Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps
InstaFire is an easy-to-use granulated firestarting material and fuel which lights readily with a match or lighter, burns cleanly, and doesn’t blow away in wind too easily. It comes in sealed pouches which stow easily in a backpack or pocket.
- Very simple to ignite with matches or lighter
- Waterproof packaging keeps firestarter dry until needed
- Burns cleanly, with little smoke or soot
- One package is enough to start a half-dozen fires, while weighing in under 2 oz
- Does not catch firesteel sparks
- Packaging is not re-sealable
- Requires frequent stirring for optimal flame
- Not waterproof
Best For: Backpackers traveling in areas without abundant tinder material, or in very wet areas where dry tinder cannot be found. Anyone who does not or cannot spend the time to look for dry tinder. InstaFire would make a great addition to any emergency kit.
I found InstaFire to be a very capable firestarter. In most instances, a pile no larger than an inch in diameter will give a potential wood-fueled fire a very good chance of starting. For areas with more wet kindling, using a quarter of the pouch will suffice to start all but most poorly-built fires.
If one needs to get a fire going immediately—to fend off hypothermia, signal a rescue, or any other reason—then pour out the entire pouch, put burnable things on top of it, and light; a fire will be burning very soon.
InstaFire is also useful as the main fuel for a fire, with each pouch able to sustain approximately 15-20 minutes of flame. As a fuel material, attention should be paid to the shape of the pile made, as changes to the pile affect changes in the flame pattern. A typical cone-shaped pile generally works best, but if one is planning to use the fire to heat water in wide-bottomed pot it may be beneficial to spread out the InstaFire a little more.
The flame produced from just a quarter of one pouch reaches 3-4 inches high and burns for about 5 minutes, making InstaFire extremely useful if one needs to heat of couple of cups of water for disinfection or a meal.
Like many firestarters, InstaFire’s effectiveness is sensitive to environmental moisture: if you get it soaking wet, it will not light. I wouldn’t say the granules absorb water quickly—indeed, they seem to be a bit hydrophobic—but they certainly aren’t waterproof either. This note is of especial importance because one’s success in igniting InstaFire, and the rate at which it burns, will be somewhat dependent upon factors like relative humidity, condensation, and whether it’s day or night.
Ease of Use
Lighting InstaFire requires no special technique or procedure: pour it out into a pile, and touch a flame to it. While I could not get it to light using a firesteel, when using a flame source it lit readily every time, and the flame spread out to encompass the entire pile within seconds.
The granules vary in size, creating a pile that is very dense, and consequently, resistant to blowing away in the wind. This same density, however, means that the flame itself cannot readily consume the pile; in order to facilitate the best burn, it is helpful to stir the pile very few minutes so that fresh, unburned material is brought to the surface.
As such, InstaFire may not be the best material to burn inside a small wood-burning stove like the Vargo Hexagon, Trail Designs Inferno, or similar, as the frequent stirring will reduce the efficiency of such stoves.
InstaFire seems to be an acceptable fuel for cooking/boiling water. It burns cleanly, producing little smoke, almost no soot, and no offensive odor. Under extended use, I do not think it would blacken one’s pot any more than esbit or wood. The packaging notes that the product does not contain any Benzene.
The pouch in which InstaFire is packaged is a very durable, puncture-resistant plastic. It slips away into almost anywhere in your backpack, and can be forgotten about until camp is set up and a fire is desired. One drawback to the packaging is that it’s not resealable, so once the pouch is opened, any remaining granules can be readily exposed to environmental conditions. I came to prefer re-packaging InstaFire into zip-top style baggies; in this way I could better ensure it stayed dry, while being able to take exactly the amount I thought I might need for a given trip.
Disposal and Clean-Up
When stirred optimally during use, InstaFire burns completely down to ash, which could then be disposed of just as one would with a wood fire. When allowed to smolder, or when quenched prematurely, some of the larger InstaFire granules may not burn completely, and one might be left with a bit of left-over creosote-like material. Due to the generally small size and even consistency of the InstaFire granules, they are quickly and effectively quenched by both water and soil in those instances where the fire needs to be put out before it has completely expended its fuel.
InstaFire is a stupid-simple firestarter. Like the name implies, if you have InstaFire, you’re always seconds away from a fire. Depending on how much you use, it will get even the most sodden kindling going, giving your fire a very good chance of sustaining itself. If there is no usable wood around, a single pack of InstaFire can provide you with a potentially life-saving fire for a full 20 minutes. Repackage it in a zip-top bag and you can grab as much or as little as you need, providing a wide variety of uses while being pretty darn light weight.
Location: Porcupine Mountains State Park and Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
Average mid-summer conditions for the UP, with temperatures in the upper 80s and lower 90s during the day, dipping into the 60s at night.