Hedgehog Leatherworks Fire Steel
Jon Stokes 10.29.13
I once read an interview with Les Stroud of Survivorman, where someone asked him the following question: “if you could bring only three things into the woods with you, what would they be?” His answer was, “Three different ways to start a fire.” In his website’s FAQ, he gives a similar answer to a similar question about what a person should always carry into the woods with them: “3 different ways to get a fire going: butane windproof lighter, matches, flint striker.”
In a short-term survival situation, fire is everything. It’s warmth, it’s psychological comfort, it’s protection from nocturnal predators, and it’s a signal that can let rescuers know where you are. That’s why most wilderness survival experts recommend immediately building a fire the minute you realize that you’re lost. The methodical process of building a fire and the feelings of comfort, achievement, and control that a successful fire brings can calm you down and put you in a more rational psychological state so that you can make quality decisions about how to get out the bind you’re in.
For these reasons, a quality firesteel can literally be the difference between life and death in the woods. Luckily, firesteels are one of the most inexpensive and long-lasting pieces of lifesaving gear you can buy. And for folks who like to have the best of the best, it doesn’t get any better than Hedgehog Leatherworks’ firesteel.
You’d think it would be hard to upgrade a firesteel (after all, it’s nothing but a rod that throws a spark when you strike it with hard metal), but Hedgehog has taken that basic concept and elevated it to the level of an artifact. This is a premium product all the way through.
The top of the firesteel sports a knurled cap with a hole through it. This cap provides a solid grip on the steel and the hold hosts a small, durable, flexible lanyard that serves to secure the steel in a standard firesteel loop.
The steel itself is the same diameter as the industry-standard Swedish firesteel, so if you’ve got a loop on your sheath that the Swedish steel would fit into, the Hedgehog steel is a drop-in replacement.
The steel comes wrapped in a cloth that looks like it can be used for kindling, and the cloth is secured with a piece of jute twine that can be used to catch a spark.
The jute twine lights up like a champ, but it just doesn’t stay lit very long. I prefer Tinder-Quik fire tabs by far. They’re light, compact, very flammable, and stay lit long enough to catch a piece of bark or a larger fuzz stick. But this isn’t a jute twine review, so I’ll move on from the topic of kindling, now.
Because of the cloth and twine that the steel comes with, it’s possible to toss the entire bundle in a pocket, pouch, or bag and have a complete fire starting kit with you. Or you can do like I do and just put the firesteel in a loop on your sheath.
Finally, the Hedgehog comes with a really nice little striker that throws a really great spark. I don’t really have a place for such a tiny object in my kit, though, so I’ll probably leave that at home when I go out. (I always use the file on my Leatherman for sparks.) However, I understand that the sheaths that Hedgehog makes do have a spot for the striker.
Worth the price?
The Hedgehog firesteel is $40, which is over twice what you’d pay for the Swedish steel on Amazon. If you’re evaluating the firesteel purely in terms of functionality and nothing else, does it work twice as well as the tried-and-true Light My Fire Swedish firesteel? I don’t think so. It seems like it may work a bit better — throw a hotter spark, or more sparks — but it’s at most 20% better, not 100% better.
It’s also the case that could replace the main added feature, the tiny elastic retention lanyard, with some paracord, or you could buy the right materials and try to make one yourself. So if you’re up for a DIY project, you could make something similar.
As for the knurled metal head, the practical value of this vs. the Swedish steel’s plastic head is debatable. I can’t vouch for the durability of the plastic head on the Swedish steel, but in all the years I’ve used it and carried it, I have no reason to believe it’s anything less than completely bulletproof. I’ve never even gotten a scratch on the plastic of mine in all my adventures. But if the plastic head is a concern, then obviously the Hedgehog’s knurled metal head makes it clear winner.
All of that having been said, though, I’m a Hedgehog convert. I’m going to be buying the Hedgehog steels for my knives from here on out. I appreciate a quality, top-of-the-line product, and $40 just isn’t that much to pay for something that’s the best in its class. It’s not like I need fist-fulls of these things — I only have two sheaths with firesteel loops, and I already have a few of the cheaper Swedish steels laying around that I can toss in a pack and forget about.
The other factor is the small retention lanyard that comes with the Hedgehog. It works fantastically well for securing the steel in a standard loop, and the $20 I’d save doing it myself isn’t worth the time and effort that such a project would entail — and that’s assuming that I could actually replicate it, which I may not be able to.
For a steel that you’re going to buy and throw in a possibles pouch or backpack to float around loose, I think a cheap firesteel is still the way to go. If your cheap steel falls out and gets lost, you’re not going to cry over it.
But for a steel that goes in a loop on a sheath or other external attachment, I recommend the Hedgehog Leatherworks firesteel without reservation. The Hedgehog Leatherworks firesteel has changed my mind about what’s possible for the humble firesteel, and I plan to outfit my knife sheaths exclusively with these steels.