by Tom Lombardo
I’ve been building fires since I was a college student living in a cabin in the Adirondacks and heating with a wood stove. I’m also fond of backyard bonfires and I’m the designated fire builder when our family goes camping. Tinder (such as paper), kindling, and dry firewood are essential to starting and maintaining a good fire. One problem we’ve encountered at family campgrounds is that you can’t always find good kindling around. Also, you never know how thick or dense the campground firewood is. Last year we bought firewood at a campsite and it turned out to be all oak – very dense and almost impossible to split with my camping axe. I always keep some fire starter sticks in our camping gear, but there have been times when it took almost my entire weekend supply just to light one fire. So when Lisa asked me to review a product called Instafire, it sparked my interest.
What Is It?
Instafire is an all-natural fire starting product that lights easily, burns hot, and is safe to carry and store. It’s made from volcanic rock, wood pellets, and paraffin wax. It won’t light with just a spark – for safety reasons – so you’ll need a source of flame like a match or a lighter in order to ignite it. Instafire comes in a variety of package sizes; we tested the 1.75 oz pouch.
Be sure to follow safe fire practices. Don’t start a fire near dry grass or weeds or around any flammable or explosive material! Keep children and pets at a safe distance.
The Instafire package comes with clear and simple instructions. I started by building a square of logs to form the perimeter of the fire. Then I poured a package of Instafire into a pile in the middle and lit it with a single match. For safety reasons, Instafire won’t light with just a spark, so don’t try to be Bear Grylls and light it with a flint and a knife – it needs a flame to start it.
I let it burn for a few minutes…
When it was nice and hot, I added a little kindling – much less than I would normally use to get a fire going – and one piece of dry firewood.
What you see above is all the kindling I used. Without Instafire I would have needed five times that amount of kindling.
I added a couple more logs and had a nice fire going:
And before long, I had a full-fledged bonfire…
Overall, I like the product. There’s no artificial smell, no lighter fluid – just the scent of a natural wood fire. I was able to build a nice bonfire without using paper and with very little kindling. The company claims that you can start a fire with no kindling at all, and I think that’s probably true, but you’d need more Instafire than I had for the test.
They also say that it lights wet wood. Please be aware that wet wood is NOT the same thing as green wood. Green wood is freshly cut – less than a year old – and hasn’t had time to dry out. Don’t try to start a fire with green wood. Wet wood, on the other hand, is properly aged firewood that happened to get wet, maybe from being out in the rain. That’s surface wetness; it makes it difficult to light, but the wood will burn if it’s hot enough. Instafire provides enough heat to evaporate the surface wetness and ignite wet wood.
In a survival situation, the top priorities are water, shelter, fire, and food – in that order. And if your water supply is questionable, fire may supersede shelter since you’ll need to boil water before drinking it. While I’m a pretty competent bonfire builder, I wouldn’t want to depend on whatever material I can find to start a fire. If I were hiking in the wilderness I would keep a jackknife, a stainless steel water bottle, two lighters, and a few packages of Instafire in my backpack. If you can’t find firewood, you can boil water over a pile of burning Instafire.
I’ve tried a variety of commercial fire starters and I think Instafire provides the most heat for its weight and volume. We’ll definitely buy some to keep with our camping gear. But if you’re not an experienced fire builder, it’s not as simple as “light it and forget it” – it takes a bit of skill to get a good fire going, regardless of the fire starter that you’re using. Instafire eliminates the need for tinder (paper) and drastically reduces the amount kindling required, but there’s no substitute for skill.
Here’s a video from the Instafire page:
Instafire comes in multiple package sizes, including half-cup (1.75 oz) waterproof foil pouches ($1.49 each) that can be put into a backpack. If you like to buy in bulk, they also sell two gallon and five-gallon buckets. This review is based on the Fire Starter, but they also sell Charcoal Starter for those who want to cook with charcoal without the nasty smell of lighter fluid.
Disclaimer: We received two free pouches (retail value $2.98) for this review, but Instafire did not pay for the review nor did they have any input into it. All opinions are my own.