How To Start a Campfire With Wet Wood

Starting a campfire is one of the essential skills when camping outdoors, but it can be challenging if you’re trying to do it with wet wood! But don’t worry, starting a campfire with damp wood is possible—it just takes a little extra effort and know-how. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the steps for how to start a campfire with wet wood so that you can stay warm and cozy even in damp conditions. 

How to use wet wood for campfire
Wet wood, Source: Unsplash

Gathering the Materials

The first step is to gather your materials. You’ll need both small twigs and larger logs for your fire, so go out and find some dead trees that are dry enough for snapping off the smaller branches. Avoid pieces of wood lying on the ground for too long—they may be soaked with water and, therefore, unusable.

Water-Resistant Tree Species 

The first way to increase your chances of finding dry wood is by looking for water-resistant tree species. Trees like Oak, Iroko, Cedar, Redwood, and Cherry are all known for their water resistance. These trees may still be damp, but they are much less likely to be soaked through with water.

In addition to water-resistant wood, you can also use a particular type of wood called fatwood. Fatwood is the resin-soaked heartwood of pine trees that is naturally high in flammable oils. This will help you to light them even when wet.

Look Up Off The Ground 

One of the best ways to find dry wood in wet conditions is by looking up off the ground, either hung up or still attached to trees. If you can access dead-standing trees (trees that are no longer alive but still standing), then you can try splitting down those larger dead logs with an axe or saw to expose their drier inner wood.

You can also check under dense shrubs or bushes as they tend to shelter fallen branches from rainfall and often remain relatively dry after rainstorms. Lastly, if you encounter large rocks or boulders while searching for wood, check underneath them as they, too, tend to block rainfall and provide shelter from moisture. 

Ask yourself the question “how much firewood do I need?”. No need to waste time searching for the wood that you won’t use in the end. Once you’ve gathered enough twigs and branches, it’s time to move on to the next step: creating tinder. 

Creating Tinder 

Tinder is an essential ingredient when starting a campfire with wet wood since it helps create sparks and flames more quickly than just throwing your logs on the ground and hoping they catch fire. The best way to create tinder is by gathering dry leaves, grasses, mosses, and other fluffy material that can be easily lit with sparks or matches. You’ll also want to collect some dry bark, if you can find some, that can act as kindling once your tinder has caught fire. 

As they traverse, savvy survivalists use a clever trick to gather foliage. They collect leaves and grass, then compress the plant matter in their rain jackets to dry them with body heat. As you hike, you will naturally produce heat from your body, which can be used to dry out the tinder before you start your fire. This will help ensure that you have plenty of dry tinder ready when it’s time to light the fire. 

Building Your Fire Structure

Start by building a platform that will lift your materials off the ground using a few stones. If you can’t find stones, you can use sticks and logs to create an elevated platform for your fire. This will help keep the heat from hitting the damp ground and will also provide better airflow to your fire.

Once you’ve built the platform, it’s time to build the actual campfire. You will need much more tinder and kindling than usual because wet wood will only catch fire slowly and easily. Start by building a small cone of tinder in the middle of your platform and then layer kindling around it in a teepee formation.

Once you have an adequate amount of kindling, add larger kindling on top of it and then your smaller logs. Be sure to leave enough space in between the logs so that they can get plenty of oxygen and keep burning. Once you’ve finished building the campfire, it’s time to light it.

Lighting The Fire 

Use a match or lighter to ignite the tinder beneath your fire. If you’re using a match, be sure to light it away from the fire and then carefully place it beneath your tinder.

“Unravel cotton balls, and mix them with petroleum jelly. Awesome, lightweight, cheap firestarter. Always carry some in a zippy bag when camping. Also, don’t “build” anything. Get tinder going, slowly add kindling, then start adding bigger stuff. Wait for each addition to start burning before going to the next. Also, you can “fuzz” larger stuff to get it to start, use a sharp knife to make larger stuff into fuzz sticks.” – MachinatioVitae, Reddit.

As you can see, you can also use various other materials to help light and keep your fire going. You can also add some lamp oil or lighter fluid to help keep the fire going but be careful not to add too much or to use too much since these materials can easily flare up and cause a dangerous fire.

Once the tinder has caught flame and started to burn, blow on the flames gently to give them oxygen as they start to grow. You will surely have to add more tinder and kindling to keep the fire alive, so be sure to have plenty on hand when you start.

Once your campfire is burning steadily, you can add larger pieces of wet wood one at a time. Start with smaller logs first and then gradually move up in size as the fire grows more potent. Be sure to leave enough space between the logs and stoke the flames every few minutes to ensure they don’t die down.

Additional Tips

One of my favorite tips is to gather damp grass and moss and place them around the fire. As they absorb the heat from the fire, they will start to dry out. This increases the chance of your wet wood catching on fire. Gathering a few piles of sticks around the campfire will dry out the sticks and make them easier to burn. Just make sure that the sticks are close enough to the campfire; if you don’t see any steam coming out of them, they’re not close enough.

Use Newspapers

Another great tip is to use a paper bag or newspaper as an additional source of tinder. These materials are lightweight and can be easily lit with sparks or a match. The paper will burn quickly and help get the fire going.

Magnesium Bars & Paraffin Wax

You can also use magnesium bars and paraffin vax to help get the fire going. Magnesium bars are like matches and will light quickly, even in wet conditions. Paraffin wax burns hot and slow, so it can help keep your campfire burning for longer.

Keep an Eye on the Campfire at All Times

Finally, remember that you should always leave your campfire supervised for all lengths of time. Even if it seems like your fire is strong and steady, it can quickly die down if left unchecked. So keep an eye on your campfire at all times and never leave it unattended. Make sure to put the fire out once you are ready to pack up and leave.


Starting a campfire with wet wood can be challenging, but it is not impossible. Following these tips and tricks, you should be able to get your fire going quickly and keep it burning for hours. Just remember always to stay vigilant and take the necessary precautions when dealing with any kind of fire. Good luck!

About Antonio

I’m Antonio, a passionate traveler, and outdoor lover who’s running this website. I started this site to share my passion for camping, traveling, and bikepacking.