How To Start A Fire With Wet Wood: The Ultimate Complete Guide
In the winter when snow covers every inch of ground or in during other seasons when water pours from the clouds, wetting everything in its way, campers often wonder how to start a fire with wet wood.
When we first went out to go forest camping in the beautiful Minnewaska State Park, we found it almost impossible to create a bonfire using wet branches – the only object out there which can potentially make fire.
As campers, we usually carry a lighter and some cardboard to start a fire in the event that we get stranded somewhere for any reason. But they just can’t do the trick with wet branches - the paper burns fast and the wood still can't catch fire.
But as time went by and we began camping almost every weekend, we’ve learned the best way to make fire from wet wood, among the other skills we’ve acquired from the outdoors.
You know something? The great outdoors really has a way of making an unresourceful person become resourceful; that’s just one of the skills you’ll develop outside your comfort zone.
Without further ado, we’ll present to you the best way of starting fire from wet wood. Let’s start!
Table of Contents
Things You’ll Need For Creating Fire With Wet Wood
Kindling and tinder are kinds of fire igniters. Tinder are the smallest, lightest, and most combustible material that campers use to make fire - it’s the foundation for a good fire. They make great fire igniters because they catch fire pretty easily and burn long enough.
To save time and eliminate the hassle of looking for fallen tinder, better tuck some of it in your pack. As a matter of fact, you can actually make tinder at home. There are so many things that can be found in your home that works great as tinder. That includes:
- 1. Paper - All sorts of paper are acceptable except glossy magazine papers which do not burn that well.
- 2. Cotton balls - Cotton balls catch fire like dry paper. Soak the balls with petroleum jelly, place it in an airtight bag or container, and you’re good to go. Petroleum jelly makes cotton more flammable and enables it to burn much longer.
- 3. Tree bark and wood shavings - Look for fallen trees in your yard or at the local park but avoid rotten bark. You can also do some scouting even when it’s drizzly because surprisingly, a bark’s interior remains fairly dry even in wet weather.
Cedar and Birch barks are ideal for the igniting job. Simply shave and discard the peel from the bark.
If you can’t find good barks around, you might as well pick up some dead tree branch since you’re already out. Likewise, the insides of branches are probably dry. Using your knife, chip off small wood shaving from the branch and place it into a pile.
On the other hand, kindling is a size up from tinder. These consist of smaller twigs and branches. Kindlings are just as important as tinders. They catch fire from tinders and maintain it long enough to burn logs.
Based on experience, we recommend dried pine needles as kindling because it burns for a considerable time and its sap/resin becomes flammable after being subjected to heat.
The damp weather presents a challenge when scouting for kindling because it’s a challenge to find twigs or branches that are dry enough to burn. But surely, it can be done.
You may want to look for a dead tree that still stands upright. Reach for twigs or branches that aren’t in contact with the ground then break them off.
As a rule of thumb, pick branches that are positioned lowest to the ground and close to the trunk, as they’re likely the driest.
Upon breaking the wood up, you’ll hear some snap while some won’t snap at all. The nice ‘snap’ sound is an indication of a dry wood.
If little woods are nowhere in sight, you may opt for slightly larger logs and branches. They may also possess dry wood inside that you can extract by chipping off the wet layer with a hatchet.
If you want a comprehensive guide on how to look for good tinder and kindling materials, check out the video below.
Yes, tinder and kindling will get the fire going, but these materials can’t sustain much heat and will only burn for less than half an hour. Your best bet to get your bonfire going throughout the night is dry logs.
Look for dry logs the way you do for kindling -- look for dead trees which still stand upright or haven’t fallen yet. Some dead trees are so brittle that you can simply knock it over with bare hands or forcefully lean your shoulder against it to cause it to fall and drag the dead wood over to your area.
As much as possible, do not use fallen dead trees because they’re probably wet inside and out.
Of course, you still have to peel the wet layers with a hatchet then you may start tossing the large wood as is or break it into smaller odd-sized pieces.
It surely helps to procure and use more kindling and tinder to create a better, hotter fire so you can have a better chance of burning damper logs (in the case that you can’t find dry logs).
Fire Starters (e.g. cigarette lighter, fire steel rod, match)
Now that you know the things you’re required to prepare for creating a bonfire or cooking when camping during the rainy season, let’s get to the real deal – actually building fire out of wet wood.
Building Fire From Wet Wood: A Step-by-Step Guide
- Step 1. Make a fire bed. Since the ground or area you plan to lay the fire-building materials into is probably wet, the first step is to create a dry fire bed. To do this, simply arrange or stack pieces of dry twigs or branches on top of one another – perhaps two to three layers will do.
The bed will keep the moist ground from touching the fire and it will also provide more stability for building the fire.
- Step 2. Set your tinder, kindling, and log piles a few inches away from the fire bed. You don’t want to be wandering around, gathering the pieces you’ve acquired while the fire loses its legs, do you?
- Step 3. Start by lighting the tinder pile, be it cotton balls, paper, or shavings. Light a few pieces first using any fire starter while gradually adding more to build fire. Do not rush and throw the entire pile all at once!
- Step 4. If you think the fire made by tinder is stable enough, toss a few pieces of kindling. Slowly add more kindling as the fire builds. Also, you may want to keep the logs close enough to the fire to further dry them out.
- Step 5. Finally, add the logs. Start with the smaller pieces, working your way up to the larger chunks. Adding big pieces right away might kill the fire because it blocks the oxygen supply down the base.
The best way to stack logs is through a pyramidal fashion. Put the smallest and thinnest on the bottom, followed by the medium-sized ones. And so on until you reach the top. There goes your fire!
Creating fire from wet wood is a painstaking task. It’s something that every person, especially campers, should know how to execute properly... particularly in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Kidding!
When you have all of these at hand, fire building will be easy.
During the process, the one thing you should always bear in mind is to build from the way up - tinder first then kindling then logs. Also, use smaller chunks to build stability before moving on to bigger pieces.
What’s up dear camper? Have you got any tips or tricks up your sleeve for creating fire out of wet wood? Have we missed something here in our post? We’d love to hear your thoughts below in the comments section! Don’t forget to share this post before leaving. Cheers!