We're often told by purported survival experts on TV and on the internet that the most reliable and dependable method for starting a fire in the wilderness is a ferro rod (also called a fire steel). On the surface, this claim makes sense—the ferrocerium rod and steel striker are compact, have no complex mechanical components to break, and can throw a nice big shower of sparks with ease. You can even strike a ferro rod against the back of some knives.


We have nothing against ferro rods, and know that they can serve as effective fire-starters. However, many people claim that there's a superior survival fire-starting technology available: the lighter. You may think a lighter is unreliable or overly complicated compared to a ferro rod, but we'd encourage you not to jump to that conclusion just yet.

This 22-minute video from Weekend Wanderer on YouTube makes a pretty compelling case for using a lighter as your primary survival fire source:

If you don't have time to watch the whole video, here are some key points:

  • Historically, we have progressed from striking rocks together, to striking flint against steel, to striking matches, to simply flicking on a lighter for an instant flame.
  • The invention of ferrocerium in 1903 made modern lighters possible. However, rather than using these modern lighters, many survivalists continue to stick with the older ferro rod tool.
  • The video host claims that “this seems like it's going backwards technologically.”

Ferro rod fire steel 01

The host also makes several comparisons of the effectiveness of lighters and ferro rods:

  • Tinder is generally more difficult to ignite with a shower of sparks than with an open flame. This means you'll usually have to strike the ferro rod multiple times to get a fire going.
  • Ferro rods are typically heavier than plastic lighters.
  • Ferro rods require a sharp metal striker of some kind, and must be operated with two hands. Lighters are self-contained and can be ignited with one hand.
  • Lighters may be slightly more susceptible to moisture, but will usually work within seconds if shaken or blown dry.
  • Both ferro rods and lighters are marginally affected by cold weather.
  • Ferro rods are more expensive than plastic lighters, and can't be purchased at any gas station or convenience store like lighters can.
  • Lighters can be purchased in any color you want, so you won't lose them as easily.


While we don't necessarily agree with everything the Weekend Warrior host says, we'd agree with his point that lighters can have considerable advantages over ferro rods in many cases. No matter what, your survival kit should include multiple fire-starters—regardless of which device is your first choice.

We want to know: what's in your fire-starting kit, and which method is your favorite? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

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