We don't have much in the way of real wild countryside left here in the UK anymore except in the north of Scotland. We are also limited on where it is permissible to have an open fire in the countryside. So the means to start a fire easily isn't exactly an everyday required skill. It doesn't mean that learning the relevant skills isn't fun. And it will come handy on those summer days when you decide on a barbeque. Or it may be just a man thing.
There are many materials and techniques that can be used to start a fire, but there are two primary factors that I've found can hinder a fire starting, wind and water. A fire needs air, but if it is too windy, initial ignition of the source will be difficult. Getting out of the wind is generally easy, as long as your environment permits. Any damp conditions may not be quite so easy. WetFire tinder from Ultimate Survival is supposed to address the water and wind issue.
WetFire was originally designed for use by the military, but has now been made available to the public. It's stated, by it's makers, to be safe, non-toxic and practically odourless. And Ultimate Survival claim it will start in high winds or a rainstorm. It burns at 1300 degrees Fahrenheit and is supposed to burn for longer if wet. I decided to put some to the test.
I bought a pack of eight WetFire which currently sell for around eight pounds, not cheap, although Field and Trek, as of May 2013, is selling the same product for just under six pounds as the LifeSystems line. Each cube of WetFire comes individually wrapped to protect it. Access into the WetFire was fairly easy so shouldn't cause an issue in an emergency. The WetFire itself has a strange texture, like a white chalky block. It's also very light, hence it floats in water.
I found using a knife to scrape off some of the WetFire to test with a ferrocerium rod and striker easy as the WetFire easily crumbles into tiny pieces as it flakes off. The block itself held together, so flaking more off later would be possible. I flaked off around one quarter of the block to test. The block has to be flaked to enable a ferrocerium rod and striker to work. If left as a block, the surface area is too small. So flaking increases the surface area. After a couple of strike on the rod, the flakes picked up a spark and the tinder lit.
|Scrapings of WetFire burn after catching a spark.|
But what about the claim that it burns in water. Well I did dunk it in water and then light it with a safety match. The block burned, and continued to burn when placed in water. It floated in the water and burned for a few minutes before I decided to fully submerge it and extinguish the flame. After all this I still have around half the block remaining. So although expensive, the blocks go a long way.
|WetFire burns while floating in water.|
So how would I rate WetFire? It's a very good tinder. I've used cotton wool with Vaseline and it works very well, but not if you get it wet. But aslong as you keep it dry, it's far cheaper than WetFire, and easy to make. So while it may be handy to have in a survival kit for that one in a million disaster that may require it to come into use. If you want to start a fire in normal circumstances, cotton wool and Vaseline or other cheap tinder will suffice. If you want a fool proof, poor weather tinder, WetFire ticks the boxes.