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 fire in a wet environment is a daunting task for both new and seasoned preppers. The cold and rain can be intimidating. Not a favorable environment to start a fire, sure, but it’s not impossible either.
Here’s how to start a campfire to keep you warm and dry, even when it’s raining cats and dogs:
Select A Relatively Dry Place
First things first: you have to protect yourself and the fire from any moisture at all costs, or the rain would obviously just 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 will significantly increase if you’ve got a tarp for shelter, as well.
Make Sure To Have Premade Firestarters And Tinder With You
Aside from a tarp, having premade firestarters and tinder increases your chance of starting a fire, 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 fool-proof fire starting device with you.
Gather As Much Dry Material As You Can
Now, start gathering your materials. Moisture is obviously 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 are not on the ground would do, too. Shave off the wet, outer bark and you will 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 feathersticks and fine shavings from these, which are good tinder material.
Gather as much of these dry materials as you can. You don't want to run back and gather again in case your first attempt fails, or if the rain goes for longer than you expect. Gathering as much dry material as you can saves you precious time and energy.
Choose An Efficient Firelay
There's no one 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 how you would in a lean-to firelay.
Avoid Direct Contact With The Damp Ground
If you’re wondering why your attempts 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
Once you've got your materials and firelay, you're now ready to finally 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 fire 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.
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 your fire making skills on a wet day. You don’t even have to go to the woods; if you’re not that confident yet, 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.