Back in February of 2010 the Monkey had a chance to check out some slick new fire-starting products from Exotac, the nanoSTRIKER and the MATCHCAP. We’re back with Exotac again, this time with a trio of products including the polySTRIKER XL, the tinderTIN and the candleTIN.
Let’s face it; fire is one of the most important tools in your outdoor arsenal, especially when it comes to survival. Fire lets you cook food, stay warm, and even signal for help. Being able to start a fire in adverse conditions is extremely important so having the tools to help you do it efficiently is critical. It’s great to know primitive methods, but when you’re cold and wet it’s nice to have some modern tools to help you out. The new polyStriker XL from Exotac is one of those tools. We were very impressed with the cleverly machined nanoSTRIKER when we tested it two years ago so we had high hopes for the polySTRIKER as well.
Whereas the nanoSTRIKER and nanoSTRIKER XL break down and store in machined aluminum tubes, the polySTRIKERs are a simpler system of ferro rods attached to plastic handles. The simple construction and ABS plastic handles help keep the costs of the poly series down, but as we found out in testing, didn’t impact the function of the tools whatsoever. The polySTRIKER comes with your choice of black, gray, or safety orange handles. For testing we received the XL model of polySTRIKER with orange handles. This one features a hefty 2 inch long rod that’s 5/16 inches in diameter and that’s good for up to 10,000 strikes. The generous 3.25 inch long handle houses a striker assembly which neatly nestles into the handles interior. The striker itself is 2.75 inches long and features a tungsten carbine striking tip. The striker is connected to the handle by a heavy nylon lanyard cord so that it won’t become separated, even when removed from the handle. Overall weight of the polySTRIKER XL is only 1.4 ounces.
If you’ve used a ferrocerium rod before there’s nothing new here in principal. It’s the execution of the polySTRIKER design that’s worth talking about. I mentioned the dimensions of the rod, and said that the handle is of generous size. I think that’s well worth discussing. First off, the larger handle allows for the housing of the striker. I like that feature as opposed to having a striker dangling separately on a lanyard. It keeps everything trim, compact, and out of the way so it isn’t rattling around or catching on other gear. Second, that big handle is great to hold on to during use. In good weather, it simply gives you a lot of space to hold the rod firmly while you use the striker. In cold or wet weather that extra room to grip can be even more important. Numb hands have trouble with fine motor skills so a big handle on both the rod and the striker can be a real blessing. Although the polySTRIKER is a fair bit longer than many other ferro rods, that extra length comes with a good benefit in my opinion. It’s also still fairly thin so it stuffs inside a pack or pocket without issue. If space is at a premium, there’s always the smaller polySTRIKER to choose from too. In actual field use, the polySTRIKER works quite well. The tungsten carbide striker does a great job of throwing hot, molten sparks. The Exotac rod burns at 5500 degrees Fahrenheit and throws an impressive shower of sparks. It worked very well for fire-starting with both manmade and natural tinders.
The polySTRIKER XL sells for only $17.95 on Exotac’s website and the smaller polyStriker is only $11.95. That’s a great deal for even a basic ferro rod and there isn’t much basic about the polySTRIKERS.
The next item we had for testing was the tinderTIN. This is a newer product from Exotac and a nice compliment to their ferro rods. A ferro rod is an excellent tool in and of itself, but it works best when you have something to light with it. The tinderTIN comes in two variations, a smaller 2.75 inch tin filled with fatwood shavings and a larger 3.2 inch tin filled with fatwood splinters. We received the second tin for evaluation. The tin is solidly built and has a screw top to keep your tinder safe and dry. As mentioned, the contents are of Georgia fatwood and are heavily steeped with natural resin which makes them burn so well. When you open the tin you immediately get that piney, pitch scent that tells you that this fatwood should burn exceedingly well. Weight is only 2.5 ounces.
Personally, I couldn’t get the fatwood splinters to light directly with the ferro rod. That wasn’t surprising, but I wanted to try it anyway, especially considering the hot spark that the polySTRIKER throws. Exotac suggests that these fatwood splinters are best lit with an open flame (match, lighter etc.) or used in conjunction with other tinder. I took the later suggestion and tried them using a cotton ball and a Tinder-quick tab. By first igniting those with the striker I was able to get a flame going and then add some fatwood to keep it going long enough to build a couple of nice fires. In practice, I think I’d add a few Tinder-quick tabs to the tin and have the best of both worlds, quick fire starting and a sustained, hot burn from the fatwood.
The tin itself is nicely made as well. It should be great for refilling as you use up your fatwood either with more fatwood, or good natural tinder that you find while in the woods. It would also work great to cook up some char cloth in the field as well. Sure, you could scrounge up a tin and some fatwood yourself, but at only $5.95 I think the tinderTIN is a pretty good deal and saves you the trouble of having to do so.
The last item we had to check out was the candleTIN. The candleTIN comes in two sizes, a short 2.75 inch round model and a taller, large 2.95 inch round version. The candles are housed in a reusable tin with the smaller model having a screw on lid like the tinderTIN. Both models are available in either a slow burn wick, or a hot burn wick as well. We had the small, hot burn model for testing. Both candles use 100% beeswax for a clean, hot burn and have 3 wicks. The small hot burn model has a burn time of 6 hours using the wicks one at a time (two hours per wick). If you use all three wicks at once you’ll use the candle up in one hour but it’s a much hotter burn. In fact, you can boil 8 ounces of water over the three wicks and bring it to a boil in 18 minutes.
Candles are great for survival situations. The light that a candle gives can really serve two purposes. Obviously it lets you see what you’re doing in the dark, but it also is extremely comforting and brings something of a piece of mind when you’re lost, stranded, and/or cold. In state parks that didn’t allow open fires I’ve sat around a big three wick emergency candle on more than one occasion. There’s just something about the flame and the warm light that it brings that helps ground you and keep you calm.
And speaking of cold, a candle can give off a surprising amount of heat, especially when burned underneath an emergency blanket, tarp, or inside a small shelter. Even using a single wick and a slow burn to ensure a longer duration, that small amount of flame can make a big difference. The candle also gives you a good source of flame to help get other fires going without having to go back to using a ferro rod each time. Once your candle is going you can use it to dry out tinder and then to light it to get a bigger fire going. Small candles with either wick type are only $6.95 and the large models are $8.95.
Affordable Tools for the Job
When it comes to making fire or staying warm, Exotac offers a lot of choices to the consumer. With the new polySTRIKER line, and the tinder and candle tins they also offer an extremely good value for well thought out and well-constructed tools that are suitable for adding to your kits when you’re headed afield.
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