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

20180902_190336

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

20180902_193834

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).

20180902_194537

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.

 

20180902_193825.jpg

20180902_190917 (1)

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.

20180902_195213 (1)

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.

20180902_200736

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.

20180902_212423

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!

Ice Hunting

20171225_164104

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.”

20171225_105052

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.

20171223_151403

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.

20171223_150555

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.

20171225_164116

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.

IMG_20171227_090431_977

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.

20171227_160758

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!

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

 

20171021_221725

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.

 

20171021_19292820171021_193127

 

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.

20171021_200310

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.

 

 

Wyatt Lake

Following our couple of bass (but no carp!) out at Kiest, we decided to amble down to the adjacent Wyatt Lake. Wyatt is not labelled on most maps that we saw, but it is to the direct East of Kiest, which is labelled. It’s a relatively small pond with a lot of landing areas to fish from. The entire pond feeds into the Little River.

20170520_194612 (1)

This is more of  a catfish pond, but the word on the street is that because most don’t fish it for bass, there are some lunkers sneaking around, little detected. At this point night was falling though so we decided to just get our cat gear set up. In addition to the single spin reel pole I threw out, Dan went ahead and cast out a couple of our traditional Korean cane poles. Depth wise, I was able to cast way further with the spin reel. Dan was maybe a few meters in front of the landing.

20170520_200308

But he ended up being the one to catch! With the cane pole, it’s important to have a landing net. The hooks used are much, much smaller (so more easily escaped), and since you have no reel, you bring the fish to you by tiring it out,  and raising the tip of the rod, basically fighting the fish intil it’s close enough to snag with the landing net.  I have explained this in my Korean fishing posts, but the cane pole rig is attached to a thin vertical bobber, which sinks and moves when the fish is grabbing the bait (raw chicken in this case).  When the bobber sinks all the way in, you set the hook by giving it a quick and forceful yank up. It’s a lot of fun to watch, and a lot of fun to fight to get the fish on shore.  This was the next catch for Dan:

20170520_202820

Yup– another turtle! They’re rampant around here. This poor little guy was hooked by his arm. He was obviously stealing the raw chicken and ended up caught in the act. And by the looks of it, he’s a little alarmed by the whole ordeal. And one more to complete the night:

It was nice to go to another lake after Kiest, and to get Dan catching a few! Nothing quite like the frustration of your fishing partner catching when you can only seem to pull up weeds and lose your lures. It was also really cool to break out the cane poles again. Still my favorite way to fish!

Kiest Lake

20170430_185254

Wanting to branch out our North Carolina expeditions, we set off for Kiest Lake, near Fort Bragg Military Reservation.  It was a hot ass day, upwards of 90 degrees F with at least 80% humidity. We settled on the South side of the lake, where there was a  fairly large clearing we could pull the truck into. Little Brook was suffering though. No shade. SO hot. We left the car door open for her just in case, but she improvised on the shade;

20170520_154604

Yup, she hung out under the truck! We stuck her water bowl down there too. And don’t worry– every hour or so, we turned on the truck, pumped the air and cooled off our little daughter. Gotta be careful this time of year in the Southern United States. There are countless cases of pet dogs dying of heat exhaustion,  but at the same time we love our dog and want her to have fun and be included. We take every measure possible to ensure she is comfortable and well taken care of.

Anyways, Dan set up his massive carp rig because supposedly there’s huge common carp in this lake. I don’t have any pictures of the set up but I will take some next time it is used. It’s similar to a catfish set up, only the poles are lying parallel to the surface of the lake instead of perpendicular. There is also this motion detector device that beeps when the line is pulled. Unlike a catfish rod, you do not want “tight lines” on this rig. The drag is almost completely loose, allowing carps to suck the bait in and run with it before hooking themselves. We experienced a few beeps here and there but nothing seeemed to stick. Turns out, there were an astronomical amount of turtles in there!

IMG_20170520_152412_533

Here’s a little one I managed to pull up with our landing net. They’re some sort of box turtle, and love to nibble fishing bait. Since they have those little beaks, they don’t get hooked and just steal the bait! While Dan worked on his carp set-up and tossed in a few senkos for bass, I set up some catfish lines and threw in a few casts of my own. The bottom of this lake is incredibly weedy, so the “secret technique” was an absolute no-go. Instead, I used a foam stick bobber and set it up about 2 feet above my bait (nightcrawlers).

20161010_140521

I managed to catch a gill on this bobber set up that I turned into cutbait. In the mean time, neither the carp rods nor the catfish rods were getting much action. It was such a hot day, that I assume the fish were very slow moving and avoiding the heated up shallower ends. Likely in the middle of the lake, just treading water down below. After I while, I did get a pull on one of the cat rods, though! Reeled t his one in, pretty excited. With it came an enormous hunk of weeds, but hidden beneath the weeds there was indeed a fish!

20170520_131809

This skinny guy was trying to eat himself some gill. Definitely did not expect to pull up an LMB on the cat rods, but lo and behold there she was! I let her go, recasted the rod and then continued to throw out the bobber set up. Dan was preoccupied with some mysterious beeping on his carp rods,  but nothing seemed to set. Somehow, I managed to pull up another small bass on the bobber.

20170520_174025

No action following this for quite a while. We decided to call it, and head back. After all, poor little B was probably burning up in her little yellow fur coat. Not a terrible fishing day, but the heat was tough to bare– for us, and apparently for the fish. Supposedly this lake is filled with bass, so we certainly just scraped the surface on this one. We will return to see what we can garner next time.

McKellar’s Pond

IMG_20170415_142526_285.jpg

In eastern/central North Carolina there are a few common types of American catfish: Channels, Blues, bullheads and flatheads. Since we often had success catching Amur catfish we decided to go after their supposedly delicious American cousins. McKellar’s pond is located in Fayetteville, NC tucked into a few backroads. The pond overall isn’t very well kept. It was littered with trash and remains of slobby fishing parties. Sad– they do not have any staff or conservationists to clean up; It’s the fisherman’s responsibility and it looks like people just don’t care around here.

20170415_111150

Anyways, we set up three catfish rods (two ugly sticks, and one telescopic) with different baits ranging from chicken liver flavored dough baits, to “Little Stinker” dip bait, and even some night crawlers. We casted out the rods as far as possible, then tightened the line up and placed the rods into individual rod holders. Finished it off with a little clip on bell that way when a fish bites, we are alerted. We used treble hooks for the dip/dough and circle hooks for other baits. In the mean time, we used our short rods to do a little spin fishing for bass or panfish. We went the first few hours without too much luck until I ended up catching this little guy:

20170415_182058

Channel catfish are known to like to eat bluegill, so we cut him up into small 1-1.5in sections, discarding the fins and spines and slipped it onto circle hooks. It’s important to note that the way a circle hook works is that it twists and punctures the side of the fish’s mouth. So when baiting a circle hook you want to ensure you keep the gap between the point and the hook fairly clear. Bigger bait isn’t always better on a circle hook, especially a smaller one like the 5/0 we were using.

 

20170415_190714

Once the bluegill was on the hook and the sun began to set, the bites started coming. It’s a whole lot of fun when the bells start ringing on all the rods!

We ended up with a good amount of channel cats after the sun went down. Catfishing is a lot like carp fishing in Korea, where it’s pretty stationary and passive, but man it’s fun to bring ’em in once the bell jingles. In the mean time, we just hung out, drank, and played with Brook the entire time. We kept 3 cats to take home with us, and released the rest.

20170415_211815

We cleaned up our catches the next day, using a fairly simple technique of a diagonal cut behind the gills, a cut down the spine to the tail, and just slice the meat off the skin. We got four good filets out of it, which we pan fried up with some seasoned breadcrumbs, seasoned with salt and pepper and created some delicious cat fish po’boys.

IMG_20170416_190430_281

Always a great experienced to catch, clean, and cook. We have finally figured out how to catfish in America!

Dick’s Creek

20170325_081034

In the past few days, Dan moved up to North Carolina with Brook, and I am still in Georgia. My friends and I decided to plan a camping/fishing trip for the gang and our resident North Georgia native chose the beautiful, mountainous region of Dahlonega. The campsite we picked was located in an area called Dick’s Creek. This was a stunning creek bed, tumbling over a few waterfalls and stretching as far as the eye could see. We drove about 3 hours to get there, and nestled into a site in the corner. The trout was stocked seasonally with both browns and rainbows. Since we had never trout fished before, my friend advised us on a few different types of bait to try: canned corn, and salmon eggs. Similar to when we’re freelining for bass, you want to use as small a hook as possible with little to no weight.

20170325_081029

Of course little Brooky had to come with us. That’s basically my negotiation piece for anyone that asks me to hang out… its either both of us or none of us! Anyways, we head down to the river, and Dan and I decide to throw a couple lines in right at the base of that magnificent waterfall picture above. Brook didn’t like when we got more than an arms reach away from here, so she was yipping a little bit… It didn’t take us too long to start bringing ’em in! I started up on a piece of corn and reeled in a really nice Brown trout.

20170325_082550

Dan caught a few shortly after. We were able to walk up and down the creek to try different spots, and kept all our catches on a trout line in the water so they would stay fresh for the open fire cookout to take place later.  Honestly, we would have stayed in the same spot, but as usual once folks caught onto that we were bringing em in, they all congregated to adjacent locations and casted directly in front of us. Being Georgia, these people also had on overalls without any shirts underneath, etc…

20170325_145303

Here’s a picture of one of the rainbows I caught as well. We ended up with a total of 5 trout. We and my friend (after he fell into the creek, gave up, and went out again) brought in 6. He taught as a very simple way to clean the trout. Just make a clean cut behind the gills, then slit the bottom from cut to anus. After that, simply pull out the guts, toss them away and squeeze out the blood pooling near the spine. The camping trip was a huge success, lots of games, drinking, cooking, and fun. We had burgers and buttered trout cooked open the fire. Truly a good ole fashioned American time. Brook was having a great time, too, running 100mph around our camp site.

IMG_20170326_162733_514

Really fun first time trout fishing. Sadly since then, a wildfire burned most of Dick’s Creek area down to the ground. I am happy we were able to experience it before that disaster.