Magnesium Fire Starter -- Cave Campground, Lassen National Forest - Fiberglass RV


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Old 02-19-2016, 07:13 PM   #1
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Magnesium Fire Starter -- Cave Campground, Lassen National Forest

This week we spent a few days in our Lil Bigfoot at Cave Campground in Lassen National Forest, and had a wonderful time. It was another "shakedown" trip of sorts, and I came back with a long list of things to do in the trailer before our next trip.

This is dry camping in the winter time with pit toilets in one open loop. The grounds are well maintained and the facility is OK. The attraction is the quiet, lack of crowds, lovely peaceful surroundings, and the beauty of Hat Creek.

One goal I had was to work on fire-building without matches. In our kit is a magnesium fire starter from Harbor Freight -- about a $3 item. We've tried this at home pretty unsuccessfully, but spent some more time researching technique and decided to work on it some more while a lovely firepit was handy. I have to say the little striker blade that comes from HF is worthless, but the magnesium scrapes nicely with the backside of a decent knife, and the knife works best for striking sparks also.

I took some photos and video of this procedure and spliced them them together into a short, somewhat jerky video. Getting the magnesium flakes corralled really makes a difference and it's amazing how quickly they catch, given the proper tinder. Any way, this was fun to do and I find myself getting more interested in bushcrafting skills as we spend more time in the woods.

We also had one really great dinner (Shrimp scampi, kale salad, and chocolate marshmallow pie iron pie), and a basic breakfast cooked indoors. We did a ham and cheese sandwich in the pie iron over the fire, but one of us needs to NOT check email on her cell phone while pie iron is on the fire. (Yes, Verizon has a good signal in certain sites there.)

We wound up coming back home sooner than expected, as the weather was turning and we had not been able to get our furnace to light, even though we'd just had it in and checked lighting the pilot light. As it turns out, the spring behind the knob is "sprung," and we weren't aware the knob was supposed to pop out in order to turn to "on". So we couldn't advance past the pilot light stage, and certainly didn't want to force or break the knob.

It was 47 indoors degrees when we woke up that morning, and 37 degrees outside. Cooking breakfast warms up the top half of the trailer, but the floor remains cold. It was a good thing we came back though, as it snowed later that day, and I really don't know how the trailer will behave in snow (any info on this for me?). We also have an appointment Monday morning to have the axle measured and assessed for replacement... along with brakes and anything else that needs doing at that time.

Has anyone else fooled with alternative methods of fire-building or other bushcrafting stuff while camping? Or driven their trailer through snow?

I can't wait to get back out there, especially now that we know we just need to pull that furnace knob OUT to actually get some heat!
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Old 02-19-2016, 08:12 PM   #2
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To look really cool, use a pad of steel wool to catch the spark. Most folks don't realize that it burns.


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Old 02-20-2016, 10:35 AM   #3
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We've done a lot of camping over the years in tents and trailers. My husband decided he really wanted to rough it by starting fires with flint, etc. We attended a demonstration by a survivalist one year. We tried eating different plants found in the bush and he showed us how to make a bed from branches of pine and one of those silver sheets. It was placed beside his campfire which he started by using vaseline on cotton batting with his knife and magnesium starter to start the fire. It started right away. He assured us that once the fire was going and he was in his make shift bed he was really quite warm. Almost too warm.

As for towing in the snow, we live in Canada and always camp on the Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend, snow or no. Make sure you have a brake controller if your trailer has brakes and take it slow'n'steady. My first experience towing was with my 4 cylinder Jeep Wrangler and a 14 foot stick trailer. I picked it up in March on a blustery, icy weekend day. No brake controller installed at that point. We took back roads home and at one point I slid through a stop sign. That really woke me up and I was more careful after that, braking sooner and driving slower on the icy roads. We had that trailer for 10 years. We did get the brake controller ASAP and have had one on every vehicle since. We even put one on my father in law's van when we borrowed it for a trip. Towing in snow can be done as long as you take it easy and go slower than you would normally drive if you were on dry roads. It's quite an adventure.
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Old 02-20-2016, 10:57 AM   #4
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I know you're asking about stuff to start a fire, but I thought this was kinda neat. Stuff folks may have in the trailer nearly all the time.


How To Turn A Beer Can Into The Only Camping Stove You’ll Ever Need | True Activist
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Old 02-20-2016, 11:45 AM   #5
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I have found the magnesium/sparker to be too finicky and too much time and effort anyway.

I use a Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel 2.0 Army 12,000 Strike Fire Starter with Emergency Whistle from Amazon and other similar large fire steels. I have found these work best if you hold the knife steady and pull back on the striker rod.

I have used cotton balls, cotton balls with Vaseline, dryer lint and char cloth, which is easy to make.

Alcohol stoves are fun to make, but don't really put out much heat. Sterno cans are similar to alcohol stoves, and the little Esbit stoves are also fun, but none of these are really worth the effort unless you are into ultra light backpacking. I find a small can filled with Alcohol and with the cook pan set about 1/4" to 1/2 " above the alcohol pan, such as on three steel spikes driven into the ground or the pan set on rock, to be just about as effective as the little alcohol stoves.

Of course, if you can remember to bring a large striker steel or the alcohol stove you may as well just bring a BIC lighter and a propane canister or small gas stove like the SVEA 123R, my favorite. Even when the fluid in the BIC runs out it will still start a fire using the sparks and cotton balls with Vaseline. And the propane and gas stoves REALLY cook food

But hey, it's all fun.
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Old 02-20-2016, 11:53 AM   #6
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Donna,

Very cool!! Thanks!

Lisa
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Old 02-20-2016, 12:02 PM   #7
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This tread has really rung my bell. I suggested to my wife that we backpack a couple of nights when we next go out RVing this spring. Her response was "colorful"...looks like it may take me a while to get her to the same place I am regarding this notion....

I use Hennessy Hammocks, which have an integrated mosquito net, and can also be used as a simple swinging hammock or chair. They weigh about 6 lbs or so. It works best strung up between two sturdy trees. There are a number of different hammock makers, each with their own designs. Some people sleep in their HH's rather than their RV bed. My wife is not one of these people.
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Old 02-20-2016, 02:13 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ellpea in CA View Post
T

Has anyone else fooled with alternative methods of fire-building or other bushcrafting stuff while camping? Or driven their trailer through snow?

I can't wait to get back out there, especially now that we know we just need to pull that furnace knob OUT to actually get some heat!
I have inadvertently pulled my trailer through a snow storm on a couple of occasions, including the first time I towed it home. No real problems to report but not the most relaxing towing experience I have had so its not something I strive to do and I actually do attempt to avoid if at all possible.

As a hiker and kayaker yes I have tried lots of ways for staring a fire in the back country over the years. Some worked better than others but these days I suspect most Search and Rescue organizations have a magnesium type fire starter on their list of the 10 essential items one should always have in their possession when entering the back country. Have had lighters and so called water proof matches fail over the years and as a magnesium fire starter takes up little to no space & its low cost is a good safety item to have with you. You will find one in pretty well every pack I own - both for skiing and hiking. Hopefully never needed but nice to have just in case - as they say stuff happens. ;-) In addition you will also find in my pack 1" bits of bike tire tubes to help start the fire in wet conditions.

Another gadget recently purchased that also appears on most S&R must carry lists when in the back country is an emergency communications device when in areas with no cellular coverage - which I frequency do. Ended up with this one: InReach Explore.
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Old 02-20-2016, 02:47 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Carol H View Post
In addition you will also find in my pack 1" bits of bike tire tubes to help start the fire in wet conditions.

Another gadget recently purchased that also appears on most S&R must carry lists when in the back country is an emergency communications device when in areas with no cellular coverage - which I frequency do. Ended up with this one: InReach Explore.
Carol, will you share what it is you do with the tire tubes??

I finally convinced hubby Ron to invest in a "Spot" device, which records his location via satellite every 10 minutes when he's out on day-long rides gawd knows where on his motorcycle. At least he's into long-distance riding on back and curvy roads... not boondocking. But I can check up on him regularly on my cellphone or desktop, and note when he's about 10 minutes away so the garage door can be open when he gets here.

If we ever go on long treks away from the trailer, I'll have to give my kids the info so they can find us if we get lost!

Our trailer does have brakes, but we discovered the wiring is a mess. So far we've towed in good weather and it behaves like a dream, but that was something we definitely didn't want to try in the snow. All that is getting fixed this week.

Thanks for responding with your experiences
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Old 02-20-2016, 02:54 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by james kent View Post
To look really cool, use a pad of steel wool to catch the spark. Most folks don't realize that it burns
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James, you're right, it's really cool to watch and I couldn't believe it burned at first. I have some very fine steel wool I use for furniture finishing, and am keeping a "blob" of that in my fire-starting pack. Also included is lots of drier lint, cotton from vitamin bottles, and a jar of vaseline.

I have saved some plastic vitamin bottles with snap lids (watertight), and plan to assemble some individual "kits" inside each bottle, with an assortment of the above items in each one.

I did have several put together in my kit on our last trip. Although we kept all our food inside, I left the fire kits outside in a plastic tub. The next morning some creature had opened the bottles and made off with and scattered all of the cotton... it's possible those were the ones I'd soaked in olive oil (probably more raccoon-enticing than vaseline?). So I guess those need to stay inside overnight as well.
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Old 02-20-2016, 02:57 PM   #11
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Rub cotton balls with Vasoline and store in empty medicine bottles.

Collect a large amount of tinder... shavings first, then curls, then twigs, then sticks. Scrape a goodly amount of magnesium on to the cotton ball then strike a spark to ignite the powder. Gradually add the tinder. Build the fire step by step until it is hot, then add larger wood. Once the bed of coals is established just about anything will burn.


Or just buy a small rocket stove and start a fire with just twigs. Great for a fast cooking fire.
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Old 02-20-2016, 03:01 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by CA Douglas View Post
...It was placed beside his campfire which he started by using vaseline on cotton batting with his knife and magnesium starter to start the fire. It started right away. He assured us that once the fire was going and he was in his make shift bed he was really quite warm. Almost too warm.
I got sort of hooked on this bushcrafting stuff after stumbling across "Survival Lilly" on Youtube. She produces excellent videos on various survival topics, all based near her home in Austria. Fire-building, survival shelters, food in the wild, ably demonstrating that even *girls* can be competent in the great outdoors.
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Old 02-20-2016, 03:18 PM   #13
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Henry,

Henry, when we first started attempting this in the wind, Ron said we'd do better to just bring a little bottle of gasoline! I insisted that would be cheating. But once we managed to collect a few flakes (doing this on a metal plate seemed to work much better than trying to scrape directly onto bark or the tinder pile), it really was a cinch. We could use matches or a Bic lighter... but I have to say this was way more fun and satisfying. Ron is a pyromaniac personality, but I don't think he'll ever mention gasoline again!
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Old 02-20-2016, 03:20 PM   #14
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Donna,

I really wasn't asking just about fire... am thrilled to read about other skills and hacks as well. I love this little alcohol stove, and think it would be sensible to have the can stashed in the trailer just in the event of running out of propane. I shared this with my son, who is just getting interested in overnighting and doesn't yet have any cooking gear.
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