I often get messages on my YouTube channel, however, most are generally garbage, and it’s pretty rare that I even remember to go through them. However, my channel is set-up to automatically send me an email when I get messages, so it does make it a little easier to know when I need to check it or not. A few months ago I got an email notification in which a company called Mission: Preparedness had sent me a message. It didn’t look like junk, so I made a mental note to check it when I got home from work that day, but to be quite honest, it slipped my mind for a few days…
I did finally remember to go back and check my messages, and what I found is that this company specializes in a fire starter called “The Ugly Stick.” In the message, the owner asked me if I would be interested in checking out some of his fire starters and posting a review. Reluctantly, I had to turn his offer down though… The Ugly Stick looked like something I would like to actually carry in my backpack, however, I just wasn’t sure if I would be able to get around to doing a review any time soon. So, I made a mental note to pick some of these up myself one day, and simply shared his product via links on my FaceBook page.
The post that I shared had a good response, including one from Randy Cain, who bought some of the Ugly Sticks for himself. He confirmed everything I already thought about these fire starters in a video he uploaded, which are basically that they are lightweight, and work well. So, when I got a little early Christmas money, I placed an order for some of my own! (And let me add that they shipped, and arrived, very fast… even at Christmas time!)
The Ugly Sticks are not very complex in design; nothing really new or complicated about them, however, don’t think that this means are just “meh…” They are simple in design, but that’s a good thing! This is what Mission: Preparedness has to say about the Ugly Sticks:
It is essentially jute twine infused with wax. But, we enhance it further by putting it through three more processes to make it more waterproof, rugged, light weight and easy to store for use in the field and for emergencies.
And in my experience, their claim has turned out to be true. You can watch their video to see that the Ugly Stick will work after being dipped in water (or Guinness), and other videos in which the Ugly Sticks were actually soaking in lake water before use, and each time, after a quick wipe and squeeze, they lit right up. And yes, they are very lightweight! A single 9cm Ugly Stick weighs in between about 0.012 to 0.014 oz (~0.35 – 0.4 g) each! I have wrapped up 5 Ugly Sticks in a small piece of Saran wrap to stow in my ditty bag, and this comes out to 0.079 oz! Not bad, not bad at all!
But weight isn’t everything, how do they perform?
Once the Ugly Stick is lit, they seem to burn between 2:30 – 2:50 when simply laying them down on a flat surface. Of course though, however the Ugly Stick is manipulated once lit, as well as actual conditions (windy or not), will decide on how fast it is actually consumed (for example, if I turn it upside down the flame will quickly consume the entire Ugly Stick, and it will burn out faster; and if I were to simply hold it straight up, the flame would take a little longer to burn its way down to the other end.) The nice thing though is that these are easily extinguished, and can then be relit, so they are indeed multiple use. (According to the manufacturer, the 9cm Ugly Sticks “will provide you with 25 – 30 5 second fire lights.”)
What makes these stand out even more though (to me) is that they are long, like a match. I can simply light one end of the Ugly Stick, and then easily place that flame wherever I would like. This will make it easier to get under a small tinder pile, or inside a wood stove, than placing a fire starter blob in one place and then building around it (and yes, before anyone says anything, I know that works too, but the Ugly Stick is simply more flexible.)
Lighting the Ugly Stick can be done with a match, a lighter, or a Ferro rod and striker (which, given the nature of this product, is what Mission: Preparedness leans towards). I will admit, using a Ferro rod is not something I do all that often, so, it did take me a few tries (and some time) to light the Ugly Stick with a rod and striker, however, it is pretty intuitive, and simply takes a little practicing to get it right (and holding my mouth a certain way…lol!) In the manufacturers video they even show lighting an Ugly Stick one-handed (by holding the rod down over a limb with a foot, and then striking it). What I have found when using a rod and striker to light it, is that the better the tip is fluffed, the easier it is to catch a spark. That seems to be key, for me anyway…
In my opinion, this has been the best fire starter that I have tried so far in terms of weight and end-results; whether store-bought, or DIY, the Ugly Stick has quickly become my favorite fire starter. They are easily the lightest option that I have used/carried, and they are not as messy as some others (I’m talking about you cotton balls and vaseline!). They are easy to light, waterproof and provide a good burn time. As well, due to their shape, they are also easy to manipulate/maneuver/handle when on fire. Not to mention, they are priced fairly, made right here in the USA, and the purchase helps to support retired Marine combat Vet’s!
As I mentioned above, I actually purchased these Ugly Sticks (the One-Year Fire Kit – PLUS to be exact) at full price, however, when the package arrived, I found that they also included a complimentary “FERRO PRO 5” ferrocerium rod and striker in the package. (I can only assume that he recognized my name from YouTube and decided to place this in the package with my order.) He also included a letter that asked me to mention this Ferro rod if I did a review, and explained the reason he offers these particular Ferro rods. Essentially, they created the FERRO PRO 5 to fill the need of a rugged Ferro rod that would not lose its handle, and that could stand up to real abuse… like actual war zone abuse! His son actually used one of the FERRO PRO 5 rods in 2 separate war zones (Afghanistan & Iraq) and it is still going strong.
While I have never been in those situations, I can tell you that the FERRO PRO 5 rod is bomber! The actual rod is 5″ long and 9/16″ in diameter (yeah, it’s a haus!) It has a 1.5″ rugged plastic handle, and it has been drilled and fitted with a swivel D Ring. This beast weighs in at 4.3 oz alone (with the 7″ loop of cord and the striker – which is labeled Firestriker.com – the total weight is 4.6 oz). A nylon belt sheath was also included with the Ferro rod.
So, as I mentioned, this is a serious Ferro rod… it is the total opposite of the Exotac polySTRIKER that I generally carry while backpacking (not that the polySTRIKER is unqualified, it’s just that it’s so tiny and light when compared to the FERRO PRO 5). Saying that, as a UL backpacker, I would never dream of carrying the FERRO PRO 5 with me, however, if I were packing a bug-out bag, or simply didn’t mind carrying the extra weight, this would be the Ferro rod I would want to pack.
So, as I mentioned above, 5 of the Ugly Sticks wrapped in some Saran wrap have now taken permanent residence in my backpack’s ditty bag… or at least long enough until it’s time to put them to use! I am excited to have been able to cut the weight of my previous DIY fire starter’s down, while at the same time replacing them with a better, lighter weight option. Sure, the weight saved was only a mere 0.211 oz, but this was about a 360% decrease in weight, for the same item. When looking at it this way, that is pretty impressive… at least in the eyes of a weight conscious backpacker… cause every little bit matters! Seriously though, be sure to check them out… they’re pretty awesome!
Thanks for stopping by!
Disclaimer: I paid full price for the One-Year Fire Kit – PLUS from Mission: Preparedness with my own money. The Ferro Pro 5 rod was unknowingly included in my order as a complimentary item. I am not affiliated with the company Mission: Preparedness in any way, nor am I being paid to present this article. The statements above reflect my own opinion, which I formed after personally handling and using these items.