There are good days that are dry and sunny; also, there are damp days with clouds, rain, dews, and snows. But nothing should stop an adventurer from camping even during these bizarre conditions, right?
An adventure enthusiast at heart may or may not know some of the survival hacks that would brighten their camping experience. One of these hacks is to know how to start a fire with damp wood even in wet weather, while it’s still drizzling.
If you know how to start a fire with damp wood, then you would have no problem even if the weather turns sour, or if a sunny day turns into a dewy or snowy night. Following the simple science behind starting a fire with wet wood could spare you the nightmares of camping in the wet weather and enable you to create a cozy fire.
Let’s get the overall procedure of this life-saving fire cracking hack just to get the gist of it, then we can get into details.
Starting A Fire with Damp Wood: An Overview
You won’t necessarily have to start a fire with damp/wet wood only if you have dry wood at your disposal. First, try your best to find the dry wood around you.
If the driest wood around you is a fairly wet one, then you’d have no choice left but to use it/those. So, no matter what, you’d have to be prepared beforehand for such kind of situations.
And for that, there are some tools or primary elements you’d need at your disposal. The overall procedure can be summarized in the following manner:
- Find the sticks or logs that are the least wet, not the wood or stick that are heavily soaked in the water or submerged in a puddle.
- Tools to make the kindles – sharp knife, folding saw, and a small hatchet
- Lots of extra kindling to make sufficient heat
- Use wood from the inside of logs as that’s where it’s driest; the dry parts are easiest to burn
- Use large logs or rocks to build a platform that will hold your fire off the wet ground
- Carry sufficient accessories with you to get your fire started
- Use the Firestarters (a bit more than usual) for lighting the kindles
- Choose a suitable method of making fire
- Lay wood beside your fire to help it dry out as you go
Essential Accessories for Starting A Fire with Wet Wood
No-one should go camping un-prepared. An adventurer should be prepared for the worst-case scenario even if s/he is seeking for the exorbitant thrill of exploring the Mother Nature.
Modern-day camping is much more convenient due to the advent of numerous travel & camping accessories. Among the vast list, there are some must-have items you should have even if you are a rookie.
Considering the challenge to start a fire with wet firewood in damp weather, you must carry some of these in an extra amount. That way, kindling a wet wood should require nothing more than a bit of extra effort and patience.
Sharp knives required to shave off the wet part of the sticks or twigs. Also, shaving the dry part to make fine kindling requires a sharpened knife.
Axe or Small hatchet comes in pretty handy for cutting/splitting logs or wood with ease.
Tinder burns easily, so they are useful for starting fires. There are various types of tinder that are available in the market such as cotton balls dipped with petroleum jelly, char-cloths, saw dusts etc. You can even make some of this tinder by yourself.
There are a few materials you can keep with you as extra fire-starters since they burn easily, are portable, and could be made out of household items.
- Dry spaghetti
- Corn chips (Flavored works better)
- Roll of toilet papers or simple papers
- Steel wool
- Special fuel-based firelighters (available at camping accessories shops).
In damp weather, it is difficult to find dry kindling. However, firewood such as dead tree branches or twigs could be located in shady areas where it might be possible to find some less wet kindling. Find those kindling such as twigs or dead tree branches, snap them in such a way that their inner part comes out. The inner parts would be pretty dry and work fine as kindling.
Logs are the fuel for your fire and it helps your fire survive for a longer period. During wet weather, it is almost impossible to find dry logs; however, the trick mentioned above could be used here as well. That is, finding the logs that are less damp and splitting them into quarters using the axe or hatchet for the inner relatively dry parts. Then shaving the inner parts using a sharpened knife would help it catch fire with ease.
Fire Starter Accessories
In modern times, camping has been made easy with the advent of numerous accessories. Firestarters are one of them and as an adventurer, you should have one. A gaslighter or Matches are quite common; although you can have something advanced as “Swedish fire steel” or “Ferro rods” that are capable of creating sparks.
Steps to Follow
The steps are not that different from lighting a regular fire on a dry day. There are just a few extra steps and accessories required which is easily manageable. Carefully follow the steps and you will be able to start a desirable fire even with the damp wood in no time.
Step 1: Pick You Fire Site
The first step and the most important one is to select the site where the intended fire should be. For a successful fire, the site of choice should be a bit elevated than the ground that is wet. You can build yourself a nice fire bed that is elevated than the wet ground.
Moreover, a smart choice of the site should be clear of leaves, bush, puddles, etc. It is important to keep the kindling, tinder, firewood, and fire starters near the fire building site so that those can be used whenever necessary.
Additionally, keep an eye on the snow-covered trees under which the fire site might be chosen. The heat of the fire could cause the snow off the tree’s bough to melt and cause dripping water which could take out the fire.
Step 2: Find the Appropriate Wood/Twigs and Logs
First thing’s first; you need to find the least moist or wet wood around you. From smaller twigs to larger firewood, have a good collection. Dead twigs are obviously the choice here as they would be dry and make a good fire.
A good way to identify the dry twigs is to snap them and see if they make a loud cracking noise. Dead twigs are often dry enough to make much noise, and those could be found at the foot of the trees.
The larger pieces of firewood and logs can’t be identified in such a manner of snapping. In that case, keep an eye for the logs that haven’t been lying on the ground; the logs that don’t have fungi growing on them. Also, look for the woods or logs that are somewhat in the shades so that they are a bit less wet due to the rain or snow.
Step 3: Make Some Dry Kindling Out of Those Woods
This part is a bit tricky.
First, break all the twigs into half so that the inner part (the dry part) of the twigs comes out.
Then arrange them in a bundle around the designated place of the fire. In the case of the logs, first cut them into quarters using an axe or a hatchet.
The inner part of the log would be the driest, so shave those dry parts into some kindling. Kindling is the most important prerequisite to start a good fire.
Step 4: Build A Platform Using Firewood Logs or Rocks
Make a platform where the fire could be built to hold off the ground. This platform could be build using rocks or logs that can contain the heat. It will allow the fire to burn freely without touching the moist ground and allow adequate airflow.
In addition, the other logs could be placed around the platform to make it dry while the fire is burning.
Step 5: Choose the Type of Fire
For the campfire to start properly and burn efficiently, there are certain requirements such as sufficient air-flow, the structure of the fire, heat-producing capacity, etc.
The structure or method of building the fire can accommodate these requirements. So, to make a fire by stacking woods, logs and twigs, there are three methods that are most common.
The Teepee Fire (Most Popular for Starting A Fire with Wet Firewood)
The most common form of fire making is the Teepee fire. Its structure is as the name suggests, just like a teepee.
In order to build this type of fire, simply start by putting a small pile of tinder on the platform in the shape of a ring.
Then using the longer wood, sticks, or twigs, make a teepee around the pile of tinder, leaving some room between the wood-sticks. That way, there should be adequate air-flow which is vital for starting a fire using wet wood.
Now it’s time to start the fire by igniting the dry tinder pile.
Once the fire is lit, slowly add larger pieces of wood to increase the fire. Make sure not to block the air-flow by overstaffing the teepee with wet woods.
The Lean-To (Easiest to Start A Fire with Dry/Wet Firewood)
For this method, you have to choose a rock or larger wood on which the fuel logs can “lean-to”.
Under the leaned log(s), stuff the pile of tinder in a ring-like fashion. One end of the leaning log should be within the pile of tinder and the other end on the larger log.
The tinder should be of large amount in order to start the fire properly for the wet wood. Once the fire is lit, the fuel logs should slowly catch fire and burn efficiently provided that there is enough room for airflow.
This method is a variation of the Teepee method and suitable for smaller fires.
The Log Cabin (Most Sustainable Way to Light A Fire with Wet Firewood in Damp Weather)
This method is a bit of a work, but it produces the most efficient and perfect fire.
Initially, you can start off with a teepee structure with the kindling laid in a square shape.
Afterwards, lay down strips of kindling over the previous ones, but perpendicular to them.
Repeat this process until the structure takes the form of a knee-height log cabin. Then put more kindling on the top so that the teepee top fire can light those kindling.
This structure leaves enough spaces for sufficient airflow as well as putting extra tinder whenever necessary. It also holds fire with efficacy and keeps a strong flame even in hostile weather.
Step 6. Light the Kindling to Start A Fire
Once you’ve decided on the type of fire you want, the only thing that remains is to start the fire by lighting the kindling.
Since we are dealing with wet wood, it would be better to light some extra kindling using extra tinder such as char cloths, cotton balls (soaked in Vaseline), and so on.
Use an igniter such as a lighter of Swedish fire-steel to light the tinder
Afterward, place it under/on the kindling and gently blow it to start the fire.
Once the fire is lit, slowly add the shaved twigs or wood sticks on top of it, maintaining adequate airflow.
Step 7. Carefully Add More Fuel Log for Desired Size Fire
As you have built a stable fire using kindling, it’s time to put fuel in your fire. The fuel is the logs you’ve prepared beforehand; the split firewood with barks shaven to expose the dry part of it.
Add plenty of such wood to build the fire of your preferred size and heat. Now, it is very important to keep the wet firewood around this fire so that, they become dry soon enough to be used as fuel logs.
Keep this process repeating as long as you need, because, the most difficult part is done.
Just make sure to maintain the continuous supply of fuel logs so that you don’t lose the fire.
If you have built a log cabin-type fire, it would enable you to pre-heat and dry the wet firewood used to build the structure.
For Teepee or Lean-to-fire structure, put two/four logs at a 90-degree angle around the circumference of the base of the fire for drying and pre-heating the wet wood.
Step 8: Maintain Airflow
Always make sure that there is enough air circulation to burn the fuel logs efficiently. Sometimes, the outer logs might collapse, making it difficult for the air to pass through.
In that case or other similar cases, use a long stick to rearrange the fuel logs to allow air to pass through.
When maintaining a log-cabin fire structure, make sure not to block the upper portion of the log cabin fully, as it serves as a chimney.
Keep in mind that, nature could be very unpredictable & cruel from time to time, despite its unfathomable beauty.
Therefore, even if you are off to adventure on a perfectly good day, make sure to pack everything necessary (and some extras, just in case) and mentally prepare to deal with the worst if it comes down to that.
As extra precautions, you should keep a reserve of diesel fuel for emergencies.
A small portable gas stove, good thermal wearable, warm sleeping bag, etc. could be the lifesavers during hostile weather.
Although it’s perfectly fine to have various survival skills, without the necessary accessories, life in the wilderness can be very challenging!
As you can understand by now that, the answer to “how to start a fire with damp wood” is nothing but a few extra steps of works. With patience and correct maneuvers, this won’t be a big issue at all.
Knowing how to start a fire with damp wood, is an essential survival trick that every adventurist should know if they love camping. A good fire is mandatory for a fine camping experience. So wet firewood, rainy or snowy weather – nothing should stand in the way of you to build that desirable campfire.