One of the rules I set out for myself when I started these tests was “to try something new either in terms of conditions or in terms of equipment used every week.” For this test, I came pretty close to breaking that rule. It was the coldest I have ever started a fire and the first time I have ever started a natural tinder fire sort of in the dark (I lit the fire in the dark but most of the gathering of materials took place when it was light enough to see). But otherwise there was not a lot to distinguish this week’s fire from last week’s fire.
My original intent was to compare how long it took to start a fire with the Wazoo Ferro rod vs the GobSpark Armageddon. I was also going to allow myself to use a Silky Pocketboy saw and a fixed blade knife to start some “one stick” fires. But due to getting involved in another project, I almost did not have any time to do anything then run a brief comparison between the GobSpark and the Wazoo Ferro Rod with natural tinder. And all this test managed to do was confirm the GobSpark was miles better at starting a fire then the Wazoo Ferro rod.
Given the size and price disparity between the two of them, this is how it should be and it is no knock against the small little Wazoo Ferro rod. But because I had used both of them in different conditions I had managed to get myself confused as to the difference between them. This test at least straitened me out on that front.
Conditions: Temp was 14 degrees and everything was snow covered with a couple of inches of snow. For once, the ground was frozen underneath the snow and not mud. No wind to speak of and it was cloudy without even slightest hint of sun as per normal in this part of the world. By the time I was all done, it was pitch dark.
Test: Start a fire a Wazoo Ferro rod using natural tinder (failed) and start a fire with the GobSpark Armageddon using the same natural tinder (succeeded).
Equipment Digression: I have covered both the Wazoo Ferro rod and GobSpark Armageddon in previous tests. The only thing new this time around was the use of the Silky Pocketboy. It lived up to its reputation and made getting kindling 100 times easier then without it. For something you can just stick in a pocket and not even notice, it certainly something I would want to have with me it I was ever to hike many miles in weather where I might need a fire in a hurry.
Narrative for the Test:
I gathered a lot more kindling then I needed because I thought I was going to do multiple fires. It did not take long because of Silky Pocketboy but I should not have bothered because it was getting dark even before I was done. Since this was the same area as last week’s fire, there is nothing new about this aspect of it.
When it comes to tinder, there was only one small hiccup. For the first set of tests fires (My original plan was to do more), I wanted to do a weed/birch bark mixture like I used last time so I could compare how well the Wazoo Rod did against the Gobspark on something that I knew worked. Getting the weeds was just a matter of walking a little further as the immediate area was getting a little scarce. But when it came to getting the birch bark I ran into a problem that wound up impacting the test.
Last time I had used the back of my knife to scrape some of the naturally peeling bark into my baseball cap. When I went back to the same tree this time it was dark and I had a knit hat on instead of a baseball cap. Trying to scrape stuff into a floppy knit hat in the dark did not work so I would up peeling strips off by hand and placing them on the inside of the my hat. The thing I did not think about at the time is that produced bigger strips of bark then the other method did.
It was only when I went to start the fire that I set the timer. I meant to compare the times of the Wazoo and the Gobspark so I was going to time each fire individually but as it turns out I did not do that. Part of the problem is that just as I was starting the fire I got notified that it was time to eat supper. But the main reason is it soon became clear that I was not going to start this fire with the Wazoo ferro rod with processing the birch bark a lot more. I tried a couple of different methods with the Wazoo and it just would not light the birch bark.
Since it was already supper time, I decided to see if the Gobspark had the same problem. It took me four strikes with the Gobspark to light everything up and produce the fire below.
Total Time To Light The Fire: 5 minutes. A lot of this time was just getting things out my pocket and back into my pocket as I switched between the two ferro rods. With gloves and winter coat on this seems like it takes forever when you are on the clock.
1. The Gobspark most certainly throws more sparks then the Wazoo and has an easier time starting tinder. I think the only reason I ever doubted this is that I only used the Wazoo at night whereas before this test I had never used the Gobspark at night. You can see a lot more what is going on when you use the ferro rod in the dark. I would guess that the Wazoo only throws about a third of the sparks that the Gobspark does. Given that the total weight of the Wazoo system is likely less than a 10th of the Gobspark, that is not a bad production of sparks. But if you are dealing with marginal tinder, it matters a lot.
2. Even with birch bark, processing matters a lot particularly if you are dealing with a less then idea spark source. I am pretty sure I could have lit this fire with the Wazoo if I had taken the time to process the birch bark into a much finer tinder pile. At some point I will have to prove this.
3. In the dark and cold, even simple things like collecting already peeling birch bark are a little more challenging.
4. It is easy to lose the small Wazoo rod in the dark. I did not do it, but it felt like it was going to disappear on me on a moment’s notice because the total system is so small and dark. Whereas I had no worries about the much larger and bright orange Gobspark disappearing on me.