Updated: February 6, 2023
The lack of fire-starting capability in the average Swiss Army knife really seems to be a sharp pebble in the shoe of California’s Tortoise Gear. In 2017, it launched the Firefly, a simple fire steel fit to the toothpick slot of many a Swiss Army multi-tool. Now it’s back to help you get more out of another marginally useful Swiss Army classic: the corkscrew. The spiraled Tortoise FireAnt twists onto the cork borer like a screw and brings two essential elements of fire-making to your pocket.
As cool and classic as Swiss Army knives are, they do bring some filler to the table. Tortoise Gear reasons that many Swiss Army knife owners will place the corkscrew in that exact category. Sure, every once in a blue moon, you might rise to hero status when you flip open the corkscrew during a camping trip or picnic in which the group brought plenty of wine but forgot an opener, but the tool is not going to save your skin when you’re lost in the wilderness and it’s never going to be your number 1 go-to for popping wine back in civilization.
So Tortoise Gear gives the corkscrew a task much more survival-oriented than popping corks, using it as a holder for the tiny FireAnt fire-making kit. Unlike the simple Firefly steel, Tortoise’s latest Swiss Army fire kit is a two-part system that includes the even smaller FireAnt fire steel and a waterproof, melt-proof waxed cotton Helix tinder. The fire steel handle and the tinder itself screw right onto the corkscrew for easy, secure carry.
The Helix tinder can be used all at once, providing a two-minute burn, or split into four single strands, each of which will burn for about a minute. The FireAnt steel is designed to create a spark using various standard Swiss Army implements, including the saw blade, scissors, awl or file (a use for the file!). The design is optimized for modern Victorinox corkscrews and may not work with older corkscrews with extra notches or damage.
Tortoise’s bright-neon colors don’t exactly fit with the classic, low-profile look of a red or black Swiss Army knife, but they should make the knife more visible should you drop it on the ground. They even glow in the dark, which could prove invaluable if you drop a black knife in pitch-dark wilderness.
If you are a dedicated Swiss Army corkscrew user, the FireAnt won’t leave you thirsty. Unlike the Firefly that replaces the toothpick outright, the FireAnt merely stores on the corkscrew, so you can still be the hero of the party in preventing the grim fate of staring soberly at a bunch of unopened wine. Some Swiss Army knives do come with a mini-screwdrivers that store in the corkscrew (which appear to be the inspiration behind the FireAnt steel design), so if you have one of those, you’ll have to choose between fire and tiny screw driving.
Tortoise Gear is looking to get the FireAnt kit off the ground with a Kickstarter campaign that includes a variety of pledge levels starting at US$12 for a three-pack of fire steels and tinders. If it’s successful getting the FireAnt to market, hopefully it’ll sell the Helix tinders separately because right now all pledge levels and materials mention one fire steel matched with one tinder. First thing we’d do after getting a FireAnt kit would be to test and practice using it to spark fire so we’d have some experience if the need to start a fire in the wilderness arose. We’d likely burn through tinders pretty quickly and want to be able to “refill” with a multipack.
The FireAnt campaign just moved past its $16,000 goal as of publishing and still has over a month left to go. Deliveries will begin in June and July, should things continue along without a hitch.