How to Light up a Fire on Wet Soil (2022)

Table of Contents

    Picture this: you’re out in the middle of nowhere, and it’s freezing out there – and to make matters worse, it’s raining, and the wind is strong enough to lift you up. This may sound like an apocalyptic scene for most people. After all, hypothermia is the leading cause of death in the wilderness. Does that mean you’re doomed, though? On the contrary; all you need is to know how to light a fire, even on wet soil.  This can potentially save your life in the middle of nowhere, so here’s how you can do that. 

    The Fire Triangle

    The first thing you’ll need to know is the dynamics of starting a fire – or, as they call it, the fire triangle. A fire needs 3 factors to combine so that it can start: the fuel, the oxygen, and the heat. If any of these three factors is absent the fire won’t start, and if they get removed, the fire will die out even after it has started. Chances are, you’ll always find oxygen wherever you’re camping. Fuel and heat are different matters; it can get quite tricky to start a fire under wet and windy conditions, but it’s not hopeless.  You can also come prepared to your campsite or hike with a fire starter kit to make things easier on yourself.


    Just like cars need gasoline to burn as fuel, fires need some material to start burning as well. Like all hardcore campers know by heart, you can start the fire using tinder, kindling, sticks, and logs. You start with the smaller tinder and build your fire up until it devours the bigger chunks of wood. So what can you do when all the twigs you find are soaked to their core? You have two options: explore the surrounding nature with more depth, or have a ready-made solution to save your day. 

    • Natural Sources


    It’s understandable how you can give up after looking around, but the trick is that you have to go beyond the hands of nature. You’ll need to expand your search to find the twigs and sticks that have been somewhat protected from the rain, which you can most likely find in standing trees, contrary to broken limbs. 


    Keep in mind that the bark of many trees acts as a protective shield to the inner parts of the wood, so you can use a utility knife to scrape the surface and check the hidden layers. If lady luck is on your side, you might even hit the jackpot with some fatwood. This wood had been drenched in the resin and sap of the tree, making it excellent fuel material. You can double-check for its authenticity by breaking the wood into half and smelling it; you should be able to find a strong tar odor. The same goes for wood oozing with sap. You can also collect more material to keep your fire going strong, and material such as dry grass, dry pine needles, poplar cotton, leaves, and shaved bark will have your back. 


    • DIY Fire-Starters


    If you’d rather avoid depending on lady luck and take matters into your own hands, then you’d be wiser to prepare some DIY firestarters before you set out on your journey. A simple yet extremely effective home-made DIY such as a cotton ball soaked in vaseline can go a long way in the rain. Make sure you store them in a dry and close place so you can light the fire with them easily and without any hassle. 


    How do you normally light a fire? Do you use a lighter, matches, spark rocks together? While preparing for wet and windy weather conditions, you’ll have to make sure your source of heat can endure these conditions. As Jared and Matt Russo from Gear Disciple explain on, it would be wise to pack waterproof matches that you can use under all conditions. Some of these matches can even light a fire underwater, so imagine how handy they will be in heavy rain! In addition to waterproof matches, you should also invest in a fire starter that can help you light a fire in case you run out of matches. 


    Finally, the way you lay out your sticks can make all the difference in the world. Even if you’ve taken care of the fuel and the heat, the fire won’t start or be maintained if there aren’t enough spaces between the sticks. Start with a big chunk of dry bark as the base, and lay out the remaining twigs, grass, leaves, and fuel material with sufficient spaces in between. Once it starts burning, you can gradually add bigger pieces of fuel. 

    Surviving in the wilderness can be tough on its own, but it can be downright horrifying in extreme weather conditions. You can never be too prepared, so make sure to know your hacks for the worst-case scenario, and pack all the essentials you would need to survive in the great outdoors. After all, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. 

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    Caleb Cole