” products are nothing but re-organized and re-packaged versions of the same old techniques and tools. And it would be really, really hard to improve upon my go-to survival firestarting standard of cotton balls infused with petroleum jelly, ignited with a ferrocerium rod.

So Darrell Holland, inventor of the Lightning-Strike Fire Starter, had a sales job before I would agree to review the product. The product came into existence after Holland and his son, an Eagle Scout decided to come up with a new and improved firestarting tool.

The Lightning-Strike contains firestarter in the handel, and disassembles to allow the ferrocerium rod to be used with the striker.

The Lightning-Strike contains firestarter in the handle, and disassembles to allow the ferrocerium rod to be used with the striker.

Here are the advantages of the Lightning-Strike, according to Holland.

  • Completely self-contained: A Lightning-Strike is light (about 8 ounces) compact and easy to pack. It provides everything you need to start an emergency fire.
  • Waterproof: The Lightning-Strike Tinder is kept in a waterproof container that also serves as the handle.
  • Hotter sparks:  The sparks produced by the ferrocerium rod in the unit are between 4,000 and 5,000 degrees, according to the company, and the focused stream makes for better and faster ignition.
  • Works in any environmental situation.

No sale so far. Many of these attributes could be found  many firestarting methods, I thought. But the clincher for me was that Holland claimed the Lightning-Strike could be used one-handed, and that it was completely self-contained, with ample firestarter for about a dozen fire starts.

If all that was true, then this method did have something new and different.

In my experience, a common problem with survival firestarting is making the transition from ignition to smaller twigs. Generally, most people can light a match or lighter to produce the initial flame. Where they fail is lack of transition time, which would allow the flame to light the twigs or other tinder.

A match may be good for a few seconds of flame, and a lighter for longer. But during nasty, rainy weather, if the wood is wet or damp, that may not be enough time. I always carry emergency firestarter along just because of that. In a survival situation where hypothermia is a possibility, time is critical.

My first impression of the Lightning-Strike out of the box is that it shows quality materials and workmanship. About the size of a mini-maglite, it doesn’t take up much room. The ferrocerium rod throws showers of sparks, and it is positioned in a tube that concentrates them. This makes for a much hotter ignition.

The ferro rods readily ignites the firestarter that is stored in the hollow handle.

The ferro rod readily ignites the firestarter that is stored in the hollow handle.

I was amazed – my old reliable ferro rod that I have been carrying for a couple years only appeared to be about half as bright as the Lightning-Strike. I’m assuming this means the Lightning-Strike produces about twice the heat.

A special firestarter comes with the Lightning-Strike, and it is designed to fit in the handle. The material appears to be some sort of petroleum product, that is infused into a cotton (?) pad. The firestarter can be ordered from the company. My thought is to continue carrying a separate container of cotton balls and petroleum jelly, and use that first.

And the system can be used one-handed. All you do is remove the firestarter from the handle, and position it at the end of the tube. Stand on the end of the Lightning-Strike to hold it in place, and scrape the ferro rod with the striker. Fire.

All in all, I really like the Lightning-Strike. It seems eminently practical, and it produces a hot spark stream that lights tinders quite well. The quality workmanship means the product should be reliable, and pretty much foolproof. A Lightning-Strike could be a valuable addition to a bug out bag, daypack or any other emergency/survival kit. This product is a keeper.



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1 Comment

  1. Craig Mezey

    04/28/2014 at 15:32

    This fire starting tool, I think is great tool….but….it’s just over priced for a tool with no moving parts. I would love to have a few, but it’s just too exspensive. I will wait until the chinese come out with there version at a much lower price.

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Survival Equipment

Leon Pantenburg is a wilderness enthusiast, and doesn't claim to be a survival expert or expertise as a survivalist. As a newspaperman and journalist for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff's departments, floods, forest fires and other natural disasters and outdoor emergencies, Leon learned many people died unnecessarily or escaped miraculously from outdoor emergency situations when simple, common sense might have changed the outcome. Leon now teaches common sense techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters. His emphasis is on tried and tested, simple techniques of wilderness survival. Every technique, piece of equipment or skill recommended on this website has been thoroughly tested and researched. After graduating from Iowa State University, Leon completed a six-month, 2,552-mile solo Mississippi River canoe trip from the headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico. His wilderness backpacking experience includes extended solos through Yellowstone’s backcountry; hiking the John Muir Trail in California, and numerous shorter trips along the Pacific Crest Trail. Other mountain backpacking trips include hikes through the Uintas in Utah; the Beartooths in Montana; the Sawtooths in Idaho; the Pryors, the Wind River Range, Tetons and Bighorns in Wyoming; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the Catskills in New York and Death Valley National Monument in southern California. Some of Leon's canoe trips include sojourns through the Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, the Big Black River swamp in Mississippi and the Boundary Waters canoe area in northern Minnesota and numerous small river trips in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Leon is also an avid fisherman and an elk, deer, upland game and waterfowl hunter. Since 1991, Leon has been an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, and is a scoutmaster wilderness skills trainer for the Boy Scouts’ Fremont District. Leon earned a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and competed in his last tournament (sparring and form) at age 49. He is an enthusiastic Bluegrass mandolin picker and fiddler and two-time finalist in the International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championships.

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