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Survival Skills

How to Use a Magnesium Fire Starter Safely



It’s hard to believe that the Ferro rod wasn’t the first type of firestarter that uses combustible elements to start a fire.

using a ferro rod to ignite magnesium shavings block and striker behind the birch bark

Magnesium has been used to start fires for hundreds of years. It’s the seventh most abundant element in the world and is usually found inside the earth’s crust.

How exactly do you turn a solid compound into something to start a fire? Well, the answer it turns out, lies in science…

This guide will explain the fundamentals of a magnesium firestarter and how it still reigns supreme in the world of combustibles.

What Are Magnesium Blocks and Strikers?

Magnesium is a chemical element that burns hotter than a Ferro rod and lasts a lot longer, making it more suitable for starting a fire in adverse conditions.

It is commonly used by survivalists, preppers, and the military as they are economical and reliable. Most keen outdoor enthusiasts will keep one of these in their kit as a backup when all else fails.

You won’t find magnesium as a free element in nature, it is highly processed and weighs about ⅔ the weight of aluminum. This extreme weight reduction makes the transport of this compound very easy.

While the block itself isn’t flammable, the shavings and powder are, creating brilliant white flashes that are resistant to being extinguished.

When ignited, the shavings can reach temperatures of 3100 degrees Celsius.

Often companies will incorporate magnesium into their Ferro rods manufacturing process, boosting their ability to light a fire.

This is why it was popular in incendiary bombs during World War II since it was bright, could produce high temperatures, and couldn’t easily be put out.

The Components of a Magnesium Firestarter

There are many variations of a magnesium firestarter available on the market.

The most common version is a block of magnesium for scraping and a built-in Ferro rod that can cause the spark to ignite the shavings.

What To Look For in a Magnesium Firestarter

They are simple tools to use but manufacturers love bringing value to their customers so there are some features that you might want to keep an eye out for when you go to purchase one.

1. How Many Strikes it Can Manage?

Expect to get around 3,000 strikes for your average magnesium firestarter, although the bar itself can last for longer.

High-quality products can go beyond 10,000 strikes. If you have a Ferro rod available you can just order the blocks and use the rod to start the shavings.

2. If it’s Easy to Grip

A block of magnesium is easy to hold yet can be cumbersome when trying to shave parts of it off.

Additionally, the Ferro rod in some of the blocks can be difficult to strike if you don’t have a nice straight edge on the back of your knife.

3. Other Handy Features

Survivalists are always on the lookout for tools with multiple uses and manufacturers have recognized that.

Look for additional bonuses such as a compass, lanyard, or emergency whistle.

How to Start a Fire With A Magnesium Firestarter

Ready to get started using your magnesium firestarter? Here is a step-by-step guide to help you get your fire started.

1. Gather Your Resources

Ensure you have all of your tinder, kindling, branches, and logs squared away and ready to use.

The magnesium shavings won’t burn forever and they might go out as you’re scrambling to get the wood you need. It’s best to lay them out in piles of increasing thickness for easy addition to your fire.

2. Prepare the Tinder

If you’re using birch bark as your tinder you want to fluff it up or scrape it with the back of your knife to expose as much of the little fibers as you can.

More fibers mean that they will take a spark a lot easier which leads to less of the magnesium bar being used.

spine of the knife shaving magnesium shavings into a pile

3. Magnesium Shavings

The next step is to carefully take your knife and scrape shavings off the bar into a little pile on your tinder.

Magnesium is very soft and will shave easily, even keeping the dust in the pile is advantageous as it will all ignite.

Try to keep the size of the pile between a nickel and a quarter-sized. Remember to block any wind since it can blow away your shavings before you can light them.

using a ferro rod to ignite magnesium shavings block and striker behind the birch bark

4. Ignition

Once you have your magnesium, and tinder ready to go it is time to use the attached Ferro rod to shoot sparks into the pile.

Using the knife’s spine, you can scrape it along the Ferro rod to create sparks. Make sure the edge is sharp as a rounded spine won’t work.

Some magnesium bars come with handy scrapers that can make the job easier.

birch bark and magnesium shavings on fire

4. Build the Fire

Once you hear the sputtering and crackling as the shavings ignite you’ll notice a bright white light coming off it.

It does require a little work to get a good amount of sparks off the rod so don’t be shy. The tinder should catch and you’ll be able to work your way up the wood pile afterward.

Pros of Using A Magnesium Firestarter

As with many firestarters you want to balance the good with the bad. Luckily, magnesium is so versatile that there is no reason not to have one in your kit.

1. They Can Get Wet

You can use them in the rain without any issue starting them. even if you submerged the block in a lake and tried starting a fire with the shavings you would have no issues.

2. Burns Extremely Hot

Even with a slightly damp tinder, you can still get a tiny flame using sparks from your bar.

3. Stable as a Block, Unstable As Shavings

You will have a difficult time lighting a magnesium brick on fire and that’s why they are so great to keep on your person.

Don’t shave the block before you need it as the shavings could catch on fire and cause some damage.

4. Portable and Compact

You’ll never complain that a magnesium firestarter is too heavy to take in your pack.

The weight itself is the same as comparing aluminum to thin steel. There is a lightness to it that belies what it looks like.

5. It Has a Long Life as a Tool

With a minimum of 3,000 strikes, you’re guaranteed a lot of use out of it even more so if you are only starting fires every so often.

Cons of Using A Magnesium Firestarter

Although there are a lot of pros, some factors don’t make them ideal in every single situation. Let’s have a look at those.

1. The Shavings Are Very Light

Some might say too light as a gentle breeze is enough to send your pile tumbling. Make sure to have some sort of a wind block in place before you start.

2. It Requires a Striker of Some Sort

Unfortunately, you’ll need something with a sharp edge to strike your flint or Ferro rod. In the wild, you can use something like a sharp rock and some flint to generate the spark you need.

3. It Takes a Little Bit of Elbow Grease

Since you need such a significant pile of shavings to get a good flame it does take a few minutes to shave off enough for it to work. Additionally, striking the flint or Ferro rod isn’t guaranteed to work the first time.

Final Thoughts

An old concept and tool revitalized by the new generation, a magnesium bar is a guaranteed way to have an ignition source available if you need a fire.

A combination of the bar and a Ferro rod in your kit will ensure that you will never be without a way to start a fire on your next adventure.

Frequently Asked Questions

We love answering your questions; these are some of the most popular ones that people come across if they’ve never used one before.

Will a magnesium bar work at all altitudes?

Yes, unlike fuels a magnesium bar will still ignite at higher and lower altitudes.
However, your fire may have difficulty starting at higher altitudes since there is less oxygen.

Can a magnesium bar go bad?

No, magnesium bars do not suffer from oxidation or other elements that could disrupt their fire-starting capabilities.
Most outdoor enthusiasts will keep them in their car or pack them year-round with no issues.

What is the best substitute for a magnesium bar?

A ferrocerium rod is the best substitute for a magnesium bar as a lot of them contain trace amounts of the element inside them.
Alternatively, a lighter will do the job just fine but is prone to not working in adverse climates.

How long does a magnesium firestarter last? 

The inexpensive magnesium firestarters will last you around 3,000 strikes. High-end products can last 10,000 strikes and up.

Can a magnesium firestarter get wet? 

Yes, you can sink your firestarter in any water source, pull it out, and be able to shave scrapings off it; these shavings will still ignite with no problem.

magnesium fire starter pinterest

Source link: by Perrin Adams at

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Now More Than Ever: You Need a Fallout Shelter




In today’s increasingly uncertain world, the threat of nuclear war looms larger than it has in decades. Escalating tensions globally, particularly in regions like Israel and Ukraine, have heightened concerns about the potential for catastrophic conflict. As families seek to prepare for worst-case scenarios, building a fallout shelter in your basement can provide a crucial layer of protection. This guide will walk you through the steps to create a safe and effective fallout shelter in your home, ensuring that you and your loved ones are prepared for any eventuality.

Why Build a Fallout Shelter?

The primary purpose of a fallout shelter is to protect you and your family from the immediate dangers of a nuclear explosion and the subsequent radioactive fallout. A well-constructed shelter can significantly reduce your exposure to radiation, provide a safe space for survival, and give you peace of mind during these tumultuous times.

Assessing Your Basement

Before you start building your fallout shelter, you need to evaluate your basement to determine its suitability for conversion. Here are the key factors to consider:

Structural Integrity

Ensure your basement is structurally sound and free of leaks. Cracks in the foundation or walls can compromise the shelter’s integrity and allow radiation to penetrate.

Space Availability

Choose a location within your basement that offers enough space for your family and essential supplies. A minimum of 10 square feet per person is recommended for comfort and survival needs.


Ensure that the chosen area is easily accessible and can be quickly reached in an emergency. The entrance should also be securable to protect against external threats.

Designing Your Shelter

Radiation Shielding

The key to effective fallout protection is adequate shielding. Materials such as concrete, bricks, and earth are excellent for blocking radiation. Aim for walls that are at least 12 inches thick with concrete or 24 inches thick with packed earth.


Proper ventilation is crucial to prevent suffocation and ensure a fresh air supply. Install an air filtration system capable of removing radioactive particles. Consider manual ventilation options in case of power outages.

Water and Food Supply

Stock your shelter with a sufficient supply of water and non-perishable food. Aim for a minimum of one gallon of water per person per day and a two-week supply of food. Include a water filtration system for long-term sustainability.


Prepare for sanitation needs by including portable toilets, waste bags, and sanitation chemicals. Proper waste management is crucial to prevent disease and maintain hygiene.

Emergency Supplies

Equip your shelter with essential emergency supplies, including:

  • First aid kits
  • Flashlights and batteries
  • Radios (preferably hand-cranked or battery-powered)
  • Blankets and warm clothing
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Tools for emergency repairs
  • Building the Shelter

Wall Construction

Begin by constructing the walls using your chosen materials. Concrete blocks are highly effective and can be reinforced with rebar for added strength. Ensure the walls are thick enough to provide adequate radiation shielding.

Ceiling and Floor

The ceiling should be as heavily shielded as the walls. If your basement ceiling isn’t suitable, add a layer of concrete or earth above it. The floor should be solid and free from cracks; consider adding a layer of protective material if necessary.

Entrance Protection

Install a sturdy, sealed door that can withstand blasts and radiation. Metal doors with rubber gaskets are effective. Ensure the door can be securely locked from the inside.

Ventilation System

Install your ventilation system, ensuring it can filter out radioactive particles. Include manual ventilation options, such as hand-cranked fans, in case of power failure.

Interior Setup

Arrange the interior for maximum comfort and efficiency. Place cots or sleeping mats along the walls, leaving the central area free for movement. Store supplies in an organized manner to make them easily accessible.

Testing and Maintenance

Regular Inspections

Regularly inspect your shelter for any signs of damage or wear. Check the integrity of the walls, ceiling, and floor, and ensure the ventilation system is functioning correctly.

Supply Rotation

Periodically rotate your food and water supplies to ensure they remain fresh and usable. Replace expired items promptly.

Emergency Drills

Conduct regular emergency drills with your family to ensure everyone knows how to quickly and safely access the shelter.

Building a fallout shelter in your basement is a proactive step towards ensuring your family’s safety in the face of nuclear threats. By carefully assessing your space, designing for maximum protection, and maintaining your shelter, you can create a secure environment to weather any storm. In these uncertain times, being prepared is not just a precaution; it’s a necessity.

Do you have any tips on building a fallout shelter in your basement? Leave them in the comments below. 

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Survival Skills

3 Practical Ways To Tie a Shemagh



One of the most iconic pieces of headwear in the world, and one that is instantly recognizable, is the shemagh. Basically a giant bandana, this staple of Middle Eastern tradition has become a fashionable accessory elsewhere in the world and an indispensable part of a warfighter’s kit in arid, desert climates.

tying a shemag featured

They work wonderfully for keeping the sun off your head, face, and neck and sand out of your mouth, nose, and eyes. But compared to a bandana, it’s a lot more involved in tying on a shemagh, though you can learn easily enough thanks to our step-by-step guide.

Below you’ll find three proven ways for tying a shemagh, each suitable for different purposes and preferences. Let’s get right into it!

Military Style

The first method is the so-called military style, greatly preferred by military forces, as you might imagine, because it’s quicker and easier to don hastily when protection is needed.

This is a great one to start with since it is so similar to tying a bandana on, something you might already be used to…

military-style tied shemagh
wearing a shemag tied military-style

Step 1: Fold the shemagh in half. Holding the shemagh lengthwise, bring one corner to another to make a triangle with the corner hanging down in front of you. Being rectangular, it won’t be perfectly symmetrical, and that’s okay.

shemagh folded in half

Step 2: Place over the head. Pick out a spot that is about 3/4 of the way down the folded edge. Place this point in the middle of your forehead with the corners behind you.

If you are right-handed, the short end should be on the left side of your head. Keep hold of the folded edge the entire time. See picture for reference:

shemagh over head

Step 3: Bring the short end under the chin. Grab the corner at the short end along the folded edge. Wrap snugly directly under your chin, and bring it up along the right side of your face, pointing upward.

bringing shorter end under chin

Step 4: Wrap the long end around the front of the face. Keeping everything taut, take hold of the short end with your right hand now. Hold it in place, then use your left hand to bring the long end around in front of your face, covering your nose.

wrapping long end over face

Step 5: Continue wrapping the long end. Go all the way around behind your head until the corner overlaps the short end you are still holding on to.

Step 6: Tie. Make sure everything is snug enough, then tie both corners together with a pair of overhand knots.

tying shemagh

Step 7: Adjust. Make sure the shemagh is secure over your nose, under your chin, and across the top of your head and forehead. Undo the knot and retie it if necessary to make adjustments.

Step 8: Finished! You’re ready to face the wild.

With just a little bit of practice, the military-style shemagh wrap goes on very quickly. It’s my favorite method for getting protection in a hurry.

Bedouin Style

The Bedouin style wrap is slightly more involved, but more compact and very quick to take off when required. It also allows you to uncover your mouth if you want without untying the entire shemagh…

bedouin-style wrap bandana
wearing a shemag tied bedouin-style

Step 1: Fold the shemagh in half. Holding the fabric lengthwise, bring two opposite corners together. Again, it won’t be perfectly symmetrical, and that’s okay.

folding shemagh in half bedouin

Step 2: Lay the shemagh on the head. Place the middle of the fold on your forehead with the corner pointing backwards behind you.

placing shemagh over head

Step 3: Fold the bottom edge up, criscross ends. Fold about two or two and a half inches of material upward, then cross the two loose corners around the back of your head (without tying them):

crossing the two ends

Step 4: Wrap the first side. Gather one side of the material and wrap it around your head, staying above your eyes.

grabbing first end

wrapping first end around forehead

Step 5: Tuck first side. After completing one complete wrap, tuck the end into the fold you made earlier to secure it.

tucking first end behind head

Step 6: Wrap the second side. Now gather the remaining material from the other side:

bringing second end to front

…and bring it around covering your nose and mouth:

wrapping around second end

Step 7. securing second side behind head

After covering the front of your face, bring it back up, pull it snug, and then secure the end into the fold you made previously, as you did with the first wrap.

securing second side

Step 7: Adjust. Take a moment to make sure everything is snug and secure. If you can’t secure the ends of the fabric, simply start over, make the initial fold, and keep everything tight and taut as you wrap. If you keep it tight, it will secure the ends when you tuck them in.

Step 8: Done! You are ready to go. If you want to uncover your mouth, you can simply loosen it up and pull it free where you tucked it, and it can hang down without undoing the entire shemagh.

This method isn’t as intuitive as the military one we looked at first, but again with just a couple of repetitions, you’ll soon be able to put it on in just a couple of seconds, and then you can cover and uncover your mouth and nose as needed.

Traditional Style

The traditional style of tying a shemagh is super quick and easy, though it’s an all-or-nothing proposition.

traditional shemagh wrap
wearing a shemag tied traditional-style

If you don’t get the tension and placement right the first time, you’ll have to undo the whole thing to adjust it, and unlike the Bedouin style, you cannot just uncover your mouth if you want to. Nonetheless, it is a good method to know…

Step 1: Fold the shemagh in half. Holding it lengthwise, bring two opposite corners together. Just a reminder, it won’t be even and perfect, but that’s okay.

folded shemagh

Step 2: Drape the shemagh over the top of your head. The corners hanging down in front of you. See picture:

shemagh over head

Step 3: Bring the left side tightly under the chin. With your left hand, grab the right side hanging down in front of you, bunch it up, and then bring it under your chin tightly and up along the left side of your head.

bring left side under chin

Step 4: Wrap the right side in front. Now with your right hand, grab the left corner, lift it up so it is even with your nose, and then bring it across in front of your face.

Make sure you are still holding the right side you brought under your chin tightly so that everything stays snug; otherwise, it won’t hold.

wrapping right side

Step 5: Bring both ends behind the head. Holding on to both ends still, continue on and bring them both behind your head, tying them off with two overhand knots to secure them.

tie both ends

Step 6: Check and adjust. Make sure the fabric up front covering your nose is secure, but not mashing it flat; otherwise, you won’t be able to stand it for long. If it’s too tight or not tight enough, start over at the point where you have the fabric hanging down in front of you.

Step 7: Done! After you get the tension just right, you’ll be all set.

The traditional method is deceptively simple. You’ve got to get the tension just right for it to be comfortable and also stay secure, and it takes a couple of tries before you nail it.

But once you do, it’ll be just like tying your shoes: you’ll be able to do it without thinking about it and get it perfect every time.

tying a shemagh pinterest

Source link: by Tom Marlowe at

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Unveiling the Versatility of Wool Blankets in Survival Situations




In the realm of survivalism, preparedness is paramount. The ability to adapt and thrive in challenging environments hinges on the possession of essential tools, among which wool blankets stand out as indispensable. Renowned for their warmth-retaining properties and multifunctionality, wool blankets are not just for keeping cozy; they serve as versatile assets in various survival scenarios. This guide delves into the history, composition, and myriad applications of wool blankets, shedding light on their enduring relevance in the wilderness.

A Brief History of the Wool Blanket

The lineage of wool blankets traces back through centuries of human history, evolving from rudimentary coverings fashioned from animal skins and woven reeds to the finely crafted blankets we know today. Originating in the 14th century, the modern wool blanket owes its name not to serendipity but to the Flemish weaver Thomas Blanket, whose innovation revolutionized bedding. 

Embraced by cultures worldwide, wool blankets found favor in the North American fur trade, where they became essential attire for enduring harsh winters. From military campaigns to civilian households, wool blankets became synonymous with warmth, durability, and utility, earning their place as quintessential survival gear.

What Is a Wool Blanket Made From?

At the heart of every wool blanket lies a testament to nature’s ingenuity: wool, harvested from a diverse array of animals including sheep, goats, and alpacas. The process begins with shearing, wherein wool-bearing animals undergo gentle grooming to procure their fleece. Subsequent steps involve cleaning, sorting, carding, spinning, and weaving, culminating in the production of resilient woolen textiles. Boasting microbial, moisture-wicking, and temperature-regulating properties, wool blankets epitomize the marriage of functionality and sustainability. With variations such as merino, cashmere, and alpaca wool, each blanket offers a unique blend of comfort and performance tailored to diverse needs.

Why Choose Wool Blankets for Survival?

Wool blankets emerge as quintessential companions for survivalists seeking reliable protection against the elements. Their inherent qualities render them indispensable in adverse conditions:

  • Temperature Regulation: Wool’s natural insulating properties, bolstered by a layer of keratin, facilitate optimal thermoregulation, keeping users warm in cold climates without causing overheating.
  • Water and Fire Resistance: Highly absorbent yet flame-retardant, wool blankets offer unparalleled protection against moisture and fire hazards, making them invaluable assets in unpredictable environments.
  • Environmental Friendliness: Sourced from renewable materials and biodegradable in nature, wool blankets epitomize eco-consciousness, ensuring minimal environmental impact throughout their lifecycle.

Best Survival Uses for a Wool Blanket

The versatility of wool blankets transcends mere warmth, extending to a myriad of survival applications:

  • Sleeping Bag: Folded and secured, a wool blanket transforms into an improvised sleeping bag, providing essential insulation and comfort during cold nights.
  • Poncho or Coat: Fashioned into a poncho or coat, a wool blanket offers on-the-go warmth and protection, guarding against hypothermia and inclement weather.
  • Insulated Seat or Pillow: Folded or rolled, a wool blanket serves as a cushioned seat or pillow, enhancing comfort and warmth during outdoor activities and rest breaks.
  • Traveling Pack: Wrapped around gear, a wool blanket doubles as a makeshift pack, safeguarding belongings and optimizing portability in transit.
  • Shielded Temporary Shelter: Deployed as a windbreak or overhead shelter, a wool blanket fortifies makeshift shelters, enhancing thermal insulation and weather resistance.
  • Emergency Signal Panel: With its conspicuous coloration, a wool blanket can serve as a signaling device, enhancing visibility and facilitating rescue efforts in emergency situations.
  • Protection for Firewood: Enveloping firewood bundles, a wool blanket shields against moisture, ensuring dry, readily combustible fuel for maintaining fires in adverse conditions.

In the tapestry of survival gear, wool blankets stand as enduring symbols of resilience and resourcefulness. From their humble origins to their modern-day applications, wool blankets epitomize the marriage of tradition and innovation, offering unparalleled warmth, durability, and versatility in the wilderness. 

As stalwart companions on the path to self-reliance, wool blankets empower adventurers to brave the elements, adapt to adversity, and emerge triumphant in the face of uncertainty. With their timeless appeal and unmatched utility, wool blankets remain steadfast allies in the pursuit of survival, beckoning explorers to embrace their warmth and embrace the wild with confidence.

Will you be stocking up on wool blankets? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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