In a survival situation, you might come across the challenge of lighting a fire with wet wood, and by challenge, we mean nearly an impossible task. To say it can be hard to generate enough heat to start a fire in wet conditions is an understatement. However, we will go over the materials and methods that could help in this situation. Afterall your life very well may depend on it.
Location Location Location
As mentioned in our earlier post How To Start A Fire, when building a fire in wet conditions, it is all about determining the right location to build a fire. Some factors when choosing the correct location are
- Consider placing the fire close to your shelter and, if possible, a canopy of a tree where limbs are at least 10 feet off the ground.
- The direction the wind is blowing. You do not want your fire to blow towards your shelter and run the risk of it catch fire. Also, you do not wish for all that smoke to blow into your shelter.
- The ground itself may be wet, which will make starting a fire even more difficult. Building a base out of rocks and stones to protect the fire from the damp ground is very helpful.
The first step to preparing a fire is to collect tinder. In simplest terms, tinder is the driest, lightest, and most accessible piece of material in your fire bundle to catch the flame or spark to burn the rest of your wood. The best way to get tinder is to have it already in your pack.
The most basic kinds of homemade tinder include cotton balls and petroleum jelly. Cotton ball tinder is very cheap to make, so we recommend you make a lot of them. Simply mix cotton balls with vaseline and keep them in a zip lock bag. By adding vaseline, the cotton is much more flammable and burns longer than most other types of tinder.
However, there are plenty of other materials to use if you do not have cotton balls. You can use newspapers, paper bags, etc., try to avoid glossy forms of paper since they burn much less effectively.
Also, steel wool is a good source of tinder since it is a common household item. But, say you left all your tinder at home or have run out now what? We still have a few options.
Dry Tree bark can be used as an excellent source of tinder. However, avoid rotten bark since it doesn't burn as well as other types. One of the best examples of bark to use is cedar and birch.
Another option is for you to use dry wood shavings. This option will require you to have some tool to take the shavings off the wood.
Next up, you're going to need to get kindling. Normally just small branches and twigs that catch on fire from tinder to ignite the more massive logs you put on later are known as kindling. Although it may be hard to find, try looking for dead trees that haven't fallen yet.
The final fuel you need for your fire is logs. Again try to find dead trees that haven't fallen yet. If you are in the woods, you should be able to find some type of dry logs.
The most critical aspect of gathering your materials to start a fire is to find dry things. This might require you to think outside the box.
Starting The Fire
Now that your materials are set, it's time to light your fire. If you aren't carrying a lighter, matches, or other firestarters, you can try the old school method of sticks and a piece of wood or also known as the friction method. Still, it's best to be prepared and invest in a premade firestarter, especially since they are relatively inexpensive, such as a small blade and flint.
How to get the fire started
The easiest way to create your fire is to start small. After you've created your bed to separate your fire from any moisture, light your tinder bundle. If your kindle is wet, we recommend trying to dry it before even starting the fire. You can do this by using a towel to dry them off or place them on your pack to dry off while you prepare the rest of the wood.
Once your fire is burning, add your kindle like a tent over your tinder. Slowly add more substantial pieces of kindle to grow the fire.
Once you get to adding the logs, be sure to split them with a hatchet or blade. By exposing the dry interior, they will catch fire must quicker and help prevent the fire from dying out. You can also lay bark and wood around the fire to help dry it, so it can be used for later.
If you didn't pack a hatchet or blade, you could always try splitting the wood with a sharp rock or against trees. Before you start breaking, be sure to first peel off the bark to expose the core of the log. This can help you split the wood easier.
How to keep the fire going
It is okay to add small amounts of tinder of kindle to help different logs catch, especially if they are wet and are having a hard time catching to keep the fire going once built. After all, if you're fire goes out, you're going to have to start this whole process over again. Once your logs finally do catch, be sure to always be on the lookout for better wood to keep the fire going for long periods.
How To Start A Fire In Wet Conditions: Tips To Remember
- Start small. Don't start with the more significant pieces, begin with tinder, and work your way up from there. Especially with wet wood, by adding more massive logs before your fire is ready, you could extinguish the flame completely.
- Stick with stickier wood. Their sap is much more flammable and less resistant to getting overly damp. By selecting the dead twigs on trees such as pines, spruces, and firs, your fire has a better chance of keeping its flame.
- Build your own pit. By building your own mound or nest for your fire, you can rely less on fire pits, which may already be full of snow and water. The last thing you want is to be waiting for a concrete pit to dry when you can prepare your own.
- Shape your fire. Although you want to start small, once you add your logs on, it's time to build it up. Especially with a larger flame, it needs to breathe. It's best to try a teepee firewood design that you can easily add more massive logs to.