I asked Mike From Skills and Gear if he would mind doing a guest article this week while I am on vacation and he banged out an awesome one! Enjoy.
Kodiak Fire Starter
James asked me to do a guest article while he was on vacation so I thought long and hard on what I wanted to talk about with you guys. I happened to be watching a show that reminded me of how much useless garbage there is on the market I and I just wanted to introduce you to one such piece of crap. I thought I might take a shot as a pitch man for this product and give them a new sales line while I’m at it so here goes. Now introducing the Kodiak Fire Starter, It’s not that it doesn’t work, it just doesn’t work well. Now that I have summed up the product let’s get into specifics.
I acquired this product at a local gun show. It was being sold in one of those booths that sort of reminds me of a traveling snake oil salesman. I watched the end of his sideshow and decided that I would pick one up to review. I bought the model which is supposed to be good for 6,000 strikes (which in my experience with it is approximately 3 fires). It was a wood handled model, but they also offer products with no handles and also a folding steel handle model. I paid 15 dollars for the Kodiak and was hoping to get at least that much use out of it. Unfortunately I got about 50 dollars of frustration rather than 15 worth of usage.
I have seen these things on Youtube, and in almost every instance (much like at the snake oil booth) they were used in an indoor environment with no complicating issues. One of the only videos that I found of someone using it outside actually used it for a digging stick. They also suggest such nonsense as using it for shooting a flare, which is actually just throwing some sparks randomly into the air. All in all, I can assure you that (controlled environments aside) you are much better off carrying some cotton balls and Vaseline.
The Kodiak Firestarter is essentially a large rod of Magnesium with a tiny ferro strip attached to the outside. The tableside shuckster that sold it to me insisted that the Magnesium in the Kodiak not only burned hotter than other Magnesium sticks it was also easier to carve into flakes to allow for easy ignition. I can say that this is undeniably false, for comparison I used the Kodiak alongside of the Coleman variety Magnesium starter and I can say that using both a carbon and a stainless steel blade the Coleman performed just as well as the Kodiak. There was also almost no difference in the size of shavings which the fire starters made. By this time I was fairly sure that all of the claims for the Kodiak were greatly exaggerated.
I want to talk about ignition next. To me this is probably the most important issue which goes along with using a firestarter. In my first attempt to use the Kodiak I shaved a relatively large pile of Magnesium onto a square of aluminum foil and attempted to get it lit for around ten minutes. I actually gave up and used a petroleum jelly cottonball and immediately lit the fire. I can say that the ferro rod on the Kodiak did do a fine job of igniting the cotton, its just too bad that the Magnesium wouldn’t go up, considering that’s what 95 percent of this thing is made of. Anyway on attempt number two I used duct tape to stick the Magnesium to and lit it in a low wind environment. The Magnesium burned up extremely quickly and did manage to start a small ember on some cedar which I nursed into a small flame to start the fire. I have to say after my second attempt I have decided to retire all Magnesium starters, unless I just happen to leave one in the truck.
Anyway I could continue to drone on about the failures of this particular product but I won’t bore you with that. What I do want to end with is just a caution to everybody to make sure you personally try out your gear before you throw it in your bug out bags. The B.O.B. should be loaded with ONLY tested products that you are familiar with, and comfortable using. These should be multi-situational, if not multi-function, and most importantly make sure you check them regularly. If you have a car/truck bag check it more often due to deterioration caused by temperature change. Take the products out and use one, if you have one ESBIT tab that doesn’t work, replace the whole pack. This goes for everything in your pack. The one thing that is worse than a product (like the Kodiak firestarter) that doesn’t work is having something in your pack that you know should work but has gone bad, especially when you need it most.
In conclusion I just want to say thanks to James Burnette for letting me write this article for you guys and I hope you all enjoy it.