Even the most indoorsy of people know that wet wood is not the ideal fuel for a fire. In a perfect world, you want solid logs of dry wood, but we do not live in a perfect world. Especially in a wilderness survival situation, we must sometimes make do with whatever we have available. If you’re in a situation where you need to get a fire roaring in less than ideal circumstances, wet wood can be difficult to use, but it’s not impossible!
The first thing you want to do is start with dry tinder. Any light, dry or flammable material can be used as a fire catalyst. Some examples include cotton balls and petroleum jelly, paper, char cloth or wood shavings. Any one of these types of tinder can be packed away beforehand and kept in your pack in a zipper bag or sealed container to keep dry place just in case you get stuck in a rainy or snowy situation.
You’ll also want to build a fire bed to keep your fire off the wet ground as you get started. You can set up a simple arrangement with a few rocks or even some nearby larger timbers. This will also keep your tinder materials off the ground, minimizing the chance that they might absorb moisture from the wet or snowy ground.
You also want to give you fire sustenance, which is where kindling comes in. While finding your fire bed materials, try to pick out the driest pieces, like twigs and branches, to help get your fire going. Tinder is light and burns quickly, so kindling should be available right away to help keep the fire going.
Logs are the last bit, and if these are soaked, it’s important to try to dry them out as much as possible. Dead trees that have not yet fallen are an excellent source of logs, and may often provide a drier option than logs on the ground. If all the wood you can find is wet, bring some logs near the fire to dry off as the tinder and kindling take off and try to introduce the damp log gradually, burning from one end while drying the rest out. This can also help you dry other logs as it slowly burns, making adding further logs easier later on.
Hopefully you’ll never be stuck in the rain or snow and needing to start a fire with wet wood, but if you are, these tips will help immensely. Happy trails from Tom and Michel!