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.


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


Essential Items for Your Black-Out Kit

One of the scenarios most likely to occur that has nothing to do with extreme, Doomsday scenarios is the black out. Power outages are on the rise (source) due to aging infrastructure as well as the rising demand from consumers. As we’re using more and more devices to make our lives easier, we’re pushing it thin. Besides this, there are a number of external risk factors, such as EMP attacks (natural or man-made) and hacker attacks.

Blackouts, EMPs, Brownouts, No Power, Off The Grid

What to do to prepare for Blackouts.

Prepping for a lights out situation isn’t just for preppers, it’s for anyone worried about small-scale emergencies. The idea is to have a box or a pouch where you keep a few inexpensive yet critical items to assist you in power outages. Some preppers use plastic boxes to keep them items but you can also have a pouch that you can take with you in case you have to bug out.

Flashlights

You can never have enough flashlights! Small or big, battery-powered or hand-crank, you should have at least a few of them inside your lights out kit. Surefire, Ultrafire and Maglite are all good brands that you can find on Amazon with a quick search. To make sure you pick something of quality, all you have to do is read the star reviews.

There’s also the debate between LED and incandescent light bulbs on flashlights. LEDs take less battery but incandescent shine brighter, very useful if you’re dealing with fog. But for bug in situations such as this one, that’s not important. Just keep in mind that LEDs are costlier to replace.

A Small AM/FM Emergency Radio

With the power gone, knowing what’s happening is going to be critical. What if things go from bad to worse and you need to bug out? A company named iRonsnow is selling such a radio for $20 on Amazon that’s hand-crank, has solar panels on it, has a built-in flashlight and even a cell-phone charger; it’s probably the best seller in the category.

A Lantern. Or Two

Lanterns are great because they light up the whole space around them, useful if you want to read a good book until the storm passes or play board games with your family.

You can find battery-powered lanterns online and some of them even have solar panels at the top, so you can recharge them during the day (if the power outage lasts for days or if you’re hiking or if you take them with you hiking or camping).

Candles…

…and a lighter or matches to light them. The only problem are, they’re a fire hazard. You’re not going to believe this but between 2009 and 2013, an average of 9,300 house fires per year were caused by candles. 86 people died and over 800 were injured (source). If you have small children or pets that live inside your home, you may want to keep the above statistics in mind.

Chemlights

They are brighter than you’d think, they don’t need a lighter or matches to be lit and, best of all, the fire hazard is zero. Chemlights glow through a process called chemiluminescence, which is, in essence, a chemical reaction. They’re a safe alternative to candles and the best part is, they work under windy as well as wet conditions.

A Battery Charger

No that you’ll be able to use it when your town or city descends into darkness but at least you’ll know where to find it when you need it.

Spare Batteries

The more flashlight you have, the more batteries you’ll need. Even if you don’t, you’ll still use them to power your emergency radio or your other electronic devices.

Anything Else?

You can add as much gear as you’d like but keep in mind the volume and the weight. Think about the scenarios you’re preparing for. You should stockpile things that will make your life easier during a power outage that won’t go directly into the kit. Things like:

  • a first aid kit
  • a water bladder (fill it with water from your sink before that runs out as well)
  • a whistle (since phone lines may be dead)
  • board games and a deck of cards
  • food and water
  • a Kindle
  • an MP3 player
  • a propane stove and a canister of fuel (for cooking purposes)
  • maybe even a DVD player
  • a first aid booklet
  • blankets to keep yourself warm

Final Word

Blackout kits are one way of preparing yourself and your family for this common small-scale disaster, which is why it’s easier to convince them to do it (if they’re not into prepping). Keep in mind that the supplies you’ll get won’t just be helpful during blackouts. They can assist you in any kind of disaster situation. Your money will be well spent.

However, if you want to do something today that won’t cost you anything, how about you do a little planning for these power outages? You can start with a list of items you will need for your kit or you can look for a convenient place to keep the box. You may even start reading on topics such as first aid, cooking on a propane stove or taking care of hygiene with minimal water.

Good luck!

Dan Sullivan


Storing Your Survival Supplies

Prepping involves gathering and storing many things. As you start spending more money you will inevitably start worrying about keeping your stores safe from theft, the elements and other issues. Also you will find that keeping them all sorted and organized becomes quite the endeavor. This is where purchasing secure weapon, food and/or tool storage can kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. For the serious prepper who wants heavy-duty, extra secure storage you may want to consider purchasing secure weapon storage and use it for other things as well.

TA 50 Storage Locker

Materials Matter
Buying secure storage solutions is much smarter than buying regular shelf storage units because of the most important thing: durability. As a prepper you are acutely aware of the shelf life of various things, so it makes sense that everything you choose should have built in longevity. The materials used in secure storage units and lockers are usually built to withstand much more abuse than wooden shelves bought from a general store.

weapon-locker-with-drawer

Organization
As you acquire more food, water and survival gear it becomes paramount that you organize everything. After all, what good is owning something if you don’t know where it is when you need it? Buying containers, shelves and having a dedicated storage room are all good ways to keep your supplies together and organized. Looking at secure lockers and shelf units is a good idea if you have a lot of supplies, as these products are typically larger than traditional boxes and offer more options to suit your needs.

multiple-drawer-storage

Security Options
If you not only need durability and organization built into your supply storage but security as well, there are two major categories offered from secure storage solution companies for this. Open and closed storage lockers.

If you are not too concerned about breaking and entering, then having open lockers, or wall units, may be right for you since they allow easy access to your supplies. They will still have shelves and be extra durable so you do not have to think about them too much after you have put them up. They will stand the test of time.

Closed lockers on the other hand mean lockers that have some sort of locking mechanism. These are not as easily accessible but you can always simply leave them unlocked. These lockers are great for anyone who needs secure storage for weapons or other valuables they do not want stolen.

So essentially we are saying that while your supplies for any sort of survival, whether it is a room for a disaster, or a spot for a week away, the space you store those supplies in is also important. The best supplies can be lost if not stored correctly.

7 Must Have Items for Wilderness Survival

By Jack Neely 

Surviving in the wilderness, no matter the time of year or location, does not only depend on human will and wit, but also on the type of gear you have got in your pack. If you are injured or lost, the right type of gear can mean all the difference between a comfortable and easy night outdoors, and a grueling ordeal. In this article, we have compiled 7 must have items for wilderness survival.

Matches

A means to make fire is very essential when you are out in the vast wilderness. Your survival might completely depend on whether you have the ability to create a fire. For instance, you might want a fire when it is cold and snowing/raining, or after you have just waded across a river and now you are completely soaked, and at the verge of hypothermia.

Rubbing 2 sticks together in order to create fire is much more difficult than it seems in the movies. It is best to carry matches when going out into the wilderness, particularly the waterproof matches.

Fire is important to your survival.

Even for those who like starting fires the old fashioned way, carrying matches in case of emergency is the smart move. You should consider carrying the magnesium starter matches which have white phosphorus tip; you can strike almost anywhere for fire. These types of matches are advantageous when out in the wilderness since they don’t need the box striker in order to light up.

Stainless Steel Water Container

When going out into the wilderness, you should bring with you plenty of water, and the best way to carry it is in a stainless steel container. This type of container is not only durable and strong, but it can also be put over a fire to boil water. You should consider taking a stainless steel water container that’s big and sturdy enough to carry adequate water for the long treks.

Survival Knife

A knife is a rather essential item and has many uses not only in the wilderness, but also in everyday life. Look for a reliable knife which you can easily keep on your person when you’re out wandering in the vast wilderness.

You should consider bringing with you a fixed blade knife. It is durable, sturdy, resilient, and great for cutting all kinds of objects. This type of knife can also be used to perform various different tasks including, opening packages, clearing bushes, among many other things.

Cordage or Rope

Having a rope can be very useful, especially when in a survival situation. Some uses of rope can include, but not limited to; climbing, making a splint for a broken bone, building an emergency shelter, attaching your gear to your back, hoisting your food so as to keep it safely away from the wildlife, lashing poles, repairing the tent, and much more. You should consider carrying a 550 parachute cord which is light and strong.

A Map and Compass

A map and a compass are very essential survival items which you must have when out in the wilderness. This is particularly crucial, in case the location you are in has low cell coverage, or if you have damaged or lost your phone.

Even if you get lost, as long as you have a good working compass and an accurate map, you will eventually be able to find your way back to civilization. A compass will not only help guide your directions, but it will also help you find the various signs that are on the map, like road signs which might help you find the right routes. Pro tip: you also want to make sure you have a good flashlight with you to read the map in the dark, and also find your way around. You can read more about that here.

Duct Tape

Duct tape is another must have item which is often overlooked. Duct tape can actually save the day in a number of ways. For instance, if your sleeping bag, tent, or clothing happens to get torn or damaged, duct tape may be used to quickly patch it up. Duct tape can also be utilized to wrap up bandages, and can aid in various other medical situations.

First Aid Kit

It is very important to make sure that you’re well prepared for the situation you are putting yourself in. Whenever you are going out in the wilderness, make sure you carry a First Aid Kit. Carrying a First Aid Kit with the appropriate supplies greatly enhances your chances of survival when out in the wilderness.

You do not need to carry the entire first aid kit; you simply need to have the basic items like band aids, gloves, sterile gauze, burn cream, scissors, personal medication, bandages, and such other essentials. It’s wise to build your very own first aid kit instead of purchasing the pre-packaged kits. Building your very own First Aid Kit gives you knowledge of what’s in the kit, and even more importantly, exactly how to use what’s in it.

 

About the Author

Jack Neely is a fitness expert, survivalist, and world traveler. He’s been in several life or death situations, and he’s making an effort to spread his knowledge around the web to help others survive these situations as well. He’s also on the content team at The Tactical Guru.

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.

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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.

12 Survival Hygiene Tips for when SHTF

How will you stay clean post-collapse? It’s an issue people don’t give much thought about, yet of crucial importance. Disease is one enemy that can take you down without realizing it, and no amount of tools, gear or survival skills can help.

The people who found refuge on the Louisiana Superdome during Katrina know very well what it’s like. Rotten food, lack of showers and functional toilets, no electricity was hard to endure for the thousands who were crammed into that open space. We need to be prepared, so let’s see some common sense hygiene tips…

#1. Water, water and more water.

Having the means to procure water is the cornerstone of any good hygiene plan. Not just for keeping you hydrated, but also for things like:

  • showering (or, at the very least, to use a damp cloth to wash your body if you don’t have enough of)
  • doing the dishes (though you could stockpile plastic plates and plastic eating utensils to save water)
  • washing clothes
  • cleaning wounds (yes, you could get hurt!)
  • and other things unrelated to hygiene such as watering your garden

Let’s face it, the moment we run out of water, our lives become 10 times more complicated. I’ll even go as far as to say that not having it is way worse than having no electricity.

Ways to ensure you’ve got plenty of water post-collapse:

  • get large, 55-gallon barrels and, if you have a back yard, large water tanks
  • install a rainwater harvesting system
  • have means to filter and purify water in your bug out bag as well as the trunk of your bug out vehicle
  • split your water stockpile between your home and your bug out location, because you never know where you’ll end up
  • keep extra room in the trunk of your bug out vehicle so you can carry extra water with you to your BOL (if there’s time to load it)
  • re-use water from the kitchen sink and shower to water your garden

#2. “If it’s yellow, let it mellow”.

You don’t have to flush the toilet every time. This may not be something you want to do right now but definitely something to keep in mind post-collapse. Follow the “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” rule.

#3. Keep contact with other people to a minimum.

This doesn’t mean you have to stop seeing other people, because you might need information or help. Just remember to avoid touching them, including shaking hands. It may not be polite but manners won’t be as important after the big one hits.

#4. Out of soap or shampoo? Use soapwort!

No, this isn’t some brand of organic soap I’m advertising. Soapwort (lat. saponaria oficinalis) is a perennial plant with beautiful pinkish-violet flowers that can make a great substitute for soap and shampoo. One thing to keep in mind is that it’s “mildly poisonous” if you eat it so only use it externally. There’re plenty of recipes on other sites and the list of ingredients is very short.

#5. Keep dirty clothes contained.

This is especially true if you’re camping somewhere in the woods or if you’re bugging out. All dirty clothes should be stored in plastic bags until you have a chance to wash and dry them.

#6. Show some skin.

The best way to avoid dirty clothes is to avoid wearing them! Now, I’m not sure if the temperature will allow it but if you can, go ahead and do it. One way of getting yourself used to wearing less clothing is to do what I started doing 6 months ago: I stopped wearing pajamas. If you’re older, you should check with your doctor before doing it, but I can tell you it’s working for me.

The benefits? Better immune system, less sweating, your body gets accustomed with lower temperatures (which you might have to face if you’re going to sleep outside) and, best of all, less laundry!

#7. Comb

Combing requires no shampoo and no water, you just have to you remember to add one to your bug out bag. Benefits of combing include removing dandruff, uric acid crystal deposits and other waste. There’s also a side benefit in that you stimulate the blood vessels to bring more blood to your hair, making it stronger and shinier.

#8. No toilet paper? No problem.

There’re plenty of other options that our ancestors used before TP was invented. Things like cloths, newspapers, the leaves of some plants and more.

#9. Remove facial hair.

Though this is an ongoing debate among preppers, you will be less likely to host parasites if you shave your beard and mustache and keep your hair short.

#10. Get a travel sports towel.

If you thought the only way to pack a towel is to sacrifice a good amount of space, I have the solution. There are so-called camp towels that are not only compact but also very absorbent. You can find them on Amazon for around 15 bucks a piece.

#11. Keep your fingernails and toenails neat.

This is very important, as all sorts of bacteria will gather underneath. All you need is nail clippers that you can throw in your bug out bag as part of your hygiene kit.

#12. Take care of your teeth.

Brushing, flossing and using mouthwash should be done DAILY, regardless of whether or not you’re in a disaster situation. Cavities are one of the last things you want to deal with when there’s chaos all around you.

#12. Keep your hands clean.

If you’re doing a lot of office work, you probably don’t feel the need to wash that often. But when you’re working the field and the garden all they, when you’re feeding the animals, fixing your home and doing your own cooking, you’re going to have to wash A LOT more often. You’re also going to need soap (or the means to produce it) and/or hand sanitizer. It’s always a good idea to keep some sanitizer in your BOB and BOV.

Final Word

The thing I hope for the most is that you act on the advice I’ve given you. The tips are easy to put into practice and, some of them should be done on a daily basis, anyway. Post-collapse, you need to be a little more rigorous, so why not start today?


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