During our recent fire starter review, one of my favorite “under the radar” products was the Fire-Fast Trekker. Apart from the Light My Fire Swedish Firesteel that won the overall contest, the Trekker was the only fire steel we tested that gave me the confidence it was made of genuine European ferrocerium. But we hesitated strongly recommending the Trekker because its huge and takes a lot of space in a pack.
Now the Trekker has been joined by two new and smaller siblings: the mid-sized Kamper and the compact Fre Fly.
All of these tools follow the same pattern: an Austrian ferrocerium rod, paired with a large, pure magnesium rod and glued into an African hardwood handle. The magnesium rod is intended to be shaved into a tinder pile in order to give your sparks a boost, and the wooden handle can itself be shaved for tinder in a pinch.
The Fire Fly is the smallest and newest of the lot — it’s so new that it’s not even up on their website yet. As small as it is relative to its siblings, it’s still a good deal larger than the LMF steel at the top of the next photo.
The Kamper is the next size up, and comes with a long lanyard loop. The thinking here is that you’ll wear this one around your neck. The extra cordage is nice, but I think Fire-Fast should consider using one of the survival paracord flavors with a bit of jute twine in it, like the UST ParaTinder that we picked in our review of the best paracord.
Finally, there is the new Trekker, which I’m told is upgraded from the original. I may actually have reviewed the upgraded one in our roundup, because I can’t tell a difference between what she sent me and the one I have. There is some small difference in the carving and size of the handle, consistent with the claim that these are made by hand and not just churned out on a machine, but otherwise no apparent difference.
I weighed each of these and got the following results, in case you’re wondering how much they’ll add to a pack:
- Trekker: 4oz
- Kamper: 2oz
- Fire Fly: 1.2oz
The LMF weighs 1.4oz for comparison, so while there’s quite a jump between that and the Trekker, the Kamper and Fire Fly are mostly just bulkier and not significantly heavier.
Note that the LMF has a lot more actual ferro material than either the Kamper or Fire Fly (but the Trekker has more than the LMF), hence the way the weights break down. For a very long-term grid-down, more ferro is better, but for short- to medium-term emergencies I think the features on the Fire-Fast products give them the edge.
I have personally added the Trekker to my bug out bag, and will add the rest of these to bags for my wife and kids. (I didn’t replace the LMFs, but added these in addition to them.) I really like the Fire-Fast products, and fire is so important that I think even the biggest one is worth a bit of added weight and bulk.
I’m thinking of trying to fit the Fire Fly to one of my survival knife sheaths in place of the LMF, but this may be overkill. As great as it is to have the magnesium and wood for a backup, I think leaving this tool exposed to the elements on the side of a sheath is suboptimal. These are probably better in a pack or some other place where you can keep most moisture away from them.
Even if you don’t want the added bulk in a bag or some type of on-body load out, all of these tools are great car options to have as a backup for the trusted Bic lighter that should always be your go-to fire starter. I would also totally EDC one of the two smaller ones in a briefcase or backpack if I commuted.
I’ll be honest: when we originally ordered the Fire-Fast Trekker for the big bakeoff contest, I was prepared for the worst. The Fire-Fast website had only two products on it, and I assumed that this big magnesium/ferro combo rod with a wooden handle was yet another phony bushcraft product from a Chinese company trying to pass itself off as an American mom-and-pop.
But to my surprise, the Trekker turned out to be my favorite new find of the entire roundup.
A few weeks after our initial testing, one of Fire-Fast’s owners contacted us to tell us that they’re a real husband-and-wife team out of California and they assemble all their products by hand right here in the US.
She confirmed that the ferrocerium they use is indeed from Austria, which fits with what I learned from my own testing of the Trekker.
As you can see from the photo above, the genuine Austrian ferro rods on the left have a specific striped wear pattern, and the Trekker and the LMF were the only two that exhibited this.
We run into so many fakes as we get gear in and test it, we’re always glad to run across companies that deliver on what they promise. And it’s even better when these companies are US-based.