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Starting a fire in adverse weather

The ability to start a fire when things are less than perfect. Considering how important the warmth from a fire can be when the temperatures drop, we should prepare spark a flame. Your chances of success will come with practice and perseverance. Attempt fire starting right after rainfall, or snow. Mimic possible environments you could possibly confront during a camping trip.

There are several ways to tackle facing damp circumstances. We will discuss ways of finding the best natural tinder possible under damp conditions including rain. We will also cover the use of tinder you should carry in your camping gear or survival kit.

Under rainfall or any wet precipitation such as freezing rain, using the proper tinder is crucial. The first stages of hypothermia can occur if the body temperature drops just two to four degrees Fahrenheit (2-4 °F) below your 98.6 °F body temperature. Cold rain and wind can quickly turn a nice hiking afternoon into a life-threatening situation. You want to know the reality of hypothermia, simply use a search engine and use keywords hypothermia and the region you live. In the United States hypothermia deaths have occurred in states as warm as north Carolina. The risk is there anytime you are outdoors where the weather can change unexpectedly. Alcohol and aging increase the risk.

One very important way to prepare yourself is your clothing. Why anybody would go skiing, hiking, fishing, canoeing or just simply go into the woods without a small survival kit baffles me. Dress properly, carry a small survival kit and know how to build a simple emergency survival shelter. Think about it, a trash bag could save your life ! Both subjects will be covered in a different articles. Right now we want to discuss tinder for emergency fire starting.

Natural Tinder

Your mind once again is your greatest weapon for survival. Examine your surroundings. We cannot emphasize enough, how important it is for you to practice finding tinder under different conditions and terrain. Anyone who is going to spend any significant time outdoors, needs to be prepared.

The first thing we do is look for a fallen tree. Why ? Well this image should help clarify the reasons:

Not only can this tree help us get out of precipitation, but often you will find moderately dry tinder. Under this particular tree, we discovered dry leaves, grass, and saw dust. Termites became our allies. This is after two days of rainfall.

Using a knife, we scraped the inside of the tree to create more tinder. Fungus growing under the tree and became part of our tinder as well.

This was our final tinder nest.

We crushed and shredded the leaves so they would ignite easier. Using a ferocerrium rod (Swedish Firesteel), we successfully started a fire with just a few tries.

Please see our article: Swedish Firesteel

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Fuzz Sticks / Feather Sticks

Fuzz sticks, also called feather sticks are a great way to start and keep a fire alive. We can remove the damp bark by using our knife edge. By cutting thing slices our of the wood, we can get to drier wood. The thinner slices will burn more readily. This will minimize heat loss by having to dry the wet bark.

There is nothing more frustrating and possibly dangerous than putting in the effort to start a fire only to have it extinguish. Proper planning and tinder/kindling choices are crucial.

Here is one example of a fuzz stick or feather stick.

Helpful Tinder you should carry

In our TINDER article, we cover many helpful materials to carry for tinder. At this time we want to talk about items we can use for tinder under damp conditions.

We cover tinder in this article:

Water proof tinder

* Wet Fire tinder
* Tinder-quik
* Bicycle tire inner tube strips


Wetfire tinder from ultimate survival is waterproof. We were able to ignite it after dropping it in water. After soaking it in water, we cut the tinder into a dust and ignite it with a ferrocerium rod.


For our first test, we pour water from a cup on the tinder-quik making sure it is engulfed in fluid. We then expose the inner fibers of the tinder after a quick shake.

The fine fibers in the center of the tinder are protected by a waterproof chemical on the tinder. After three strikes, we easily ignite the tinder. Hint: The tinder-quik pieces can be cut in half to conserve and they will ignite without any issues.

The tinder-quik comes with the Spark-Lite fire starter or can be purchased separately.

We cover the Spark-lite and Tinder-quik on this article:

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Water resistant tinder

* Cotton balls covered in petroleum jelly (vaseline)
* Steel Wool
* Fatwood / Fat Lighter

Cotton balls and vaseline
Cotton balls are excellent tinder. The slightest spark will ignite them. The petroleum jelly helps in two ways.

* protects the tinder
* helps to burn hotter and longer

First the jelly protects the cotton ball from moisture. We were able to ignite a cotton ball covered with petroleum jelly after being engulfed in water. After the water gets on the jelly, simply open the cotton ball to expose the center. Use your fire starter to ignite the cotton.

The petroleum jelly then becomes extra fuel added to the tinder.

Steel Wool

On the left we have Swedish firesteel made out of ferrocerium (flint rod). Ferrocerium: a pyrophoric alloy of iron with cerium; used for lighter flints. It is capable of igniting spontaneously in air with the use of friction. This alloy of iron and rate-earth metals is used for tools such as Swedish Firesteel and the Blastmatch. It has been used for the flint in lighters and military tracer rounds.

On the right we have the steel wool. Steel wool comes in seven grades. We used (#0000 super fine) grade. This can be purchased at hardware stores and some department stores in the paint section. Steel wool is commonly used to remove paint, lacquer and polish metals.

The very first spark from the firesteel causes the steel wool to ignite. We can place the steel wool with other tinder and start a fire by blowing on the steel wool.

Be careful the rapid oxidation of the steel causes small pieces to fall of and can burn your hand.

Fat lighter or Fat wood

Called by many names:

* fat lighter
* fat wood
* lighter wood ( light wood )

Fat lighter is pine wood saturated in pitch or resin. Usually found in the pine tree stumps. Whether backpacking or in a survival situation fat wood will simplify starting your fire. It can be used both as tinder and kindling.

We can find the fat lighter wood in the tree stump of some pine trees. Fat lighter or fat wood is sold in stick form or dust form by different suppliers. Under damp conditions, fat lighter wood will help you to start a fire and sustain the flame.

Fat wood shavings can be ignited with the use of a sparker type fire starter. The flint rod from your magnesium block, a regular ferrocerium rod like the ones found in blastmatch, swedish firesteel, or strike force.

Obviously the fat lighter sticks can be used as great kindling.

Please see our fatwood article:


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Creative Commons License by Robert Munilla is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.