How to Light Wet Firewood? My One Ultimate Guide


There were so many times I had to deal with these annoying wet firewoods during my campings. At first, I was trying to avoid campfires – I just thought it was impossible for a damp log to catch fire (let’s be honest, I’ve made a lot of mistakes during my first hikes). Although, after a while, I’ve decided to dig a little deeper into it – that was when I found the answer to my ongoing question – how to light wet firewood?

To light wet firewood, you should first clean up the surface underneath, making it as dry as possible. Then, you should place a decent amount of kindling and tinder, preferred in the shape of a teepee, between the wet logs (try cutting their wetter, outer layer). Also, you should use flammable materials, such as waxed cardboard, synthetic logs, fatwoods, and magnesium starters.

If none of these had worked, you might try searching for scattered dry woods nearby.

Clean Up The Surface

Before anything else, you should first make sure you are working on dry foundations. It would be a waste if you make all the necessary efforts, yet, your fire went out due to soggy ground.

The first thing you should do is finding shelter. It doesn’t matter if it is not currently raining – in a case the firewood is wet – rain may still surprise you. 

Try not to be too exposed, perhaps full tree tops would do the work. Although you should also make sure they are not too low, so they won’t catch fire.

Once you found a shelter, check out the ground underneath – if it’s wet – try creating a small pit. 

There would be wise since sometimes only the external surface is wet, mainly when it wasn’t too rainy.

Make sure to remove any wet rocks or branches from your pit – they could quickly ruin the fire once started.

Use a Great Amount of Kindling

Kindling is the critical component that would start up your fire. For those of you who are not familiar – it is the thin, small pieces of wood could be found easily on the ground.

These catches fire extremely fast due to their rare appearance – basically, the thicker the material, the slower it lights up.

To increase the chances the wet firewood would catch fire, you should use a decent amount of kindling. If you have already collected a few, try double or triple it by breaking them down to pieces. 

It doesn’t create the same effect when there is only a few since when organized in a mass, each wood would ignite it’s neighbor, creating the desired flame eventually.

Build a Teepee Before Lightning

When organizing the kindling mentioned above, you should make sure to arrange them in the shape of a cone-tent. 

The idea behind this technique is maintaining air flow. When organized in an unorganized mass, there is no way in which air could get in, resulting in fire suffocation.

A teepee structure, however, is different – it features a broad base, which would allow oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide emission.

The next step is probably apparent, although very easy to miss. You absolutely should not ignite your materials before finishing organizing it thoroughly. 

Once it lit up, there is no going back – rearrangements may cause burns. So collect the right kindling, preferred dry, form a teepee and only then light them up.

Prepare Tinder

One way to start a fire quickly is by using tinder. Its thin structure turn it impressively consumable since the surface area it features is vast and widely exposed to air flow.

You may buy it upfront; however, it is quite easy to make by yourself. 

The best way to do so is by using dead tree branches which have not fallen to the ground yet. That is because dryness is crucial, and those who already touched the field may be a little soaked in water.

Once you have collected the right branches, just use a sharp knife to create thin slivers gradually. Besides, tinder could be found in preorganized kits, for natural fire starting.

The thinner you make them, the higher the chances of them catching fire later on. Then, just wrap them up together in the shape of a feather stick so they will be able to ignite altogether.

Once this is done, put the tinder inside the teepee you’ve already made before and light the whole package up.

Maintain Airflow

A crucial component in starting a fire is maintaining airflow as much as possible.

It is a common misbelief that air might damage our lightning since a strong wind might extinguish it completely.

Well, that is partially true – a wind which is too strong may interrupt at the beginning – when the fire is still small.

Yet, even then, air is required to the burning process. Later on, when the fire has already caught up, a strong wind would only be on your favor.

For that, you should stick to open places, which are exposed to wind flow. Do not start a fire behind a hill, a building or in an area surrounded by trees – they will only block any airflow. 

Also, try to avoid starting a campfire next to lakes or water streams. It is essential to keep water close in a case things beginning to go wrong. However, these places tend to be humid and would harm your fire.

Act Fast

When starting a fire, especially in wet conditions – it is essential to act fast. The reason damp firewood doesn’t catch fire is apparently due to the presence of water on it.

For that reason, the sooner you will be able to dry it out, the sooner fire will be coughed.

When warmth gradually accumulates, water will begin to evaporate faster – even when the firewood is only partially on fire. 

Accordingly, the evaporation would allow more firewood to catch fire and warmth to grow bigger and bigger.

That sort of a cycle is in your favor, and it would start on only when lightning a fire quickly.

Cut Out The Wet Layer

It is very common to come across wet firewood and branches when camping. Even if it hasn’t been raining on the day of arrival – damp would probably still be there for several days.

If it were raining for a couple of days, wood would probably be wet entirely, and using it might be challenging.

Nevertheless, in a case it was raining just recently – there is a good chance the inner layers are still dry. 

There are several ways to know how wet wood is. If its a branch we are talking about, you might try to bend it over and see how elastic it is.

In a case you are able to bend it completely – it’s probably soaked with water entirely. Although if it breaks easily beforehand, the inner part is perhaps still dry and might be used.

The best way to take advantage of this is by peeling the outer layer with a sharp knife. 

You shouldn’t exaggerate it, though, since the most problematic layer is usually the most superficial one.

Search For Dry Wood

From my experience, dry wood can still be found even at the end of a rainy night.

If you are planning on camping at the same place for several days and suddenly caught up by the rain – do not give up on fire just yet.

There are several places in which searching for dry wood could be wise. On my campings, I used to look for it at the bottom of mother nature’s piles.

It could be underneath leaves, dirt, rocks or even relics which are covered from above. As long as the wood got sort of protection above it – there is a chance to find it when it is still dry. 

If you were able to find some, however, they felt a little wet to you – try peeling the outer layer as described above.

Use Inflammable Materials

Sometimes conventional techniques are just not enough. I will admit now, there were several cases which none of the methods above actually worked.

It used to work for me when conditions weren’t that bad, and the firewood was still dry in some parts.

If the weather is not on your favor, rain keeps on pouring, and the ground is soaked wet – perhaps you need to take more severe means. 

That is the point when I’ll advise you on using some combustible materials, which provide that extra push so badly needed.

Waxed Cardboard

A great technique I was personally using it igniting wet wood using waxed cardboard.

What I liked about these is that they are themselves water resistant, turning them ideal when dealing with wet firewood. 

Waxed cardboards are actually multi-layered, combustible products, covered in wax to guarantee that precise water resistance.

Synthetic Firelogs

What I like about artificial logs is that they are so simple to use.

They are made from synthetic materials, such as post-industrial sawdust, cellulose, and waxes – turning them environmentally friendly.

They usually burn steadily for two to three hours, and once done – they leave only a small pile of ash.

 In my opinion, they are the best answer when it comes to camping with a vehicle, since you can just buy them up front and bring them straight to the campsite. 

This way you won’t have to rely on firewood which is already there and probably wet. Duraflame is the one I’ve personally used and just couldn’t get enough for my campings when wood was needed.

Fatwood

Fatwood isn’t something I’ve personally used, however, reading about it across the internet made me wish I had.

These little sticks are made from splitting the stumps of pine trees. These, in turn, contain a decent amount of natural resin which is impressively inflammable. 

The one thing I’ve found nice about them is that they are 100% natural, with no chemicals involvement.

Apparently, they are not affected by moisture and can be started with a match even in a wet condition. There is no doubt I am willing to try these on my next adventures.

Magnesium Starter

This one is one of my favorite ‘just in case’ things to have in my backpack for emergency situations.

I like these because they are cheap, waterproof, reliable and ideal for the common wet firewood condition. 

The Magnesium serves as fuel to your fire – just scrape off a few shavings from the block that comes with it.

If you have packed matches – simply ignite the whole thing and watch the magic happens.

In a case you are short with matches, you may also create sparks by striking your knife on the ferrocerium metal – that would serve the same purpose.

What is so special with Magnesium is that it is able to reach 5,600 degrees when burning – with that much heat, you will be able to ignite a thick log and even wet firewood.

How to Stash Firewood Without it Getting Wet?

Let’s say you are planning on camping and you wish to use some firewood you’ve already stocked back home.

Frankly, you shouldn’t do anything special with its storage, even if its usage is months away. The standard and the suitable way is piling it up, so it doesn’t accumulate water that much. 

It is okay for the logs at the bottom and top to get damp, you may use those in the middle instead.

When the fire finally catches up, you may add these which are a little wetter – the water will evaporate quickly enough.

Are Inflammable Materials Bad For My Health?

Let’s admit it – camping features enough dangers already; obviously, we wouldn’t wish to add some of our own.

Well, the answer for that depends on the particular material which is being ignited. Those which are made with natural materials are considered safer. 

However, that might not be the case for synthetic materials. The list goes on, and on so I will focus on these I’ve already mentioned above.

Magnesium fumes, for example, were not appropriately researched. I’ve been searching across the internet quite a lot and found only limited data.

Yet, some resources indicated that its fumes might cause metal fume fever, which could be expressed with fever, chills, nausea, vomiting and muscle pain.

The data about Synthetic Log and Waxed Cardboard was also limited, without any detectable warnings.

If I had to choose one material to go with, concerning health caring, I would probably pick the Fatwood, which is 100% natural.

Conclusions

Wet firewoods is a common, yet manageable issue most of us would encounter at some point.

When you encounter a wet log, you should first know how soaked is it. Perhaps it is only wet on the outside – just cut down a piece and look at the inside.

In a case the inner is still dry – you should always consider using it.

When starting a campfire in wet conditions, first make sure to clean its foundations, or perhaps even find appropriate shelter.

Creating a small pit may also be wise to protect your fire. I would also recommend you to use lots of kindling and tinder since these are the materials that would get your fire started.

You should keep a place which is well ventilated, to provide sufficient airflow to keep your fire going.

Keep in mind that the sooner you get your fire started, the sooner water would evaporate from the wet logs, allowing additional light to take place.

I hope you have found your answer by reading this article. If you didn’t, let me know about you hesitations by leaving a comment below!

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