Offbeat: RAT Fire Kit

RAT Fire Kit.


When I told Jeff Randall of RAT Cutlery and Randall’s Adventure Training that I was going on an extended trip around the continent of Australia and would really like to test out the new RAT Fire Kit, he sent one right over. I received it just in time for my departure, so there was no time for any preliminary tests. But no matter—the package said “RAT” and that was good enough for me.

MISCH METAL FIRESTARTER SPECS

The milspec green anodized aluminum capsule measures one inch in diameter and is 4.25 inches long. The unit weighs 2.5 ounces, which is a little heavier than most fire starters, but has the added advantage of a waterproof tinder container. The inside of the capsule is .800″ in diameter.

With the cap screwed on, you have about 1.2″ of open space inside (lengthwise)—plenty of room to store a mini survival kit or tinder. The cap is machined to accept a 20mm button compass. The capsule gives the short Misch Metal rod plenty of handle to work with. The Misch Metal rod is replaceable and can be accessed from the inside of the capsule via a Phillips-head screwdriver. Complete with a lanyard hole, it can be worn around the neck or attached to a length of shock cord.

For my testing, I decided to just keep it in my pocket without any lanyard. My kit was a prototype, but the final production version will feature the RAT SERE logo on the capsule. Rowen Manufacturing will be making the RAT Fire Kit in the USA, with the same quality one would expect from any RAT product.

RAT Fire Kit’s 4.25-inch capsule fills the hand. Lanyard hole is in end of waterproof cap.


WHAT’S MISCH?

Misch Metal (from the German mischmetall—“mixed metals”) is an alloy of rare earth elements in various naturally occurring proportions. To be honest, I looked up the chemical make-up of Misch Metal and I might as well have been reading advanced Mandarin Chinese.

The term “firesteel” has become synonymous with so-called “artificial flints,” which are metal rods of varying size composed of ferrocerium (an alloy of iron) and Misch Metal (itself an alloy primarily of cerium that will generate sparks when struck). Iron is added to improve the strength of the rods. Small shavings are torn or scraped off the rod then ignite at high temperatures. They are considered by some as more effective than their historical equivalent.

Misch Metal wears away more quickly than standard ferrocerium, but has the potential to light tinders that standard ferrocerium won’t. The Misch Metal rod gives the user more time, which in my humble opinion is a big thing. Sometimes that extra millisecond makes the difference between a warm, cozy night eating cooked fish and a long, cold night with sushi.

WATERTIGHT CAPSULE

On the trail in western Australia, there were many swamps with an abundance of Cattail and Pampass grass. I grabbed a handful of Pampass grass and stuffed it inside the watertight capsule for later use. Then I tossed the whole unit into a nearby creek.

Upon retrieving the capsule from the creek, I felt the suspense of watching old footage of Houdini, not knowing if it would be watertight as RAT claimed. But the tinder stayed perfectly dry after four minutes of being submerged. That may not seem like a very long time, but I didn’t plan on spending more than four minutes totally submerged in water that day—too many crocs.

Since this is a fire-starting device, I chose to use the capsule only for fire-related items. Most outdoorsmen have a well thought-out survival kit that they keep in their pack or pocket, so I felt no need to pack the RAT Fire Kit with other items. Consequently, I kept the capsule full of tinder. Petroleum-soaked cotton balls and 0000 steel wool could also be stored inside the capsule.

Plenty of room for small survival kit or tinder. Inside of cap can accept 20mm button compass.


AND THEN THERE WAS FIRE

For the testing of the RAT Fire Kit, I also took along two of my most used fire starters for comparison. The standard Boy Scout firesteel and the TOPS firesteel have been regulars with me for a few years now. Tinder used for most of the testing was Pampass grass, dryer lint and Cattail fluff. I also had a Victorinox Swiss Champ and Blade-Tech N’yati fixed-blade knife with me and I used them as strikers on the Misch Metal.

The Swiss Army saw is probably the best striker for most ferrocerium rods and works well on Misch Metal as well. The thumb serrations on the Blade-Tech N’yati also worked well on the rod.

What I noticed right from the start was that a sharp blade seemed to be the best way to quickly get fiery molten balls from the unit. For those of you who have never used a ferrocerium fire starter, it produces a shower of sparks that, when struck, are aimed at the tinder. The degree of intensity that is produced depends on the size and make of the ferrocerium rod.

A Misch Metal rod works a little differently. The idea is the same as far as catching a spark in the tinder bundle, but it reacts differently when struck. I can best describe it as looking like a movie scene where there’s an epic battle and catapults are used to fire hot burning metal balls at the opposing side.

RAT Fire Kit used on Cattail in damp, swampy area of Queensland, Australia. Note scorch marks on thumb serrations of Blade Tech N’yati fixed blade, which was used as the striker.


The hot molten metal balls stay lit for a longer period of time than sparks from a ferrocerium fire starter. This is one of the main advantages of Misch Metal when it comes to stubborn or harder to light materials. I did get a few pieces of old man’s beard to smolder for a little while, but the humidity in that specific area (Queensland, Australia) was too high to achieve more than that.

A point worth mentioning in case you might be crawling around on the ground is the color of the RAT Fire Kit. Milspec green is easily lost on the forest floor, so I recommend adding a brightly colored lanyard that contrasts with the environment you are in. I seem to favor red and orange for easy visibility in everything from knife handles to luggage at the airport.

From the leaders in jungle survival training to the most innovative cutlery designs, survival kits and now fire starters, you’d better believe you can count on anything RAT puts their name on! What will they come up with next? Suggested retail price of the RAT Fire Kit is $37.99.

SOURCE:

RAT Cutlery
Dept. S.W.A.T.
60 Randall Rd.
Gallant, AL 35972
(865) 933-8436
www.ratcutlery.com

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