Mom Goes Camping

How to Make a Fire in the Rain

how to make a fire in the rain

When it rains, you are best off waiting in your dry shelter instead of making a fire.  However, there are plenty of situations where you’d want to make a fire in the rain.

For me, I usually end up making a fire in the rain while camping simply because I don’t want to be cooped up in the tent.  And it makes me feel like a badass when I get a roaring fire going despite the wetness. 😉

 

It’s Not Hard to Make a Fire in the Rain…

The problem isn’t making a fire in the rain.  The problem is keeping a fire going.

Be warned that you’ll need a lot of tinder (tiny, dry, and ideally fluffy) and kindle (sticks about the width of your finger).

Also, don’t bother with this unless you’ve got good rain gear.  Obviously you need a rain jacket.  I am also a huge fan of rain pants, even though they make me look like I’m in an MC Hammer video from the 90s.  You can see my picks for the best rain pants here.

 

Step 1: Choose the Right Spot

The problem with making a fire in the rain is that the rain will quickly douse out your fire.  Since your wood will get all wet, you’ll also end up with a lot of smoke.

In light rains, this isn’t really an issue because the raindrops will evaporate before hitting the fire.

Or, if you build a HUGE fire, then even the water from a huge downpour will evaporate before it hits the flames.  But I doubt you want to go and collect that much firewood when it is pouring rain.

To keep your fire going in the rain, you’ll need some sort of natural protection.  Don’t do anything stupid like trying to make your fire under your tent’s rain fly.  You’ll end up burning down your tent.  Or you’ll get carbon monoxide poisoning

Instead…

  • Look for natural outcroppings to build your fire under, like under thick tree branches, under uprooted trees, or a cliff overhang
  • Prop layers of fuel wood over your fire pit.  These will keep rain from getting to the fire below.
  • Build a loue tent with your tarp
Make your fire at the mouth of the loue tent to keep the rain out of it.

Make your fire at the mouth of the loue tent to keep the rain out of it.

 

Step 2: Find Dry Tinder and Kindling

Tinder = small, fluffy, dry and ignites very easily (not the dating site 😉 )

Kindling = small branches and twigs; you use your tinder to light the kindling

Fuelwood = larger pieces of wood that keep your fire burning

It doesn’t matter if your fuel wood is wet.  Just put it near the fire and it will dry out.  But your tinder and kindling must be dry if they are going to ignite.

 

Finding Dry Tinder

You may get lucky and find dry tinder underneath bushes.  However, your best bet is to make your own tinder.

  • Shave a stick: Using your knife (you brought one, right? I like these cheap survival knives)), peel the wet bark off of a stick. Then hold your knife perpendicular to the stick and start shaving it.  You’ll get lots of little dry pieces of wood.  These ignite quickly.
  • Make a featherstick: Or you can use your knife to make a featherstick.  The video below shows you how to do it.

Bringing Your Own Tinder/Firestarter

If I know that it will be rainy when I go camping, I will be prepared like a scout and bring a firestarter along.  Some options:

  • Dryer lint
  • Cotton ball with petroleum jelly: Rub some petroleum jelly on a cotton ball and then wrap it up in a piece of tinfoil.  When it’s time to light your fire, just cut an X in the tinfoil and light.  The petroleum jelly will burn for a while.
  • Tea bags dipped in wax
Tea bag dipped in wax makes a great firestarter

Tea bag dipped in wax makes a great firestarter

 

Dry Kindling

You can usually find some dry kindling under bushes.  Or, just use your knife to peel the wet bark off of thin branches.

You can also baton wood with your knife.  This basically means that you split the wood down the middle.  Voila!  Inside the branch you will find dry wood.

Ontario RAT-3 outdoor knife

This is a great knife for camp tasks like making dry tinder or kindling. Get it here.

 

Step 3:  Get the Fire Off the Wet Ground

If it is raining, it is really important that you get the fire off the wet ground.  It will be next to impossible to get the tinder lit if it is on wet ground.

The easiest method of doing this is to dig away the wet earth.  Once you get to dry earth, start building your fire.

A better method (especially if it is raining hard or all your fuel wood is wet) is to elevate your fire. To elevate your fire, make a layer of fuel wood/large kindling on the ground.  Then make another layer on top of this in the opposite direction.

You’ll build your fire on top of these sticks. What’s awesome about this is that the fire will actually dry out these sticks as it burns, giving you a lot of strong embers and a fire which doesn’t go out.

upside down fire in the rain

I will be making the fire on top of these branches. It keeps the fire off the wet ground. The fire will also dry out the branches as it burns.

 

Step 4: Lay the Fire for Rain

There are 5 main ways to lay a fire.  If it is raining, then you will want to use the lean-to (or A-frame) fire lay. With these fire lays, you build up layers of kindling and fuel wood over the fire.  The wood protects the fire from the rain.  It will burn from bottom-to-top, instead of top-to-bottom.

Because you are covering your fire to keep the rain out, it might not get enough air.  If your fire isn’t getting air, it will emit carbon monoxide as it burns.   Since you are outdoors, you probably aren’t going to get poisoned but still not worth the risk.

a-frame fire lay

Here’s an A-frame fire. It’s drizzling rain in this picture but the fire stayed lit so long as we kept putting wood over the “frame”

The lean-to fire lay keeps the tinder and lower-levels of kindling dry.

I made this lean-to fire because it was windy, but the figuration also works well to keep rain off your fire. You’ll have to continuously add kindling/fuel wood to the top.

 

It was raining lightly this day, so I just propped a big log over the burning kindling.

It was raining lightly this day, so I just propped a big log over the burning kindling. The kindling then lit the underside of the log!

 

Bonus Tip:

If you really want to stay warm from your fire in the rain, make a fire reflector.  This can be done by making your fire next to a cliff.  Or you can make a “wall” out of sticks.  The heat from the fire will bounce off the reflector and keep you toasty warm.

The wall of branches reflects the heat from the fire and keeps wind out of it.

The wall of branches reflects the heat from the fire and keeps wind out of it.

Image credits:
0T8A5116” (CC BY 2.0) by  Phototaking101
Campfire in Rain” (CC BY 2.0) by  RichardBH
Erected loue (CC BY-SA 3.0) by Creidiki
10. Waxed tea bag alight” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by coconinoco

 

What other tips do you have for making a campfire in the rain?

 

Tagged with:     , ,

About the author /


Diane Vukovic is an avid traveler, outdoor enthusiast and couchsurfer. She loves finding ways to explain complex topics to her 9-year old daughter and hunting beetles with her 1-year old. Follow MomGoesCamping on Facebook and Twitter @MomGoesCamping to stay in touch!

Related Articles

2 Comments

  1. Name *

    Empty 12 shot gun shells with a piece of candle inside make great fire starters and hold up well in a back pack or bug out Bag,
    Char cloth made from old t shirts (look it up on line) with frayed hemp rope and dryer lent make a great “birds nest” to hold a spark when using flint and steel to start a fire. Make sparks into the “birds nest” with the wind at your back and raise the nest to shoulder height and blow gently. when the nest bursts into flame shove it under your kindling. No you wont catch on fire if you pay attention.

    • Diane

      Thanks for the comment. These are great ideas! I should really start saving my dryer lint. It’s probably better coated in Vaseline than cotton balls (another great fire starter), and free. 😀

Post your comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *