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If you’re out camping or hiking you can’t always guarantee perfect weather for the trip. Depending on where you are or the time of year, heavy rain may well set in while you are out in the wilderness.
However, the outdoor fun need not be cut short, (in many instances you might not even have a choice). If you’re out and the elements are working against you a fire to keep warm actually becomes more important.
So how do you start a fire if everything around you is wet? It is an important skill to master, and one we look into now.
Step 1: Gear you need
The following gear should be part of your kit bag when heading out into the wild for a day or more:
A Sharp knife – an essential item for any outdoors-man. You will use the knife to split wood down to dry kindling, and to make fire starting wood shavings
A small Folding saw – a great tool for campers. A folding saw will pack away in the backpack, and is ideal for sawing wood for the fire.
Hatchet – not essential, but useful for splitting larger pieces of wood
The really prepared may also pack chemical fire-starters, or cigar-sized, home-made paper logs.
With these items in your bag you will be a few steps ahead when it comes to building that fire in the rain.
Step 2: Collecting the wood
A dead downed tree is your friend here. Using your folding saw, saw off a thick limb from the tree. If you do not have a saw, it may be possible to crack off a branch using good old leverage and body weight, (propping the branch in position and kicking down on it using your weight).
As long as the wood is not soaked through, you can use it. If there’s damp wood near the bark, this can easily be cut away when you begin splitting the wood into kindling with your knife.
Using your saw, create foot long sections from the wood you have collected. Then, to split this into kindling thinner wood can be split along the top with your knife. A good whack will then drive the split along the length of the wood, essentially splintering into 2 or more pieces.
If you are splitting larger log sized pieces of wood you will need a hatchet to do this.
Save larger pieces of wood for the main fuel of your roaring fire.
Discard all wet bark and any sections of wood that have absorbed too much rain water, (very often the wood near the bark).
On some of the thinner pieces of kindling you have created, use your knife to create a bunch of wood shavings to use as fire-starting tinder.
Gather your wood into 3 individual piles (somewhere dry and out of the rain); Larger logs for the fuel, split kindling for getting the fire going, and the shavings for starting.
Remove your other fire-starting accessories from your bag (i.e the lighter, any flammable paper you may have to use, and/or chemical firestarters).
Now it’s time to move onto the most important stage of all:
Step 4: Building the fire
If the rain is very bad, you will need to prepare your fire under some form of cover. This could be your water proof coat held over your head, some tarp the entrance to your tent, anything to keep the water from soaking your tinder.
Once you have done all you can to keep the rain off your materials, you should do the following:
To raise the fire off the ground and to allow air beneath the tinder, you first build a support base. Place two parallel sticks half a foot apart on the floor. Create a grate using 4 or 5 sticks placed on top of your ground sticks.
Stack an inch-thick layer of tinder shavings on top of your base.
Use two larger sticks to place across the end of your base structure – these will support the larger logs that will go on to the fire last.
Create a wood pyramid over the tinder shavings with your split kindling. Add some of the chemical fire-starters, or cigar rolled paper logs into the mix.
Now it is time to apply the match. Light the thin shavings from beneath, using the space you have under the base. Make sure air can flow through underneath.
Keep adding more shavings until the kindling has caught and you have strong enough flames that will hold.
Now you can add more kindling to raise the fire to levels that can accommodate the larger logs.
The raised firebase will help maintain the air flow. This in turn ensures the blaze can survive the wet conditions for a fire that will last.