Last fall George from Anti Gravity Gear sent me a few packs of Utility Flame to check out. This product was once known as Pyropac Gel which seemed to be more popular amongst preparadness folks and has since shown up at the Outdoor Retailer show under the new branding, thus getting some attention from hikers, backpackers, and so on. Here’s a quick rundown of my experience with it.
Most of what you might want to know about it is summarized on the Utility Flame website, so I’ll just highlight the points that I think are worth repeating…
- This is a gel fire starter, not liquid. TSA should allow it in a carry on.
- It is very difficult to light with a firesteel… a match or lighter works best.
- I timed burns between 13 and 15 minutes for a single package.
- A single package weighs 1.25 ounces
- Retail price on a 4-pack of 1.25 ounce packets is about $9
In the Field
I’ve taken this on a few trips but never found much use for it. Finally I was out with a small group and a couple of our friends who were responsible for getting the fire going were having a tough time due damp tinder and a stiff breeze. We could have worked it out, but what better time to give this stuff a try… “Hey!” I said, “check this out.” I squeezed a pack of the gel out on top of their tinder, got it lit with a match, and added a little more tinder on top. Presto!
So it worked. Was it simple and easy? Yes! Was it a last ditch effort? Not exactly, we could have got that fire started a number of other ways but that wasn’t the point.
When Utility Flame burns it has a nearly invisible flame. There is no odor or smoke and it is fine for boiling water. On my burns the flame was pretty hot for the first 10 minutes or so, dying down to about Esbit strength after that, but it continued to burn for several more minutes. The photo sequence below was done in my back yard (ack… I really don’t care for back yard stuff on gear blogs, but alas…).
It leaves a small amount of silica ash when it’s done burning, so it’s not completely LNT, but it is very low impact and there will be less evidence to disperse than a typical wood fire.
The Bottom Line
I don’t know if I’d carry this over some cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly, or other fuel-tinder type of starters. It’s all too easy to start slipping small ~ 1 oz items into the pack only to find it approaching a pound heavier suddenly. I do think this is a great product for stashing in a go-bag or emergency kit for a vehicle. In fact I ordered a 4 pack to put in each of our vehicles. If the package was re-sealable it might make a better case for carrying a pack for emergency/backup use while hiking.