When conditions are dry, it’s easy to start a fire. If you’ve ever tried to light a fire when it’s wet outside, it’s a whole other mess. Wet materials, even when lit, tend to smolder and smoke rather than combust.
It’s not the ideal conditions we have to worry about — it’s the bad ones.
When our body temperature starts to drop, we lose a lot of energy that could be spent finding food, clean water, or making shelter. A good campfire can help signal your location to rescuers, keep you warm, and be used to purify water and cook food.
In this article, we’ll devote ourselves to getting that fire going — even when it doesn’t want to.
Setting Up The Base Of A Fire In Wet Conditions
If the ground is already wet, it won’t do you any good to set down the dry materials you’ll procure onto the soaking ground. Establish a dry base to put your dry fire materials.
This can be done in three ways depending on the conditions you’re experiencing.
- Dig a hole
- Put down a base rock
- Put down a base of halved wood
The inside of a tree will rarely get soaked through and through. What you should be looking for is standing dead trees. These will be easier to split and the middle should still be fairly dry.
You can dig down until you hit dry earth. If the rain wasn’t heavy, this may suffice. If the rain had persisted for a while, you may have to dig a bit further down. The core advantage of digging down to start your fire is two-fold:
- Limited protection against wind
- Fire is better contained
If it is still raining, a hole may not be much of a help. In lieu of that, try to find a rock to act as the base.
Where To Find Dry Wood In Wet Conditions
As we previously mentioned, the inside of standing dead hardwood trees is a good place to start. The more rotted, the better. This is because the wood will be easier to pull apart, hopefully giving you a better pile of dry, small pieces.
The base of the fire should consist of extremely fine, small pieces of dry wood procured from this source. Other materials may include birch bark which can be ripped apart into fine, thin pieces excellent for getting a fire started.
Any dry, fluffy cotton-like cotton balls are also good starter material.
Friction is your friend. Also, only feed a fire with dry materials. It will do you no good to get those first embers lit and then you put damp materials that quench it.
If it is drizzling or misting outside, use your back to shield the starter base. That fire needs every opportunity to grow. And early on, it needs to be protected from the wind.
So, to recap, look for the following:
- Dead standing hardwood trees
- Birch bark
- Pine needles
- Pieces of bark that are dry
Sometimes you can find bark and pine needles by digging past a wet top layer of needles. In any rainstorm, perhaps a tree had a branch to direct the flow of water around it. There are opportunities. Only take material that is dry to the touch in this instance. Anything remotely damp will not be any help.
The materials that you use to kindle must be extremely small and fine — far less than the width of your pinky and finer still for those first few sparks and embers.
Do not give up if your attempts aren’t immediately met with success. Friction and repetition will give you a much better chance of getting those first embers lit in damp conditions.