How to Start a Fire in the Rain: 6 Essential Steps

It’s a cold, rainy day out in the woods, and the temperature is dropping faster than you could say “brrr.” The night will fall soon. You’ve got two choices: make a fire, or suffer from hypothermia.

Starting a campfire in the rain is a daunting task for both new and seasoned preppers. The cold and rain can be intimidating. Not a favorable environment to build a fire, sure, but it’s not impossible either.

Here’s how to start a fire in the rain:

Steps on How to Start a Fire in the Rain

Select a Relatively Dry Place

First things first: you have to protect yourself and the fire from moisture at all costs, or the rain is obviously gonna douse it out. Natural shelters like caves, rocky overhangs, or the space beneath large trees offer protection from outdoor elements. They’re also relatively dry. Your chances of starting a fire in the rain will significantly increase if you’ve got a tarp for shelter as well.

Make Sure to Have Premade Firestarters and Tinder With You

one tip on how to start a fire in the rain is to have premade firestarters and tinder on your person

Aside from a tarp, having premade firestarters and tinder increases your likelihood of starting a fire in the rain, so never leave home without these. You can prepare a stash of char cloth as tinder and put them in an Altoids tin to keep them dry.

You can also make firestarters from cotton balls, dryer lint, and egg cartons, which you can safely stash away in a ziploc bag. Don’t forget to bring a lighter or a ferro rod as well. Matches won’t do you any good in a wet environment, so it’s best to keep a foolproof fire-starting device with you.

Gather as Much Dry Material as You Can

a person using a match to light firewood

Now, start gathering your materials. Moisture is your biggest enemy, so do your best to gather the driest materials you can find. Even in heavy rain, you should be able to find some dry twigs and branches. Your best chance of getting dry wood is in standing dead trees.

These dead trees haven’t soaked as much moisture as those fallen branches on the forest floor, so they make for good fuel. Any branches that aren’t on the ground would do, too. Shave off the wet, outer bark, and you’ll find a dry inner layer ideal for fuel. If you manage to find bigger pieces of wood, you can quarter or chop them in half by batoning. You can make feather sticks and fine shavings from these, which are good tinder materials.

Gather as much of these dry materials as you can. You don’t want to run back and collect them again in case your first attempt fails or if the rain lasts longer than expected. Grabbing as much dry material as you can saves you precious time and energy when making a campfire in the rain.

Choose an Efficient Firelay

There’s no such thing as the perfect firelay, but some of the most reliable ones are the teepee, log cabin, and the upside-down firelay. Some preppers even combine these firelays to make an efficient fire that could withstand all that moisture. If it’s windy, you might want to add a windbreaker, like you would with a lean-to firelay.

Avoid Direct Contact With the Damp Ground

If you’re wondering why your attempts at starting a fire in the rain aren’t successful, look no further than the damp ground. Again, moisture will kill your fire. Wet or even damp ground is definitely full of moisture. Put a layer of firewood between the ground and your actual firelay for better results.

Light Your Fire

a steady fire

Once you’ve got your materials and firelay, you’re finally ready to light your fire. Lay out some quartered wood on the ground. This “foundation” protects your fire from the damp ground. At the very center, light your tinder. Continue to feed it fine shavings.

Slowly build your fire by adding feather sticks in a log cabin formation. This should give your flame enough fuel and air. Continue to build a log cabin of kindling until you’re ready for bigger, thicker fuelwood. You can pile your firewood as a teepee on top of your log cabin. Be careful not to smother your fire with too much wood, or it will die out.

The end result looks like an upside-down firelay of sorts, which can burn long and high enough to keep you warm. The logs from your teepee should fall on each other and form a nice bed of coals.

Final Thoughts

Staying warm and dry is your biggest priority when caught in inclement weather.

It’s easy to build a fire when conditions are ideal, so challenge yourself and practice how to start a fire in the rain. You don’t even have to go to the woods—if you’re not that confident, you can always practice in your backyard. This hones your skills and increases your confidence.

Stay warm, safe, and dry by practicing your fire-making skills in different conditions.

Have other tips for building a campfire in the rain? Share them down below!

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