Monday, June 5, 2023

How To Create a Wet Wood Fire (Simple Steps)

Isn’t it terrible? You need a fire, but it just rained, and the wood you can find looks all soggy and damp. So how to create a wet wood fire? You might wonder. Well, in this post, we guide you through the steps on how to make a fire, even when the wood is wet.

  1. Make sure to have proper lighting material.
  2. Prepare tinder and find twigs.
  3. Gather wood as dry as possible (below; we show you how and where).
  4. Build your fire.

But first, what is wet wood? Wet wood is dead wood that has become wet again by rain or flood or whatever. This is essential to know since ‘green’ wood should never be used for a fire. Green wood is wood directly cut from a living tree and will only cause smoke. 

Now, let’s dive into the steps of how to create a wet wood fire.

1. Proper fire lighting material 

When going on a trip, it is always wise to take proper fire lighting material with you. Things to take into account are.

  • Matches might get too damp in moist conditions.
  • Gaslighters tend to work worse in colder climates.

Luckily a spark stick or Ferro rod can go a long way. If you a real survival enthusiast, some steel wool and battery can do the trick as well.  

2. Prepare tinder and find twigs

When making any fire, but especially when to create a wet wood fire, tinder is essential. Without it, your chances of developing a fire diminish quickly. 

Suppose you did not bring any pre-made tinder with you. It is wise to look for it in the driest places. Perhaps you can look under tree branches, rocks, dead trees anywhere rain and moisture can’t come.

If you don’t want to take those chances, then read some tips on what type of tinder to keep on you below. 

Types of tinder

There are numerous ways to create pre-made tinder. Here we discuss a few.

Fuzz stick or a ‘feather’ stick

a fuzz stick or a ‘feather’ is a stick of approximately half an inch/one-and-a-half centimeter in diameter with a ‘feathered’ top. This is a fuzz stick is made by hand and easy to do. 

There are two ways to go: Scrape down the outside bark a few inches/cm or split the stick in half using your knife to directly get to the dry wood. Now you have the dry wood. You can start making scrapings by gently cut into the stick.

Make sure that the woodshavings stick to the wood to create a fuzz stick. 

Of course, when the scrapings fall off, you can and should use this for your tinder.

Cotton balls with petroleum jelly

Take some ordinary cotton balls and smear them with petroleum jelly, like vaseline, to let them burn longer. Easy and straightforward though very handy when in need of tinder to create a wet wood fire. 

Thanks to the petroleum, the balls give off heat much longer, increasing your chances of igniting your fire. 

Dryer lint

Did you know that dryer lint is also perfect to start your fire? Especially when mixed with cooking oil or Petroleum jelly. 

Wetfire tinder

Although it is a name brand, Wetfire Tinder is the same as kerosine blocks or paraffine blocks firestarters. White in color due to the paraffine and easy to light.

Read more tinder options in our How to make a fire with our without matches blogpost.

Where to find dry twigs

It might be tricky to find dry sticks for a wet wood fire. The best places to look are under rocks, trees with a thick canopy, under stones, or maybe even under fallen trees. If you cannot find anything dry, then peel back the first few wet layers to get to the inner dryer wood.

Gather wood to create a wet wood fire

Create a wet wood fire: From 13 min it actually starts to get interesting

In humid conditions, it can be hard to find the right wood for a fire. Whatever you do, don’t use green wood to start your fire. Dry green wood (young wood) is still harder to ignite than older wood that is wet.

Green wood has a higher moisture content, which is also why it smokes a lot when lit. Suitable for smoke signals. Terrible for starting a fire. 

Find dry wood or expose it

When it is hard to find dry wood under rocks or large trees, look for wet wood that is not soaked. We can work with a little bit of moisture. 

Once you have found a branch, peel away the bark to get to the dry wood, or use a batoning method to get to the dry wood inside a log. 

The batoning method is generally used with slightly thicker sticks. But with anything over four inches or ten cm wide, it is advised to split the wood using an ax or maul. 

What do you need for the baton method to find dry wood?

  1. A sturdy knife
  2. a hard piece of wood.

When you have those items, you can place the knife on top of the log you want to split use the hard stick to slam the knife trough till the wood eventually breaks. Split both halves again, so you end up with four wood pieces. 

These inner parts are much dryer and will catch fire quickly. Therefore perfect for building out your wet wood fire.

You can also shave down the inner parts you just exposed. These shavings should be bone dry and quicker to lit so perfectly for tinder. 

Alright, so you have found all your equipment and wet wood for your fire. You have exposed the dry parts, and now it is time to build your fire structure. 

3 Methods to build a (wet wood) fire

In general, you can build a fire in any of the three ways mentioned below. However, we recommend a mix between two out of those three for a wet wood fire.

1. Teepee fire lay

With a teepee fire lay construction, you build the tinder like a teepee tent, leaving enough room for good airflow. Once the tinder is lit and the kindling starts to ignite, you’d want to use thicker sticks to build your teepee construction further.

2. The log cabin fire lay

With the log-cabin fire lay, you stack your kindling and logs in a square. You kind of building a chimney out of wood. It is essential to keep spaces between the logs to maintain good airflow. The best way to do this is to lay two twigs on the floor next to the tinder and put two other twigs at a 90 degrees angle on top of it (not touching the ground). Keep doing this till the kindling is stacked slightly higher than the tinder but giving you enough room to light it. 

3. The lean-to fire lay

The lean-to fire lay is a construction style for the lazy ;-). No, that is total BS, but you need to use a bigger log from the start to which you want to lean your kindling. As soon the kindling starts to catch fire and the logs heat up, the fire grows on its own. 

4. The best fire lay to create a wet wood fire

In our opinion, the best fire lay on how to create a wet wood fire is the mix between a teepee and log cabin construction. Here’s why. Use the teepee construction to build up your tinder with kindling. Make sure to keep airflow gaps between the twigs. 

Once you have the tinder and kindling teepee built, start using more giant sticks and branches to make a log cabin square around the teepee. Also, mind the air gaps. 

How it works: the heat of the fire existing by lighting the tinder and kindling will dry out the wet wood branches and sticks used in the log cabin. The heat will evaporate the last pieces of the moist inside, leaving a perfect piece of wood for your fire.

Once the pile collapses and the fire starts to smoke heavily? Then, use a long stick to get some air between logs and sticks. Usually, this will be sufficient for igniting the fire again. 

If you, for some odd reason, cannot start the fire again. Then, use the ember to re-ignite the fire by building it from the ground up using the method mentioned above. 

Do you want more info on how to start a fire without matches? Read this extensive guide. Or when you are looking for a more easy way to start a fire we have a blog post on that as well. Enjoy!

If you have other wet wood igniting tips or ideas then let us know! If you enjoyed this read, please help us get exposure by sharing this piece on your social media by clicking one of the buttons below. Thank you!

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Blogging about everything I learn regarding (urban)homesteading, off-grid, and outdoor living and what it takes to build my own CO2-neutral home, one-day ;-).

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