How to build a fire in any weather

By Marion Fernandez
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How to build a fire in any weather

Marion Fernandez
 
 
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As much as we all plan for our camping trips, sometimes the weather is not as agreeable as we would like it to be. Regardless of the weather, unless you have a gas-fueled stove, you will want a campfire to cook food and keep you and your companions warm.

Whether it is wet, sunny, cold, or hot, you can be prepared to build a fire in any circumstance if you bring fire knowledge with you on your next campout.

When it’s Wet

Starting a fire is not always easy, but well worth the effort
Starting a fire is not always easy, but well worth the effort

Trying to build a fire when it is wet out can be frustrating and is a potentially agonizing process. But it is possible. Before you head out camping, make sure you pack waterproof matches or a flint and steel as these will work even when damp, and bring some form of tinder and some dry kindling along on the trip.

Examples of good tinder include:

  • Cotton balls coated in petroleum jelly
  • Laundry dryer lint
  • Fire starter cubes
  • Finely shredded coconut husk

Carrying a magnesium fire starter will just give you extra insurance. Scrape off some shavings with a knife and lay them under and in the tinder, but be aware that they will burn quickly. Building a fire in wet weather is harder when the wood is wet. You will need to find wood that is full of pitch, which could be a concern if you are in a non-gathering area. Pine, spruce, fir, and other evergreens often have pitch within their wood, which is incredibly flammable. You should build your fire up in a teepee formation as well because a flat fire will not be able to get its kindling hot enough to ignite.

A fire will help you warm up and dry out after a wet day hiking
A fire will help you warm up and dry out after a wet day hiking

Peeling any bark off the wood will give you a better chance it will light. Pay attention to the direction the wind is blowing as well, because lighting from the windward side will help the flames move through the fire, helping it build heat and encouraging your bulkwood to catch.

In order to really get this going, your fire will need good tinder a lot of kindling. Loading it up with tinder will give the wet wood more of a chance to catch fire. Last but not least, you should avoid a fire pit if there is one there for you use since there is a good chance it is full of water. Instead, build a dirt mound and make your fire there.

When it’s Hot

Take precautions to keep your fire well contained in dry conditions
Take precautions to keep your fire well contained in dry conditions

While building a fire when it is wet is a concern, there are also precautions you should take when it is very hot outside. The heat of summer is the prime time for wildfires and you do not want to be the reason a forest catches on fire. To start with, check to make sure that fires are even permitted. If you are camping in prime fire season, your area may have a ban on fires or your campground could state they are not permitted.

If they are allowed, check out the wind before you get started. A fire could get carried away easily if the wind is high and you could be in a lot of trouble. Clear out the area where you are building a fire to be sure that there are not any loose sticks that could ignite. Place rocks around the pit to give extra security that the fire will not decide to jump. Extra wood should be stacked away from the fire itself for the same reason.

Nothing beats sitting around the campfire
Nothing beats sitting around the campfire

For any fire, you should have a bucket of water and a shovel nearby to put out the fire quickly and safely if you need to. Do not use fuel. While lighter fluid may make starting a fire quicker, you may be burning a hot fire that you could lose control over.

Bottom line when it comes to any campfire is to be aware, be safe, and be prepared for all weather.

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