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5 Tips to Help Start a Fire with Wet Wood 

In a camping or survival situation, needing to start a fire with wet wood can be a bit of a nightmare. However, in urgent situations where your surrounding environment is wet and potentially cool, it’s important to be able to get that life-saving warmth going. 

A lot of smoke is created when you start a fire with wet wood
A lot of smoke is created when you start a fire with wet wood

Can You Start A Fire With Wet Wood? 

The short answer is yes. It is possible to start a fire using wet wood, although it isn’t the easiest task. It will require feeding the fire for longer, and making sure that some of your tools including kindling are dry. In fact, you need to plan to use nearly four times as much kindling to get your fire going.  

However, that doesn’t make it impossible. By following the tips and ways provided through this article, you’re going to find that it is something that can be done if you find yourself needing the warmth of a fire in a pinch.  

Now, we are talking about wet dead wood that’s gotten wet. This isn’t green wood that is still healthy and alive, because that is never going to burn correctly. It just creates a lot of smoke and doesn’t do the job. It isn’t worth the effort.  

Use Extra Kindling

Make the fire in nature
A good kindling pile will be useful when you start a fire with wet wood

The first way to get a fire going with wet wood is the most obvious one…Kindling. Kindling is small bits of wood shavings or thin pieces of wood that can be used to build up a larger fire. It’s best if the kindling itself is dry, as that is going to help accelerate the process. 

Just know that kindling itself isn’t going to be able to do the job quickly. It’s going to take nearly four times more kindling to get a wet wood fire going than if this were being done in dry conditions.  

The best way to find kindling that is dry is to search in the underbrush, or under larger logs and piles of wood that have managed to protect what’s underneath from too much water.  

Dry kindling is important if you want to be able to get things going as easily as possible. It’s well worth the effort even if it’s going to take more to get the job done.  

Tinder Is Important

While kindling tends to be more dry wood, tinder can be toilet paper, sticks, newspaper, steel wool, cotton balls coated in petroleum jelly. This is just to name a few options of what tinder is going to look like.  

These are also items that you can carry in your bug out bag that will help get a fire going if you are lacking dry wood to work with. You can also find dry tinder in the surrounding environment if you are careful with where you are looking, using pine needles, moss, and bark. Make sure you keep an eye out, because if the tinder is wet, then it isn’t going to work.  

You will create a tinder bundle or tinder teepee underneath the wood you are trying to ignite. 

Caucasian man lighting a fire camp
Building a tinder bundle or tinder/kindling bundle will help start a fire with wet wood

Lighter Fluid

It’s easy to understand that there might be a reason that you do not want to wait for a mound of kindling and tinder to do the trick. Be sure that you keep some lighter fluid with you.

This is an accelerant that is going to get your wood hot fast, helping to dry it out and catch it on fire a lot quicker than just using tinder on its own.  

The downside to this option is that it is going to smell when it burns, it’s going to cause a lot of smoke and the heat will be intense. It may also require you to apply the accelerant a few times, just like dealing with the kindling and tinder. 

However, it’s going to definitely help speed up the process, allowing you to get the wet wood going so that you can settle in and get warm.  

Build Your Fire Up 

More often at campsites, you’re going to find pits to build fires, however, that may not be as useful as you think when dealing with wet wood or wet conditions in general.  

Rather than building a pit downwards where more water can collect and further soak the wood that you are using, build upwards. Do this by clearing out a flat area, laying out as much dry material as you can manage, then build your wood upwards.  

The best method for building wood upward is to do it in a criss-cross method. This is going to look like building lincoln logs, where you take larger pieces of wood and lay them out in one horizontal direction then go the opposite for the next stack.  

When building in this direction, use the driest wood you have at the very bottom then the more damp wood above that. This will allow the wet wood to dry as the wood below burns, collapsing these logs to keep the fire going.  

Obviously, this isn’t the only way you can build upwards when starting a wet wood fire, however, it’s easy and can get you going quickly while protecting your tinder and kindling at the same time.  


The addition of charcoal will help start a fire with wet wood
The addition of charcoal will help start a fire with wet wood

This last one is useful if you are able to prepare in advance for the possibility of working with wet wood. Charcoal can be self-igniting, and it can be ignited using accelerants such as lighter fluid and will burn hot, for a long time. 

This will be extremely useful in getting the wood you are using to dry out and catch fire.  

The great thing about charcoal that makes it useful is that it burns clean, and because it comes in a bag, you can carry it with you while using small piles at a time until you get the desired results that you are looking for.  

A Little Extra Work….

While getting wet wood to ignite can be a task, there are moments where you might find it necessary. It is going to take a little extra work, and certainly some preparation, however, it can be done. This can prove to be life-saving in some extreme situations too.  

From using kindling and piles of tinder to charcoal and lighter fluid, the five methods listed are sure to help you get yourself warm, boil water, be able to cook and have proper light. 

You will have to make sure that the materials you use are dry in order to get the fire going. That’s the most important part. If your base materials aren’t dry, then the wood you are trying to dry out and burn will not ignite. This, again, can take some planning and awareness of your surroundings, but it’s well worth it to have that fire going. 

Go here for more information about Campfires and Survival fires.