How to start a fire when the wood is wet

July 4, 2022

multi-day hike

There is nothing like sitting around a campfire whether you are camping with family or friends or on a South Australia school camp. But what happens when the weather is wet and so is your firewood?

Dealing with wet firewood while camping can drain the fun out of camping, but check your options before giving up. The article below will give you tips to turn this common hurdle into a critical skill in your next South Australia school camp or outdoor camp.

These are the materials you would need:

Tinder: These are easily lit materials that are quick-burning, helping you ignite a small fire. Collect newspaper, crumpled paper, and dry grass. 

Kindling: Collect dry twigs, which are usually plentiful, and are less than a finger’s thickness. Whittle wet twigs to the dry centre.

Fire Lighters: Plan ahead and pack fire lighters. These are an item comprising of a mixture of a liquid hydrocarbon and lignite. The liquid hydrocarbon is usually kerosene. The lignite component has the effect of extending the bum time and lowering the flame height, thereby increasing the combustion efficiency.

Wood: It is fine if the wood you collected is a bit damp in some places as the heat from the fire will absorb smaller amounts of moisture quickly. However do not include any sort of green wood (freshly cut wood from a living tree) as it would emit lots of smoke and is no help at all.

Steps to lighting a campfire in wet weather:

1. The secret to using damp or wet wood to begin with is lots of heat, and that means extra kindling. It is said that the most critical part is not igniting the fire, but the preparations to maintain the initial fire burning. So collect some big rocks, or even logs if possible, to form a stable platform that will keep your formation of tinder, kindling, and small and large logs off the ground and away from any water.

2. Cut the dry kindling into fine strips, and form these into a small teepee on top of the rocks with as much tinder material as possible. If you have a good axe, you can split damp wood to recover the dry inner core and add the chips to your tinder and kindling.

3. As mentioned, the tinder with kindling on top is at the centre of the formation. And the interlocking bigger logs form a teepee over the tinder and kindling. They are interlocked to provide airflow for the middle. Ensure the entire stack is ready and prepared; it would be a waste of effort if you try lighting the tinder first and then pile afterwards the stack over the open flame.

4. As you ignite the tinder or use the fire starter, you want to get a lot of flame going. But try not to smother your tinder, airflow is important. Once you have hot coals glowing, there is now enough heat to dry out the surrounding wood.

Happy Camping!

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