Start a Fire in the Rain – How to Build and Sustain a Fire when it’s Pouring

by | Sep 22, 2020 | Fire Building

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There’s something serene about being in nature during a rainfall. Listening to the drops splash onto the ground around you, and gently knock on your tent or shelter. If you ask some people, they actually prefer it.

It’s generally a good idea to avoid camping or bushcraft during harsher storms, because even the smallest tasks, like staying warm and dry, tend to become far more difficult. 

But don’t worry. If you’re like us, and don’t mind getting a little wet, we’re going to teach you the most useful tip. Which is how to start a fire in the rain, and actually sustain it.

Challenges You’ll Face

Being outdoors in the rain comes with its own unique set of challenges. Especially when it comes to building a fire. Think about it, water is fire’s natural enemy, and is used to put out burning fires. Imagine how difficult it’s going to be to get a fire started in the rain.

Building a fire in the rain isn’t impossible, but it’s no easy task. It will require more strategy on your part, and more effort as well. Below, we’ve provided some of the challenges you’ll face that you should be prepared for.

Burning Wet Wood

Most people struggle when it comes to building a campfire, even if the conditions are perfect. That means dry weather, dry wood, and even a match or lighter to get things going. Things only get more difficult as the conditions get worse.

Burning wet wood isn’t just harder, it also presents some dangers that you need to be aware of.

According to studies, the safest wood to burn is dry or seasoned wood. Meaning, wood that contains less than 20 percent moisture. 

When wood is wet, also known as green wood,  it’s possible for its moisture content to reach nearly 100 percent. When that happens, the water in the wood weighs more than the wood itself.

We know the more moisture your wood contains, the less efficient it will burn. Making life infinitely more difficult for you. In addition to decreased efficiency, wet wood also produces more smoke. Which in turn causes more pollutants and particles to be released into the air.

Finding Dry Materials

Not to state the obvious, but dry wood, leaves, and other natural tinder and kindling burn better. If you’re camping or outdoors in the summer or spring time, you’ll have no problem finding all the dry resources you need to get a flame going in no time.

Guess what?

Finding dry fuel for your fire isn’t nearly as easy when it’s raining outside. You can’t just reach down and pick up a bundle of twigs or dead leaves, you’re going to have to do some work. 

To find dry tinder and kindling when it’s raining, your best bet is going to be smaller branches or sticks. Even though they may be wet on the exterior, you can quickly find out if they have a dry interior by snapping them.

When you bend a stick, if it has a nice clean break with a cracking sound, it’s better for building a fire. If the stick sort of bends with your motion, try choosing another one.

Once you collect enough fuel for your fire, you’ll want to shave down the outer layer of the stick or branch. When you get to the dry wood in the middle, those shavings will make the perfect tinder to start your fire in the rain.

Getting that Spark

Even after you collect your materials, you’re going to face probably your greatest challenge. Which is creating your spark to get everything going

Once a fire is burning, sustaining only requires more fuel. Not very much work on your part to keep feeding your flames with wood. But the hard part is starting your fire, because it requires optimal circumstances, materials, and a lot of patience. 

When you’re in the rain, everything around you is wet. That makes it difficult to get your tinder lit, because your initial flame, and the tinder itself, burn quickly. Being exposed to water can quickly kill any progress you make early on.

How to Start a Fire in the Rain

Now that we’ve covered some of the extra challenges you’ll face when attempting to build a fire in the rain, it’s time to get to the ever important how to. By following the steps below, and following them correctly, you should be able to start a fire no matter the conditions.

Collect Tinder, Kindling, and Wood

We’re going to start with something easy, and that’s collecting all the fuel you’re going to need for your fire. Before attempting to build anything make sure you have gathered enough tinder, kindling, and wood to start your fire, and keep it going in the rain.

Something that is worth noting. Remember how we mentioned that wet wood and materials don’t burn as efficiently? 

Because of that, you need to collect more fuel than you normally wood under drier circumstances. Have enough materials on hand that you can quickly feed your fire if it begins to dwindle.

Build a Small Platform

Before building our fire, try your best to create a dry platform as its foundation. By shaving down some of your wood to expose the dry interior, it will make it easier for your fire to grow since it won’t have to start on the wet ground.

You don’t need a large platform, just big enough to get the initial flame going, since that will be the most difficult part. Once you have a burning flame, you mainly need to work to sustain it.

Build a Shelter from the Rain

In order to make things easier on yourself, build a shelter for your fire and materials. Something that is going to protect your fire from the rain, at least during the initial steps.

Don’t go overboard with your shelter. It doesn’t need to be very large, just big enough to keep your tinder and kindling as dry as possible while lighting your fire. A tarp, jacket, or even a nearby tree should do the trick.

Keep Piling it On

Once you get that initial spark, and your tinder is lit, it’s time to start piling on the rest of your fuel. Since it will take the larger pieces of wood longer to catch fire than normal, stick with adding more kindling until you see that your flame is large enough.

Be careful when you add more fuel though, because too much can actually smother your fire. Especially if the fuel you are adding is wet.

There is one benefit to adding a lot of kindling though. The added layer of sticks and branches will provide much needed shelter from the rain, and begin to dry as the fire grows, making it burn more efficiently.

Fan the Flames

Fire needs oxygen to survive. In order to get your fire to grow in the rain, you’ll need to do your part in helping provide additional oxygen. More than what it just gets from being exposed to the wind.

The best way to provide more oxygen to your campfire is to fan it. For smaller flames, a gentle breath can help, but in this case, you want to be a bit more aggressive.

If you have a tarp or jacket, use it to your advantage. Grab one side, and fan it up and down to provide your fire with more oxygen. Don’t stop until you see that all your wood is engulfed in the fire.

To sustain your fire, all you need to do is continue to add fuel. Once your fire is big enough, and you have enough fuel burning, it will be able to sustain itself even when it’s exposed to the rain. 

So there you have it. You now know how to successfully build a fire in the rain, which is another skill you can add to your survival repertoire.

Brian Segal

As an outdoor enthusiast, I was drawn to bushcraft at a young age. I constantly find myself trying to learn and improve on my survival skills, and enjoy writing about everything I discover to help pass along to others.

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