The following messaages had been compiled by Danny
Schwendener when he maintained the rec.scouting FAQs.
From: pnsf01dw@UMASSD.EDU (Dennis J. Wilkinson)
Any tips on starting a fire with damp wood? This
is for a survival class, so "keep your wood covered" is not the answer
I'm looking for. The scout handbood suggests cutting into a log to get
to the dry wood inside. Any other tips would be appreciated.
Always a fun challenge...
* Larger logs, when split open, will probably
have some dry wood towards the center. This can be shaved off to help create
tinder (and possibly kindling, depending upon the thickness of the log
and how long it's been wet for).
* Certain types of pine and sappy softwoods occasionally
develop centers of sapwood that some people call "fatwood" - it usually
looks waxy or oily, and will burn quickly even when wet.
* The most important thing is making sure that
you have enough _DRY_ tinder to both dry out and light your kindling (cut
your kindling thinner than usual to facilitate drying it out). If you have
dry tinder with you, great. If not, look for fatwood (see above), birch
bark (from a fallen tree if possible, but if it's really a survival situation,
I'm not gonna fault you...), and any dry stuff around. Twigs lower on a
tree and closer to the trunk will probably be driest. Evergreens (particularly
firs) are good to find dry wood on, even after a few days of rain.
* If something is already dry, by all means, KEEP
IT THAT WAY!
Once your fire gets to rolling, you shouldn't
have any problem. Dry wood out by laying it next to the fire, and use smaller
pieces of fuel wood to keep it going. They'll dry out better and hopefully
Oh... since this is for a survival course, recommend
that they keep a fire starter in their survival kits. It's amazing how
much help a wax candle stub can be in damp weather ;-).
From: email@example.com (Danny Schwendener)
Having some newspaper or solid lighter (meta tablets,
cardboard impregnated with parrafine, etc) helps a lot.
Someone on rec.backcountry suggested to use rests
of acrylic plastic. I don't recommend it (I needn't comment on the resulting
pollution), but it sure develops a long-lasting hot flame.
We teach our kids to use the small one-year branches
at the bottom of the pine (christmas) trees. They catch fire easily even
if it has rained or snowed for a week, and they should be removed anyway
to give some room and light to the smaller plants in the same area.
My last suggestion is to look for the cut-down
remainings of older pines (or equivalent needle trees). They often have
a very resinous wood which gives a long-lasting fire, even under the worst
conditions. The color of the wood is usually much darker than normal, something
between orange and dark red.
It might be interesting to note that making a
fire with damp wood is one of the first things a cub scout learns over
here (quite naturally: it rains fairly often, and we make a fire at every
From: hayesj@rintintin.Colorado.EDU (HAYES JAMES
Check the Wilderness Survival Merit Badge pamphlet
and the Field Book. Our troop frequently has wet wood fire building contests.
Soak acouple of logs for a day or two, give 'em a knife, an ax, and two
matches. Burn trough a string three feet above base of fire pit. Usually
only takes about 4 to 8 minutes from go to burn.
Remember the basics, tinder is what starts a fire,
kindling starts the fuel. With wet wood you need lots of tinder and kindling,
Split the wood, or break it or dig into it. Get at least Two LARGE handfuls
of tiny splinters and shavings, four is better. Make sure you have LOTS
of kindling about pencil thickness and some that gets gradually larger
to about 3/4 inch diameter. Build your lay carefully, the younger scouts
today, doing most of their camping with stoves, have the hardest time with
this part. ...well maybe the rest of the preparation too.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (email@example.com)
Two ways that I thought of both stem from "being
FIRST: What about those magnesium blocks/flint
combos? Easy to carry.
SECOND:Easy firestarter to carry: Soak charcoal
in lighter fluid, then coat in parrafin. Wax will melt with one match,
and ensuing fire should start damp wood. Any other ideas?
From: juan@hal.COM (John Thompson Reynolds)
Just to add one more thought. The temperature of
your wood is important. Surely you've noticed that it's much easier to
light your campfire on a warm afternoon than on a cold morning? The same
applies to damp wood, if you can warm some tinder inside your parka, you'll
have a much better chance of getting it to blaze.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Brandon France)
I've found that the best way to start a fire with
wet or damp wood is to be prepared and carry a road flare with you. If
you put your wet kindling around the road flare it is sure to build a nice
warm fire. You don't even need matches to get it started. I always carry
a flare just in case.
From: email@example.com (Mark Wilson)
Try starting with "squaw wood." This is dead wood
and twigs still on the tree (off the ground) and in arms reach (don't have
to bend over to pick it up). Generally this wood will be fairly dry shortly
after a rain.
You could locate some "lighter" or "fat" pine.
That is pine that is full of sap. Remember that pine sap is the basis for
turpentine. "Fat" wood smells like turpentine and looks sort of wet. It
lights real easy. It is hard to clean up after so use it only for starting
the fire not for cooking.
It is critical to start small and build slowly
when using damp wood.
From: lynnef@tekig1.PEN.TEK.COM (Lynne Axel Fitzsimmons)
A previous poster suggested soaking cardboard in
lighter fluid and then covering with wax as a firestarter. We have reasonable
success using cardboard egg cartons, wood chips/sawdust, and paraffin.
In the USA, Girl Scouts can't use fuel or fire starter that has to be poured
(safety rules). We melt the paraffin (in a double boiler), put the wood
chips or sawdust into the egg carton cups, and then pour the paraffin over
the wood, filling up the cup. Then we just rip off firestarter cubes as
we need them, usually 3 or so for a biggish charcoal fire.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Herbert Leong)
This is another variation on the egg carton idea...
My scoutmaster always had what looked like miniature egg carton shells
that were about 1/2 the size of regular egg-type cartons. He said he used
a mixture of paraffin, sawdust, and charcoal. The paraffin was melted in
a double boiler, mixed with the sawdust and the ground up charcoal 1 to
1 to 1. The egg carton halves were then filled with this mixture and allowed
to partially solidify. Two halves were then pressed together so that they
would break into "eggs" when needed. The whole thing was then coated with
a film of paraffin.
From: John Cornwell (JCornwe@FarmCredit.com
Depending on the locality, that one can look for
a Sassafras tree. We demonstrate survival fire building by placing
a few small green twigs of this tree in a bucket of water overnite (weighted
so they are IN the water). One needs a small flame to begin, but
the twigs contain so much sap that they easily ignite and last several