How to Make a Fire: Tips and Tricks

How to Make a Fire in Wet Conditions

In rain or snow, fire making becomes more important, and also more difficult. Here is where having homemade firestarters will be a great help for your tinder base. One method is to make a tripod of sticks over your chosen fire area and drape your jacket over the tripod to shelter the firebase. Carefully light your tinder, add some twigs, and remove your jacket. If the ground is exceedingly wet lay a base of large logs and sticks and start your fire on top of them.

Choosing Firewood

When and where possible, use old dried wood from conifers (evergreens) for starting fires. Dry cones are great for starting a fire. You may not have the time or the energy to go around and select wood, so burn what you can, get warm and safe and then look for more wood. Just remember that pine, cedar, spruce will start a fire quickly but burn swiftly.

Woods such as oak, ash and maple will burn longer but are more difficult to ignite. Aspen, birch and poplar are quite common and they make good fires as they burn hot but fairly fast. You don’t want wet or new wood; look around for downed trees or limbs. Whatever supply of wood you intend to have at hand to burn, gather at least 3 times more than you think you will need, experience shows that you will use it. Wood burns faster than you think.

Tinder for Making a Fire

You can make your own firestarter kit from lint, sawdust, etc. slightly saturated with charcoal lighter, kerosene, and carry it in used 35mm film canisters that have been sealed tightly with duct tape. Always have an “extra” supply of matches stored away for emergencies.

One easy home-made fire starting kit is to take two small zip-lock bags, insert 6 to 8 strike anywhere matches in one along with a small piece of emery paper or sandpaper to strike against in wet conditions. Add in a combination of dried wood shavings, purposely made or picked up on the trail. Seal this bag upside down inside the other bag, for maximum waterproof protection and keep it in your jacket pocket, not as a primary, but as a back up, just in case you ever need it.

There are a variety of fire starting kits available in your local camping/hunting store, pick one of these on your next visit as your emergency back up. Practice whatever methods of fire starting you choose at home in your backyard, so you know how it works.

As a safety suggestion, DO NOT rely on the disposable butane lighters to always function for you in the outdoors, as you can not always rely on them in wind and wet conditions. Also, if they slip out of your pocket and into the fire, you could have a potential explosive projectile. The problem with most lighters is that you cannot determine the fuel supply in them, and some disposable types will not light at higher elevations.


Read More About How to Make a Fire

Find more about how to make a fireLearn more about how to make a fire in the Winter 2012 issue of Living Ready magazine. In addition to tips and tricks on how to make a fire, this inaugural issue offers a wealth of practical survival information for the layperson.

Click here to read more about how to make a fire in Living Ready.

One thought on “How to Make a Fire: Tips and Tricks

  1. bigsilk

    Looks like quite a bit of work, and petroleum jelly works better, but I use cotton balls:

    You’ll need a small saucepan, tongs, a baking tray, paper towels, petroleum jelly, cotton balls and a pill bottle.

    Over VERY low heat, add a couple of tablespoons of petroleum jelly to the saucepan until it melts. Turn off the heat. Toss in a couple of cotton balls and use the tongs to absorb the pj. Once saturated, remove them with the tongs and put them on the paper towel-lined baking tray until cool. Repeat until you have, say, 10. When they’re all cool, put them in the pill bottle.

    These will give you 8-10 minutes of flame, more than enough time to get an inferno going…

    And if you live in such an area, white bitch bark is flammable. Only gather downed bark. I cut mine into two-inch squares. When starting a fire, I put a square under the cotton ball fire starters. My shtf fire starting kit consists of a freezer bag filled with a dozen or so bark pieces, two lighters, matches in a WP bottle, and a bottle of those cotton balls.

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