Many campers know that damp, moisture, and rain can be your constant companions when outdoors. Many outdoorsmen live with this reality.
I have often found myself in such camping situations, and this presents with itself a few challenges.
One of the consequences of damp, moist, or wet conditions is the absence of dry wood. How to get wet wood to burn is a skill that many campers should be acquainted with.
It might sound like a contradiction in terms but how to start a fire with wet wood is actually not that difficult.
Looking for appropriate firewood in wet woods especially after rain or perhaps even in winter is indeed challenging, but not all that insurmountable. (Read A Parent’s Guide to Camping with Kids)
How to start a fire with wet wood involves knowing some techniques, firewood principles, and lots of patience.
How to Make a Fire with Wet Wood
Ok, let us go through exactly what needs to be done to build a fire with wet wood. It is also important to underscore that any kind of wood that you gather for fire should be deadwood. This is opposed to greenwood that is very similar in character to a living tree.
You will know greenwood since it creates a lot of smoke and causes problems when using it for fire. In our wet wood tutorial, let us assume that we are working only with deadwood that has been drenched by the rain.
Select a Fire Site
This is a vital step for making your fire, especially with wet wood. Find an area that is clear of any tinder, brush, or leaves.
Likewise, make sure you have a nice fire bed to keep the fire off the wet ground. Be sure to have your other materials, like a tinder bundle, kindling, and your logs nearby preferably at arm’s length so you can reach for them when you create a flame.
Begin With Extra Tinder and Kindling
As you all well know, the tinder is a rapid-burning and easy to light material. It is excellent for starting a small fire. Tinder materials you could use are cotton balls, paper, dryer lint, and or natural materials like dry grass. Use a match or lighter to start the tinder burning.
Concentrate the tinder in the middle and surround it with kindling, arranging it vertically so it rises. Kindling materials are very small and thin scraps of wood. This will slowly ignite from the tinder fire.
The moment you get that started, begin working on your bigger logs or wood branches. Keep in mind that wet wood needs a lot more kindling and tinder than dry wood. Have up to four times more of both to get a fire going if your firewood is wet. (Learn How to Camp for Free)
Extra Firewood Preparation
Presuming you gathered your wet deadwood; it is ideally in pile near you as pointed out earlier. Take the time to examine the wood by breaking one in half. That should be easy to do with your hands since deadwood is brittle.
Once you break it in half, you will visually observe that it is actually dry inside. Using your knife (hopefully, you have one) shave the outside of the log until you come to the dry part. Shave as many logs as so to get to the dry part. This will allow for faster ignition.
Better yet, if you are able to, split the wood in half vertically to expose the dry part.
The majority of campsites have a fire pit, and that is usually a depression that at this wet time, is full of water. Instead, create a mound for the base of your fire and cover it with bark or other dry, slow-burning material. This allows the ground to dry and not put out your fire.
Furthermore, make the center of your fire in a teepee shape. This is great for air circulation and helps dry the bigger wood pieces so they will ignite. Likewise, if you took the time to shave the wood so that the wet parts are off, your gathered wood will likely catch fire more easily.
Go Camping Prepared
The likelihood of going camping in wet conditions should not come as surprise to you, given all the weather warning systems. A seasoned backpacker will also know the many techniques and methods to get around starting a fire with wet wood.
One can get a good fire going with the steps mentioned above along with tinder, kindling deadwood (even though wet), a knife, a hatchet, and matches or lighter. However, when you are cold, wet, and tired, a little technology for warmth does not hurt.
Bringing firestarters for good measure is a great contingency. They come in many forms, from briquettes to chemicals and even alternative compounds used for quick sources of heat.
The point is, when you know you are going into the wet woods, bring something that is meant to help get your fire going quickly, wet wood notwithstanding.
Patience and Know-How
Making fire using wet wood takes patience, planning, and some old-fashioned principles. If you are able to start a fire going, place wood around it to dry. (Read Pros And Cons Of Pop Up Campers)
As I mentioned earlier, shave the wood until you expose the dry part or split the larger pieces to get to the dry interior. Make a small mound of kindling supply and you are good to go, wet wood or not.