Building a Fire in Wet Conditions

One of the most essential survival skills is the ability to create fire, no matter what the circumstances. Fire is the spark of life in a survival situation. Today, we will demonstrate a fool proof technique on how to build a fire in extreme wet conditions.

Essential Tools:

  • Fire starter (lighter, matches, ferro rod, etc)
  • Twigs and some larger logs/branches
  • Tinder (Manmade or natural)
  • Knife/ax/saw or some sort of sharp for collecting materials
  • Knife sharpener

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Step 1: Collect your Materials

Try to find as much dry wood as possible. This might not be many, so grab everything you can. Always attempt to pull off of standing trees, rather than from branches on the ground. Wood on the ground tends to be much more saturated, deadened and wet than from standing branches. These are the particular types of wood you will be looking for:

  • pencil lead and pencil width twigs
  • larger branches (thicker than your forearm) and even larger, if you can find it

Use your axe/saw/knife to chop down these tree limbs and collect them in a circle around your intended fire building area.

Natural tinder is very difficult to come across in extreme wet conditions. Collect what you can, and line the sides of your fire building area with it. It can be dried once you get the fire going, and used later. Collect any dried materials you can find and keep them dry, even if it means a strand of dead grass at a time. Attempt to carve through the bark on standing trees to access fireknot and inner bark that may be dry.

I highly suggest having Man Made Tinder as part of your kit at all times. These tinders will potentially be life saving in a survival situation in extreme wet conditions. See our post on Man Made Tinder for ideas on types of tinder to use and keep on you.

Step 2: Prepare Your Materials

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This is the most important step for creating the initial flame in a wet environment.

2A. Chop your branch into forearm sized logs utilizing either your axe or saw. Ensure you do this to all of your larger branches. Twigs can just be snapped to the same length.

2B. This is how you keep the flame alive. Take a stack of your logs and split them at least four times (through the middle, then through the middle of both of those pieces, long ways).

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An easy way to do this is by using the baton method. Line your knife along the top of the log, sharp end against the log. Using the blunt end of your axe, or a rock, or whatever blunt object you can find, whack the center of your knife until it pierces and sinks into the center of the log. At this point, continue to bludgeon your knife (careful not to destroy the tip) either on the handle side or the tip side (or both, alternating), until your knife has sliced down the log and the log splits.

At this point, take each side of the split log and repeat the process until you have four pieces. Continue to do this if the piece is thicker than your axe handle.

You must split the wood in order to reach dry material to keep the fire alive. Do not skip this step.

Remember, create a pile of wood that could sustain the fire for hours. Keep a good pile of non-split logs as well. You will be able to dry and use these later.

 

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Step 3: Build Your Base and Light Your Tinder

Use rocks to create a fire pit, and line the middle with all the semi-dried tinder materials you have collected. Create a smaller inner pit utilizing some of the large logs you collected earlier that you did not split. These will not be lit yet, but they will be dried by the initial fire you will create, and eventually become the heart of the ongoing flame.

It might be frustrating to get this tinder lit, especially without man made. Hang in there. Once you get a small flame, blow on it to maintain and and have your thinnest twigs at the ready.

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Step 4: Add Materials to Flame

We will first add the thinnest possible twigs, which will dry quickly and keep the flame going. Use the “log cabin” arrangement technique and slowly add in thicker twigs. For a more detailed explanation of this method, see our Twig Fires post.

Next, add your split logs to the flame. Because these should be the driest source, they will light the most readily and create your full fire.

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Step 5: Keep the Flame Alive

Ensure you keep feeding the fire with these logs. Note, the wet logs are still lined outside the fire as a base. The split log fire will get hot enough to dry out these larger logs. These logs will become the long term basis for the fire. The flames will either engulf them after you continue to feed it split logs, or you can manually add them yourself after they sufficiently dry. Use various twigs and other easily lit materials to spread the fire as necessary over other drying logs.

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That is about all there is too it. Continue to line with logs you need dried and feed with the now dried materials you have. This method is foolproof for lighting a long lasting fire in a wet environment.

 

Want to light a fire with less maintenance? See our How-To in building an Upside Down Fire to learn how to create a slow burning fire that can last hours without touching it!

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