Trying to light a fire with a magnesium fire stick

Click here for Swedish Army Firesteel in the UK
Hmmm, the magnesium fire starter. You’ve almost certainly seen them advertised on Ebay and the like, offering the promise of the genuine outdoor experience. At Camping Cooking we like to get all primeval now and again so we got hold of a magnesium fire starter to see how well they actually work in the real world.

There are lots of different models out there, but we went for a fairly standard model. A rectangular block of magnesium with an inset steel edge and a striker on a short chain.

Usage is very simple in principal. First scrape shavings of magnesium from the block with the scraper. Make sure the shavings sit amongst in your tinder. Then scrape the striker and get the sparks to ignite the magnesium. Magnesium burns very hot and this promises a quick and easy fire.

In principal.

In reality they’re a number of problems which will drive you dotty and leave you wishing for a good lighter

  • Scraping shavings from magnesium is actually quite hard work and really annoying
  • Magnesium shavings invariably blow away before you can light them!
  • Magnesium flares and burns out in seconds. It may be hot, but it doesn’t last

We think that in the real world, when you want a fire quick n’easy, you would be 100% better off with a decent lighter. These magnesium sticks may appeal to the outdoor hero in you, but really, save yourself the scraped fingers and frustration.

Although this review is somewhat negative, at Camping Cooking we are actually fans of the basic Swedish Army Firesteel, which simply generates good sparks and is perfect as a 100% reliable way to light a stove. We would be very happy to have a Firesteel in our kit. However, we would forget the magnesium firestarters for practical use and simply carry a decent lighter in reserve). A Zippo lighter or the like will just do so much more and you will be happily eating a hot meal while others are trying to stop tiny bits of magnesium blowing all over the campsite.

If you really want a firestarter, then get a Swedish Firesteel for great sparks.

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