“I’d rather be caught dead than caught with a ferro rod!” That was the comment I made to a fellow instructor this past weekend. To him, however, it came as no surprise. He knows I have a rather oblique and critical view of the survival industry. “It’s not that I think the ferro rod doesn’t work,” I said. “It works well for what it is and is a great bushcraft tool. The problem I have with it is it’s billing. It is billed as the ultimate emergency fire starting tool. It creates the mind set of the be all end all of fire starting when in reality it violates my basic tenet of survival—Can a five year old do it?”
He listened on in silence as we walked down the trail. I can only think he was thinking, “Oh boy, here goes Alan again on one of his wild rants”
“You know, Rob,” I said. “I’ve run thousands of students. And every time I do a fire making workshop I have students show up with some sort of ferro rod. Most of the time, they’ve never used one, but still carry one in their kit. So, as a teaching opportunity, I have them pull it out and use it without any direction from me, and about 95% of the time they fail to get a fire going with one. So I ask them if that is something they really want to place their lives on, or would it be much easier to use a lighter? Of course, you get that aha moment from people as they realize a lighter is much easier in a survival situation”
Rob chuckled as he looked at me and nodded in agreement and blurts out, “You’re so right. I tell people that all the time. We’ve become a society so brainwashed by commercialism and advertising it affects common sense.”
“Rob, when I do a fire making class, I lay out various methods of starting a fire in a line,” I said, “From left to right it is road flare, lighter and matches, steel wool and battery, ferro rod, bow and drill, and hand drill. I tell the students when it’s go time and things are desperate you start on the left. When you want to have fun, you start on the right and make your way left. When it comes to the ferro rod, industry and business has blatantly lied to the populace. The inexperienced don’t understand the relationship between tinder and technique—The better your tinder is the worst your technique can be. The better your technique is the worst your tinder can be. So what message is the industry, as a whole, giving? They’re deceiving the inexperienced, filling their heads with BS regarding what they should carry for survival.”
By this time, Rob was really having a good time at my soap box moment, but he looked at me and completely agreed. “These companies are selling things they don’t have the faintest idea how to use, and they expect everyone else to know how?” he said laughing.
“And that is why I would rather be caught dead without one than ever caught using a ferro rod for survival. It’s a matter of principle and has nothing to do with my ability, or lack thereof, in using one.” I said.