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.
- 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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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