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Review ChemFire Capsules Fire Starter

ChemFire Capsules Fire Starter

Part of the Nessmuking philosophy is being proficient in fire starting in all conditions. Many products attempt to address the need for this skill, but none are as interesting as ChemFire Fire Starting System.

The Reaction

ChemFire uses a combination of potassium permanganate and glycerin. When these two chemicals are combined they react to produce fire. These items were/are often found in military survival kits and in many emergency kits sold in Europe. Back in the day, potassium permanganate was used to treat water and as a disinfectant, but it’s messy and stains skin and clothing purple, and if mixed incorrectly it can lead to death or violent illness.

The Product

The Ohio based company that manufactures ChemFire packages the potassium permanganate into small pill capsules and provides the glycerin in a small eye dropper. The weight of the kit they sent me for testing was 0.8 ounces for 10 capsules and one dropper bottle. So, it’s pretty light. This package is a unique way of providing the two chemicals and it seems like the capsule helps in producing the reaction.

The Test

To make the reaction work, the capsule is opened and two drops of glycerin are added to the capsule. The capsule is closed and placed under the tinder. A few seconds later the magic begins with instant fire. The reaction produces fire for up to 30 seconds, which with a good dry tinder pile should get your fire started with no problems. I found that sometimes the reaction would only last around 10 seconds.

During my home testing, I found that often excess potassium permanganate would be left over after the reaction finished. And as shown in the following video just emptying the capsule and adding glycerin doesn’t work nearly as well as using a capsule. After testing the capsules on cement at home, I cleaned the pad with a hose and it turned everything purple. My only concern when testing was that I didn’t want to hold on to the capsule too long after the chemicals were mixed.

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When lighting a real fire, I first used dry cedar tinder, and it burst into a hot flame very quickly — much more quickly than if I had used just a lighter. With birch bark, this produces a very hot and fast fire, but I didn’t think it was significantly faster than using a match or lighter. In wet weather, which I didn’t get to test the product in, I think this product would produce enough of a flame to start a well tindered fire.

The Conclusion

ChemFire is a fun light product that is easy to use. Starts a fire quickly. I found that I couldn’t be sloppy with my fire building; I still had to gather good dry tinder. For campers with kids or scouts this product would provide entertainment and a science lesson. The weight and size is small, so it’d take up little room. If I were to carry this on trips, it’d be more for fun than as a replacement for a lighter or matches, but it might just come in handy on those wet cold days were I want a fire to warm up, and the tinder is just damp enough to make fire starting a hassle.

This is a product worth trying out.

Product’s Website: ChemFire Fire Starting System


  • “My only concern when testing was that I didn’t want to hold on to the capsule too long after the chemicals were mixed.”

    Would it help to alleviate that concern if you dropped the glycerin into the empty capsule cap? The way you were doing it, you’re adding it directly to the powder, then have to fumble around to get the empty cap on. I would think putting the glycerin into the cap would allow you to get the fumbling out of the way before the chemicals make contact with one another.

    I will definitely be finding some of these. I have tried many firestarters, and usually just go with my magnesium block. I tried a paste once I picked up in Yosemite while it was raining that does work, but it is in a bulky tube, and who knows how long it will remain stable.

  • I just tried adding the glycerin to the empty capsule cap, and it works just fine.

    I also just did this test in sprinkles, and it worked just fine.

  • One little itty bitty catch
    -chemical reactions take longer
    when everything is ice cold.
    Dead of winter is an issue.

    My personal choice “WetFire” cubes

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