Starting Camp Fire With Wet Wood

JimW67

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What is the best way to start a fire with wet wood? During the winter months it is harder to find dry wood. At times this has been a real challenge and I am wondering if anyone has some rock solid methods?
 

Cappy

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This is a car camping trick. I've used many times, if ya wood is wet and ya have a dry fire p;it I start a lil pile of store bought charcoal and then place damp wood on top the charcoal dries the woold and also is a wonderful start to a bed of coals if ya planning on camp fire cooking. Our wood pile in the yard was very damp yesterday, so I started our fire pit that way for our bbq. Works like a champ, with out that pile of charcoal who knows how much "boy scout water" fanning cursing sweating it woulda took to light the soggy pile of wood we had. once ya have a start remember to place ya spare wood close to dry too.
 

ppine

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The tried and true method for lighting wet wood is to find some dry wood. Split some logs and take the dry part out of the center. Find some wood protected by overhanging branches. Once the fire is going, put your next logs near the fire to dry them out before going on the fire.

You can use a welding torch, road flares, or a flame thrower, but some day you are going to without that stuff and need to go back to basics.

Cappys method is practical and works well. I like the briquettes with the lighter already in them. Pulling out some dry charcoal from your truck can make all the difference. In a canoe or with a backpack, see the first paragraph.
 

Theo

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If you search the internet, you'll find there are a thousand and one ways to start a fire with wet wood. Look at the various ways and decide which ones might work for you and your environment. Then as with any bushcrafting skill, practice, practice, practice. Confidence in your ability to accomplish a skill is 90% of the battle. I have condensed my backcountry fire kit to what will fit in an Altoids tin. It has everything I need to start a fire and I have the confidence that I can start a fire with 100% of the time, Murphy not withstanding. For car camping, charcoal lighter fluid works well for me.
 

stm1957

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Back in the 70's, firecraft was the first and most important skill that the "National Leadership School " taught, as a small campfire was the primary way that breakfast and supper were cooked. Regardless of whether it was pouring rain or snowing heavily, we always managed to get a fire going. The trick was finding dry tinder, and at least partially dry kindling. If you know where to camp, and then where to look for tinder and kindling, a modest fire is always doable (that is in my experience). It's still the most important thing that I took away from my NOLS experience.

The only time we were allowed to use our Optimus 111 stoves was when we were above tree-line.

And forget (back then) trying to use stove fuel, to start a campfire at any time... bad, bad puppy!
 
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wvbreamfisherman

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I've found that a few ounces of gasoline, or a railroad flare do the job quite nicely...

(Styrofoam softened with gasoline to a jelly-like consistency and kept in a Ziploc bag- Anarchist Cookbook Napalm LOL- is also very efficient (and smokey as Hell).

Barring that, the best thing to do would be to split up the wood to get some small, dry pieces, get them going, and use the resulting small fire to dry some slightly bigger pieces so they will ignite. Repeat until you have a decent fire.
 

offtrail

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It's funny you find it hard to get dry wood in the winter time. Around here in Ohio dry wood is best found in late fall and all through winter. Here is a trick I use if you don't mind using rubber intertube. Cut some small squares 1x1 inch from bike intertube, light these babies and you will have a fire going in no time. I would however only use these during an emergency, when a fire is needed for life or limb. Like others have stated, dry wood can be found if you know where to look. In wet conditions look for pine pitch or fat wood. Also don't forget Birch bark ,it's great stuff when you find it hard to get a fire going. Some people here may disagree with this next statment and that is fine, no problem here but. Fire is never a sure thing, you do what you can to stack the odds in your favor. One day you will find no matter how good you are fire will elude you, a lesson that is hard to swallow. This is why we carry fire preps to make sure a no go is far and few between.
 

Grandpa

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Damp dead grass for tinder? Rub it vigorously for a few minutes. The friction heat of the rubbing helps dry it out and the rubbing breaks it down for more inner surface, similar to splitting wood.

Plan ahead. If you are going to the Olympic penninsula et al, better take plenty of your favorite fire assist. For most summer camping, a bic is sufficient. Summer showers usually don't saturate wood that bad. As others have said. The necessary stuff is out there if you know where to look and how to use it. If you think you may have a need for a bad weather fire, practice, practice, practice when your life is not on the line.

When cold and hungry, a fire takes energy to build and maintain. Is it worth it? It does bring warmth and peace of mind. Definately reassuring to have a good fire but only you can determine if the energy used to build it is worth while. I've told the story in here about the time a wicked front moved in the morning of the opening day of hunting season. Several men died that day. One man was found about 1/4 of a mile from where is wife and kids were waiting in the car. He had been trying to start a fire with a $20 bill as tinder. If he had used that last bit of energy to reach the car instead of starting a fire would he have made it?
 

ppine

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Nearly everyone thinks they are good with fire until they spend some time in places like the Olympic Peninsula, the high Cascades or SE Alaska. Then the sheep get separated from the goats.

One group I have found that are surprisingly crummy with fire starting are firefighters. I always kid them about it and tell them they are great at putting out fires, but bad at starting them. If you need gasoline or a fire starting kit you are probably not as skilled as you think you are.
 

dinosaur

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I like offtrail's post. I was only presented with this problem on one occasion. Everything was wet. I found some pines. The nettles under them were soaked so I couldn't use them. So, I cut off those twigs that stick out at the low end of the tree and are sticky. These made for great firestarters and they'll dry out small pieces of kindling enough so they'll burn then you just use ppine's advice and dry out the bigger stuff with the fire you have. It worked for me and before too long I had a blazing fire and a bunch of wood drying next to it. It's really kind of cool to watch the steam rise from the wood you're going to be using next.

You all take care.
 

ppine

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It is worth mentioning the "Alaskan log fire" method again. In wet conditions with no tarp or overhang, build the fire really tall in a square like the old Lincoln logs. All of that wood protects the fire from the rain and preheats the fuel. You can feel the heat thru wet rain gear.
 
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wvbreamfisherman

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I'm wondering what keeps the gasoline-styrofoam goo from degrading the ziploc bag? What a dangerous mess that would be.
Ziploc bags are made from polyethylene, which is not affected by solvents such as gasoline (or many others, really- even aggressive stuff like Tetrahydrofuran or Dimethyl Formamide. That's why many, many chemicals are shipped and stored in polyethylene.) If I were going to use that combo, I'd use a heavy duty, double loc bag though.
 
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