Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ben's Backwoods- Fire Piston Review

In the past I've tested a few fire pistons and wasn't sold on them. I had yet to find one that I felt was effective in fire starting. It seemed to be more work than they were worth. Until I came across the 2nd Generation Coco Bolo Fire Piston from Ben's Backwoods.

Before we get into discussing this particular fire piston- lets go over some background. The fire piston is a primitive fire making device that was used in the Pacific Island Jungles. It is believed to have been an invention devised from the blowgun. In the 70's, a Navy Survival Instructor traveled to an island in the Pacific and came across a native using one to light his cigarette. The Survival Instructor traded a lighter for the piston and brought it back to the states.

How this works is that when air is compressed at a high speed it essentially heats to between 500-800 degrees and combust. The natives applied this to the small cylinder of the fire piston with added tinder to create a burning coal.
The fire piston that I received from Ben's Backwoods was one of the most beautifully constructed pieces that I've seen. The kit is a Coco Bolo fire piston that has a durable and robust body. The tinder pocket is constructed of brass tip applied to the shaft and has a rubber O-ring seal to aid in trapping air. There's also an extra O-ring in the case you incur damage to the original one. The inner shaft of the body is also brass lined with a pressure relief valve that has a brass ring with leather lanyard.
The relief valve allows the air to be released and causes a vacuum to maintain security of the piston when not in use. That way you can wear it around your neck without the possibility of losing it. The kit also comes with instructions and a roll of char cloth to get you started.
As I mentioned above, I had problems in the past trying to get previous fire pistons to work. This Fire Piston was relatively easy from the start. Truly making it easy to gain a smoldering coal within a minute or so. That's including the time of packing tinder, dropping coal into a tinder bundle, and blowing into flames. You must make sure to keep the O-ring lubricated with something like petroleum jelly or Neosporin in a pinch.

Many people may look down on this method as being ineffective. Let me go ahead and make a rebuttal to that. Essentially as long as the unit doesn't break- you have fire. Each fire can bring new charred material to help with starting the next one. Another point is that even in the strongest wind the coal will not blow out on a piece of charred material, it will only get stronger. Damp or wet conditions could pose a problem, but fire craft is difficult even with lighters or a ferrocerium rod in those condition's  Don't get me wrong I wouldn't suggest solely depending on the fire piston. However, I wouldn't suggest depending on any single fire craft method either (always have back-ups). It's something to definitely add to the arsenal. Every match you strike, every flick of a lighter, and every scrape of a ferrocerium rod is one less fire from that device. This like I said is eternal as long as it remains serviceable.

Just like the bow or hand drill- it's a rewarding way of starting a fire. Especially with a fire piston of this quality and good looks. Ben's Backwoods offers these for $64. They also have another model that comes in at $35. They have a plethora of survival and bushcraft gear, some things you won't find anywhere else and are worth checking out.

Check them out at www.bensbackwoods.com

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