When you’re out in the middle of wild nature, it doesn’t always cooperate. Sunny skies one moment and then there’s an overcast rain shower inbound in another hour. Because the elements are on the most crucial survival points, let’s talk about how to start a campfire with wet wood.
How to start a Campfire with wet Wood?
Starting a campfire with wet wood on a camping vacation can be challenging but here are tips that can make your campfire burn and last long.
Preparation is key
Before you even go, you want to make sure that you are prepared for a campfire. That means bringing along a fire starter like flint, matches, fire steel rods, magnesium fire starter kits, or lighters. There are even waterproof matches that you can purchase. You can also try a bow drill, but they tend to be difficult for beginners and it’s easy to create blisters on your hand.
You can also bring fuel to help start the fire but generally it’s better to save your fuel for other sources, such as lamps or fuel-burning camp stoves. When you’re planning on a campfire, you’ll also want to bring along a hatchet or axe, or at the very least a large multi-tool with a good knife.
Finding your wood
You’ll need about 3 to 4 times the amount of wood as what you would normally need if your wood wasn’t wet. The same goes for kindling, you’ll need 3 to 4 times the amount as what a normal fire would need, because it’s wet.
As you go along looking for wood, try to pick up the drier pieces. You can also look inside natural hiding spots to find drier wood, such as inside bushes or inside logs. But when you do this, be very careful as you never know what’s inside – anything from a skunk to a nasty biting insect. So generally, you’ll want to save looking inside of logs for when you’re truly desperate, but at the very least, don’t just go sticking your hands into a dark place that you can’t see into.
If you have the time and the tools, you can also try shaving off the wet parts of your wood to create dry wood. Don’t cut yourself though, be careful as there might be bugs or insects inside.
Tinder is the basic fuel for the fire that gets everything going. It goes in the middle of the fire – it’s the fire’s starting place and core, and you’d place this first when you build it. This would be the driest, fastest burning fuel sources you can find, such as dry, small twigs, wood shavings, wood chips, or dry bark. Pine is a very good tinder as both the needles and sap are very flammable. You can also use other sources such as paper, or peeling the bark off of fallen, dead birch trees into paper-like strips.
Another tactic that is commonly seen is to use your knife to start shaving off the end of a stick of some sort, but leaving each piece attached. The result is a conglomeration of fuzzy, thin papery pulp on a single end of the stick, which is perfect for tinder.
If you’re worried, you can bring along a magnesium strip. You’d shave off a tiny pile as your tinder. Paraffin wax is also a slow but hot burning substance. Dorito chips are a surprisingly good fire starter, also.
Kindling is the next part of the fire that is a middle layer, after the tinder, surrounding it. You’ll want sticks and twigs, but no wider around than your forearm. Try to include at least some dry pieces to help get the fire out of its tinder phase.
Normal wood logs
The final part of the fire goes around the kindling, the logs that make up the normal fire’s fuel. Once the fire has graduated the kindling part, it will be large and strong enough to handle burning normal wood logs. You’d continually replace these when the fire starts to get low. But beware of putting too big and too wet pieces of fuel on a tiny fire that’s mostly died down, it may not be hot or strong enough to handle it and end up quenching the fire out.
Off the ground
When the ground is wet or cold, this hurts the fire and can make things seem impossible, especially when working with wet wood. So you’ll want to find something dry to start your fire on, such as a rock. Another idea is to put down a large piece of wood, and then to build your fire on top of that.
Building your fire
Once you have all of your wood and fuel, or at least you have enough of it to last long enough to find more, then it’s time to start building your fire. First, assemble the tinder in a sort of pyramid shape. Second, assemble the kindling around that, like a protective cage. The goal isn’t to completely bury or cover up the kindling, but rather to build around it, like a Native American teepee.
Basically, it’s a fire screen designed to let the fire breathe and grow without its inner core getting overly punished by the weather. After that, put a few log pieces around that, your normal fire fuel.
Then, once your wood is all properly leaned together like a concentric upwards pointing cone, it’s time to light your fire. You’ll want to ignite the center part of your fire fuel structure, where the tinder is. You can use any fire starter source that you have, from a lighter to flint.
Maintaining your new campfire
You’ll want to be careful to always build your fire up slowly. If it’s a very small fire, than it can’t handle a massive tree-sized log. As your fire burns, you can place some of your wet fuel nearby the fire so that the heat will begin to dry it out. But you want to be very careful not to set it too close or the heat could spontaneously ignite that, especially if your fire has a lot of sparks.
I hope that your next campfire goes swimmingly now that you know how to start a campfire with wet wood, so you’ll always be prepared for whatever mother nature can throw at you.