Knowing how to build a fire is something that every outdoor enthusiast should know how to do. No matter whether you’re into camping, backpacking or even if you just want to live off the land – you have to know how to create your own fire.
But how do you create a fire when it’s been raining and all of the wood is soaking wet?
Well if you’re anything like most people, then you’ll probably just grab a gasoline can and some matches and go to town like it’s the Fourth of July. Unfortunately, you won’t always have access to something as flammable as gasoline.
That’s why it’s always a good idea to have a few tricks up your sleeves if you want to be able to make a fire with wet wood.
Let’s get to learning these nifty tricks.
How to Build a Fire With Wet Wood
A human being truly only needs three things for survival: food, water, and shelter.
And it just so happens that a fire is beneficial for two of these three needs.
Not only can a fire help you cook your food and boil your water, but it can also provide you warmth, comfort, light, insect repellent, and animal repellent. You can also use fire to help sterilize utensils, cauterize wounds, and even make a smoke signal if the time ever comes for one.
Unfortunately, building a fire isn’t always so easy. Especially if all of the wood in your area is soaking wet from the rain.
But don’t you worry! These 7 simple tips below will teach you everything you need to know about building a fire with wet wood.
Step One: Use Lots of Tinder and Kindling
Have you ever tried to start a fire with nothing but big logs?
If so, then you know exactly how hard it can be.
Now imagine if it’s wet outside and you’re trying to start a fire with nothing but big logs. Or even worse, it still is raining.
Wouldn’t be so easy, would it?
That’s why you need to use lots of tinder and kindling to help you get a fire started when using wet wood.
So what are tinder and kindling?
Tinder is a type of material that is highly combustible and can catch fire with only a small spark. Common examples of tinder are dry grass, dry pine needles, dry wood shavings, dead leaves, cattails, shredded birch bark, paper, vaseline-soaked cotton balls, dryer lint, etc.
Kindling, on the other hand, is small pieces of twigs and branches that are easily combustible but still require a little more heat than tinder to fully catch on fire.
Step Two: Perform a Snap Test
The best way to find good kindling and tinder is to perform the “Snap Test”.
The snap test is performed by snapping a small branch or twig in half and listening for a loud and crisp SNAP. The louder the snap the better.
Now if there’s no snap, or barely any snap at all, then the branch is either extremely wet or it’s not dead enough to make for good kindling.
Step Three: Cut Off Wet Parts of Wood
If you can’t find any dry wood in your area then you’re going to have to get creative.
What I would recommend for you to do is to cut off the wet parts of a log until you’re left with nothing but dry wood. Then you can use the dry wood left behind as either the main fuel for the fire, or you can cut it down even more and use it for tinder or kindling.
One of the easiest ways to split wood open so you can get to the dry insides is to insert a sturdy fixed-blade knife into the middle of a log and then hammer the handle end of the knife until the log splits in half. This is known as the baton method and only works for small-sized logs between 1 – 6 inches in diameter.
For even smaller pieces of wood such as twigs and branches, you can just use a regular pocket knife to shave off the wet outside of the wood until you’re left with dry tinder or kindling.
Step Four: Use the Right Kind of Wood
While the snap test is a great method for finding suitable firewood, you also need to make sure to use the right kind of wood if you want to make the best fire possible.
So what is the best type of wood for making a fire?
Hardwoods such as Oak, Maple, and Birch typically make the best firewood. This is because hardwoods are extremely dense and typically burn longer and hotter than softwoods.
Now, this doesn’t mean that softwood can’t be used in a fire. In actuality, one of the best types of wood to use for kindling is small, wiry branches on a dead pine tree. The small branches and twigs that come off a pine tree tend to dry out very quickly and even work well even when they’re a little wet.
Another great piece of advice for gathering firewood is to avoid using any wood that is considered alive or “green”. Greenwood will take much longer than dead wood to catch fire and will typically only cause smoke and trouble.
Now if you’re having trouble finding wood dry enough to pass the snap test, then I recommend looking for wood that is somewhat covered from the rain. Checking underneath fallen trees is a good place to start.
You also should do your best to avoid using wood that is laying on the damp ground, as it will likely be soaking wet. Instead, you’re better off gathering wood that’s hanging above the ground or on dead standing trees.
Step Five: Keep Your Wood and Materials Dry
If you’re trying to build a fire and it’s been raining outside, then you need to do your best to keep your wood and materials as dry as you possibly can.
An easy way to keep your wood dry is to build a small platform of some kind to keep your tinder and kindling off the wet ground. You can build the platform with dry logs, branches, twigs, kindling, etc. Anything that will keep your wood off the wet ground will work.
If you’re having to split open wood for a fire, or just need a place to set your firewood while you continue looking for more, then you may want to set up a shelter of some kind to prevent your wood from continuously getting rained on.
Now if there’s no shelter nearby and you don’t have a tent, then your best bet is to find out what direction the rain is blowing and try to use your body to block out as much of the rain as possible.
Step Six: Stack Wood Efficiently
While there are many different ways to build a fire, I’ve found the method below to be best when using wet wood.
- Set up a layer of dry sticks on the ground to build a platform
- Add tinder on top of platform and light it on fire
- Slowly start adding kindling on top of the lit tinder
- Slowly start stacking small branches on top of the lit kindling in a teepee design
- Build a “Log Cabin” around the teepee of sticks
A Log Cabin is made by placing two decent-sized sticks on opposite sides of the fire and then crisscrossing two more sticks on top of the other two sticks to create a square shape around the fire. If you continue stacking the sticks you’ll eventually build a “Log Cabin” around the fire.
The reason for stacking sticks in a square shape around the fire is so you can use the heat from the fire to dry out the sticks that make up the Log Cabin. This way you can add the sticks from the Log Cabin to the fire once the fire begins to die down.
Step Seven: Have Everything Prepared
You need to make sure to have everything prepared before you start trying to light your fire.
This means you need to have your platform built, tinder and kindling ready to go, firewood stacked correctly, and anything else you could possibly think of prepared and ready for you to start your fire.
This will prevent most of the problems you could possibly encounter when trying to build a fire with wet wood.
Building a fire with wet wood isn’t easy, but as long as you follow the 7 simple steps listed above then you should have no problem getting a fire started next time you’re using wet wood.
Don’t just take my word for it though, get out there and build your own fire next time it’s raining outside and get yourself some actual fire building experience. While anyone can sit on their phone or their computer and read articles online, not everyone can successfully build a fire using wet wood.