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January 10, 2009 Comments (0) News

RAT Cutlery Fire Kit Review

Jake Williams and Joe Flowers team up to give their impressions about RAT Cutlery’s new fire starting kit.  They conducted their tests separately and provide their thoughts in two different sections below.

The RAT Fire Kit
by Jake Williams

The need for fire is a well known, often preached aspect of wilderness survival. Its uses are almost endless, from heat and light, to boiling water for purification, to just an overall boost to morale. There are many commercial fire starters on the market today. One of the newest ones is a product called the RAT Fire Kit. RAT is short for Randall’s Adventure Training. RAT is a company which has been training military, law enforcement, and the public in the aspect of jungle survival since 1997. Founded by Jeff Randall and Mike Perrin, RAT has led many people into the jungles of Peru for survival training.  Therefore, they know a bit about what gear works, and how gear should perform.

The RAT Fire Kit is the brainchild of Jeff Randall. He designed it, and like all of RAT’s products, it is manufactured in the USA. When I first received my RAT Fire Kit, I quickly noticed that the overall size was larger than I expected. With a 1inch diameter, and an overall length of 4 inches, the handle fills the hand quite nicely, making for a positive grip. The quality, fit, finish, and attention to detail are superb–on par with every knife that RAT cutlery offers. It is anodized in a mil spec green, and bears the familiar RAT SERE logo. The misch metal flint is removable, and replaceable. It is held in place by phillips head screw that is accessed from the inside of the capsule. The tail cap is O-ring sealed and  threaded, with a hole for a lanyard or neck chain. The base of the cap is also recessed to accept a standard, user-supplied 20mm button compass. The capsule has a very generous interior size with ample room for tinder, fish hooks, line, and other PSK worthy items. I am amazed at the amount of stuff this thing holds! The combination of items is endless based on the specific needs of the user. Once you figure out your needs and load the capsule, you have a water-tight, self-contained fire starter and personal survival kit that weighs around 3oz, depending on contents.

I couldn’t wait to get out in the woods to do some testing of this product. I wanted to test out the water-tightness of the capsule, the misch metal rods ability to light off tinder, and the how noticeable the RAT fire kit carries.

Submersion Test

Originally I had planned on a 5 minute total submersion test. I loosely packed the capsule with toilet paper, because we all know how easily it absorbs water. I then replaced the cap and tightened it down snug, but not He-Man tight. I submerged the whole thing into the creek, tethered to a nearby tree to insure I didn’t lose it. Well, I got sidetracked collecting tinder and wood for a fire, so the planned time of 5 minutes turned into 30 minutes underwater. When I retrieved the kit from its icy waters, I dried off the exterior, and opened the capsule. The contents were dry, showing no signs of moisture. Overall, I am very impressed with the seal of the capsule, and have no worries that any contents I put inside would get ruined due to water.

Fire Starting

While the capsule was submerged, I went and gathered up some natural tinder. Some of which was damp from the morning frost. I had no trouble getting even the damp tinder to ignite on 1-3 strikes. Misch metal is harder to strike then your standard ferrocium rods such as the LMF series of fire steels. However, instead of quick dying sparks, you get longer, hotter burning, molten balls, that are easy to control, and  will light the toughest tinder. Due to the hardness of misch metal to strike, RAT recommends using the actual edge of the knife to strike the rod, instead of the spine. The RAT fire kit was designed to be a last ditch, real survival tool. In a real life survival situation, dulling a small section of your blade is an easy tradeoff for a potentially life saving fire. On that note, I found in testing that the spine of my Laconico knife as well as the spine on the saw blade in my Swiss Army Farmer threw sparks just fine from the rod. In closing, I have no doubts about the RAT fire kits ability to provide ignition for a fire in the field. Those molten balls it throws will burn almost anything they come into contact with.

Packability

Since I received the RAT fire kit, I have carried it for hours around my neck and in my pocket. It is virtually unnoticeable. It carries very well, which makes the user that much more apt to carry it. Packability is something I have found can make or break a good product very quickly. If it is too heavy or awkward to carry, it will be left behind, and is of no use for its intended purpose.

The RAT fire kit is a very innovative piece of gear, and is now a cornerstone of the gear I carry when I’m off the beaten path. It holds the same lifetime guarantee as any product bearing the RC logo. I have found through personal experience with RAT, that they are a very customer-orientated company that stands behind its products. When they put out a product, you can rest assured it is of high quality and covered by them for life. The RAT Fire Kit is no exception.  Whether you are an occasional outdoorsman, or a hardcore Woods Monkey, the RAT Fire Kit has a place in your pack!!!!

The Mix of The Metal
by Joe Flowers

Whoooosh! The Cattails and dry reed grass I prepared combusted in a cloud of flame from the small grey rod. Rewind a few days earlier: I inquired with Jeff Randall about this little fire starter that he talked about, and what made it so special. He said he would send me one and a few days later, the little package in the mail came.  As usual, I did the “thank postman for delivering more goodies” shimmy and went inside.  Looking at the rod, the finish was a little bit rougher than the normal Ferrocium rod.  At first glance, the little spark maker doesn’t seem special. However, with one swipe with the edge of my SAK saw, there was a distinct difference from the normal fire steels I’ve used. The ember shot out and landed on my pants, quickly burning a hole through the nylon!  It was obvious that this little rod didn’t do the quick sparks of a ferro rod, but had other properties in the metal which spat forth blazing orbs of flaming steel capable of starting conflagrations!

Obstreperous Ingition

“Wow!”, I exclaimed, as I approved of the hole it burned in my already tattered north face paramount pants. I got into my car to deliver packages, nonchalantly leaving the rod in the cup holder as I drove off.  I didn’t think much of it, till later that day a younger buddy of mine found it,  and knowing it was a ferro rod, he struck it. Before I could yell, “No!”, the rod was struck, and a ball of magnesium tumbled onto the carpet and burned it. Great! One pair of shorts, some car upholstery, so now what’s next?  I don’t think I could have done this damage with a normal ferro rod if I had dipped it in ethyl alcohol.

Chemistry

Now, the road has magnesium in it, a bit more than the Light My Fire Ferro rods. I’m not going to get into how much, because frankly, it would bore both of us. Suffice to say, it’s different, and after a swipe or two, your chances of survival just got a lot better.  

In Jeff’s modest words, “I don’t know what the stuff is made out of, but the $#%! works!”

Bringing the little heavy fire breather outside to the woods, I tried it on a plethora of fibrous materials. Even on wet cedar and pine needles, I was able to get some of it lit. The rod ignited many larger items that a normal ferro rod could not ignite such as a whole leaf that was barely dry. One of the coolest features of this metal medley is that you can carry an ember of blazing hot metal to the tinder. It won’t happen every time, but once you get the hang of it, you will know what to look for and when you can do it. Be sure to check out the video, as there is a second where I flick the ember off of the SAK saw (I used my fingernail so it didn’t burn). The pieces of the rod actually stay lit for a few seconds. That’s right! The darn thing stays lit! It gives you more of a chance of moving the tinder around it, and by golly, it almost feels like cheating.  However, in survival, there is no cheating.  The video below illustrates how much more time it gives you to work with the tinder.  With normal ferro rods, you hardly have any time to move tinder around to where something is igniting, and you have to rely on the placement of the sparks and the filamentous qualities of the material. This metal, though, gives a white-hot ember that one can manipulate to more fluffy spots of the tinder.

 

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Truth be told, you better not be using your crown jewel safe queen to mess with this spark spitter. The rod requires quite an edge to ignite it, and the spine or your knife must have that bite to make this stuff go. The spine or blade edge can get damaged a bit more than with a normal ferro rod, so it may be best to make or use a custom striker if you are using it often. I use my hacksaw blade that I modified on the grinder to have a 90 degree spine, and my how the sparks fly! This stuff is HOT.

Now the question is: should we ban these from the PWYP spark-based fire contest on the Chestnut Mountain Proving Grounds next year?  We’ll have to wait and see.

Visit:  www.ratcutlery.com

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