Campfire Cooking – The Basics

One of the first images that comes to mind when people talk about camping is a campfire. For many people, campfires and camping are practically synonymous. Campfires can serve many functions on a camping trip: as a quick source of heat on a cold night, and an efficient way to dry off layers after a rainy day. Some people even refer to campfires as “caveman television,” because of their addictive nature. One of the best uses for a campfire is to cook food. Although cooking on a campfire takes longer than using a backpacking stove, campfires are incredibly versatile. The smoke imparts a unique flavor to the food and, with the right equipment, you can cook everything from s’mores to fresh bread using a campfire. Campfire cooking is perfect for car camping or canoe trips, where heavier items like a Dutch oven and fresh ingredients are easy to pack.

Making a Fire

Many official or established campsites have nicely built fire pits or fire rings. In regions without established camping sites, fire rings are usually easy to find in well-traveled areas, but many are built in locations that don’t adhere to land use regulations. Fire regulations vary greatly from state to state and between land agencies, so double-check any requirements before leaving home. If you’re on public lands, don’t build a new fire ring if you can’t find one where you are camped. Instead, build a Leave No Trace fire – one that won’t have a lasting impact on the area. The most important part of having a campfire is to ensure that your fire doesn’t impact the surrounding environment. Every summer, improperly extinguished campfires create massive wildfires. It takes very little time for a smoldering fire to flare into a multi-acre wildfire, so be sure your fire is completely dead when you go to bed or leave the campsite. The most effective way to achieve this is by pouring water on the embers and ashes. Another preventive measure is to keep the size of your pile manageable. A huge bonfire in the woods can get out of hand quickly, so aim for nothing larger than a three-foot diameter and a foot high and don’t use branches that are thicker than your wrist. Never burn trash, especially toilet paper because tiny pieces can catch the wind and blow out of sight, moving embers to areas beyond your vision. If you’re on public lands, check for fire bans in your area before starting any fires.

Source: eReplacementParts.com

Campfires can be used to create several types of cooking conditions, from an open flame to seasoned coals. The stage of fire you want to cook with depends entirely on what you are cooking. For fast-cooking items like hot dogs and marshmallows, full flames are fast and easy. While these items can be cooked on the end of a sharpened stick, it’s simpler to bring a set of roasting sticks. For easy packing, invest in a set of extendable sticks with wooden handles. People who are new to campfire cooking usually stick their marshmallow or hot dog right into the flames, which certainly will work. However, this usually results in a crispy exterior and chilly interior. For a perfectly golden-brown marshmallow or an evenly crispy hot dog, look for a patch of wood that’s glowing, but not shooting flames. The glowing signals coal, which emits a more even heat than flames. It does require more time to cook this way, but the effort pays off for those with patience. Kids will usually opt for the full flame effect, which is half the fun of having a campfire with children. To dress up s’mores, try using peanut butter cups in place of chocolate or bring filled chocolate bars instead of flat ones. If you like the chocolate slightly melted, set your graham cracker and chocolate on a stone by the side of the fire while you cook the marshmallow. The same technique will toast a hot dog bun.

 

For more delicate items like fish, vegetables, and anything baked in a Dutch oven, you need to wait until the fire has created a nice heap of coals. A Dutch oven is a large, heavy cooking pot with a sturdy lid. When buried in or surrounded by hot coals, the pot acts like an oven, evenly cooking the ingredients inside. Though heavy, they’re incredibly versatile and can be used for everything from stews and roasts to cobbler and fresh bread. They’re easy to clean and incredibly durable; there are countless recipes for home cooking in a traditional oven that utilize a Dutch oven, so it’s not a specialty camping item. If you’re cooking something with coals, pack heavy-duty leather gloves or a small shovel to help you move coals to where you need them. For cooking with a Dutch oven, make a flat space in the coals where you can set the pot without worrying about it tipping. Once it’s in place, scoop coals onto the top of the lid so the oven is completely surrounded by even heat. You can also cook food packets wrapped in heavy-duty tinfoil (be sure to use heavy-duty rather than regular). These can be cooked on a grill grate over the fire, or directly in the coals.

 

These are just a few recipes and cooking ideas to get you started! Campfires are excellent for cooking any number of dishes, including bacon and eggs, fresh corn, roasted vegetables, fresh bread, macaroni and cheese, and even hot drinks like cocoa and coffee. Experiment with different equipment, like a kettle for water or a tripod for hanging a Dutch oven over coals.


How To Set Up Your Campsite

Camping with the family is supposed to be relaxing, but it can feel stressful if you don’t know how to pack, set up, and organize your campsite efficiently. After all, no one wants to spend all their time unpacking gear, looking for things, and hauling stuff around their campsite! Read on to learn how to efficiently pack and set up all your gear!

How to Pack Your Camping Gear for Easy Set Up at the Campground

Start your packing process with stackable rubber storage totes. You’ll need at least three (one for each camping “section” of your campsite, including the kitchen, sleeping, and living areas). Larger families or those with extensive gear will probably need more than one tote for each section. Once you arrive at your campsite, simply set each tote in the designated area you’ll need it in, such as the area around your picnic table for the kitchen tote, your tent area for your sleeping tote, and near your campfire pit for your living area tote. Color code your totes to remember where each one belongs.

Try this kitchen packing hack: Store your kitchen tools and utensils in a toiletry bag or other small bag to keep them organized and clean between uses at a dusty campground. You can hang them from a tree branch for easy access when you’re at your site.

In addition to your three “main section” totes, assign a smaller tote to each family member. This tote will hold that person’s clothing and personal items. Using totes for this purpose, instead of duffel bags or suitcases, saves space in your car or trailer since you can stack them.

Place items you’ll need at the ready in a mesh laundry sack (which can be re-purposed later for dirty clothes). These items may include swimsuits and towels you’ll want as soon as you arrive at the campground or jackets and boots if you’re camping in damp areas or in the off-season.

How to Find a Good Campsite and Set Up Efficiently

If you can reserve your campsite ahead of time, do so online as early as possible. Look at the campground map and note campsites that back up to the wilderness instead of other sites. In addition, look at the bathroom and shower locations (you may want to be close to one or you may want to be farther away from foot traffic). If you are camping at a campground that does not take reservations, arrive at the campground as early in the day as possible. When you arrive, look for a campsite that backs up to the forest or scenery to minimize noise from any neighbors.

Find a campsite with equal parts shade and sun to maximize your exposure and enjoy warmth in the mornings and cooler temperatures in the afternoon. Once you’ve selected a site, set up your sleeping area in the shade (so your tents don’t heat up during the day) on flat ground away from the fire ring and kitchen area.

Set up your kitchen adjacent to the fire ring and picnic table. You may want to consider setting up a screen dome or shade shelter over the table to reduce unwanted quality time with insects and mosquitos. Make sure you place your cooler in the shade.

How to Have a Safe Campfire

First, always make sure the campground permits campfires. Campfire policies can change seasonally, and they may be prohibited during peak forest fire danger periods. If campfires are permitted, make sure to gather sticks and wood from the ground around your site, taking care not to break branches off living trees. Dead wood is drier and better for burning.

If you need to buy firewood, buy it at your campground or at a local store. This practice saves space in your vehicle for your other gear, and it is far better for the environment. When you bring wood from home, you can unknowingly bring unwanted, non-native insects or parasites along with it.

Start your campfire with kindling or small sticks from around the campsite, combined with some newspaper or store-bought fire starter.

Always let your campfire start to die out one hour before bedtime. This is a great time to light a camping lantern and play a few rounds of cards or a board game. Of course, you should always put your fire completely out before leaving your campsite (for the day or at the end of the trip). To extinguish your fire quickly, separate the burned coals with a stick. Once they’re not touching, they will become cool to the touch within 15-20 minutes on average. After spreading the coals, ensure that the fire is fully out by throwing buckets of water or sand or them.

 


Source: eReplacementParts.com


7 Items You Must Have in Your Emergency Survival Kit [infographic]

There are several people who don’t think of bad situations that might happen to them in future. It is good to live in the present but you can’t overlook such times when your life and survival are in trouble. And, that comes with an emergency. Whether you are at home, in office or travelling, emergency situations can strike anytime. But, when you have the required equipment and supplies with you, there are better chances of survival and you can easily deal with the unfavorable situations. There are only 7 essential items that you need to have in your emergency survival kit. And, they are:

  1. Water –  Water is an important and unmissable element of your emergency kit. Survival experts have been emphasizing on carrying at least 3 gallons of water per person for a 3-day supply. Because you will need it for multiple purposes that include- drinking, cooking and sanitation. Keep checking the expiry and accordingly replace your bottled water once in a year. There is a specially packaged water which has a longer shelf life ranging from 5 to 50 years.
  2. Food – Like water, food is also important for the body and should be a part of your survival kit. So, include non-perishable food items in your kit with a minimum of 3-day supply per person. Along with this you can also keep some candies, mints and nutritional bars. Freeze dried food is also a good option since it has a shelf life of 5 to 25 years. In case, you are with kids and pet, carry baby food and formulas and pet food. Keep replacing these items annually.
  3. First-Aid- If someone in your family or you yourself suffer an injury or a health issue, you should be prepared with the basic first-aid supplies in your emergency kit. These include a thermometer, some general medicines, eye wash solution, eye drops, aspirin, antibiotic ointment, hydrogen peroxide to wash and disinfect wounds, glucose for diabetes patients, cotton roll, sting relief pads, bandage strips, scissors, tweezers, adhesive-tape, and burn gel.
  4. Lighting and Communication– In times of disaster or an emergency, the problem of power outage maximizes tension. To tackle such a situation, carry with you, a solar powered or hand cranked radio, lantern, battery-operated torch, candles, lighter, waterproof match sticks, whistle for signaling, some spare batteries and cell phone chargers. These will act as the source of lighting and communication in any kind of emergency.
  5. Shelter and Warmth– Weather can have disastrous effects, especially when you are already dealing with an emergency situation. But if you ensure to have these essential supplies in your kit- a tent, vinyl tarps, body and hand warmers, raincoats and ponchos, sleeping bags and thermal blankets, you can make the chances of your survival, better.
  6. Sanitation and Hygiene- Keep a pail to use as toilet, a seat for pail, tissue rolls, toothbrush and toothpaste, garbage bags and plastic ties, baby diapers, wet wipes, sanitizer and soaps to maintain hygiene in and around yourself.
  7. Survival Gear– Other tools that help you in emergency situations include shovel, axe, can opener, duct tape, multi-function knife, dust masks, heavy duty gloves, a sturdy rope for towing, plastic sheeting and a portable stove and fuel. All these are also equally essential.

Other important items that you should not miss to include in your survival kit are fire extinguisher, garden hose for siphoning and firefighting, sturdy shoes, cash and some change, paper, pencil, spare clothes, eye glasses, and baby diapers.

Want to know about emergency survival kit in detail? Look at this infographic designed by More Prepared, an emergency survival expert.

7 Items You Must Have in Your Emergency Survival Kit

Mina Arnao  is the Founder/CEO of More Prepared, the emergency preparedness experts for over 10 years. More Prepared’s mission is to help families, schools and businesses prepare for earthquakes and other emergencies.  Mina is CERT trained (community emergency response team) and Red Cross certified.

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25 Uses for Duct Tape

Read on for more genius ways to tap into duct tape’s potential.

Duct Tape to the Rescue

If it’s good enough for wars and space travel, it’s good enough for all sorts of hacks for your next camping trip. When times are rough, here are some ways duct tape may help get you out of the woods.

Shelter

After a long day outside, there is nothing worse than getting to a campsite and realizing something is wrong with the night’s cover. Here are some ways duct tape may be able to step in to help you get a good night’s sleep.

  • Mend a fabric tear: Tear off a piece of duct tape long enough to cover the rip in the tent. Adhere the tape on both the outside and inside of the tent. This should help keep water, dirt, and bugs out of your shelter.
  • Fix a broken zipper: Rather than let the tent door flap in the wind and let in the chill, apply a strip of duct tape along the break in the zipper.
  • Remedy a broken pole: If a pole snaps in half, put it back together by wrapping duct tape around the two parts. For a sturdier fix, tape a stick alongside the broken pole for reinforcement.
  • Fashion guylines: Guylines protect tents from rough winds by increasing stability. If the air is howling and your tent isn’t equipped with guylines (or they’re too tangled to use), fashion some out of duct tape. Make the cord by twisting several lengths of duct tape together. Tie and/or stick the cord to the sides of the tent, and then tie the other ends to rocks or trees, keeping the guylines taught.
  • Whip up an unplanned bivvy: No tent? No problem! With some duct tape and a couple of trash bags (which can also serve plenty of survival/camping purposes) you’ll be able to build a tent in no time. First, run a cord (a duct tape one, if needed – see guyline instructions) between two trees, allowing enough space for you to fit in between. Tape two trash bags together and drape them over the cord. To hold the shelter in place, place rocks where the trash bag meets the ground to hold it in place.

Duct Tape Guide - Using Duct Tape for Shelter

Footwear

Solid footwear is one of the most important pieces of equipment for a quality camping trip. But if treads fail or your feet are in need when out in the elements, here are several ways duct tape can step in.

  • Make a basic repair: You aren’t going to be able to hike very far if the soles of your boots are literally falling off, but keeping them strapped on with duct tape will allow you to regain basic function for at least a few more miles.
  • Waterproof: Soaking wet socks are no fun. When the rain’s coming down, wrap duct tape around shoes to help keep the water out.
  • Construct gaiters: Even if boots do a fine job keeping out moisture, a day of winter tromping can mean wet feet when the snow creeps in around your ankles. Stay dry with makeshift gaiters by wrapping the tops of the boots in duct tape, and continue wrapping the tape about halfway up your calves.
  • Fashion snowshoes: This one is going to take a little longer – something you’ll likely want to do at home, rather than when you’re actually in the snow. You’ll need two rolls of duct tape, hot glue, a sharp knife, several sturdy sticks, string, scissors, and a large bowl. Find more detailed instructions here.

Duct Tape Guide - Using Duct Tape for Shelter

First Aid

Just as the WWII soldiers discovered, duct tape is a great addition to a medical kit.

Note: The following is not a substitute for basic wilderness first aid. Please brush up on your skills with a class before a big trip, and be sure to bring more than just duct tape in your first aid kit.

  • Make or enforce a bandage: Place sterile gauze over a cut and hold it in place with duct tape. This is also a good quick fix for blisters (just be sure the duct tape itself is not touching the wound). Alternatively, wrap an existing bandage with duct tape to hold it in place more securely and protect against dirt.
  • Wrap a sprain: In lieu of an Ace bandage, wrap your ankle or wrist in duct tape to provide support.
  • Stabilize with a splint: Stabilize a possibly broken limb with sticks and duct tape. First, lay sticks on either side of the injured bone. Then hold it all together by wrapping duct tape around the sticks.
  • Create a serviceable sling: Fold a length of duct tape down the middle so there’s no longer a sticky side. Tie the tape around your body as a strap to hold an injured arm in place.
  • Make a tourniquet: In the event of unstoppable blood, tightly wrap the affected area above the wound in order to stop blood flow.
  • Ward off bugs: For walks through grassy fields that may be home to ticks or chiggers, wrap some duct tape around the hem of your pants to keep the bugs from sticking onto you.
  • Protect your eyes: You may not always think to bring sunglasses on a winter camping trip. If the sun is beaming—especially at high altitudes—it can intensely reflect against the snow and cause painful and possibly permanent damage to your eyes, called snow blindness. Prevent eye damage with some super makeshift sunglasses. Tape two pieces of duct tape together, then cut horizontal slights over each eye to let in just enough light to see, but not enough to seriously impair corneas.
  • Prevent frostbite: Alaskan dogsledders swear by this frigid practice: If it is really cold out, stick duct tape directly to your face (especially around the eyes) to keep sensitive skin from freezing over. Just be careful when removing the tape so as not to take some skin with it.

Duct Tape Guide - Using Duct Tape for First Aid

Forgotten Goods

Did you leave an oh-so-important item at home? Duct tape can be molded into all sorts of basic necessities.

  • Craft a cup or bowl: Don’t let a forgotten bowl keep you from enjoying dinner. With several strips of duct tape, you can quickly craft a nifty alternative. Thanks to duct tape’s waterproof attributes, it should be able to hold liquids as well.
  • Use as a fire starter: Duct tape is surprisingly flammable. In a pinch, it could be the secret tool to get a campfire going. For an even more reliable fire starter, wrap duct tape around a bundle of dryer lint, and then cover the outside with char cloth.
  • Build a makeshift torch: Don’t have a flashlight? Light up a wad of duct tape to provide a bit more illumination – even if short-lived.
  • Create a handy hat: When the sun beats down, stick several pieces of duct tape together to form a visor, then use another strip to strap it on. (Be sure to take some selfies showcasing the fashionable new headpiece.)

Duct Tape Guide - Using Duct Tape For Forgotten Goods

The Rest of the Roll

  • Make an all-purpose cord or rope: A duct tape cord can have a lot of uses beyond just guylines, such as a clothesline, a gear sling, or a way to tie food in the trees to keep it safe from hungry critters. You can also make a heavier duty rope by braiding three pieces of duct tape cord together.
  • Repair clothing: If you have a tear or hole in a down jacket or even sleeping bag, place a strip of duct tape over it to help keep the feathers where they are.
  • Mend leaky bottles: If your water vessel – be it a plastic water bottle or a flexible water bladder – has sprung a leak, stop it (or at least slow it down) with a piece of duct tape over the puncture.
  • Soften sharp edges: There is nothing more annoying than the constant jabbing of a pointy object in your pack. Apply a layer of duct tape to buffer sharp edges.

Duct Tape Guide - Using Up the Rest of the Roll
This list should give you plenty of ideas for duct tape survival, but there are many more ways to salvage your outdoor adventure with this wonder tool. Throw a roll or two into your pack, or wrap several layers around a water bottle or trekking poles for later use, and you’ll be equipped with the tools you need to unstick yourself from all sorts of binds.
Source: Fix.com Blog


Wilderness First Aid

Be Prepared Before Venturing to the Backcountry

One of the scariest things that can happen when you’re in the backcountry is an injury. Even a small blister can upend a backpacking trip, but imagine facing something more serious, like a broken leg, an allergic reaction, or a burn from the campfire, and not knowing where to start. Suddenly it’s abundantly obvious that getting to a hospital isn’t as simple as calling 911, and you wonder where you packed the first-aid kit – you did pack a first-aid kit, right? Having a first-aid kit and knowing how to use it are important parts of making any trip to the backcountry. Here are some tips to get you started.

Take a Course

If you plan on spending time in the backcountry, it’s important to take a course in wilderness medicine. You have three options when choosing a course.

Wilderness First Aid (2–3 days)

This course provides an overview of wilderness medicine, and it is designed for people who plan on taking mostly weekend trips. You’ll learn how to check for threats to life, how to care for wounds and fractures, and how to deal with an emergency in a deliberate way.

Wilderness First Responder (~10 days)

This course is usually required for people who want to work in the outdoors. The material is presented more thoroughly than the material in the short course, and the course covers a wider range of common wilderness injuries.

Wilderness EMT (one month)

If you want to be a ski instructor or expect to bounce between EMT work and time in the backcountry, this is a great option. In addition to the national EMT curriculum, the Wilderness EMT includes a component designed for providing remote care.

Don’t be intimidated by the fact that these are all classes; most wilderness medicine courses involve a lot of hands-on learning and scenarios, which provide plenty of chances to practice your skills. Be sure to take a class from a reputable program and keep your certification up to date. Most certifications have to be renewed every two to three years, and most of them include a CPR component. Renewing your certification may seem like a hassle, but it’s a great way to brush up on rusty skills and learn changes to the curriculum or protocols.

First-aid Kit

  • Gloves (2–3 pairs Latex or nitrile gloves are essential for anyone treating a patient; pack a few pairs so you won’t run out.
  • Band-Aids (10–20): These are great for small cuts and scrapes.
  • Ibuprofen and acetaminophen: Sometimes referred to as “Vitamin I,” ibuprofen is great for treating everything from headaches to aching feet.
  • Antihistamine and an EpiPen: Allergic reactions happen fast, so make sure you know where the EpiPen and Benadryl are located so you can retrieve them quickly.
  • Tweezers: Tweezers are great for removing splinters and ticks.
  • Moleskin (2 sheets): These are great for preventing and treating blisters.
  • Molefoam (1 sheet): Molefoam provides a fast way to pad a blister.
  • Athletic tape (1 roll): Athletic tape can be used for a number of injuries, including twisted ankles and blisters, and it can be used to tape gauze over larger wounds.
  • Duct tape: Instead of packing a roll, unwind some tape and wrap it around itself so you can remove pieces.
  • Gauze pads (2–3): These are perfect for burns and big cuts.
  • Gauze roll: Having two types of gauze may seem redundant, but the roll can be handy for wrapping any number of injuries.
  • Antibiotic ointment (3–5 packets): These come in small packets, which are a nice, lightweight option.
  • Ace bandage: These are bulky, but they are great for wrapping around splints if you’re dealing with a fracture or simply supporting a rolled ankle.
  • Trauma shears or a pocket knife: Scissors aren’t lightweight, but they are indispensible if you need to cut molefoam or remove clothing around an injury. If you opt to leave them behind, be sure to carry a pocket knife.
  • CPR face shield: This is a lightweight version of a CPR mask.
  • Paper and pencil: These are vital for recording information and taking notes on your patient.
  • Plastic bag: These are always useful, but if you’re disposing of biohazardous material, it’s especially important to have one in your kit.

One of the first things you learn in first-aid training is how to assess a situation to ensure your own safety and that of potential victims. When someone gets injured, your instinct will be to rush to help, but it’s important to take a minute to size up the situation first. These five steps will help you quickly gather important information about the situation before you approach the injured party.

1. Make sure the area around the patient is safe for you, the rescuer. This may be a quick decision if the patient simply fell, but consider the scene after an avalanche, a lightning strike, or a bear attack. If the thing that caused the injury is still a danger to others, keep yourself safe by waiting to approach the patient. There’s no sense in creating more patients.

2. Make a quick determination about what happened to the patient. This isn’t a diagnosis but an observation based on what the scene looks like.

3. Put on gloves! It’s crucial to ensure that none of the patient’s fluids (like blood) get on your skin. Gloves are the easiest solution for protecting your hands, and you should wear them at all times while treating a patient.

4. Make a quick scan of the area to count how many patients you’ll be treating. Maybe you’ve stumbled upon a boating accident with a raft full of people, or maybe you’re hiking with a friend who stumbled and fell to the ground.

5. Is the person alive or dead? This may seem basic, but it will give you a lot of information about what your next steps will be and how fast to make them. Sometimes you have to get closer to the patient to see if they are alive, which is why this step is last.

First-aid 101: Blister Prevention

Blisters are a much more likely to occur on a hiking or camping trip than are some of the other incidental injuries a person may incur. Learning how to treat them is a valuable skill that will pay off in dividends. Blisters are essentially burns caused by friction, and they are incredibly common on backpacking trips, especially if you’re wearing brand-new boots. The pre-cursor to a blister is known as a “hot spot.” It’s best to catch blisters at this stage, when they’re easily treated.

If you or your hiking partner discovers a hot spot, stop and take a look at the foot. Hot spots are usually red, and they will be slightly painful to the touch. They’re caused by the foot rubbing against either the boot or the sock, so to treat them, you need to relieve the friction. This is easy to do with moleskin. Simply cut out a circular piece about the size of the hot spot and tape it in place (athletic tape works well for this).

Have the person remove their boot and sock. Take out a square of Molefoam and cut a circle that covers the entire blister, plus a little extra. Round pieces are best because they don’t have any corners, which will peel.

Once you have a circular piece cut, fold the piece in half and cut out the middle, creating a foam donut. The inside hole should be large enough that it covers the entire blister.

Place the foam donut over the blister. If the extends out further than the foam, make a second donut and place it on top of the first. The goal is to create a ring around the blister that will protect it from rubbing against the boot.

If the blister has popped, apply some antibiotic cream inside the donut. If it hasn’t popped, leave it intact. A popped blister is no longer protected by the cushion of the fluid, and it’s an easy access point for infection-causing bacteria. Once the blister is surrounded by the donut of foam, wrap the area with athletic tape to keep the bandage in place.

Now that you know some of the basics, sign up for a wilderness medicine class in your area. Start by checking these three schools that offer nationally recognized certifications: SOLO, WMA, and NOLS WMI.
Source: Fix.com Blog


Cast Iron Skillet – A Guide to Everything You Need to Know

Written by Marc Morgan

I love to cook on a cast iron skillet. My daily cooking skillets are all “vintage” cast iron — some as much as 100 years old — and will last forever if properly maintained. I prefer the older skillets (those made before 1950) because modern skillets are heavy and inferior in comparison. This article will teach you everything you need to know about buying, cleaning, cooking and maintaining old skillets.

My wife and I are not cast iron collectors (honest, really..), we only buy what we plan to cook with. Plus we want to have enough on hand so that when our three kids move out they don’t take our working set. So we’ve been amassing enough iron to have a set for each of them. But that’s not collecting, right? That’s just good planning. Preparing for the future. Oh, and then there’s bartering. In the future, when cast iron isn’t so easy to find, we’ll have plenty for trade. We’re preppers. Not collectors. Right? Yes. Right.

stoveWe have a variety of skillets (and a couple of round griddles) beside our stove that we cook with everyday, in sizes ranging from #5 – #10.

The #5 skillet is the perfect size for scrambled eggs, fried eggs, or warming up leftovers for 1 or 2 people.

The #8 skillet is our go-to skillet for meal preparation. It’s great for sauteing vegetables, browning meat, or baking bread. Cinnamon rolls, biscuits, cornbread. There’s nothing that doesn’t taste better when cooked in cast iron.

The #10 skillet is our favorite piece for oven-cooking bacon, burgers, or steaks.

The flat skillets are griddles and they make amazing tortillas or pancakes.

You’ll notice that a couple of the skillets on the rack are deeper than the others. Those are called chicken fryers and they are really handy when you’re wanting to fry fish or chicken or anything else that you want to deep fry.
wall02
We have some of our favorite pieces hanging on the wall just outside of the kitchen. Cast iron skillets (and trivets) make great decoration, but be sure that your wall can handle the addition of so much weight. I’ve heard stories of wallboard pulling away from wall studs when too much cast iron is hung for display. We like to say that these our bartering items for the future, but the truth is we have them hanging there just because they look pretty.
rack
And then there’s the overflow shelving. A few of the pieces on these shelves are ones that we use, but don’t have room for on the kitchen rack. My wife’s grandmother’s gumbo pot, and a really cool (admittedly modern) cast iron wok. But most of the cast iron here is skillets waiting for the day when our kids move out and take them with them. Our hope is that, after many years watching us cook on cast iron, seeing how easy and durable and nonstick it can be, and enjoying the food we cook on it that they will start out their new lives with an already-established appreciation for the usefulness and craftsmanship of old iron.

Why buy “vintage” cast iron?

Cast Iron SkilletCast iron used to be milled in the final stages of production, after being sand cast. This milling provided a very smooth, non-stick surface. As teflon came into vogue in the 1950s, lighter nonstick pans became available and the old fashioned cast iron cookware was abandoned to the point where most of the old manufacturers went out of business.

Modern manufacturing (pretty much limited to Lodge products) does not take this extra step of milling to a smooth finish after sand casting their pans. That leaves a rough, sand-cast surface that food will stick to. We’ve yet to find a modern pan that will stand up to the scrambled egg test; cooking a scrambled egg in it with nonstick results where the only clean up necessary is a quick wipe with a towel. No scraping necessary. The old, well maintained cast iron will perform that way every time.

What to buy

Prior to the 1950s nearly every kitchen used cast iron cookware. Because it is almost indestructible, there’s a lot of the vintage iron still around. Ask your parents if they have any that was passed down through the family. Look in antique stores, flea markets, garage sales, and estate sales. Ebay is an option too. Look for that vintage very smooth cooking surface, and avoid any pans with little chunks out of the cooking surface known as “pitting.”

Here are the vintage brands to look for: Griswold, Wagner Ware (NOT Wagner 1849 – this is cheap China stuff), Lodge (more on that later), Martin Stove and Range, Wapak Hollow Ware, Birmingham Stove & Range Co.

What is the best cast iron skillet? Who makes the best cast iron skillet? In my opinion it is Griswold. They do everything right. The size, thickness and the shape of their skillets are perfect. Even their “bargain brand” Victor, which is a little shorter in height with a thinner wall, is spectacular. Wagner is my second favorite. A little thicker than Griswold and not quite as comfortable. But with a smooth surface and cooks great. Both of these manufacturers produced a lot of cast iron skillets between 1880 and 1950, so you should be able to find them.

On the bottom of the pan is where the logo is. Griswold and Wagner used different logos over the years. Here is an image guide for each, so that you know the approximate date of a skillet.

Griswold:
ErieErie SpiderArtistic ErieGriswold slant logoGriswold double circleGriswold small block logoGriswold Medium block logoGriswold no ErieVictorVictor Fully Marked
Wagner:
Wagner BlockWagner ArcWagner Sidney O ArcWagner straight centeredWagner Sidney straight lowWagner sidney arc straight highWagner Ware StraightWagner Ware stylized logo centeredWagner Ware stylized logo

Each skillet will have a number on it. This number is not the size in inches, but rather the “standardized” size of the openings in the tops of wood burning stoves. The oldest pans will have a heat ring or a rim that protrudes from the bottom of the skillet to provide a tighter fit to the stove. Each foundry used slightly different measurements for the size, but here is a general size guideline.

Sizes:
#2 – 4-7/8″ #3 – 5-1/2″ #4 – 5-7/8″ #5 – 6-3/4″
#6 – 7-1/2″ #7 – 8-1/4″ #8 – 8-7/8″ #9 – 9-3/4″
#10 – 10-1/4″ #11 – 10-7/8″ #12 – 11-3/4″ #13 – 12″
#14 – 13″

I think that everyone should have a #5, #8 and a #10.

Cast iron skillet
Another skillet to look for is an unmarked (no logo) one that has three notches in the heat ring. These are old Lodge skillets. You will notice that they are a little thicker than the Griswold and Wagner. But they still have the super smooth cooking surface. The won’t be as expensive as the others and they are great for baking. Think cornbread or Chicago style deep dish pizza.

Twenty five dollars is a good price for a #5. Forty dollars or less is what I like to pay for a #8 skillet. I’ve paid as much as seventy on Ebay for a really nice one. You don’t find many #10s “out in the wild,” as in a garage sale, or antique store. Expect to pay as much as a hundred dollars on Ebay for a #10. Remember these skillets will last forever if you take care of them. So don’t think about them the same way as you would a modern skillet.

How to Restore a Vintage Cast Iron Skillet

When you buy cast iron at an antique store or on Ebay, it will probably be cleaned already, and ready to cook on. But if you find a bargain at a garage sale, estate sale or other place, you will typically have to clean it yourself. It sounds intimidating, and if you have seen some of the scary skillets that I have found at flea markets, you probably would not have bought them. But under the crud and rust, there is GOLD! Well not really gold. But a smooth cooking surface that will make you happy to cook on it every day.

So before I outline the right way of doing it, let me tell you how NOT to do it.

  • Oven Cleaner – you spray extra strength oven cleaner on a cast iron skillet and wrap it in a plastic trash bag. Seal it. Wait a day or two, and then (using rubber gloves) clean it from there. Don’t bother! This method is messy. It never gets everything off in one try. So you will have to do it as many as 4-5 times to get a clean skillet.
  • Fire Bake – make a large wood fire and put the skillet into it. Let it heat up really hot. Then let it fully cool, and then clean it. This method is not advised either. The only time you really want to heat up metal really hot, is when you want to shape it. Unless you are a blacksmith, don’t do this. You might warp the skillet, and it will not be as clean as you want it.
  • Drill and a Wire Brush – Don’t do this. If you use a wire that is hard enough to clean it, it is also hard enough to ruin the cast iron too.
  • Dish Washer – Ahhh no. If you want to cook on cast iron, understand that you will always have to manually clean it. Never use dish soap on cast iron.

The best way to clean a cast iron skillet is with electrolysis. Rust and gunk just comes right off and you’re left with a very clean surface. This method works well, but honestly, if you don’t plan to clean a lot of cast iron, it is not worth the investment.

For your average cast iron skillet buyer, vinegar and lye are the way to clean your new finds.

Vinegar gets rid of rust. Get a five gallon bucket and put fifty percent vinegar and fifty percent water in it. Soak the complete skillet for an hour or two, depending on how much rust is on it. Vinegar is a strong acid and will eat away at the iron if you leave it in too long. Set a timer to remind you. Do not leave it in vinegar longer than necessary.

Lye is how you clean all of the gunk off a skillet. Get another five gallon bucket and put twenty percent lye, and eighty percent water in it. Soak the complete skillet in there for one to two days. Lye is a extremely strong base. It will not hurt the iron at all. You can leave a skillet in for over a year (I have) and it will not harm the metal. But lye WILL severally damage your skin if you get it on you. Use rubber gloves and eye protection at all times when using lye. Be very careful not to splash.

After using vinegar or lye, rinse off your skillet really well with water. Then take it to a sink and turn your water to as hot as you can stand it with your rubber gloves still on. Rinse with the hot water, and apply a very gentle soap like Bar Keepers Friend. Then use a brass scrub brush (brass is a much softer metal than iron) and scrub off any residual gunk or rust from your skillet. Rinse well; iron is slightly porous and you want to make sure you get the cleaner out. Then while it is still hot with the water, wipe dry and heat on a burner on your stove top to fully dry it.

Next, apply a high temperature oil (like grape seed oil, peanut oil or just vegetable oil) generously all over the cast iron skillet. Put the oiled into a pre-heated 400 degree oven for fifteen minutes. Then you are done. You will have a nicely seasoned skillet that will cook like a modern non-stick skillet.

How to Cook With a Cast Iron Skillet

A great benefit of using a cast iron skillet is that you are not limited to the stove top. Since there are no plastic handles you can put it into the oven, also. This is my favorite way to cook steaks. My wife and I prefer a nice, thick, filet mignon cut. I rinse, and then dry steaks with a paper towel 30 minutes before I plan to cook, setting them out so that the meat warms up to room temperature. Go ahead and preheat the oven now to 375 degrees.
steak01 - heat the skillet upsteak02 - sear on one sidesteak03 - ready to flipsteak04 - perfectly searedsteak05 - put in ovensteak06 - perfectly cooked

Put a #8 on the stove top and add a little olive oil to the pan. Set the temperature to high. Now I will lightly cover the steaks with the olive oil so that the seasonings will stick to the meat. I usually just do a little salt, and a lot of pepper, making sure to cover on all sides. Now that the skillet is nice and hot, take the pan out of the oven and put it on the stove top burner at medium-high temp. It’s time to put your steaks on. You want to sear on one side for five to six minutes. Do not touch the meat as it is cooking. Be patient. You will see the rest of the steak close to the cooking surface is starting to change color too. It should be beautifully seared on one side now.

Now it is time to flip the steak, then take the whole skillet and put it onto the middle rack inside your oven. Set a timer for fifteen minutes. Now you need to be patient again. Do not open the oven to check on it. Let it cook.

After the timer goes off, go ahead and remove the skillet from the oven. Take the thickest steak and put it onto a cutting board. Go ahead and slice into it to check if it is cooked enough for you. At fifteen minutes of cooking in my oven it is a perfect medium-rare steak. Add another 5 minutes of cooking for each level of steak level you prefer. Next will be Medium. Then Medium-Well. After that you really shouldn’t cook it anymore because it starts to resemble a burger at that point. 😐

Once your steak is cooked to where you like it. Remove it from the skillet and let it rest on a cutting board for five minutes. If you leave it on the skillet, it will continue to cook. Now your steak is ready to serve. That is how to cook a delicious cast iron skillet steak!

A favorite side at our house is cast iron skillet corn. Which is really easy to make. I also use the #8 for this. Melt half a stick of butter in the pan. Then add half of an onion that you have chopped up pretty small. Cook the onions till they start to turn translucent. Then poor in a 16oz bag of frozen sweet corn. Stir occasionally till the corn is fully cooked and starting to caramelize. That is it. Serve with anything.

Additional cast iron skillet recipes:

  1. Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread
  2. Fried Chicken
  3. Burgers
  4. Chicken Fried Steak and Gravy
  5. Cast Iron Skillet Pizza
  6. Caramel Pecan Skillet Brownie
  7. Brown Sugar Cinnamon Apple Skillet Cake
  8. Dark Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie
  9. Skillet Blackberry Cobbler

How to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet After Cooking

Most of the time after cooking something simple like an egg, you can literally take a paper towel and just wipe the skillet clean while it is still hot. I like to add a little EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) to the seasoning on the skillet and just set it on the rack beside my stove for cooling.

Sometimes, especially when natural sugar in the food has caramelized (like in corn, or onions) there is food residue left on the pan after cooking. That requires a different cleaning method. For example, the thick-cut bacon that we like contains a lot of sugar. After cooking a batch of bacon, a quick wipe with a paper towel won’t do. Than I set it aside to cool off. I will fill the skillet with water (which you never do when the pan is hot. This will crack cast iron) and I will set it on a burner to heat up. While the water is heating I use a metal spatula or a specifically designed scraper to remove the food that is stuck on the cooking surface. Once the water boils, carefully poor out and wipe down with a paper towel. Then add a generous amount of EVOO to the surface to re-season the skillet and let it cool before putting up.

Recommended Reading

If you are interested in the history of the foundrys or would like to see all of the cooking cast iron that was produced in the past. I recommend these two books: The Book of Wagner & Griswold: Martin, Lodge, Vollrath, Excelsior and The Book of Griswold and Wagner: Favorite Wapak, Sidney Hollow Ware. These are known as the Blue Book and the Red book in the cast iron world. Everyone owns them. Well, collectors do. But we aren’t collectors. Right? Right. We just happen to own them because we like books.
There is also a Brown book, Griswold Muffin Pans, which focuses more on muffin pan information.

If you found this article helpful/interesting, please Share it by clicking on the social media links. Thank you for helping us grow!

 

Marc Morgan is a computer geek in Houston, TX. He is an Army veteran and lived through hurricane Ike in a house with no power for five weeks. He created SurvivingPrepper.com to share his knowledge and to have a place where several of his friends can share their knowledge too. When he isn’t adding new information to his site, Marc enjoys hiking, fishing and anything else he can do with his wife.

Make Your Own Simple Camp Stove

So, here’s a simple tip to build your own simple camp stove cooking fire.

DIY camp stove/heat from tuna can + cardboard + oil.

DIY camp stove/heat source from trash/scraps: tuna can + cardboard + oil.

It’s simple but effective. Make up a few ahead of your next outdoor adventure and try it for yourself.

“These were fun to make, I used 4 on my last camping trip.”


What’s The Best Tactical Tomahawk?

The tomahawk is an impressive weapon and tool. When people think of the tomahawk, they think only of something that can be thrown, or used to kill, but a tactical tomahawk (also known as a tactical axe, military tomahawk, or army tomahawk) can do so much more than that. For those in a survival situation, it can be the difference between life and death.

Yes, it can be used as a weapon, but it can be used to chop wood, to dig a pit and more. Even today, soldiers in Afghanistan use the tactical axes as both a weapon and a tool.

Let’s delve in deeper to what a tactical tomahawk truly is.

History of the Tactical Tomahawk

The tomahawk, of course, has its start with the First Nations people of the United States and Canada. The tomahawk was first created by the Algonquian Indians. These early tomahawks were just stones attached to wooden handles, secured with strips of rawhide. The tomahawk was essentially a tactical tomahawk, used for chopping, cutting and hunting. When Europeans arrived in North America, they introduced the metal blade, which altered how the tomahawk was made.

It has helped to improve the lifestyle of the native people, especially with hunting because the blade would not break as easily. With the new metal, tomahawks had a hammer or spike on the other side of the blade, so that the tomahawk could be used in an increased number of situations. In addition, the pipe was sometimes attached, allowing for smoking with the tomahawk.

Today, the military tomahawk has changed greatly and was used by the US forces in the Vietnam War. These were known as Vietnam tomahawks (military tomahawks) and were used in combat. The American Tomahawk Company now makes tactical tomahawks for the U.S. Army, which have been used in both Iraq and Afghanistan for hand-to-hand combat and as tools. Even law enforcement are using tomahawks now.

Features Of A Tactical Tomahawk

The features of a tactical tomahawk will not vary too much. The tactical axe will be made of a light-weight material, but be very strong and durable. The handle will feature finger grooves, making it easy to hold and use. The tomahawk will not be too long, but will be long enough that it can be used as an axe or hatchet, a weapon, and a tool that can be used in survival situations.

two tactical tomahawksTactical tomahawks can be used as:

1. Pry-bars
2. Hammer
3. Shovel
4. Axe
5. Hatchet

Best Tomahawk Buyer’s Guide

If you are going to buy a tactical tomahawk, then you need to keep in mind that there are three different types of tomahawks. Knowing which type of tomahawk you need will make the purchase of the tomahawk much easier for you.

1. Throwing tomahawk: The stereotypical tomahawk is the one you can throw. This one is used by those competing in tomahawk competitions, and it is the one that is used for hunting and self-defense. If you use it in self-defense, keep in mind that the weapon you throw can then be used against you. These tomahawks are balanced perfectly and are meant to be thrown. As a result, they tend to not be as strong as other tomahawks.

2. Combat tomahawk (or combat axe): This tomahawk is not meant for throwing, but for combat and the military. These army tomahawks are lighter because the tomahawk needs to be swung quickly and easily.

3. Tactical tomahawk (survival tomahawk): If you want a tomahawk that can be used for a variety of purposes, then you naturally need to get a tactical tomahawk.

This tomahawk is meant to be used as a multi-purpose tool that can range from smashing a window or breaking a door, to opening up a crate or for hand-to-hand combat.

Best Budget Tomahawk

If you want to get a tomahawk that is affordable, but will work great for you like a tactical tomahawk, then the SOG Specialty Knives and Tools Tactical Tomahawk is exactly what you need. This tool can be used for a number of different situations, including removing obstacles, extracting something, cutting wood or hunting. As a survival tool, this is an excellent option.

Made with a glass-reinforced nylon handle, which can stand up to nearly anything, it is topped off with 2.75 inches of stainless steel that is used for the axe head. The stainless steel option will ensure that you don’t have to worry about the tomahawk rusting on you if you are using it in a survival situation outside.

The handle is made of ballistic polymer, which can stand up to nearly anything. No matter what you are doing with the tomahawk axe, it is probably going to stand up to the worst of it, allowing you to handle easily whatever the world throws at you in a survival situation.

In all, it measures in at 15.75 inches long and weighs only 24 ounces. It makes it lightweight, but still highly durable. It is so durable that SOG even gives it a lifetime warranty.

Tactical Tomahawk Reviews

Right now, we only have one survival tomahawk review complete. Be sure to visit the website soon and take advantage of the complete comparison guide. For now, watch the clip about the SOG Tomahawk.

Video Review of the SOG Tomahawk

Best High-End Tomahawk

If you are looking for a high-end tomahawk, then you need to check out the Gerber Downrange Tomahawk. It’s priced at $250, and this tomahawk is made in the United States and comes with a hammer-head and pry-bar design. It allows you to use it to hammer things into the ground to create a shelter, but to also pry pieces of wood off a tree for the kindling. Made with a G-10 handle with a 420HC steel body, it also comes with a mobile sheath that makes it easier to carry with you.

As the manufacturer says, the axe head will cut through walls and rope, while the hammer will smash through locks, door-knobs and hinges. The pry-bar is designed for maximum leverage, and the grip is designed so that it is easy to open whatever you need to. An excellent tomahawk of a tactical nature that comes with a higher cost but is well worth it.

via What’s The Best Tactical Tomahawk? – The Tactical Guru.

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