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Bigfoot Bushcraft is a Colorado-based company that offers weatherproof fire-making products. I recently had the opportunity to test their ferrocerium rod and striker, Fire Plugs, and even the tin container they offer for holding the plugs. I’ve used a lot of different products designed for fire-making, and unfortunately, many of them just aren’t worth the space in my pack, but I was willing to give these products a try.
Unless the situation is really bad, or the need is “survival level urgent,” I usually prefer to use natural tinder that I gather on site. It’s a skill that I feel is valuable to learn and maintain, and I don’t like being dependent on special products that are often little more than gimmicky wastes of money. That being said, it’s always wise to have some backup fire-making options available for when things get bad and you need a fire quick.
In this article, I’ll present the basic information and specifications about the products offered by Bigfoot Bushcraft. I’ll also share my methods of testing, my results from those tests, and my opinion about whether these products serve their purpose and are worth considering as part of gear loadout. All of my testing was done here where I live, in Alaska. This is a great place, in my opinion, to find out if something is truly “weatherproof.”
- ½ inch in diameter
- Just over 2 ¼ inches of exposed length
- Hardwood handle
- 12,000+ strikes (claimed by Bigfoot Bushcraft)
At first glance, the first notable feature about this ferro rod is that it’s thick. With a ½ inch diameter, there is a lot of material to work with. Bigfoot Bushcraft claims it has over 12,000 strikes in it, and while I haven’t personally tested that, I can definitely tell that this thing will hold up much longer than the ¼ inch ferro rods that I’ve carried in the past.
While this ferro rod is thick, its length is far from the longest of those on the market today. The full amount of exposed ferrocerium extends to just over 2 ¼ inches. Compared to the 6 and even 8-inch rods that are available from other companies, this length is relatively short. I kept this in mind during my testing and found that this length is not only sufficient but, in my opinion, preferred. A longer rod means a longer path to generate sparks, but this 2 ¼ inch rod showers plenty of sparks. The smaller size is also less prone to breaking (especially at ½ inch thick), and it allows me to scrape against it consistently enough to get the most out of each effort. Overall, I appreciated the dimensions of this ferro rod. It’s relatively short, but thick dimensions allow it to be durable, long-lasting, maneuverable, and compact.
The handle is made of hardwood and features a simple cone-like shape. This is a simple, proven design that makes for a comfortable hold in all sorts of grips. If you’re looking for something ultra-compact, this handle (as well as the ½ inch thick rod) may not fit your needs, but as far as a dedicated ferro rod that is the main part of your fire kit, I don’t consider this handle overly bulky.
The striker is made from steel and attached to the ferro rod by a nylon parachute cord. The cord is long enough to allow the striker and ferro rod to remain connected during use, which—strange as it sounds—is not something that every manufacturer has figured out. The scraper itself is designed as a sort of multi-tool. It has a centimeter ruler on one side and a 1:100,000 scale kilometer ruler on the other for use when navigating with maps. There’s a bottle opener and crescent-shaped cut-out that could be used for scraping fuzz off of small sticks for use as tinder. As far as its primary purpose as a striker, only one edge is actually sharpened, the other side is smooth. This edge is sharp enough to throw sparks very easily. I have owned a number of ferro rods that came with strikers that I simply threw away because they didn’t work.
In my testing, I compared the striker’s effectiveness with what I consider to be the ultimate Thrower of Sparks—the knife spine on the L.T. Wright Genesis (a spine that some might argue is too sharp but amazing at scraping tasks). In comparing the knife spine with the included scraper, the knife was much more effortless to use. That being said, the scraper does very well, and also doesn’t risk removing more material than is necessary to get the fire started. So while the knife spine won the test, it wasn’t enough to make me ditch the scraper. This allows me to keep my knife sheathed while starting my fires.
This ferro rod is simple and effective. Its handle shape, basic dimensions, quality of ferrocerium, the included striker, and even the cord length are all designed toward function. This is a ferro rod that I would carry with me and depend on for my fire-making.
- 5+ minute burn time
- 10+ year shelf life (claimed by Bigfoot Bushcraft)
- Waterproof and windproof
- Non-toxic formula
- Made in U.S.A
I’m always intrigued by the many versions of fire starters available on the market, but as I mentioned earlier, I often prefer to gather my own tinder and have never really found a use for these kinds of products. After forcing Bigfoot Bushcraft’s Fire Plugs through some tests, I’ve adjusted my stance on the issue. These little bundles of weatherproof tinder are very well thought out and have proved themselves worthy enough to toss at least a couple into my pack when I head out.
Firestarters come in all different shapes and sizes, but these are cylindrical in shape and measure 1 ½ inches long with a diameter of 3/8 of an inch. As explained in the product’s instructions, the basic method of using these Fire Plugs is to bend them in half back and forth a few times and then rub the two halves against each other in a circular motion to break the plug apart. This process loosens the fibers and allows them to be easily lit by a ferro rod or by whatever else you’re using to light your fire.
The Fire Plugs use a special formula that Bigfoot Bushcraft calls a “high-performance Jetfuel Wax Blend.” This gives the tinder its extended burn time as well as its weatherproof effects. This blend of ingredients has one other feature that isn’t necessary, but that I appreciated—a peach scent. Some firestarters smell horrible, and they can spread that smell to anything and everything they touch. So while it doesn’t directly serve the purpose of fire-making, I was impressed by the extra level of thought that went into the design of these Fire Plugs.
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Here in Alaska, the conditions are not always favorable for fire-building. The more knowledge and skill you have, the more likely you are to find dry, usable tinder in even the worst of conditions, but that takes time and energy. During situations when fire is most desperately needed, having something on hand that simplifies things, can be a life-saver. Of course, fire-starters like these are not always used for emergency and survival situations. Most often, they’re just a way to quickly and easily get a fire going. Still, I approached my testing of these Fire Plugs with the worst-case scenarios in mind. For me, if they can’t serve that purpose, I don’t need them in my pack. So for testing purposes, this meant that these bundles of tinder had to be as weatherproof as they claimed to be, and I didn’t make it easy for them.
My first test was more of a baseline test. I took a perfectly dry Fire Plug, prepared it as directed, placed it on a flat, dry surface, and showered it with sparks from the ferro rod. It lit immediately and burned with ease. I can get this kind of result with the old cotton ball and petroleum jelly trick, so this didn’t come as too much of a surprise, and it definitely didn’t say anything about its weatherproof abilities.
My next test was a focused attack on the waterproof claims. For these Fire Plugs to be worthy of a place in my pack, they need to be able to take more than a simple drop or two of rain. They need to be able to withstand the kind of worst case scenario that would allow my stored tinder to get wet in the first place. In that kind of situation, I’m probably dealing with much more than just a few sprinkles from above, and my need for fire is more urgent. It also might mean that I’m not in the best condition to be making a fire. I might be cold and shivering. My hands might be wet and numb. The best wood I can find might be wet. This is the kind of situation that I wanted these Fire Plugs to be able to handle, and so I didn’t go easy on these chunks of tinder.
First I plunged the Fire Plug into the cold flow of a glacier-fed river, for about one minute. After I removed it from the river, I buried it in a patch of snow nearby. Once I dug it back up, I dropped it into a puddle of water to wait for me while I dug the ferro rod from my pack. I then prepared the Fire Plug as directed, but I made sure that both of my hands were still wet. I also didn’t fluff the fibrous material to its full potential, trying to simulate cold, numb hands and decreased fine motor skills. Finally, I placed the material on a patch of snow and showered it with sparks from the ferro rod. It lit on the third strike, and once it caught, the flame grew strong in spite of the snow melting beneath it.
Later, I hiked out into the forest and built a fire. The wood I gathered was wet from recent snowmelt and rains and the forest floor was covered with wet leaves. The Fire Plug I used this time was kept dry, but it was nice to not have to worry about where I placed it while I prepared the firewood. I was able to set it right there on top of the wet leaves which was nothing compared to the river, snow, and puddle soak I put it through earlier.
And as a final test, and more just to satisfy my own curiosity now, I placed a Fire Plug in a bowl of water for 14 hours. I wasn’t sure if it would pass this test, and I admit it was a little overkill, but I wanted to see how it would do. When I removed it from the water, it looked and felt wet, and I didn’t have much hope for it. But it lit on the first strike and burned for 7 minutes and 6 seconds. That’s impressive.
For emergency purposes, when nasty conditions sweep in, or just during those times when you want to make things easier, these Fire Plugs have my full approval. I was very impressed by their ability to hold up to the abuse I put them through. Adding to this, in all of my testing, they burned long enough and with enough flame that I was able to get fires going even when using damp wood, working on wet surfaces, while the wind was blowing, and even while getting rain on. Plus, they smell like peaches!
Compact Travel Tin
- Tin plated steel
- 1.73 inches High
- 3.26 inches in diameter
- Fits up to 30 Fire Plugs
Bigfoot Bushcraft also offers a tin container for storing their Fire Plugs which I used during my testing. The container can hold up to 30 Fire Plugs, but I found 26 to be a more comfortable fit. The lid is threaded and unscrews with a single twist.
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The tin is not meant to be completely waterproof as there are no rubber gaskets to seal the threads. The Fire Plugs don’t need the waterproofing anyway, so the container simply serves to keep them in one place, but it does manage to keep the elements out during normal use. Out of curiosity, I tested the limits of this by placing fluffed cotton balls inside of the container and letting the water from my tap flow against where the lid meets the lower portion for 10 seconds. When I opened the container, there were a few drops of water trapped in the threads and a couple small drops inside the container itself. The cotton had drops of water on it, but was still usable as tinder. I then did another test, similar to the first, but this time I submerged the whole container underwater for 20 seconds. I couldn’t see any bubbles to indicate that the container was filling with water and when I opened it, I found similar results as with my first test—just a couple of drops. Again, this container isn’t supposed to be waterproof, but it will hold up just fine in wet environments.
This is a simple container that serves its purpose. For short trips, especially day trips, I don’t need to be lugging 30 Fire Plugs around with me, so I probably won’t be carrying this around with me most of the time. For longer trips, or as part of an emergency kit to carry in my vehicle, keeping Fire Plugs in this tin would be great. They’ll do just fine stored in a plastic bag, or even tossed in a backpack pouch, but the sturdy container keeps them from being smashed by other items which will help them to maintain as much of their weatherproof potential as possible.
After putting each of these items from Bigfoot Bushcraft through some tests, and getting to work with them during my regular wilderness wanderings, I was impressed. Careful thought went into the design and crafting of each of these items. They are simple, effective, and built to perform.
Corporal Wabo is a former Infantry Squad Leader with 3rd Bn 4th Marines that specialized in Mortars. In his free time, he enjoys hunting, hiking, running, shooting guns, and reviewing gear. He started this website while transitioning out of the Marines, and since has recruited several other Marines to help him work on the Marine Approved website. We are currently looking for former Marines to join the team who are interested in writing about tactical gear, survival gear, hiking supplies, etc. For more information about us or joining the team, check out the “About Us” tab.