We didn’t start the fire

In this edition of our monthly Gadget column, we examine fire starters



We geeks are always eager to tap into our inner caveman or cavewoman and light a few fires. So when a gadget comes along with a ridiculous premise, but promises to start fires, who could resist the smoldering temptation to try it out? Coming out of Sweden, Looftlighter looks like a giant curling iron but uses super-heated air to light the fireplace or backyard barbecue. Once lit, if you continue to press the button, the Looftlighter turns into a mini-flamethrower and spreads the flames across the wood. Within a few moments of turning it off, it’s cool to the touch. Looftlighter has a few drawbacks. The three-meter power cord limits where you can use it, even with an extension cord. So, while campfires are out, barbecues and fireplaces are fair game—but only if you’re willing to hand over $80. The high price tag will burn many people, though the time you save in lighting fires in seconds and a charcoal pile in under five minutes could make it a nice investment for a master griller. $80.



What’s going on in Sweden that they need to create multiple odd ways to start a fire? FireSteel was originally developed for the Swedish Department of Defense, but now everyone can create 5,500°F sparks with the flick of a wrist. By scraping the attached metal piece or a knife down the stick of magnesium alloy, a series of sparks shoot off that are ideal for lighting gas camping stoves or barbecues. The sparks, which look like fireworks going off in your hand, don’t jump very far so it’s a little more difficult to light wood or kindling. Perhaps the biggest advantage is that FireSteel will work when wet, unlike many conventional fire starters. At the size of a car key, the FireSteel is portable and the magnesium alloy lasts for up to 12,000 strikes, so the $15 price tag is very agreeable. It may not become your go-to gadget for starting fires, but the ease of use, size, price and reliability almost demand a spot in your hiking backpack. $15.

Primus Camping Fire Starter


One of the easiest ways to start a fire is to use an accelerant. Instead of splashing lighter fluid over a campfire, a portable propane torch, such as this offering by Primus, is the key to reliably igniting wood. Sure, you wouldn’t pop this guy out for the backyard grill, but the ability to keep a steady, strong flame at the push of a button makes it a good choice as a go-to fire starter for camping trips. Not as small as the FireSteel, this can still fit nicely into the camping supplies. Just ensure that you check the propane tank before hitting the road. $41.