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!

Man Made Tinder

Keeping a tinderbox as a part of your EDC survival kit can be a life saving tool for making fire — especially in damp or wet conditions.

Essential Tools:

  • Fire starter (lighter, matches, ferro rod, etc)
  • Twigs
  • Tinder (in this case man made)
  • Knife/ax/saw or some sort of sharp for collecting materials

Today, Dan and I went to Uwharrie National Forest to do some bush craft and experimented with five different types of manmade tinder.

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The first three are as follows: drier lint, a sheet of paper, and toilet paper.

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The fourth one is this awesome pre-made tinder box from Alpha Outpost. It appears to be a mixture of sawdust and some type of petroleum. The fifth, not pictured, is cardboard.

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We laid all these down, and lit each one. Let it be known, we were doing this in extremely wet conditions. In this type of environment, a natural tinder is really hard to get lit, so these manmade tinders were absolutely essential!

The drier lint, unfortunately, was a bit of a fluke. We have our dogs, Teddy and Brook, so the lint was honestly mostly their hair. It didn’t seem to do too well. The paper, being a printer variety, was a tad waxy, but lit–same with the cardboard.

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The real kings were the toilet paper and the Alpha Outpost tinder. These worked extremely will in staying lit long enough for us to get some small twigs dried and lit.

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These are definitely coming out with us from this point forward!

William O. Huske Lock and Dam #3

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Long story short, I got into a pretty serious car accident, totaled my ’04 Jeep Grand Cherokee, and ended up with a concussion that was worsened by being active afterwards. So Dan and I haven’t fished in a good few weeks. Well, this morning, I was feeling good (finally a day without a headache), and decided to do some research on carping in the area.

We were huge into carping (as anyone who has read any of our previous Korea posts) when we lived in Korea, but not once we moved back to the states. Sure, we gave it the ole college try a few times, cane poles in tow, but hung it up in favor of sport bass and multi species.

That is until today. Scouring the bowls of fisherman forums led me to the beautiful William O. Huske Lock and Dam #3, between Fayetteville and Tarheel, North Carolina. Off NC-87, down a well padded down gravel road, we were greeted with a slew of picnic tables and benches, and overhead cover areas. The parking was spacious and the area consisted of the large dam itself, and a very well kept boat launch. Stone breakers lined next to the dam on the left of the launch, and on the right, a slight hill of mud and rocks.

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Unfortunately, when we first arrived, there was a good amount of people there with poles just lined up all along the landing. We sort of awkwardly scoot ourselves just to the right of the boat launch, looking around for some real estate, when the fellow upon the small hill picked up and left. We didn’t skip a beat in grabbing his spot.

Carp angling isn’t the most popular type of fishing around (though more popular in NC than other areas in the U.S.), and especially not wild carp. There’s a bunch of pay-lakes within an hour or two of Fayetteville, but we’ve never delved. Anyways, due to this, the types of bait we used to use in Korea (The powder we’d mix into doughs) is a little tougher to come by so we did what good angler do and we improvised the shit out of it.

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A quick “How-to” for making effective carp bait with simple household ingredients! We took Betty Crocker insta-mashed potatoes, Wonderbread Hot dog bungs (torn into pieces), and Quaker Oats minute oatmeal, and tossed it into a bowl, mixed with water. The result was a paste of similar consistency with your run-of-the-mill carp bait.

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It was a little too sticky with the first few casts, so we added extra water. With this concoction, we made fist-sized dough balls to throw onto our method feeders. We also forgot napkins, so had to skip on over to the shore to rinse our hands every time.

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Our method feeders were tied to these pre-tied carp hair rigs from Korda that came with a size 6 wide gap hook. On the loop, we threaded fake corn.

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Brand was Enterprise Tackle. Slung these bad boys in a little past the … not sure what they were… stilling basins? The big structures in front of the actual sluice gates on the dam. We set our poles on our Rod Pod, which has light and sound indicators for when the drag begins to pull. Our drags are set pretty low for this, both reels with a bait runner setting.

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Then the waiting game begun. It was a beautiful, but blazing hot North Carolina day. We were lucky to have a little bit of shade from the nearby trees. We brought our lawn chairs, so sat and chatted about life. About an hour after arriving, we still didn’t have any action.

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I had brought a regular medium-action rod to fool around with in the mean time, just to pass some time. At this point I had sat back down with Dan and he was getting a little grumpy. After all, I’d dragged him 45 minutes away on a 100-degree day to a landing untested… and we weren’t catching shit. He cast his doubts with his usual line, “so, when do you want to leave? I’m so hot. I’m getting bit.”

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And I said, “Damn, I just want that thing to go off and start beeping like crazy.” And no kidding, a minute after I said that, the rod pod started going berserk on one of the lines. Dan jumped into action, reeling wildly to get that baby and and man, it felt huge. Sadly, whatever monster lurked below spat out our fake corn and carried on with his life. It was a disappointment, but it was also a signal: there are fish here, and they’re biting our weird mixture of household foods. It wasn’t too long after recasting with a fresh “dough ball” that it went off again.

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Dan pulled up the first golden bonefish of our outing. An absolute textbook common carp. We were a little too excited and forgot to weight him, but he was fairly good sized, I’d estimate in the 8-10lb range. This guy was hooked perfectly too. The purpose of the fake corn being on the hair rig, slightly below the hook is because carp suck in and blow out when feeding. So they suck in the fake corn, and when they blow it back out, the hook gets caught right on their lip. He pulled this beauty in better this time, angling the rod against the direction of swim. Landing was a little difficult because we forgot our landing net and were on a bit of a ledge. Nevertheless… it was on. Baited the line back up, and casted into a similar area. The zone they seemed to be swimming in was fairly shallow (I would estimate less than 8 feet) under a tree that was rooted in shallow waters.

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This time I had the honors. This was a brutal fight and the adrenaline was shooting through my veins. At one point, the carp began swimming toward me, and I lowered the line in disappointment, declaring, “I lost the fish!” Low and behold, when reeling back in, I realized the thing was still attached. I had to move onto the boat launch to land this bone, and when he came up, he was still fighting. He weight in at 9lb 6oz, now my personal best catch. Pretty happy about this one, and another textbook, gorgeous common carp.

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Dan brought in the last one on a line I had cast out fairly shallow right in front of the stilling basin. He didn’t want to weigh it because “it looked smaller than the last one,” but still a stunning koi. All were released to swim another day, and we packed it up because our dogs were at home waiting. Pretty incredible day of angling for a couple hours at the lock and dam, and we are absolutely back into carp fishing, with a vengeance. It’s good to be back!

 

Inline Bowline Knot

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Use: Makes a fixed loop that can be used for a multitude of tiedowns; attaching one rope to another, securing equipment to fixed points, sailing knots. Tension will not move the knot. However it is not often used in mountaineering due to the fact that you can indeed untie the knot with ease.

Step 1: Create a Loop

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Fold the “loose” end of the rope over itself, as to create a loop with the free end remaining on top. Dig the hole.

Step 2: Through the Loop

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Next, create a larger loop by moving the loose end under and up through the previous loop.  The rabbit comes out of the hole.

Note: This larger loop you have just created is what you will use to secure the inline bowline around an object. If you wish to tie it TO something, thread the loose end through the object you wish to secure it to, before bringing it back through the previous loop.

 

Step 3: Around the Running End

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Take the free end, and thread it behind the running end. The Rabbit goes around the Tree

 

Step 4: Weave Back Through The Loop

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Come back over the running end with the free end, and push the free end through the initial loop. The Rabbit goes back into the hole. 

 

Step 5: Pull Tight

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Pull it tight to finish off your inline bowline! If done successfully, the knot should not become larger or smaller with tension on the loop (unlike a slipknot).

Too easy! Check out our other knots in our step by step survival knots series.

 

Dad’s First Ice Fish!

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For my last day in New England before the journey back the South, I decided to go back to the ole’ honey hole, Dennis Pond, to ensure at least a few fish. My father had been coming with me for the past couple trips, and had yet to pull anything.

We drilled 7 holes, two rows of three and one in the middle. I decided to try my luck at the tip-up dad had given me for Christmakkah and fitted it with about 12ft of monofil 4lb test line, a small spoon/treble and a dead minnow. The plan was to set the tip-up in the middle hole, and jig with our small 1.5″ spoons and some mousses in the surrounding holes to attract fish.

Within ten minutes we had a flag up!

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It was a little chain pickerel.

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Back he went. Felt pretty successful to have my first tip-up catch! So Dad was enthused by this and insisted I set him up his own, which I went ahead and did. In the meantime, I picked a hole adjacent to the one I had the tip up in and jigged the bottom with a couple of mousses. Decided to pound the bottom and see what would come along.

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Plucked up this fat little perch! Did not even realize they had perch in this lake– it’s truly a great multispecies destination. So far we have turned up pickerel, perch, bass, and crappie all from the ice.

In the mean time, Dad was still struggling to turn up a catch. I drilled a new hole adjacent to the one I jigged up the perch in  and we moved his tip-up there.

In the midst of all this, we were freezing. The weather took a plummet this week in CT, and was about 5-degrees, -12 with wind chill. Long underwear, based layers, insulation layers, down jackets, multiple socks — still the cold was piercing through us. We made a smart decision today that I suggest anyone hitting the ice do: we put warmers on the tops and bottoms of our feet between the two sock layers. It just keeps your toes from getting to the falling off point.

Dad was jigging a few holes away when suddenly his tip-up’s flag sprung up and was spinning wildly!

“Fish on!” I shouted toward Dad who gave me a blank stare in return, “Fish on! Fish on!”

He finally seemed to come to his senses when I up and ran to the flag, pointing at it, hoping the fish didn’t tear through the 4lb test line barely holding it on.

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Dad makes his way to the hole and starts reeling on the spool.

“Hand over hand!” I was doing some serious back seat fishing by this point. But, it’s really easy for the fish to get away without proper finesse when you’re using such thin line. He finally drops the tip up, and begins to bring it in, hand over hand, letting the line slide with tension through his fingers when the fish swam.

The fish was tiring out, and it felt pretty good sized. Finally it surfaced!

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Out came a beautiful large mouth bass. Didn’t have the scale on us, but I would eye it at a little over 1lb.

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Released for another day, but not before a bunch of pictures, hugs and high fives. Dad finally caught a fish through the ice!

With that, concluded our last ice fishing trip, and my vacation in the North. Back to the South tomorrow, got a long drive ahead. Gonna miss hitting the ice!

Ice Hunting

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Woke up to some freezing temps, and a layer of snow in Connecticut. Being early in the winter season, not all bodies of water are locked up yet, and some are thicker than others. I decided to take measurements into my own hands, and head out to see if I could find my own “honey pot.”

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Of course I brought my partner with me, who was very excited to experience her first real snow. First stop, a small lake on Gulf Road, across from Soapstone Mountain access lot.

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To measure the ice, I dig a hole with my auger ever ten steps, then scoop out the slush. I place my tip-up spool at the bottom of the ice, and measure up. The spool begins on the 15″ mark, so I just count from there.  Unfortunately, freezing rain put about an inch of water over the ice and it was incredibly uneven. Didn’t have much luck here.

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So we moved onto Hurd’s Lake which was shrouded in an incredible and blinding fog. Again, it was layered in rainwater, so I stayed fairly close to the edge. If you look at the picture, it actually looks like open water, but it wasn’t. There was a good 4-inches of ice locked up beneath the slushy top. Again, though, no luck here.

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Finally, just by nature of wanted to catch a fish after skunking at all those different lakes, I just headed to my old favorite honey pot, Dennis Pond. The pond itself was covered in snow, without any sign of human tracks on it. Made a trail of holes 10 feet apart out toward the middle, and two rows of two holes across. Ice was easily 3.5-inches in all the spots I tested.

I began jigging with 2-lb test line and little red wigglers.

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Brook was excited by all the snow and ice and just being outside in general, so naturally, she completely went berserk, getting a huge case of the zoomies. She ran around like a wild animal all over the ice, much to my disdain, because the ice was untested. She ended up with her two hind legs in a hole and I had to put her in time out in the car to thaw out the rest of the time.

But in the mean time, I did manage to pull out a chain pickerel from one of the holes, successfully ending my skunk streak.

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Had to pack up the rods and reels and head home after the sun went down and my feet turned into popsicles. Hoping to find another honey pot in the future, still searching!

Figure Eight (Flemish) Knot

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Use: Stoppage (similar to an overhand knot), often used in sailing on the mast, the base of the climber’s knot (double figure-8 knot), anchoring, etc.

 

Step 1: Create a “Bight”

20171126_174315Simply fold the rope over itself, leaving a loop, without crossing the rope.

 

Step 2: Over, then Under

20171126_174329Using the free end, weave the end over the long end, and back under to the same side you began, creating a loop.

 

Step 3: Through the Loop

20171126_174337Using the free end again, weave the rope over and down into the loop you created

 

Step 4: Pull and Tighten

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Simply pull both ends of the rope to tighten into a figure eight knot. If you have done each step successfully, your knot should resemble the number 8.

Too easy! Check out our other knots in our step by step survival knots series.

Dennis Pond

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Ice season is here and we are up North for the holidays!

Finally, after a long year of waiting, the ground is covered in snow, and the lakes thick with a layer of ice!

Well… not that thick. Sadly, the last week was freezing cold (twenties and below), but this upcoming week the winter weather has taken a turn for the warmer. The ice is slipping away beneath our feet (all 3.5 inches of it).

At least we were able to get in some lines before the melting began. We stopped by an old favorite, Dennis Pond, to do some jigging.

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Passed a couple of wild turkeys on the way. Always nice to see the local wildlife.

20171217_151102Scenery was breathtaking as usual. Drilled about 6 holes (one every 10-feet, laterally and outward). Got to about 10-ft depth, but the ice was not exactly the safest. At about 3.5 inches at most going toward the center, we did not venture too far out. Water temperature was about 34-degrees F at the surface beneath the ice.

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We used standard jigging techniques, with little red wigglers as bait, and small spoons for lure.

Caught a few little chain pickerel which are always a fun catch. It was pretty cold out though, as you may be able to tell by Dan’s ski coat and 7 pairs of pants.

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Things were getting slushy, quick, though. Our feet were wet and frozen, but between the snowy scenery and continuous action on our ice rods, we stuck around and  sucked it up.

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Patience is a virtue, however! I was finally able to pull a decent sized large mouth.

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Dan was on fire with the pickerel game too.

Overall, a fun day on the ice. Excited to get back to it once temperatures go down next week. Dennis pond is a perfect ice fishing pond!

Tank Creek

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Instead of searching far and wide for fun new fishing spots, this time we got local.

We found a creek less than two miles away from our home, and decided to give it a go. Admittedly, it wasn’t the most aesthetic of locations and definitely did not have the upkeep of public ponds or national/state forest areas, there was something a little enchanting about a little semi-stagnant pool we found beneath a small dam.

The way the water swirled into its soft current seemed promising.

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And we were not disappointed. This little bass infested pool in Tank Creek provided a fun opportunity for us to experiment with different lures and techniques.

The most successful seemed to be a version of the slow pitch jig using soft plastics like the Zoom U Tail in June Bug or the Zoom Lizard in Chartreuse/Pumpkinseed (6″).

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Unfortunately, the creek was relatively close to the road so Brook did not have the luxury to roam like at Kiest.

Through trail and error, we managed to toss our casts softly under bushes and small rock bunches which produced some of our best bass catches yet.

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We also utilized use of 6″ Yamamoto senkos in various colors. We always used a off-set hook, a texas rig (since the creek is full of snags), completely weightless. The creek was small enough that we did not need any additional weight for casting strength.

Who knew that such a small space held such nice fish!

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We came back to this area since it was so close a couple times and continued to have relatively good success. The small pool combined with it being not fished often seemed to push our luck.

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However, due to the nature of North Carolina’s thick woods, we did sacrifice many lures to the fishing gods in trees and even worse, to snapping turtles.

Sadly as the months grew colder, the bites came less and less, but we did discover a large gill population.

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A fun discovery close to home that allowed us to practice a myriad of techniques and baits in a confined area. It was nice to find a “training pool” so to speak!

Upside Down Fire

The upside down fire is a self feeding fire that does not require nearly as much stoking and feeding as the traditional teepee campfire. It can burn upwards of 5 hours, uninterrupted, if you do it right. Here are the steps you need to create the upside down fire, along with Dan and I’s own attempt to build it.

Essential Tools:

  • Fire starter (lighter, matches, magnesium stick, etc)
  • Twigs
  • Tinder (Manmade or natural)
  • Knife/ax/saw or some sort of sharp for collecting materials
  • If you are cooking, a vessel or surface to hold your food in

 

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Step 1: Collect your Materials

Once more, we are building this fire using the “twig” method in order to represent a situation in which you may need fire without having store bought materials. Using a small ax and my khukuri knife, we cut down small tree limbs and collected three major types of twigs:

  • Thumb Size
  • Pencil Size
  • Pencil Lead Size

Remember– Try not to pull trees/sticks from the ground. Instead, look for standing deadwood that is dry, easy to break and lacks the moisture than any sticks laying on the ground would.

For tinder, we used a combination of dried grass an a featherstick.

 

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Step 2: Build Your Base

Start with the thickest twigs you have, and lay them flat in your pit, one after the other like you are laying down a log pile. Create a layer as large as you want your fire to be. Then use the next thickest, and cross hatch them in a new layer above your first. Continue this pattern until you get to the thinnest twigs, and finally place your tinder bundle on top.

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Step 3: Light The Tinder

For the sake of this attempt, we simply used a lighter, but I would recommend using whatever fire making material or method you have readily available in your EVERY DAY CARRY or at the very least, your backpacking/hiking essentials.

It might take a bit to get the tinder lit long enough that it begins to feed itself, which can be frustrating, but once the twigs light, this fire is capable of burning for hours on end.

Being down by a river on a muggy day, it took upwards of an hour to get our tinder lit long enough. We ended up adding some scraps of napkins we had brought along with us as well. The air was thick with whistles and squeals of the materials as they dried out, but once it got going, we were able to cook over it and enjoy its warmth until bed time.

This method was fairly frustrating for us due to the wet environment, however, it is often a reliable and low maintenance fire building method convenient for when you have additional tasks and chores to do, or you wish to keep your fire burning overnight while you sleep.