How To Start A Fire With Wet Wood

When you’re out camping or hiking on a cold and wet night, there is nothing better than having a little fire to sit by and warm yourself up.

A campfire isn’t only a great addition to your camp, with the crackle of the flames and the smell of the smoke, it can also help you stay warm and even cook up some food for you.

But what happens when it’s been wet all day, can you start a fire with wet wood? 

Although it may be a little harder to start a fire with wet wood, it isn’t impossible.

You can still start a fire even if the weather is a little wet and the wood has followed suit, just follow these steps and you’ll be sitting in the warmth, smelling the smoke and listening to that iconic crackle in no time.

Steps To Starting A Fire With Wet Wood

Collecting wood

You’ll need to source a good amount of wood that ranges from large logs to small twigs. Finding wood that is dead is the key here, try and find some fallen trees and try to see if the wood on them is dead.

Trees that are still standing can also be dead. What you are looking for when searching for dead wood is a distinctive snap when you rip it away from the rest of the tree.

This snap will still be present even if the wood is damp. 

You want to try and snap your dead wood off of trees that have either fallen or are still standing as dead wood that is on the ground is bound to be wetter than branches suspended in the air.

This is because the branches on the ground would’ve soaked up a lot of moisture from the surrounding soil. Try and find the driest logs that you can, but don’t worry too much if you can’t find any that are too dry.

Make your kindling

Kindling is the main component when starting a fire, if you don’t have the kindling to get your flame going then it’s going to be near impossible to start a fire in wet conditions.

Normally kindling would be made out of the driest twigs and grass you could find, however, because of your circumstances that is going to be difficult.

Instead, you can take one of the dead logs that you have collected from the trees and split this long into quarters using an axe or a hatchet. It helps if the log is a large one.

Even if the outside of the log is wet, the inside of the wood will still be relatively dry, and the larger the log the more likely it will be that the inside is dry. Use a hatchet or a knife to then shave the dry wood off the inside of your log for your kindling.

Then snap all of the small twigs and place them in a heap next to where you want your fire to be.

Building your fire platform

The likelihood is that in your environment there aren’t going to be a lot of suitable and dry places for you to build your fire, that is why you will have to build a platform that will keep your fire off of the ground and stop your wood from absorbing more moisture.

You can do this using some large logs from the surrounding area or preferably using some large rocks as they have little chance of burning.

Building your fire

Using some small twigs and branches, and placing your kindling underneath, build the fire into the shape of a teepee.

This will add a number of benefits to your fire, it will provide good airflow allowing the fire to stay burning for longer, it will help your fire light quicker, and importantly for this environment, it will allow the logs in the teepee shape to dry faster while they are burning.

You can also choose to lay a large log down and lean the rest of your longs against it with the kindling in the gap underneath, this has almost the same effect in supporting your fire and drying your wood.

Starting the fire

Now that you have your fire set up you are ready to light your kindling and start your fire. Using materials such as toilet tissue, paper, or cloth can be very helpful when trying to light the kindling.

Use your matches or lighter to set fire to the kindling or the material that you are using to help the kindling along. You may be required to blow onto the kindling to help it along, make sure that you do this gently.

As soon as the kindling is lit the logs around it will start to dry and eventually catch on fire. If you’re struggling to get your kindling started then there are a few common items that can be used as materials other than toilet tissue, paper, or cloth.

Such as dry spaghetti, clothing, corn chips, and steel wool.

Keeping your fire going

Now that you have a small fire you want to keep that fire going. You need to continue to add wood, but make sure to work up by size.

Adding a log that is too large especially in wet conditions could put out the fire and you may have to start all over again. 

Keep adding wood to the fire until you are ready to put it out, consistently adding wood in a teepee shape will ensure that the wood dries out efficiently and effectively and that your fire will not die down at any point.

Putting out the fire

Putting out a fire after you are done with it is as important as lighting one in the first place.

If you can plan your evening around the fire, then stop adding wood at a certain point and stay until the fire dwindles out itself. Then throw some water on the ashes just to be certain that it is all out. 

If you have to leave a fire that is not dwindling, then use a hefty amount of water at the base of the fire to extinguish it.

If you haven’t got enough water, you can use dirt or sand to bury the fire and smother it. However, this should be a last resort, as the dirt and sand will stay very hot and could cause injury to others.

Remember to always be cautious and safe around fires, never leave an active fire unattended and if you have any concerns about your fire, call 911.

George Alexander
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