Starting a Fire in Wet Conditions

Ironically, as your need for a fire increases the difficulty in starting that fire will also increase.  One reason is that many of the common sources of wilderness tinder are absorbent, and in damp conditions they will be full of water, making them nearly impossible to use as tinder.  Of course, it’s always a good idea to carry some all-weather fire starters with you, but because things happen, we’ll cover a couple tinders to avoid in wet conditions and some to search out.


Old Man’s Beard

Old man’s beard is one name for the gray wispy lichen that hangs from low branches of trees.  It is a common source of wilderness tinder, it works well in dry conditions because it has a great ratio of surface area and available oxygen.  But even a heavy dew or frost can fill it up old man’s beard like a sponge.

Brown Grass

Grass that has dried out and turned brown catches a spark or a flame easily, trouble is that it catches moisture just as easily.  Just because you used it the day before in drier conditions does not mean that you will be able to use it again, especially in the wet morning.


If you are low on matches or fuel in your lighter, don’t waste valuable resources on absorbent tinder that is unlikely to catch.  Instead, try these all-weather tinders available in the wilderness.


Pine Resin

Pine resin is easily found and is perhaps the best all-weather wilderness tinder.  If you are using a spark instead of a flame you will want to crumble the dry resin into small pieces and try to allow for some air between these pieces.  One way to help with this is to pluck at a wool sock until you have some fluff to add to the resin crumbs.

Wood Shavings

Even if the area you are in has experienced days of rain dry wood can still be found, even if it looks wet.  Find some standing dead that you can break branches off or fell, split this to gain access to the center of the wood.  This center will not be soaked like the outer layers.  Using your knife make a pile of fine wood shavings from the dry innards.


Conditions in the wilderness can change rapidly, if you want to survive, your strategy needs to be able to change just as quickly.

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