In the winter when there is snow or in the other seasons after it has been raining all the wood on the ground is wet. When I go to the forest or somewhere in the nature and need to make fire it is very difficult to burn these wet branches. I usually carry a cigarette lighter and some cardboard or newspaper to start fire, but when the wood is wet the paper burns fast and the wood still can't catch fire.

What can I do to start fire during the wet days? I don't want to use flammable liquids like gasoline or BBQ liquid as they can be sometimes dangerous or can spill in my backpack.

  • How about a propane torch? No spills there.
    – J. Musser
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 16:53
  • I didn't know about this, it looks like a cigarette lighter but much more powerful. I have to find one of these, thanks.
    – vladiz
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 17:22
  • One like this will pretty much burn anything. You can even melt glass. xD
    – J. Musser
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 19:46

6 Answers 6


Water usually only penetrates the outer layers of dead wood, so your best bet is to use a knife or hatchet to strip away the damp outer layer.

  1. Gather some kindling, dead wood that is about as wide as your finger or less.
  2. Use a sharp knife/hatchet to strip away as much bark and wet wood as possible.
  3. If you can use a hatchet to split larger pieces of wood into kindling, this will expose the drier inner layers.
  4. Start a small fire using the stripped kindling.
  5. Use the small fire to heat and dry the larger pieces. It will put off a lot of steam/smoke, but the smoke should subside after a few minutes.

It will take a bit more time and effort to get it going, but once you have a nice bed of coals established you should be able to keep the fire going even if it starts to rain again.

It is probably worth mentioning that there are some solid fire-starters that can be safely carried in your pack.

  1. Magnesium Bars.
    • Use a knife to shave off a little pile of magnesium and you can start it with a spark. Magnesium burns at a pretty impressive temperature, but it doesn't help too much with damp wood because it tends to burn pretty fast.
  2. Paraffin wax.
    • This is my favorite. It burns hot and slow, it also repels water so you don't need to worry about getting it wet.
    • Many brands of cheap paper cups are coated it a thin layer of wax and make excellent fire starters.
  • 3
    Birch yields are great firestarter, even if it's wet.
    – jawo
    Commented Feb 16, 2015 at 13:36
  • +1 for birch. Birch bark (the young, thin one) has layers and inner layer is never wet and catches fire easily. It also has rather high burning temperature.
    – user31389
    Commented Feb 16, 2015 at 21:41
  • Just a note on birch bark, either look for fallen birch bark or cut dangling pieces that have detached from the tree on their own. Peeling deep rings of birch bark from living trees will severely damage/kill them. Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 16:38
  • There is a simpler solution: The wood on the ground is wet, so you have to find dead twigs in the trees which are not as wet. Then use a sheet or two of your favourite newspapers and a lot of air. I used this method alot as a boyscout. The kindling method also works. Birch bark usually doesn't as it burns very fast without much heat in my experience, and if you find it on the ground it's usually wet or rotten.
    – Yves
    Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 17:08


Use Doritos (or other chips) as a fire starter. It turns out that the chemicals, powdered flavors, and oil in the chips make the perfect combination for combustion and snack. If you change your mind, you can always eat them.

See the videos demonstrating it:

Read more:

Spaghetti noodles

You can use dry spaghetti noodle not only to light a candles, but also to start a fire. It's effective and cheap.

  • This was really unexpected. May I use other type of chips?
    – vladiz
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 20:24
  • @vladiz According to lifehacker you can, but I'm not sure which one. It depends on combination of chemicals and oils used, so think you can give a try it by trial and error.
    – kenorb
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 21:12
  • @vladiz Btw. You can also use dry spaghetti noodles.
    – kenorb
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 22:33
  • 1
    All these things work, but they may not be to hand so easily in most circumstances in which you need to build a fire.
    – Terry
    Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 21:11

Whenever you are hiking collect the bark of fallen birch trees (Please leave the living trees alone!). It's white, looks like paper and burns really well. I had a bag of it in my backpack when I was a camp counselor because my boss had a rule that you could only burn wood you found.

  • 1
    Oct 2016. Central New Hampshire. 20 Boy Scouts. 8 Adults. Torrential, epic rain during last 30 minutes of backpacking to campsite. Rain tapers as we reach campsite. First few attempts to start fire with kindling fail. Birch bark is attempted. Requires large quantity of bark, thin outer layer peeled and then torn into strips. This worked.
    – ssaltman
    Commented Nov 7, 2016 at 18:20

Fire from wet log

This was actually one of the summer camp challenges in outdoor organisation I was at kid. It was called fire from a wet log. You were supposed to start a fire using only:

  • knife
  • axe
  • matches
  • piece of log that has been under water for 2 days

This assumes that the center of the log isn't completely damp. The solution was:

  • chop down half of the log into big splinters
  • use knife to make thin wood shavings of the rest of the log. Make lot of them to be really sure. The thinnest the fastest they burn, the more energy they release per second.

You now have a small piece of wet log, splinters and shavings. It's best to first pile shavings together, ignite them and only then start adding the splinters - this way you add them where they should be.

This small fire will already be able to ignite wet branches, provided they are dry inside.

Brushwood on tress (spruce and fir)

Spruce and fir trees ALWAYS have dry tiny dead brushwood on the bottom side of their branches. This burns really fast and hot - it's better than paper and leaves cinder that produces additional heat. Usually, the brushwood on the ground near these trees is also reasonably dry.

Birch bark

The white coverings of bitch trees burns insanely for some reason. Be careful to only harvest the tom layers not to damage the tree. Bark on dead branches works just as well.


Use small stick to harvest some resin to serve as a candle when starting the fire. This can save you precious matches. Resin burns hot and long. Do not use knife to harvest the resin - you would damage the tree and you will have problems cleaning the knife. Some sources claim resin dissolves in alcohol, but I really recommend not contaminating anything with it.

Use fire to dry more wood

This is probably obvious, but do not forget to put logs and branches around the fire (far enough to not ignite though) so that they are dry by the time you want to put them in. We used to make second barrier after stone barrier of wood. Shoes can go on the wood and wood can be used to prevent them from falling in the fire.


Dryer lint is also highly flammable and is great to keep to help light your kindling. In scouts we would make fire starter kits with dryer lint in a bag to keep it dry and also cardboard rolled up inside a tuna can and then covered in paraffin wax. These should hopefully burn long enough to light the wet wood. On a side note, I've also seen people carry road flares to light fires with. If a flare won't light a log, probably nothing will.

  • My experience with dryer lint is that it burns extremely fast. Indeed, when I have used it as an experiment, it has burned up without lighting any of the kindling on fire. I recommend perhaps enhancing the dryer lint with some slower-burning substance (candle wax?), though I have not tried it myself.
    – Sander
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 10:42
  • @Sander its been so long, but we might have done that too. I can't remember. Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 16:14
  • My experience with dry lint is that it is a complete and total failure. Most of the lint in my dryer contains various plastics since I have nylon, fleece and other man-made cloth in my clothing. In addition, kids clothes, pajamas, etc. contain flame retardent chemicals and materials. Source: seen many Boy Scouts struggle with the "lint" solution to starting a fire...comical to watch...
    – ssaltman
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 14:06
  • @ssaltman interesting. It's been a long time since I've done this, but I'm not super surprised by that. Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 20:35

A tip for a magnesium striker: use a hacksaw blade, pulled along the magnesium bar set on the ground with the long small side down, and the pile of tinder on the side the blade is pulling from.

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