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Prepping Tip: How To Start A Fire With Wet Wood

Mac Slavo
May 18th, 2019
SHTFplan.com
Comments (54)

As preppers, we like to share important tips when we come across them.  One trick that could help us all immensely when the SHTF is knowing how to start a fire with wet wood: one of the most frustrating things on Earth.

When it comes to a SHTF situation, one of the most critical survival skills you can learn is how to start a proper fire. With this skill, you can cook your own food, dry wet clothes, warm yourself up, and even signal for help. Anyone who’s gotten a campfire going probably thinks they have it all figured out.

Let’s face it, it is rather simple: when we are wet and cold, we want to be dry and warm and we’ll need a fire to do that in an emergency. But making a fire out of wet wood isn’t the easiest thing to do. Even if you can get your tinder burning, the logs can stubbornly remain unburnt. So I’ve found a few tricks I’d like to share and maybe they’ll help the next time all you’ve got is wet firewood.

First, 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. You could also split the wood into smaller pieces exposing the dry inside. Once you’ve got your wood ready, employ one or some of the following and you should have a fire in no time!

Petroleum Jelly (Vaseline) Cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly burn at extremely high heat and are a great low-cost alternative to commercial fire starters. Each ball will burn for about three minutes which is long enough to dry out the wet tinder and ignite it. If you try this, make sure you pack them in a sealed plastic bag.  They can get messy but are invaluable. Stock up on these! You can make about 200 of these yourself for under $10.

Steel Wool – This one is usually the most surprising and unknown. Steel wool is actually highly flammable and rather inexpensive. A few sparks from a Ferro rod will get a clump of steel wool burning at over 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit in a matter of seconds. Steel wool also has the advantage that it can be lit electrically. If you rub the terminals of a 9-volt battery against the wool, it will heat to its ignition point in a couple of seconds.

Doritos Chips – Say what? Doritos chips are actually flammable. (It kind of makes you wonder what’s in them now, huh?)  As it turns out, the chemicals, powdered flavors, and oil in the chips make the perfect combination for combustion. Almost any chip will do, actually, so if you dislike Doritos, don’t worry, experiment with chips you do like as most other chips are flammable as well. And if you get your fire started with steel wool or petroleum jelly soaked balls, you won’t need to light your chips on fire. You will have a crunchy snack to munch on as you warm up.

There are more options that these too if you’re really in a pinch, but I chose to share these with you because of the low cost and effectiveness of them. Also, stocking up on all of these items is a good idea because they have several uses and could come in handy when the SHTF.

 

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Author: Mac Slavo
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Date: May 18th, 2019
Website: www.SHTFplan.com

Copyright Information: Copyright SHTFplan and Mac Slavo. This content may be freely reproduced in full or in part in digital form with full attribution to the author and a link to www.shtfplan.com. Please contact us for permission to reproduce this content in other media formats.

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54 Comments...

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  1. Elkhound says:

    Clothes lent from your Dryer screen is excellent material for helping start fire.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Infromercial. with product links to cotton balls. BAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    STUPID ARTICLE. He says start a fire !!!using other things you have to buy!!! Why not just buy a tank of gas?

    SHTF good luck finding Doritos in a land of millions of OBESE ZOMBIES roaming around looking for CARBOHYDRATES.

    Filed under Pathetic SHTF

    The story ought to be how to start a fire using no consumables, because some situations the only thing you’ll have available to burn will be your own clothing.

    Oh I need to start a fire, I better go find some Doritos and steel wool. Stupid Z

    • buttcrackofdoom says:

      why, you usually have such NICE things to say, anonymous. MANY here got a lot out of this article…..why don’tchuh show us a better piece on firebuilding? if you got nuthin’ to add, maybe you can’t BUILD a fire? i got an idea…..if you got sunthin’ to say, raise your hand……..and place it over your mouth…..

  3. Clown World says:

    Old, peanut butter and cheesespread rations, in the snow.

    Ideally, though, (if “ideally” ever happens) you split the wet wood, to find the dry interior.

    You can save the sappy portion of the wood, sometimes called fatwood or greasewood.

    Wrap a cattail, in anything convenient, for tinder. Put it under a sticky pine cone…

    • reper sleepr says:

      Only use dead branches (pine) that remain on the tree as the ones on the ground will be already soaked. Skin the wet bark side of the dead but connected limbs and then you should be able to get a fire goin using small twigs. Always but always have a dry tinder bundle in your pack for the next fire that you’ll need, before you break camp and move on.

      • Clown World says:

        r said, “dead branches (pine) that remain on the tree .”

        Great idea.

        • Panther says:

          Hand sanitizer with as low as 62% alcohol content works very well. I try to split the wood to get to the dry stuff and burn that side first. The wet side will start drying before the flame gets to it. I also put wet wood around the outside of the burning wood so it starts drying as well. And as you all know, prepare for all the smoke that’s created burning wet wood

        • Erotica Jane says:

          Exactly.

          And stash disposable butane lighters in every nook, cranny, drawer, box, vehicle, shaving kit, and pocket you own.

          All the obscene and bizarre survivalist “tricks” are nothing more than doomer authors having run out of productive offerings.

      • PlanTwice, prep once says:

        When I traveled to the mountains of Baleize. The resort gave be a bucket of fat wood every night. The room had no other source of heat, other than a fireplace.

        I had that sucker roaring hot every night, but long and slow to heat the structure. We were warm as toast. The trick, get it all hot as possible to last all night.

        Anyplace else, I’d look for white birch. That stuff burns like gasoline.

        • Anonymous says:

          We don’t have the correct pines here to get the fat lighter here in my state but they do sell it in one of our grocery stores by the box. Five bucks for 4.5 lbs The best places to harvest fat wood is down south around Georgia and the Carolinas. Where I hunt I blaze the faces of a few of the big old loblolly Pine trees with an axe and return a month later and gather all the sap that collects on the bark. I gather quite a bit of it from the trees and it does great starting fires. You can also make pitch sticks with it and fire ash.

  4. Speaking of flammable. The powdered cream they give you on an airplane is flammable. We used to put it in an ashtray and light it with a match. It flares up. I think it has saltpeter in it. Not sure.

  5. Asshat says:

    Speaking of flammable rotated my gasoline supply. I do it in the spring and again in the fall. Don’t use fuel stabil. Never had a problem.

  6. rellik says:

    Esbit, Wetfire, or Trioxane all work good. Amazon has them.
    I Elk hunted in WA state lots of snow and wet wood. I bow hunted in western WA in late November( very wet and snow). Never had problems starting a fire. I don’t know what kind of wood you deal with in other parts of the country but in the Pacific NW you can get just about anything to burn.

    • repr sleepr says:

      Relik, and those fire starters are great but what will you do if they are lost? Folks, you need to look about you and be able to use what you have around to get that fire going for warmth, food, and some comfort or you could be come a statistic.

      • rellik says:

        repr,
        In the spirit of the post, I mentioned how to get a wet wood fire going in harsh conditions. I’m far more likely to have a lighter, and those fire starters/food warmers, than cotton balls, Vaseline, steel wool, 9V battery, or Doritos in conditions where the wood is so wet that you can’t get a fire going with available Tinder and Kindling.
        Most people on this site know the tricks the author mentions but are unlikely to be wondering around in the woods with those materials.
        You are right in that, the first thing you worry about is shelter and warmth( assuming you can breathe and aren’t bleeding ).
        Food, you can go without, for a fair amount of time.

        • Clown World says:

          If you personally know any of the ‘dim bulbs’, working in city depts, you could imagine independent lighting, energy, and fires for household use. Something is broken, or you wouldn’t hire people like that.

          If you dislike the store and the people running it, avoid that, and feel accomplished. Make something well. Anything. And, tell me you could buy that.

          Also, notice how noone else was the boss of you. No degenerates.

  7. Menzoberranzan says:

    It can rain the night before on all my wood in the firepit and it’ll burn as good as being dry after I pour a little kerosene on it. I keep a quart jar of it in my truck bed.

    • Menzo and that’s fine but what if you have to move. Have some dry tinder (pine needles) and stow them in your cook pot for your next fire if you’re low on kero. Any kind of dry tinder will do. Everyone here should know at least three ways (minimum) on how to start a fire, whether it be wet conditions or dry.

      • Anonymous says:

        It’s not flammable by itself, it’s because it’s a fine powder. A lot of fine powders, flour, sugar, lots of things if sprinkled on a flame will ignite. Just like a dust ignitator bomb. Just fyi

      • Genius says:

        Yup! Lighter, matches, piezo torch. 🙂

        • buttcrackofdoom says:

          even a genius knows that dryer lint or hemp rope untwisted to make a birds nest bundle will do very nicely. i just ran our boyscout camporee fire building contest 2 weeks ago, and it amazed me how many scouts CAN’T build a fire, let alone in 5 minutes. that magnesium with your flint may just get that wet wood going, but i live in desert for 40 years no, so we almost never have that problem. i seriously doubt that i could make wet wood burn…..watch “alone” coming out soon, made in the arctic…..ought to be a really great one!

          • Genius says:

            I can make a fire if I have to burn clothing lol. Ya the show Alone is great. I have watched it every season. Gives you some real objective for sure! I might last 2 weeks lol.

  8. Traitor Hator says:

    If your ever on the edge with Hopkins, if you fashion a branch like a pogo stick ,in a tree over bait, your foes resistance will lessen impact for a rehersed climb out.

  9. Traitor Hator says:

    So it seems it’s so, seem as though we all should know, 2000 years or so ago, many Jews started to call themselves Cristian’s ,with a new way? Waiting for the next crist, with a rod in his hand ,blood on his robe ,and his army dressed in white. That can’t wait to start the fight, Fill your flasks, satan will go down kicking, God did not take your child, satan inter fears for a short time,Then all is restored

  10. Handrill, bow drill and ferrocium rod on my keychain says:

    Handrill, bow drill and ferrorod on my keychain. Feather sticks help.

  11. The reason chips and such burn is simple….they contain hydrocarbons. Some of them long chain (fats)….others
    shorter chain, akin to flammable liquids. They are not as
    easy to light as very dry kindling but they make an excellent
    intermediary step between lit moss/cotton etc. and actual wood.

  12. Human hair tinder.
    In a bind, human hair works well to get a fire started. Add pine sap and or pine needles to the hair tinder. Get some air between the strands of hair before starting the fire.

    You can use hair as the filling to make a pillow. And remove the hair if needed for starting a fire.

    It may not start burning right away but once started burns just fine.

    Natural oils are flammable. Some hair products might make hair burn more quickly.

    Take a little bag with you to the barber shop. Or save your hair when you comb it.

    .

    • rellik says:

      HP,
      I’m not bald but I keep my hair as short as possible
      eg Military Buzz.
      My beard, I keep trimmed to less than an inch,
      so I don’t have a lot of hair to use for pillows or Tinder.
      I suppose I could shave the wife’s cats.
      Late night humor, forgive me.

      • Mountain Trekker says:

        rellik you gave me a laugh. I don’t mean to be a smart a** but everybody has all these ideas, and few are really practical in an emergency situation because your not usually carrying these items. So if you want to know how to start a fire with wet wood, first ALWAYS carry a lighter ALWAYS and then get out there and PRACTICE. Trekker Out

        • @Trekker,

          “few are really practical in an emergency situation because your not usually carrying these items”

          You are probably right which leads me to think many of us need to reevaluate what we have in our BOB, or our GHB, our backpacking gear, and our gear we take on a day hike, or hunting, or fishing.

          There were some ideas I had not thought about until I read this article. I’m thankful for the ideas and the link in the third paragraph on ways to start fires. Your point about practice is the most important. All the gear in the world is worthless unless you can use it in a variety of situations: wind, snow, rain, heavy snow or rain, when you’re lost, scared, or injured, etc.

    • Clown World says:

      It doesn’t have to be human hair.

    • Plan Twice, prep once says:

      Human hair, how about plastics in trash cans. This stuff burns like gasoline.

  13. Rellik, human hair can be used to suture wounds and works well if it is long and strong, not too coarse or too thin.

    It is sometimes used in eye surgery.

    Can be used to purify water as chemicals are drawn into hair.

    And is also used as fertilizer with its high levels of nitrogen.

    Long hair can be used to make rope and to weave cloth.

    For camping collect in a sock and throw it into your backpack.

    For you, I hope your wife is a good sport, fella.

    .

  14. Special Forces Dude says:

    Most clothes today are made of very flammable materials. If you are in a bind an unneeded section such as a strap from your bag can be cut. They are always too long. Alternatively dry moss or fungus works great. Heck in an emergency a protective plastic cap from your scope can be shaven down and ignited. Best to work off the land and conserve your gear unless your in a SHTF life or death.

    • Rock Roller says:

      Special Forces Dude, That’s a very good point about some clothing being flammable. I have a buddy who’s a bit of a city slicker. He was camping with friends, and was wearing jogging pants that were some kind of man made fabric, and had mosquito spray all over himself. Mosquito spray is very flammable ! He got to close to a camp fire, and went up in flames. Spent a few months in pain in a burn ward, as the fabric ignited and literally melted to his legs. One thing I’m sure we all want when we start a fire is to not set ourselves on fire. You couldn’t pay me to spray that flammable crap on myself, even in a swamp !

  15. Tucker says:

    Those magnesium fire starters that you can pick up for a few bucks at most sporting goods stores are also an essential item to have in anyone’s preps or bugout bag.

    My advice is to buy as many of them as you can afford, and store them inside those plastic, waterproof boxes that have the rubber seals and the snap on clamp fasteners to hold the lid on tight.

    Most have an attached striker, but a good pocket knife can also be handy for scraping off the magnesium shavings on top of a small pile of timber. Magnesium will ignite wet timbers, as well.

    • buttcrackofdoom says:

      you don’t need to keep a firestarter dry. which is why you should have one on you at all times….but don’t buy that cheap one from harbor freight, they won’t make many fires. buy a good one at the gunshow, or sporting goods place. oh, and if you aint bilt one in a long while….or…never, then you will NOT be able to do it, unless you devote a lot of time to it. i teach my scout troop firebuilding(but they don’t listen, of coarse) and i can tell you, it takes them a loooong time to get a fire going, even the older ones. one trick is to put your tinder on something hard, a rock, or big piece of wood. push the firestarter down onto the tinder, and with a hard scraping motion, like you are trying to slice of a piece of it, move down hard and fast. within one to two strokes you should have your tinder lit. if you don’t do it now, you won’t get it done when it COUNTS!

    • buttcrackofdoom says:

      also, a FILE works good to send lots of sparks, or even the serrated blades of these later knives works good to shave off some sparks. or, of coarse, a hacksaw blade…..best is a bastard file! oh, one more…..sharpen the top/backside of your blade to a 90* angle so it scrapes better too.

  16. @Trekker,

    “few are really practical in an emergency situation because your not usually carrying these items”

    You are probably right which leads me to think many of us need to reevaluate what we have in our BOB, or our GHB, our backpacking gear, and our gear we take on a day hike, or hunting, or fishing.

    There were some ideas I had not thought about until I read this article. I’m thankful for the ideas and the link in the third paragraph on ways to start fires. Your point about practice is the most important. All the gear in the world is worthless unless you can use it in a variety of situations: wind, snow, rain, heavy snow or rain, when you’re lost, scared, or injured, etc.

  17. Just Me says:

    A small can of (plastic) plumber’s pipe dope can be carried with your gear and ”painted” on small sticks as an accelerant for damp wood. It burns quite well. I keep a small can in my hunting pack for emergency fire starter. Be sure the label has a flammable warning.

  18. Asshat says:

    Charcoal lighter fluid. I’ve used it as a solvent as well. Sometimes Wally’s has a deal on the big bottle. It works good cleaning parts too smells but works. Cheap multi use item.

  19. Another Topic

    “Epic corruption…rig Bundy trial.”
    Article December 31,2017
    Comments by NAILBANGER

    Mac,
    With his permission, how about using Nailbanger’s comments as a series of articles. He has some great stuff on the Revolutionary period and on warfare.

    Or, make it your own and write an article or series of articles on 4GW., 1st, 2nd, & 3rd generation warfare.

    .

  20. Bert says:

    You forgot to create also an Amazon link for gasoline and matches. Un-f*ing believable.

  21. Clown World says:

    Some of the crafters were putting four corners and a tang on a piece of all-thread, and burning that into a wooden handle, for their flint and steel, and not wanting to say what it was.

    There is an online market for primitive tools, including the bowdrill, a seashell with a hole in it, and even a hardened digging stick, believe it or not. Some will act very serious, and competitive, and get boutique prices.

    Show even the most mundane thing, very nicely, and it has value. Many schools for rubbing sticks and banging rocks. Yes, really.

  22. Yu-No-Hu says:

    One solution that is uniformly effective regardless of inclement weather of the condition of the wood at hand (within reason!) is so simple it boggles the mind.
    Nearly every woman – at least in times gone by – was intimately acquainted with the standard hair bleaching kit primarily relying for effect on a single chemical…hydrgen peroxide, but not your garden variety 2-5% variety. No, the stuff used in the standard hair bleaching kit oftimes consisted of solutions ranging from 15-40% (that later figure nearly approximating the oxidizer used in rocket launches dann near!).
    Well, as it happens – and a certain judiciousness IS hereinvolved – the strong variety of H2O2 when placed in contact with a small amount of magnesium shavings WILL exothermically yield enough raw heat to ignite virtually any combustible available.
    The kicker here is that once that combustion (which IS spontaneous on contact between the two chemicals begins the presence of water actually intensifies the reaction strongly.
    Cautionary note: do NOT under any circumstance shave up a pound of magnesium and dump several ounces of concetrated H2O2 thereon…the reaction under that circumstance will will be violently exothermic…as in ‘BOOM’, eh? Try experimenting with smaller quantities of each before getting a feel for things.
    The easiest way to manage this safely on your person is the keep a seal-tigh small squeeze bottle of the oxidizer on/at one side of your person safely strapped into a lock-down pocket wilst keeping a small supply of shavings – or even safer, a solid bar from which you strike shavings off at need. Do not EVER allow these to commingle on your person…ever.
    That said, wood that is approximating soaking wet can be directly ignited and with a little care initially become fully self-sustaining.
    This pair of articles is mandatory for all our groups out from the main compounds in winter…e.then temps regularly reach -50 F at night and has saved multiple lives when someone chanced across thin ice (water invisibly flowing beneath) leaving but a thin crust above which appears solid. You have mere minutes to get someone drenched thusly stripped naked before thier clothes freeze brick solid and begin the process of warming them ere fatal hypothermia onsets.

    Well, best of luck folks, departure is now less than 72 hours hence and given what I’m seeing of late I don’t believe that any of us will be able to return before things start going South such that thier basic safety can be assured throughout.
    Any of you who succeed in getting through the long Night soon coming will be greeted warmly by us all after the Dawn comes again should we chance to meet…Be Well, Be safe and above all, Be Blessed…Stand in Faith throughout.
    Adios mi Amigo’s.

    JOG

    • Good luck out there (although very much luck is probably not needed with your readiness) with the buggy summers and frigid winters. Hopefully things will continue for a good while. We’ve been predicting the end for quite some time, howz about it?

      I’ll have to look into the peroxide and magnesium. Maybe ebay has the stronger stuff. Thanks for that tip.

  23. Dave says:

    “How to start a fire with wet wood”.
    1. Find dry wood
    2. Build fire