A little brass kit called a tobacco or fire box was given to every trapper and trader working for the company and, along with their hunting knives and rifle, was their most important possession. Even when matches and other lighting methods came along in 1826, many traders still used the Hudson Bay Fire Kit because it was trusted to do the job.
The design was improved on over the years but was essentially a small tin into which you could put something dry and flammable like char cloth and kindle and keep it dry. The top of the tin normally had a small strong magnifying glass built in that could be used to concentrate the power of the sun as well as a fire striker, usually made of carbon steel, as an alternative that could be struck against flint to provide a spark, light the tinder and start a fire.
The kits were so popular because they were generally failsafe options. and it was quick and easy to light the dry char-cloth and jute kindling inside, even in difficult circumstances. This was important in challenging conditions, while out in the wild. When a trapper wanted to make a fire or even light his trusty pipe, he simply had to reach into his bag and grab his fire tin.
Even today the Hudson Bay Fire Kit is still a popular choice for the adventurer who wants something simple and unique. They bring us back to a time and place, important to Canada’s history, and are perfectly suited to do the job at hand.
The little brass kits are still made today, identical to the Hudson Bay Company’s original design. Each tin is made of hardy brass, and includes a strong magnifying glass, a U-striker and flint, char cloth and jute kindling which provide all you need to light a fire in the wild.