13 Tips to Start a Fire in Wet and Cold Conditions

13 Tips to Start a Fire in Wet and Cold Conditions

When the elements turn against you and the weather leaves you soggy and shivering – the very time you need the warmth and comfort of a crackling fire the most – also happens to be the hardest time to start one. While it might seem like a Herculean task to get a fire going in these unforgiving conditions, fear not.

We've put together a list of 13 expert tips and techniques to help you conquer the wet and cold like a true survival pro and help you start a fire when it matters most.

  1. Come Prepared with Your Own Tinder in Tow: Before you ever head outdoors, carry the spark of preparedness with you by packing tinder. Think cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly, char cloth, or a mix of dryer lint and wax packed in a Ziploc bag. These fire starters burn hot and long, giving you a reliable source of tinder that’ll spark in damp conditions. They're extremely light and take up virtually no space, making them a no-brainer addition to any bug-out bag or camping backpack.

  2. Look Aloft for Dry Kindling: Don't just settle for ground-level kindling that's likely soaking wet. Look up! Find dry conifer branches sheltered by ones above, as well as twigs, leaves, or trusty pinecones higher up in trees. Their elevated position increases the chances of finding dry fuel to kickstart your fire. Before you set about making your fire, have more kindling on hand than you think you'll need.

  3. Find a Sheltered Location for Your Fire: Mother Nature can be relentless, but she often provides pockets of refuge. Seek out sheltered spots like caves, large overhangs, or even a tree canopy to shield your fire from wind gusts, raindrops, or snow. A cozy, protected environment increases your chances of success.

  4. Use the Split Wood Technique: Unleash your inner lumberjack! Split larger logs to expose their dry interior wood. It's like finding the hidden treasure within. Use an axe or knife to split the wood into smaller pieces, facilitating faster drying and easier ignition.

  5. Stick with the Feather Stick Method: Similar to the above technique, carve thin, feather-like shavings from the inside of branches using your trusty knife. These delicate shavings catch fire easily, even in the most challenging wet conditions. Place them atop your kindling and ignite with a spark or flame. Voilà!

  6. Come Prepared with Fire Gel or Paste: Innovation meets survival. Fire gel or paste is your secret weapon when Mother Nature throws her worst at you. Apply a small amount to your kindling or tinder, and watch as it enhances flammability, granting you an extra edge in the battle against the elements.

  7. Use Fire Starters Designed for Wet Weather: For the ultimate trump card, equip yourself with a reliable fire starter purpose-built for challenging conditions. Waterproof matches, plasma survival lighters, and even miniature blowtorches are all options to consider. Keep these handy tools in your pack and you'll always have a dependable ignition source and a fighting chance to start a fire when it's cold and wet.

  8. Create a Wick: Unleash your inner MacGyver with this technique. It could be a plan ahead option, or something you can create at your campsite depending on what you have on hand. Dip a string, paracord, or even an old shoelace into a flammable substance like oil or lighter fluid. Once soaked, coil or bundle it up and ignite one end. This ingenious wick sustains a flame even on damp or wet surfaces.

  9. Elevate your Fire and Skip the Pit: While it's common to dig a pit for your fire, this tactic can backfire in soggy conditions. Instead, elevate your fire by building it on top of a platform of rocks or logs. This keeps your fire off the wet ground and encourages air circulation.

  10. A Flat Fire is Not Your Friend: Similar to the principle above, building your fire in a teepee or pyre shape allows for increased ventilation and a strong, intense flame. The conical shape also protects the fire from wind and rain.

  11. Gradually Increase Fuel Size: Patience is key when battling the elements. Begin with small tinder pieces like tiny twigs or your thin and dry inner branch shavings, gradually adding larger fuel as the fire grows stronger. It's a slow dance, but take your time and let the flames steadily grow or you risk smothering your fire and putting it out. Make sure you gather a good amount of wood before getting started.

  12. Dry Wet Wood Around the Perimeter of Your Fire: Enlist the radiant heat of the fire itself. Prop up stubbornly damp wood pieces near the flames, but not directly in the fire. This allows the heat to slowly evaporate out the moisture, giving you a steady supply of fuel you can add to the fire as it dries.

  13. Build a Fire Reflector Wall: Strategically place rocks, logs, or even your backpack behind your fire to create a heat reflector. This reflects the warmth back towards you and also acts as a windbreak, helping block gusts from extinguishing your fire.

With these fire-starting techniques in your arsenal, you're ready to defy the odds and conquer cold and wet conditions. Remember to be patient and persevere. Starting a fire when it's wet may take more time and effort than normal. Stay patient, keep trying different techniques, and adapt as necessary. Preparedness, resourcefulness, and a touch of patience will guide you toward success and get a fire going even when it's wet and cold.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.