How To Use a Magnesium Fire Starter To Make a Campfire

campfire

Here’s some good info everyone should have at their disposal, whether it be for camping or emergency situations. In fact, it’s so stinking easy, you’ll wonder why you never picked it up before.  That strange, cheap little hunk of magnesium and flint steel will save your bacon and pay for itself several times over in just one dire situation.

What’s magnesium, anyway? Magnesium is the seventh most common element in the earth’s crust. During WWII it was used to make fire bombs employed in European missions. It was also a main ingredient for flash powder in early photography. Today, magnesium is still used in fireworks and pyrotechnics. And, of course, fire starters.

magnesium firestarter

Here’s how to use your magnesium fire starter to make a fire:

  • Find an area where you can have a fire, hopefully a spot protected from any present elements like high wind and rain. Clear the area of dry grass, twigs, etc.
  • Gather up the tinder. If you’re a “Be Prepared” type of person, the best tinder would be a ziplock full of petroleum jelly-saturated cotton balls. But, if you just happend to have left those at home, dry moss, pine cones, dry pine needles, tiny twigs, dry grass and thin shreds of wood all make great tinder. Leaves can work too if they’re really dry. Even newspaper, or a paper napkin. Make sure the fuel is as dry and dead as possible.  If the leaf litter is wet from rain or dew, carefully lift the top layers to see if the lower layers are still dry — or check under thick foliage, which may have protected tinder from rain. You may also be able to find dry moss, pine needles or tiny twigs in these protected areas. Hollow logs are good, too. Or, if you’re not having much luck doing that, put the least damp tinder in your pocket for a while and let the heat dry it out. If you see any larger sticks or wood that looks useable, grab that aw well so it’ll be ready when needed.

tinder

  • Build your structure. The three go-to designs for a campfire are Teepee, Log Cabin and Lean-to (or variations of any of the three). For the sake this tutorial, we’ll be using the teepee build. Construct a teepee of twigs and small branches (like the picture below on the left), evenly distributing so it can bear additional wood after the fire takes.

campfire builds

  • Prepare the tinder. Once your structure is built, make a bundle out of your tinder that will catch the sparks from the fire starter. Place it as close to the structure as possible without going all the way in– in the “doorway” is best. On top of the tinder bundle, place a dry leaf or an old receipt to contain the magnesium shavings. In the best of worlds, you’d have some duct tape handy to keep the shavings from blowing away, but the structure and “container” (leaf or receipt) should do the trick.
  • Keep a bucket or other container of water nearby in case, for any reason, you need to put the fire out.

campfire magnesium shavings

  • Hold the magnesium block down, pointed at the tinder bundle. Then with the other hand, hold the serrated metal blade that came with your HF Magnesium Fire Starter at a slight (45º) angle against the block and shave tiny flakes downward onto the bundle. If the fire starter you have didn’t come with a blade, use the backside of a knife. Smaller shavings and pieces work best. Keep going at it until you have a pile of magnesium shavings on your tinder bundle about the size of a quarter.

campfire ignite magnesium

  • Using your serrated blade or backside of a knife, strike a spark to ignite the magnesium on the tinder bundle. But instead of sliding the blade down the flint toward the tinder, hold the blade stationary, down with the tinder bundle, and slide the flint up toward you. This keeps the spark close to the tinder. Keep scraping until a spark lands on the magnesium shaving and ignites it.
  • When a spark catches the magnesium, the shavings will burn bright, hot and fast. The generated heat will then spread to the tinder, catching it on fire as well. This is a crucial moment. You may have to urge the young flame on by very gently blowing on it and giving it additional oxygen. You may also need to adjust it a little here and there it to allow the young fire to spread.

campfire tinder goes in

  • As the tinder fire grows, you’ll need to carefully slide it– in tact–  into the campfire structure. You might want to use a couple of sticks to push the bundle under if it’s too hot to handle. Then, as you prepare for the next phase, maybe feed it some more leaves and grass to keep it stoked.
  • Another crucial moment. Fire needs a proper blend of oxygen, fuel and heat. As your structure starts catching on fire, blow on it and feed it by gradually adding slightly larger and larger twigs and sticks. Don’t get carried away, give it time. If you drop a log on it too soon, you’ll be back to square one, rummaging for dead grass. Don’t be that guy.

campfire successful

  • And while you want to be patient, you also want to keep feeding. Find larger sticks and logs to keep the fire growing and happy for the endurance you need to stay warm, dry and protected.

Practice Using The Magnesium Fire Starter

I’ve already said it before, but I’ll say it again: be prepared. It’s not enough to have your magnesium fire starter, you should be ready in an instant to know how to use it. Whether you’re stranded in the cold and wt woods or the arid, desert wilderness, knowing how to make a fire in a SHTF situation will give you life, comfort and security. So practice at home– when the need isn’t there– until you’ve got it down cold (or hot).

And, one last thing. You might want to rethink taking that baggie of petroleum jelly cotton balls.

 

How to Season Your Cast Iron Pans

cast iron fry pans

For camping and emergency gear, you can never have too many cast iron pans. Some of them come preseasoned, but factory finishes eventually strip. Whether you buy the pans unseasoned or preseasoned, it’s good to know how to season your cast iron pans so they can remain non-stick, easy to clean and stored for long periods of time without threat of rusting. A well-seasoned pan can give you a lifetime of faithful service.

Before you start, if your pan is used, scrub any rust and gunk out of it with fine steel wool. If that doesn’t work, stick it in your self-cleaning oven for the shortest time period and wipe clean. If you don’t have a self-cleaning oven, spray it with oven cleaner, stick it in a plastic bag overnight and wipe clean the next day.

The process of seasoning is pretty simple. First, spread oil or fat on the inside of your pans, not a lot, with a paper towel. There’s some debate as to what kind of coating to put on, particularly when you factor in the non-meat eaters who lobby for vegetable oil.  What we have found, however, is that animal fat does the best job. So you could fry up a big batch of bacon (ooohhh, yeah…) and then leave the grease in there to harden and then spread around. Or, you could just grab some lard.

cast iron pan lard

Set your oven for 450° and spread a sheet of aluminum foil on the lower shelf. Set the greased pan on the upper shelf upside-down, so the foil can catch the excess drips. It would probably be a good idea at this point to open the windows and turn on the exhaust fan, ’cause the place is gonna get smoky  real soon. Bake the pan for 2 hours.

When the time is up, turn off the oven and leave the pan in there, leaving the oven door open a crack. The cast iron pan needs to cool slowly; a sudden change from hot to cool temperature might cause it to crack.

cast iron pans seasoned

The end result should be a nice, even, black finish. You may have to do it a few times in a row to get the desired result.

DO NOT WASH! When the pan has cooled enough to handle, take it out and wipe it down with a kitchen “J-cloth” or sturdy paper towel, making sure it’s dry to prevent rusting. And for future cleaning, don’t scrub it too hard or you’ll ruin the finish– and don’t use soap or detergent! Just hot water and a plastic scrub brush should do the trick.

And that’s it! Over time you’ll want to repeat the seasoning process to keep your pans in prime shape, and you’ll find they cook more evenly and last longer than the other pots and pans.

Harbor Freight has an extremely affordable, quality 3-piece set of Cast Iron Frying Pans #44707, ready to go along on your family trips and excursions! They also have a nice 12″ Cast Iron Dutch Oven #44705 for your camping trip Mountain Man breakfasts, stews and cherry cobblers!

dutch oven tailgate

This Ain’t Your Great-Granddaddy’s Ditty Bag

There are two things that you don’t need in the Navy: a wife and a car. If the Navy thought you needed them they would have put them in your Ditty Bag.” – Co. Commander Gunners Mate First Class DeLapp

ditty bag being carried

According to a 1912 issue of Field & Stream, the purpose of the ditty-bag can be summed up as follows:

In camp and when cruising about the woods, there are certain essentials, and many other small articles of constant use which one should always have handy. They aggregate about two pounds weight and if disposed about one’s clothing will not only make these garments heavy and uncomfortable but will fill them with knubly protuberances which make sitting down or lying down a matter of much struggle and remonstrance. Wherefore the ditty-bag…has the inestimable advantage of being the place for everything small and loseable– it’s there, nowhere else, and all you have to do is to go and ferret it out instead of having to do the same thing through eighteen or nineteen pockets.”

boston ship

 The original ditty bags were used by sailors in the early 18th century. They were issued canvas bags in which to store their spare clothes. A smaller pouch was sequestered in the sack which was for holding all the “implements of his housewifery”: a sewing kit (which also included supplies to repair hats and shoes), letters from home, trinkets and sundry relics from their journeys. These seafaring men were expected to make their own clothes, so the sewing kit meant more than just a way to restore a button.  The origin of the term, “ditty” has been obscured by time, though. It might have come from a cotton cloth known as ditti or a fabric called dutty which was used to make sails.

ditty bag

As for us 21st century landlubbers, we’ve got a slightly modified list of necessities for our travels. And Harbor Freight Tools carries a lot of items ideal for the ditty-minded dude in all of us.

sardines

Of course there are other things you’ll want to include in your Ditty Bag that Harbor Freight doesn’t carry, such as food (dry nut mix works), water, water purifying pills, change of clothes, small first aid kit, fishing sinker and repellant. And you might want to deviate a bit from our checklist depending on what journey you have in store, but not much. All these items listed are valuable when out in the nowhere. Also, please let someone know where you’re going when you set out for your trek. Like an uncle with dementia or something.

Finally, a word about the Ditty Bag itself. There are a few types out there, some in cloth, some nylon, some in leather and some in canvas. We prefer canvas, preferably waxed or otherwise weather-treated, the kind that slings over your shoulder like you’re in an Old Spice commercial. Your first stop should be your local Army Navy stores. Their gear is pretty rugged and ready to get dirty. Or, if you strike out and happen to have a chunk of change you can part with, the Best Made Co. in NY has formidable-looking a “Best Made Ditty Bag” available for a mere $124.

Harbor Freight Moving Blankets Have You Covered

Moving is tough.  And not just because you’ve got to change your address, forward your mail, find new local restaurants and get your internet hooked back up.  You’ve also got to get your furniture safely moved without damaging or scratching any of it. Some may consider this a nearly impossible task, but at Harbor Freight, we’ve got you covered.

When securing furniture (or anything you’re transporting for that matter) mover’s blankets are crucial.  And at Harbor Freight Tools, we’ve got a few different types to choose from which can be useful for a variety of jobs and tasks.  But if you’re looking to cover a large area (or large item), then you’ll want to grab the economy sized 72” x 80” Moving Blanket (Item #: 66537).

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First of all, while these blankets are often called mover’s blankets or furniture pads, the usefulness of these items extends far beyond just moving furniture.  Obviously, the main use for mover’s blankets is protecting your furniture or other items when using ratchet straps, tie downs or winch straps.  The pads keep your cargo from being broken or scratched during transport and they also give you some peace of mind when you’re driving that U-Haul and trying to make it through traffic with no rear-view mirror.  Plus, unlike paper pads, mover’s blankets won’t tear during transport and can be used again and again.

“This product went on sale just when I needed to insulate “Fidos” house, keeping him warm. He has to be called to come out of there now! These blankets also work wonders for tent camping flooring, or extra protection in case you vehicle is stalled along the road in winter. Can also be used to get a grip on icy spots from spinning, in place of sand, to get going again. Very durable, with multiple uses. Folds up and packs away nicely in trunk. I have at least 6 or more ready always. No complaints.” – by Daddycat from Memphis, TN

“I spent my college summers working for a local mover and learned about all the tools of the trade. My wife and I recently bought a new dining room table including two leafs. The table leafs didn’t come with any protective covering when not in use. I recalled my moving days and the nice thick pads we used to protect customer’s furniture. Harbor Freight had exactly what I needed. Upon arrival I was not disappointed. Worked perfectly.” – by TotallySatisfied from Pittsburgh, PA

Even if you aren’t in the process of moving, these mover’s blankets still have a multitude of uses around the home and garage that will make them well worth the money.  These big blankets are made of a cotton/poly blend with reinforced stitching to maintain strength and longevity for repeated use, which make them ideal for lying comfortably on the garage floor or driveway when working under your vehicle.  Even if you only use these blankets just as regular old blankets for spreading out and having a picnic in the park or laying out in the sun, they still hold up to repeated use and wear and tear!  So whether you’re moving, about to move or have no intentions of moving anytime soon, these blankets are still versatile items to keep handy!

BETTER THAN DUCT TAPE AND A PRAYER

In a recent MIT engineering study, an experiment was conducted moving large loads of materials using devices and methods employed by average Joes. The control group used the weather-resistant 400 lb. Capacity 1 in. x 15 ft. Ratcheting Tie Downs 4 Pc (item #: 61524) set from Harbor Freight Tools to secure various loads to truck beds, roof racks and trailers. The vinyl covered S-hooks prevented marring on painted surfaces and held firm. The ratchet handles made it easy to adjust the strap length and the handle levers allowed the test subjects to pull the straps tight. The result? Out of 30 loads tested, nothing happened. All 30 loads traveled from point A to point B without incident.

400 lb. Capacity 1 in. x 15 ft. Ratcheting Tie Downs 4 Pc

The next group used the most often employed method of transport—duct tape and a prayer. Out of the 30 loads tested, 29 loads ended up strewn across the highway from point A to point B causing several fender benders and numerous traffic delays. The one load that did make it was a 1500 lb. concrete block—hard to say to that the duct tape or the prayer really helped in that scenario.

So, if you want to secure large loads, get the  400 lb. Capacity 1 in. x 15 ft. Ratcheting Tie Downs 4 Pc set during Harbor Freight’s 50% OFF Sale running through April 27th at all Harbor Freight stores! On the other hand, if you’re paranoid about transporting large loads and not being able to find your way back without leaving a trail, then by all means, stick with duct tape and a prayer.

400 lb. Capacity 1 in. x 15 ft. Ratcheting Tie Downs 4 Pc
item #: 61524

 

JACKS OF ALL TRADES

Not all jacks are created equal… and that’s the way it should be because different jacks are designed for different applications. Visit one of Harbor Freight’s 500+ stores or visit harborfreight.com to check out their entire selection of jacks and jack accessories—in fact, get the spouse and kids involved and make it a family jacktivity! Here is a sampling of Harbor Freight’s jacks:

 

3 ton Low Profile Steel Heavy Duty Floor Jack with Rapid Pump®

3 ton Low Profile Steel Heavy Duty Floor Jack with Rapid Pump®
item #: 61282

Designed with dual piston Rapid Pump® technology, this heavy-duty 3-ton floor jack lifts vehicles almost two feet off the ground in just 3-1/2 pumps! Plus, its low profile reaches under most show cars. This is a great industrial quality jack for professional mechanics and hardcore automotive enthusiasts.

 

3 Ton Aluminum Racing Floor Jack with RapidPump®

3 Ton Aluminum Racing Floor Jack with RapidPump®
item #: 61386

The pitcrew style and lightweight design of this aluminum racing is a favorite among auto enthusiasts! The Rapid Pump® high performance aluminum racing jack has a dual parallel pump system that lifts most workloads in just 3 pumps! Constructed of a high-strength aluminum billet, this racing jack has a universal joint release mechanism for controlled descents of your load from any handle position—just  a 1/2 turn release for lightning-fast pit stops!

800 lb. Low Lift Transmission Jack

800 lb. Low Lift Transmission Jack
item #: 60234

This heavy duty low-lift transmission jack is designed for transmission work while the vehicle is on jack stands. This jack features an adjustable tilt saddle with thrust bearings for smooth operation. It also includes heavy-duty 2″ swivel casters, extra wide base for stability and a 48″ safety chain.

2.25 Ton Scissor Jack

2.25 Ton Scissor Jack
item#96406

This trailer jack is great for stabilizing and leveling RVs and travel trailers when parked at the campsite! Constructed of heavy duty steel, this jack lifts up to 4,000 lbs. The trailer jack also bolts to your vehicle’s frame or can be welded to your RV for permanent attachment. Utilizing a smooth operating crank handle, the lift ranges from 4-5/8″ to 23-1/2″.

 

20 ton Air Hydraulic Bottle Jack

20 ton Air Hydraulic Bottle Jack
item #: 95553

This tough jack lifts up to 40,000 lbs. with little effort and features a 48″ long air hose providing the option to power this hydraulic jack with air. Featuring a rugged cast iron base, precision machined steel ram, safety spring ram retention and a twist top for additional height, this outstanding hydraulic jack is ideal for a variety of agricultural, automotive, industrial and construction applications.

 

42 in. Off-Road Farm Jack

42 in. Off-Road Farm Jack
item #: 6530

This jack is like having an extra farm hand—a hand that can lift up to 7,000 lbs.! The multifunction jack is designed for lifting tractors, heavy trucks, pulling posts and poles and even serves as an all-purpose hoist or winch. You can also use this versatile farm jack as a come-along to stretch fence, recover a vehicle or uproot saplings. Now sing along with me… “Old McDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O, and on this farm he had the 42 in. Off-Road Farm Jack, E-I-E-I-O…”

 

1500 lb. Capacity Dual Wheel Swing-Back Boat Trailer Jack

1500 lb. Capacity Dual Wheel Swing-Back Boat Trailer Jack
item #: 67500

This convenient boat trailer jack is easy to turn and has greater stability thanks to its dual wheels which swivel 360 degrees with loads up to 1,500 lbs. The jack mounts permanently to the trailer tongue and folds away when traveling.

We’re barely touching the surface here. Harbor Freight offers over 90 different kinds of jacks alone, not to mention all the jackcessories you’ll need to pump, lift and support your way through virtually any application.

17 Ways to Make a Shelter from a Tarp

camo tarp

Tarps are lightweight and provide a myriad of functions. However, in a survival situation, a tarp could literally mean the difference between life and death.

American Survival Guide recently published an article in their Dec. ’14 issue entitled A Roof of Polypropylene – 17 Ways to Make a Shelter from a Tarp (click on the title to read the article) As the title implies, the article provides 17 illustrated tarp set-ups with easy-to-follow instructions plus “Tarp Tricks” and “What Not to Dos”. If you spend any time hiking, backpacking or on any other activity that may put you in a survival situation, click on the story link above.

And don’t forget  to check out Harbor Freight’s complete selection of tarps available at all of Harbor Freight’s 500+ stores!

 

The Right Shop Light Makes All the Difference

Even the setting sun can no longer force you to stop working! With the Portable Halogen Shop Light (Item #: 66433), you can work long into the night with optimal visibility in nearly any environment. Sure, it works just as well inside your shop or garage while you’re finishing a metalworking project or working under the hood of your car, but this lightweight and portable shop light is ideal for the outdoors when there are no light sources available as well. For just $11.99, you can take high-powered illumination with you to the job site, the camp site, or any site within sight of an electrical outlet!

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The Portable Halogen Shop Light from Harbor Freight Tools delivers 500 watts of bright light to your workspace when handling a variety of jobs. Indoors or outdoors, this item is easily adjustable to 180 degrees so you can achieve the ideal lighting positon while painting, plumbing, remodeling, and more. Featuring a steel protector grill around a tempered glass lens, the shop light is shatter-resistant as well as water resistant to ensure a long shelf life. But, if you work frequently, this convenient tool won’t be on the shelf very often. Just take it by the carrying handle (complete with foam comfort grip, of course) and take it along as part of your tool kit. Because you never know when you’ll need to shed some extra light on the situation!

Give Your Trailer the Gift of Stability…

For many people, visiting the family for the holidays doesn’t involve hooking up a trailer and hauling it across the state. But for some, the trailer is an essential piece of the road trip and so is all of the cargo it’s carrying. Whether it’s presents for your relatives or a new piece of machinery for the farm, you want to protect both your trailer and its contents, especially during colder weather when the ground isn’t so stable. One tool that will help you accomplish this is the 1,000 Lb. Capacity Swing-Back Trailer Jack (Item #: 69780), available from Harbor Freight. Not only is it fun to say its name, but the Swing-Back Trailer Jack also won’t set you back too much with a lightweight $24.99 price tag.

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The Swing-Back Trailer Jack mounts easily to the tongue of your trailer and provides support up to 1,000 pounds when parked. With this handy item attached to your trailer, it will stay stabilized and level until you’re ready to head back out. And when you are, the jack folds conveniently away during transport. And when you get to your destination, the jack easily adjusts to fit the terrain, so your trailer is level even when the landscape isn’t.

“This is one tough trailer jack. I bought mine over 8 years ago. This jack started out on a HFT folding trailer that was in a bad accident after I bought it. I got hit from behind by a car doing about 70 MPH. The trailer was destroyed, but the 2 motorcycles it was carrying were not harmed. And yes, the trailer jack was unscathed. Still using the jack today on a trailer with a built-in ramp. Still works great!” – by hsi88 from Waynesboro, PA

“I bought this about 6 months ago and it has saved my back from breaking. I have an 8 foot trailer that I keep my two four wheelers on at all times with the jack holding the trailer as well as the four wheelers. So all I have to do is hitch and go, or if I want to move the trailer around without having to hitch it to the back of the truck, I can do that too. I can even move the trailer around the grass (with-out the four wheelers of course). I’m going back to HF to get another one for my other trailer.” – by MACKLPP from Lancaster, PA

“I have abused this jack daily for over 2 years now and it still hasn’t broken. Very sturdy unit. I’m buying another one for a second trailer.” – by Adam from Parts Unknown

One thing that each of these reviews mention is how tough this trailer jack is. Sturdy and convenient, the Swing-Back Trailer Jack saves time and stress after you’ve been on the road for hours or even a few minutes. Because when you’re ready to secure your trailer, you want to do it with the least hassle possible. And that’s exactly what this great Trailer Jack provides: Hassle-free stability for your trailer and protection of your cargo.

Harbor Freight’s Most Illuminating Tool

You never know when you’re going to need a spotlight. Perhaps you find yourself with a flat tire on the side of the road in the middle of the night. Or maybe you need some illumination while camping in the woods. And of course, an impromptu theatrical performance is always a possibility. No matter what the situation may be, the 3 Watt LED Rechargeable Cordless Spotlight (Item #: 61777) is just the tool to shed some light on it. Available at Harbor Freight Tools, this extra-bright spotlight charges directly from your vehicle’s 12 volt cigarette lighter socket (or any 120 volt outlet) so it’s always ready and you’re always prepared!

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Could this lightweight Spotlight be any more convenient?? I propose that it cannot. A cushioned pistol grip makes it comfortable to hold while the cordless feature allows you to take the light with you while looking for firewood or during a power outage. A high impact housing even protects the lens if the Spotlight is dropped and an auto shut off feature automatically powers down the Spotlight when it’s fully charged. Really, the Spotlight does all the work for you. All you need to do is just get to your closest Harbor Freight and pick one up for $11.99. Seriously, $11.99.

“The light is quite bright. Lights up the back of my 2 acres. Is lighter than my other lights and hold a charge for quite a while. I have had it for about 3 weeks and not charged it yet using it generally once or twice a night generally not more than 10 minutes at a time.” – by Tool hog from Houston, TX

“Super-lightweight and very bright. Stays lit brightly for well over an hour on a charge. Love the fact that it can be locked in both the off and on positions. Red charging light turns green to indicate full charge.” – by Doug from West Virginia

Well over an hour? Try 4 to 6 hours on a single charge! Of course, it’s easy (and smart) to keep the Spotlight fully charged but it’s designed to last so you’re never left in the dark. Great for emergency repairs, evening hiking, power outages, and camping trips, the 3 Watt LED Rechargeable Cordless Spotlight is portable, lightweight, and reliable.