Survival Gear Review: Clickspring Fire Piston

A new rendition of a primitive fire-starting tool

I know what you’re going to ask.

“What’s a fire piston?”

It doesn’t have anything to do with the piston in an engine, although there are stories that the inventor of the diesel engine was inspired after seeing these devices in 18th century Asia. The fire piston is a remarkable way to start a fire through the heat created from the compression of air molecules. This method was used by a number of cultures, and it dates back to prehistory, possibly predating the use of metal tools. But just because this fire starting tool was first invented in primitive times, doesn’t mean that it’s an ineffective method. There’s actually a lot of engineering involved to make one of these, and make it successful. When properly built, the fire piston works in one strike – and it works every strike. I’ve been working with this method for years, even making my own pistons, but I’ve never seen one like this.

Fire Piston
Built from sturdy materials, the Clickspring Fire Piston can be passed down to your grandchildren someday.Tim MacWelch

The Clickspring Fire Piston is sleek, multi-featured, and remarkably effective. After taking it out of the package, I was pleasantly surprised with the sturdy feel of the unit. Other fire pistons I’ve used (made from wood or plastic) seemed flimsy by comparison. The carefully milled brass work and anodized aluminum shaft makes this a unit that is built to last. The kit comes with two bags of excellent char cloth—which is the perfect fuel for the fire piston. I took a pinch of the black crumbly fuel, placed it in the cavity at the end of the brass shaft and slammed it down hard. In one quick motion, the piston compresses the air inside the slender shaft and heats the tinder beyond its ignition temperature. That’s right—I pulled the shaft out of the sleeve, and the char was glowing orange—it was on fire after the first push!

This thing works like a charm, and it is made for durability and performance. As bonus features, there’s also a small liquid filled compass, lanyard and hollow chamber inside the piston shaft to store some char. It will take the inexperienced user a little effort to get the hang of the method, but I don’t think it’s ever been easier than it is with the Clickspring Fire Piston. And if you’re looking for a gift for the survivalist who has it all, I’ll bet they don’t have one of these.

Here are the specs:

Piston length – 5.25 inches

Piston thickness – 0.75 inches

Weight – 6 ounces

Bonus features – lanyard, built-in button compass and hollow storage space for char cloth

MSRP – $89.00

Made in the USA