Starting a fire in wet and cold conditions

How to Start a Fire in the Rain or with Wet Wood (GUIDE)

Under good weather conditions, making a fire can be as simple as gathering dry wood from your surrounding area and lighting it up with a match. But when hiking, living outdoors or, more importantly, during a survival scenario, you have to be prepared to deal with adverse weather conditions.

In this article I will show you a couple of tips and tricks that you can learn to be able to start a fire in the rain or in wet conditions, to keep you warm and safer.

How to Start a Fire in the Rain

1. Finding Fuel

To build a fire, you need 3 elements: fuel, heat, and oxygen. This is the known Fire Triangle. You will probably never attempt to make a fire in an environment without oxygen, so the first step is to find fuel material that is dry or at least not too wet.

dry wood for fuel

Finding Dry Wood

Your first bet would be to check standing trees around you. Look for low hanging branches and see if you can find some that are still dry. Some thick and large trees, like pine trees, are able to protect what is under them from the water. Check for dead branches at ground level.

If you happen to spot a cave or overhang, you might try your luck there.

Try also to look for fallen trees that might have the underside still dry.

Fire Starters

Look out for something called fat wood – this is wood that has been soaked in tree resin. You can usually find something like this in cedar or pine stumps. It’s easily identifiable by its heavy tar smell.

Other natural fire starters you can look for are dry pine cones and needles, dry leaves or bark that you might be able to shave off from a tree trunk.

These are some last resort options if you find yourself in an unpredicted critical situation. Ideally, you should be prepared for these scenarios, by using a waterproof backpack where you can store good homemade fire starters. Some example of these are:

  • Paper
  • Cotton balls (even better if soaked in petroleum jelly)
  • Candles
  • Black Powder
  • Lint (put some lint into a cardboard egg hole and fill it with candle wax for extra flammability)

2. Heat

This is definitely not the time to be starting a fire like in the primitive days. You should be prepared with something to light the dry material you will use.

Waterproof match sticks and disposable lighters are some of the best options, but your supply will run out after a while

You should consider something to create a spark with, that you can keep with yourself all the time, like a magnesium block.

All of these items are small and not heavy, hence ideal to carry with you in your survival kit.

3. Starting the fire

The most important thing in these scenarios is to keep your fuel away from wet surfaces. Your dry materials can soak the moisture even from dump grounds, which will keep you from igniting your fire.

You are better off finding some kind of shelter, like a cave or a big rock that stands like a lean-to. You can also improvise a tarp between two close trees, but make sure it is hanging high enough.

If by some reason you have to build your fire on wet ground, create a dry surface first, with bark, stones or dry pieces of wood.

After having secured a dry enough environment, you can start building your fire. Start with the most flammable materials like sticks, paper or cotton, and then gradually add bigger pieces to it, as the fire gets stronger.

Once you get a good fire going, it will start to dry the surrounding area. You can use this opportunity to put wet supplies of wood and tinder near the fire to dry them out and use later, to keep the fire alive, or for the next time you want to build a fire.


It’s definitely harder to start a fire in the rain or in wet conditions, but it is not impossible if you know what you are doing.

Just make sure you have sufficient dry material and a good heat source, and you are ready to go. And don’t forget to find the right place for your fire too, especially if you are building it while it is still raining.

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