When camping or backpacking, fire is crucial for providing warmth, cooking food, sterilizing water, etc. You need a reliable source for making fire that’s also compact and lightweight. The magnesium fire starter is a tried-and-true tool—and the favorite choice among many outdoor enthusiasts and survivalists.
Harbor Freight offers a Magnesium Fire Starter at a fraction of the price compared to the competition. The starter features an integrated full-length flint and striker knife along with an ample block of magnesium. The shavings burn at 5400° so they can ignite combustible materials even when they’re damp.
While the magnesium fire starter is easy to use, it’s definitely a good idea to practice with it so it will be that much easier to get a fire going when you need it.
Here’s a quick tutorial on how to use your magnesium fire starter …
Find an area where you can have a fire, hopefully a spot protected from elements like high wind or rain. Clear the area of dry grass, twigs, etc.
Gather up tinder. The best “domestic” tinder would be petroleum jelly-saturated cotton balls stored in a Ziploc bag, newspaper or even a paper napkin. If collecting natural materials, dry moss, pine cones, dry pine needles, tiny twigs, dry grass and thin shreds of wood all make great tinder. Make sure your tinder is as dry as possible. Leaves can work too if they’re really dry.
Build your structure. The three go-to designs for a campfire are teepee (far left), log cabin (middle) and lean-to (far right). For this article, we’re using the teepee. Construct a teepee from twigs and small branches, evenly distributing so it can bear additional wood after the fire takes.
Once your structure is built, make a bundle out of your tinder that will catch the sparks from the fire starter—positioning the bundle in the “doorway” is best. On top of the tinder bundle, place a dry leaf, an old receipt or something else to contain the magnesium shavings. Keep water nearby in case you need to put the fire out.
Hold the magnesium block down, pointed at the tinder bundle. With the other hand, hold the serrated metal blade that comes with the magnesium fire starter at a 45-degree angle against the block and shave tiny flakes downward onto the bundle. Small shavings work best. Keep going until you have a pile of magnesium shavings on your tinder bundle about the size of a quarter.
Using your serrated blade or the backside of a knife, strike a spark to ignite the magnesium on the tinder bundle. Note: instead of sliding the blade down the flint toward the tinder, hold the blade stationary and slide the flint up toward you. This keeps the spark close to the tinder. Keep scraping until a spark lands on the magnesium shavings and ignites them.
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 to give it additional oxygen. You may also need to adjust the bundle a little here and there it to allow the young fire to spread.
As the tinder fire grows, you’ll need to carefully slide the intact bundle into the teepee structure. Use a couple of sticks to push the bundle further in if it’s too hot to handle. You may also need to feed it some more tinder material to keep it stoked.
Another crucial moment. Fire needs a proper blend of oxygen, fuel and heat. As the fire grows, 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 big piece of wood onto it too soon, you’ll be back at square one, rummaging for tinder materials. Don’t be that guy or gal …
When you need fire, you really NEED it, so as recommended, practice using your Magnesium Fire Starter prior to your outdoor adventure. For other camping and survival items, be sure to visit your local Harbor Freight Tools store.