How To Start A Fire With Wet Wood

You never really know when you’ll need the skill of knowing how to start a fire with wet wood – so it’s best to learn as early as now. The fact is that when camping or hiking, there are instances when your provisions and the weather fail you. Even if it doesn’t however, you’d at least be more confident when communing with nature because you know that should there be any problems – you’ve got it covered.

Challenges Due to the Wet Wood 

Water kills off fire, moisture in the wet wood prevents it from catching fire. This problem is double if the ground and the general condition of the environment are wet. However, wet wood doesn’t make the task impossible as you’ll soon see!

Basic Fire Building Requirements

 A common mistake is thinking the firewood is what you need to start a fire, it’s not, its what you need to keep the fire going. You don’t light the firewood directly but actually use several materials that you can build up into the firewood: 

  • Ignition Source – This is your lighter or the matches, anything that you can use to spark that first fire. If you want to make things a bit more challenging, rubbing two sticks together or using stone as your ignition source would work too – but that’s another How To article entirely. 
  • Tinder – This refers to light materials that can easily catch fire. The point is for it to light long enough to ignite the kindling. Tinder should always be dry and could be paper, cotton balls, grass, cotton cloth, or wood shavings. 
  • Kindling – Slightly larger, kindling can be those dry twigs you find on the tree or on the ground. Try breaking the twigs and if you hear a ‘snap’, that means that it’s dry. 
  • Fuel – Fuel can be interpreted several ways. For most, it is the liquid you pour onto the wood to get it burning. If you have this, try taking some ash or fine ground and pouring the fuel on it. Lighting this will burn longer than pouring the fuel on the twigs or firewood. The fuel can also be the logs themselves that will keep the fire burning longer.

  

How to Start a Fire with Wet Firewood 

Find a Spot

Look for an ideal spot first where the ground is as dry as possible. Even if it’s just slightly damp, the tinder could actually soak up the wetness, making it doubly hard to start the fire. Ideally, your spot should also be away from the elements such as wind and rain as well as marginally hot or dry to facilitate fire growth. 

Gather Your Materials

Gather your materials, making sure that the tinder and kindling are as dry as possible. Tinder is something you should always bring with you in preparation while kindling and firewood can be found on your location. Gather as many as you can for the kindling because wet firewood takes longer to catch fire. 

Prepare the Wet Firewood

Here’s the challenge: how do you handle the wet firewood? Ideally, you should hunt down logs that are as close to dry as possible. If you have the time, you can air dry them for a few minutes or expose them to the sun. If there’s no time, however, grab your knife and start working on the firewood by skinning them to remove as much damp surface as possible. Some logs may be damp just a few centimeters into the wood while others may go a little bit further.

Tinder Goes First

Light a small amount of tinder first until it catches fire. Kindling should be marginally placed on top of the tinder so that it would be able to catch the light. Again, the goal here is to set sufficient fire to the tinder that the kindling would catch. The kindling would then be responsible for lighting the logs.

Slow but Sure

You should not add all kindling at once. Three or four would be sufficient so as not to overwhelm the small spark of fire. Note that fire needs oxygen to flare so if you pile too much kindling, you’re basically closing the space for oxygen to pass through. Constant vigilance is necessary as you determine if more tinder or kindling is needed to keep the fire going.

Start by adding the smallest and driest twigs you can find, slowly building up the size of your wooden fuel until you’re sufficiently sure that the fire is stable. Add the wood evenly so that there’s a nice all-over blaze going instead of in just one corner. You’ve probably seen a campfire where the wood is stacked together pyramid style which should be how the twigs are positioned. This allows for even burning and sufficient introduction of oxygen into the fire.

Adding the Logs

The time to add the logs depends largely on your personal assessment of the situation. Ideally, there should be enough heat and fire on the kindling to support the size of the wood. Again, do not add all the logs at once. Do it slowly, the point being to light fire on the first wood so that it would be the one that lights the others.

Keep it Small

Keep the fires as small as possible – using only so much to cook food or to heat you guys up.

Use a Fan

When the fire has already adhered to the wood, there’s really no further need for tinder. Kindling is still welcome but for the most part, your firepower is already assured. Should the flame stop, you can use a hand fan to set it ablaze again by aiming at the red hot portions of the wood. If you don’t have a fan, blowing air onto it will do.

Protecting Fire from Rain

The best way to protect the fire from the rain is to find a location, which is already covered from the elements. A cave, an awning, a place behind a large boulder will be sufficient. Generally, if the ground is dry even after it rained, then the place should be well-protected should there be more wetness. For additional protection, however, you can use waterproof material to cover the area to protect your spot.

Pro Tips

Here are other things to keep in mind when camping out and starting a fire in the rough:

  • Always plan ahead. Even if you don’t think there’s a chance of rain, start gathering firewood and kindling as early as possible and put them in a safe place.
  • If you arrive in your campsite with wet logs all around, try drying them out by exposing them to the sun and wind before starting with your day activities. This way when you come back, you’ll have no problem starting a fire since the wet wood is now marginally dry.
  • If you have fuel with you, do not pour it directly onto your firewood since this will work as well. Grab your bottle cap and fill it with ash or the driest and finest soil you can find. Pour the fuel in it and you’ll find that this will last longer, lighting not just the tinder but also the kindling. Plus, it is something you can use several times.

Always make sure the fire is properly put out before leaving the campsite.

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