Tuesday, April 9, 2013

New Stuff

One of the pleasures of traveling the country as much as I do, is meeting people - and especially those people with new ideas, new ways to solve old problems, new tools to make life a little easier when times are tough - entrepreneurial people.

Meet Patrish Brady.  Patrish is the owner of Shooting Star Nursery LLC located in Washington State.  Shooting Star Nursery is a tree farm and tree farms produce lots of tree waste!  Looking for a way to make use of the waste produced in the process of farming trees, and to improve the farms financial income, Patrish and her family came up with a novel product - "Sparke!"  More than just another aid to starting a fire Sparkes can be used as a "stand-alone" source of heat. 

I first came across them at the Washington Sportsmen's Show in Puyallup, Washington earlier this year when Patrish came by my survival exhibit and asked me what I thought of her product.  Never one to jump on the bandwagon I listened to her explanation of the Sparke and how it could be used.  It was immediately obvious to me that the ground-up tree debris saturated with wax had potential. 

It wasn't until late March that I had a chance to actually test the Sparke to see if it was all that Patrish and her son said it was.  It was - and more!  If you were to walk through the camping section of any sporting goods store you would see a multitude of fire starting aids available for sale.  Over the years I have tested most of them and, almost without exception, found them wanting!  So what makes makes a Sparke so much better?

Well to start with, it is easy to light.  A wick that can be lit on either end runs the full length of the brick.  I placed the Sparke in a ceramic dish to contain the fire and to collect the residue.

I lit the wick on either side of the brick and it quickly igniting the wax and the ground-up tree-farm residue that the brick is made from.

Once lit, the combination of wax and vegetable matter burned hot and long!  Initially there was a bit of black smoke but as the heat increased the amount of smoke decreased. At this point I noticed that there was a considerable amount of melted wax collecting in the dish.  Knowing this I would always recommend placing a fuel source that contains wax or petroleum jelly in a container that will collect the melted fuel. Doing so will increase the burn time of the Sparke.

As the minutes passed the flame gradually diminished.  This photograph was taken 23 minutes after the Sparke was lit.

Before the flame burned out I took a stick and stirred the remains breaking it apart whereupon the flames flared again for a few more minutes.

When it finally burned out all that was left was ash - and not much of that!

The Sparke that I used was one of four contained in a package of four bricks.  The weight of the bricks varied from 2.9oz to 4.1ozs The Sparke that I tested weighed 2.9ozs and burned for twenty-seven minutes.

 I also burned a Sparke during the blizzard that swept through Colorado Springs on the 9th of April.  The temperature that morning was 15 degrees F. with winds gusting between 30 and 40 mph and light snow.  This Sparke weighed 3.7 oz. and burned for 38 minutes before burning out.  At the height of the burn, using an infrared heat measuring device, I measured the temperature of the flame at 541.9 degrees F.

The only difficulty I experienced was lighting the wick.  Because of the high winds it took two matches to get this done.  Once alight it remained lit despite the very gusty winds.  I made no particular effort to protect the Sparke.

CONCLUSIONS:  None of the fire starting products that are currently available in the retail stores that cater to those who recreate or work in the outdoors are as good as the Sparke  - by a huge margin! www.sparkefire.com (Note to you readers - the Sparke website is still being developed so please be patient until it comes online.)    In the meantime give Patrish a call and place an order (509-465-5685)

The larger Sparke will be very useful for home owners who enjoy their wood burning fireplaces and to those who still rely on wood burning furnaces to heat their homes.  It should also appeal to the car camping community and others who use some form of vehicle to get themselves into the back-country.  The smaller size Sparke is ideally suited to back-packers who need a reliable way to get a fire going.  The smaller size would also be a good addition to an emergency kit.  In short, a Sparke would be useful to anyone who wants to start a fire quickly and reliably, particularly when weather conditions make it difficult to do so.

I will continue to evaluate both the large and the small Sparke throughout the rest of the year and if anything new shows up I will share it with you.  In the meantime check them out yourself and let me know what you think of them.

Emergency Kit - $5.00
Mini- 2-pack - $6.00
4-pack - $12.00

DISCLAIMER: OutdoorSafe Inc accepts no money from any manufacturer to promote their products.  The opinions expressed are mine and are based on my independent testing under field conditions.