In the past, I have told you about the magnesium fire starters that are currently being sold by Harbor Freight. They are normally priced at $2.99 and occasionally on sale for $1.99. These starters are made in China. Since they are mainly just magnesium, I have always figured that they would work fine. In fact, I have used a couple without any problems in the past.
Recently, I have been told by a source that the new ones use very poor quality magnesium and do not work well. I went down to Harbor Freight and purchased a new block. I then took it outside and compared it to a US made Doan fire starter. This is the one that the US military uses in their survival kits.
I first tried to light a small pile of magnesium that I scraped off the Harbor Freight fire starter. The same tool was used to scrape the magnesium and strike the sparking insert in both tests.
There were several problems with the one from Harbor Freight. First, the magnesium was harder and it took more time and effort to get a big enough pile. Second, the sparking insert had to be struck numerous times before I could get enough of a spark to light the magnesium. Once lit the magnesium burned ok, but not as long or as hot as the Doan.
The magnesium on the Doan fire starter was softer and easier to scrape, and the sparking insert product many more sparks. The Doan would light the magnesium on the second or third strike compared to maybe twenty on the Chinese made one.
After these tests, the only magnesium fire starter that I will carry will be the Doan’s. There may be other brands that are as good, but I know the Doan works and the fact that the military uses it in their survival kits is a good recommendation.
This just shows how much difference in quality there can be in something that looks so simple. Always get the best. Your life may depend on it.