A prepper’s survival kit or bug-out bag usually has several firestarting tools, like matches and a ferro rod, because you need a fire to stay warm, cook or boil water when SHTF. But while you can easily see how many matchsticks you have left, it’s not always easy to figure out how long a used ferro rod will last. (h/t to SurvivalSullivan.com)
Ferro rods are compact metallic rods along with small strikers that can produce a shower of sparks in any weather condition, making them an important firestarting tool.
Since ferro rods don’t need fuel or have parts that break or malfunction, many preppers think that these devices last forever. But like any other tool in your survival kit, a ferro rod will eventually need to be replaced.
The “ferro” in ferro rod comes from ferrocerium, a synthetic alloy that produces hot sparks when oxidized. Sparks generated by a ferro rod come from the tiny shavings and particles that are broken off of the rod itself when it is struck using the striker.
If a ferro rod is made with softer alloys, they shed more material with each strike. The harder alloys shed less material every time they are struck and produce smaller shower sparks as less material is consumed with every use.
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How long do ferro rods last?
The typical ferro rod will last between 8,000 and 12,000 strikes. Note that the number of strikes you get out of a ferro rod varies depending on different factors like the diameter of the rod, the frequency of use, the softness or hardness of the alloy and your firestarting skills.
When used by untrained preppers, smaller diameter, softer ferro rods may produce far less than 8,000 strikes before being consumed. In the hands of a skilled user, larger, thicker ferro rods made from harder alloy may produce more than 20,000 strikes before wearing out.
There is no exact formula for determining how long a ferro rod will last, but you can learn how to assess and understand the variables involved for an educated guess.
Ferro rod size and firestarting skills
The size of a ferro rod matters when determining its lifespan. On average, rods measure 3/16 of an inch to 1/2 an inch in diameter. Ferro rods are available in different lengths, but most of them are only several inches long.
If a ferro rod is larger in diameter, it has more material and will last longer under the same conditions and frequency of use. A smaller ferro rod may be more compact, but it is also consumed more quickly.
A small, narrow ferro rod made of a softer alloy can degrade more quickly under prolonged use. (Related: Firestarting tips: 5 Types of campfires and how to build them.)
Don’t underestimate how important skill and confidence are at prolonging the life of your ferro rod. An unskilled user will need more strikes on a ferro rod to get the same results, consuming more material.
If you’re a skilled user, you may only need one or two strikes and use the right amount of force to minimize wasted material.
Have at least two or more of the same ferro rod so you can practice making a fire. This ensures that when SHTF, you know how to do it quickly and the ferro rod in your survival kit won’t be as used up as your practice rod.
Follow the steps below to practice the correct technique for using a ferro rod:
- Hold the scraper at a 45-degree angle.
- Place the end of the ferro rod next to your tinder.
- Pull the rod back, not the scraper.
- Sparks should rain down on the tinder and light it if done correctly.
Protect ferro rods from corrosion
Ferro rods are made from synthetic alloy that is vulnerable to rust. If the ferro rod gets wet, it will start to corrode if you don’t take care of it.
Remember that corrosion will drastically shorten the life of a ferro rod. Without proper care, a ferro rod might even crumble away in your hands if you put it away wet.
When a ferro rod gets wet, dry it immediately and thoroughly then apply a very thin coat of oil if possible.
On average, a high-quality ferro rod will produce at least 8,000 to 12,000 strikes depending on factors like diameter, alloy hardness of the alloy and your firestarting skills.
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Keep your ferro rod dry and practice with it so you can quickly start a fire when disaster strikes.