A lot of people simply abandon the idea of building a fire if they only have wet wood, but with some work, you will be able to make a fire even with wood that is wet. If you find yourself in the wilderness, without any shelter then it is extremely important to have a source of heat. Although wet wood is not ideal for starting a fire, but with some improvisation, you will be able to start a fire even with wet wood.
You can start a fire with wet wood by making sure that the area where you will make the fire is actually dry, get the wet firewood and start shaving off the wet parts until you have dry firewood. Under no circumstances pour gasoline or other flammable substances on wet wood to make a fire, as it might end up actually exploding and the fuel will not burn long enough to dry out the wet wood.
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Starting a fire with wet wood is fairly hard, a lot of people will tell you to use fuel like petroleum jelly, the problem is that you will have to use a lot of it and that will still not guarantee you that your fire will start. By using fuel you will get the fire going for a couple of minutes, but this will burn out fairly fast and it will not make enough heat to make the water in the wood evaporate.
If you have ever tried setting fire to wet wood then you have probably already noticed that once the wood gets hot enough it will make a lot of noise as the water starts to evaporate and oftentimes you will see this water bubbling out from the ends of the wood. Some of this water from the wood will evaporate, the problem is that some of it will actually drop onto the base of your fire, which will extinguish the fire coming from below.
Some people will also tell you to get as many dry twigs or paper as you can and use this as the base of your fire and simply place the wet wood on them and the fire will dry the wood off. The problem with this is that small twigs and paper will burn fairly fast and it will not give off enough heat to make the wood dry off. In addition to this, the water from the wet wood will start dripping down on the fire made from the twigs which will stop the fire from burning in most cases.
There are a lot of survival techniques, in my opinion, one of the most important of them is to know how to start a fire with wet wood. Generally speaking, it is a good idea to have the wood in a dry place, although this is not always possible, especially if you are somewhere in the wild. If you have bought wet firewood, then your best option will be to let them dry off, and most importantly to never mix it with your dry wood. If you want to use a fire for cooking, then you should probably know that you do not actually need fire or even electricity to cook food, for more information check out my recent article How to cook food without fire and electricity? ( Top 5 Methods ).
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If you have wet wood then make sure that the base of the fire is dry
If you want to know how to make a fire when everything is wet then preparing the base of your fire is extremely important. Most people will make the big mistake of making the fire directly on the ground or even in a small ditch, people who often made a small fire will generally use the same place for a fire. The problem is that ash is extremely good at absorbing water, even if you had a previous fire burning there a couple of days ago, but if it has rained since then the ash will be full of water.
You have probably made the mistake a couple of times where you were using dry wood to start a fire on a wet surface, and you have probably noticed how hard it is to maintain the fire. If you are making a fire outside then you will need to find a dry place where you can do this.
Some people will scrape off the top of the soil and build the fire there, the problem is that if the soil is wet then you will have to dig a lot lower to have a dry environment for your fire. My personal recommendation is to use rocks, find a couple of flat rocks, the larger the better, and place them in such a way that the fire which you will build on top of it will not come in contact with the ground as this is probably still wet. If you are building a fire just to keep you warm, then you should read my recent article ( Top 15 ) Best alternative heat sources during power outage.
Get the right firewood even if it is wet
I am not going to say that you should go and get dry wood, as you probably already know this. But the problem most of the time is that there are different types of wet wood, with some you can start a fie, but with others, you will see that it is impossible. No matter if it is raining or the ground is covered with snow, you will still be able to find wood that is not so wet. A lot of people when searching for firewood make the mistake of picking up the wood right from the ground, while this is ok if the area is fairly dry, but if it has recently snowed or rained then this is probably the worst wood you can use for building a fire.
The wet wood which is on the ground has probably started to rot, and as the wood is starting to break down and decompose it will allow the water to be absorbed deeper into the wood. If you try to use rotten and wet wood for a fire you will notice that even after a couple of hours of the fire burning this wood will still not catch on fire, and it will slowly turn into charcoal. My recommendation is to get wood that isn’t in direct contact with the ground, as these will be a lot less wet than the wood which is the ground.
If the wood isn’t in contact with the ground but is covered with snow, then you can still use them as snow is excellent in absorbing water. If you have termites in your firewood then check out my recent article Termites in firewood ( How to get rid of them? ).
Shave the wet parts off the wood
If you have some wood that was not in contact with the ground you will notice that it will still be somewhat wet. The good news is that the inside of the wood will be fairly dry, and you will just have to expose the dry area of the wood. Get a good knife or a small hatchet and start shaving the wood and remove its outer layers.
Do not throw away the shavings as you will use them later, and make sure that you place them somewhere that it is dry. Once you got to the dry part of the wood, continue shaving as these dry shavings will be your fire starter. As for how much wood you should shave depends on what you will want to use the fire for, for cooking, you could be well off by shaving a couple of wet wood, but for building a fire which you will use for the heat, then you will probably need a lot more.
Just keep in mind that you will have to shave 2-3 pieces of wood almost entirely to have dry wood shavings, the remaining wood you should still shave but only to remove the wet parts of it.
How to build the fire with wet wood
Let us a recap, till now you have an area with rocks on which you will build your fire, you have some dry wood shavings and some shaved wood which is fairly dry. Now all you have to do is to build your fire, the base of your fire is the most important part, if you do not set this up correctly then you will struggle to make fire no matter if the wood is wet or dry. Place the dry shavings on the flat rock, do not spread it out too thinly.
There are a lot of ways on how to build a fire, generally speaking, you should end up with a pyramid-shaped build. The wood shod be placed almost vertically as this is the best position for them to burn. If you just throw some wood on the wood shavings or kindling you might still be able to make a fire but you will probably struggle. When building the fire you will probably improvise just keep in mind that it should have the shape of a pyramid.
The main reason why it has to have a pyramid shape is that fire burns upwards, as you set fire to the wood shaving the fire will ignite all the wood which is above it. When I build a fire, in addition to making a thick bed of wood shavings, I also put a handful of these shavings in the middle, and I put the wood in a pyramid shape. If you do this, then once you will ignite the wood shavings you will notice that the fire will have a core that propagates a lot of heat and making the fire burn a lot easier. If you want to know how to store firewood in your garage then check out my recent article Storing firewood in garage ( In 8 Easy Steps ).
How to ignite the fire with wet wood
Now you should be fine just to set fire to the wood shavings and kindlings with a match or two. You can also use, petroleum jelly, char cloth, magnesium bars, paraffin wax, and steel wool as this will ignite the fire a lot faster. Generally speaking, you will not be needing these unless it started to rain or it is windy outside. Always light the fire from the base of your fire build and make sure you light it from as many different angles as possible, this will give you a more uniform burn.
Dry out the wet wood
Once you got the fire started it is a good idea to start thinking about the wood which you will be using for the fire sometime later. The big mistake which some people make is that they will put some wet wood on the fire, thinking that this will dry them off, it will probably just extinguish your fire. What you should do instead, is to get a couple of rocks and surround your fire with them. You will notice that the rocks will start heating up in a couple of minutes.
Now get your wet wood and place it next to the hot rocks outside of your fire, it will take a couple of hours but if you have done everything correctly then the wood should dry in a couple of hours. If you are camping outdoors then you can also use these rocks to heat you up during the night, simply take some of these rocks and put some dirt on them so that they form a flat surface. Now just put your sleeping bag on it and you will be heated from the ground for several hours. Just make sure that you use a high-quality sleeping bag as some of them will actually melt.
If you want to know what your options for sleeping bags are, and which one I personally recommend, then check out my recent article ( Top 19 ) Alternatives to sleeping bags.
As you can see you have plenty of options on how you can start a fire with wet wood. Just keep in mind to have a small hatchet and a good knife with which you will make the kindling and the wood shavings, without them you will struggle to make a fire with wet wood.