An Ingenious Trick to Build a Fire with Wet Wood

Two wet logs in the forest.
Is it possible to use those two wet logs to build a fire?

When is a fire the most comforting? Whenever the weather is difficult: in the winter when there is snow or in the other seasons after a day of rain. However, it’s difficult to find dry wood in those conditions.

When I first approached this problem, I asked myself, ‘Is it even possible to start a fire with wet wood?‘.

The short answer is that it is possible. I was very surprised to find that out. Everything comes down to a simple observation: regardless of how wet a log feels on the outside, if you split it open, the center will be dry. So the trick is to use the inside of the wood to start and maintain your fire.

Now, let me walk you through the details of this method.

Step 1 – find the perfect wet wood to get your fire started

Even though the ground and the trees are wet, this does not mean you should not take the time to select the best wood you can find. In order of importance, here are the characteristics of the perfect wet wood:

  1. Condition: The wood should be reasonably wet – avoid logs that are floating on the water. Fallen logs or dead trees are the best picks, as they usually are dry inside.
  2. Type: Any softwood will do the trick. Softwood is one of the best materials to start a fire as it burns relatively quickly. The most common softwoods are juniper, yew, spruce, pine, Douglas fir, redwood, and cedar.
  3. Size: About as wide as your fingers.

When you have about 4 to 6 pieces of wood, you can proceed with step 2.

Step 2 – shave the outside

Using your knife or hatchet, shave as much bark and wet wood as possible. Water usually only penetrates the outer layers of the wood, so you should end up with some reasonably dry wood at the end of this process.

Then cut your pieces of wood until they are smaller than your forearm. In this way, they are at the appropriate size to get a fire started.

Disclaimer: Even though this step is straightforward, it can also be dangerous if not done properly. Therefore, comply with the following safety measures:

  • It goes without saying that you should cut in the direction away from your body.
  • If you are using a hatchet or an ax, do not hold the wood when cutting it. When you shave the bark, do not raise the cutting edge higher than the hand that holds the wood.

Step 3 – in case you can not find dry kindlings

These wood shavings are perfect to start a fire.
How the wood shavings should look like.

Sometimes there has been so much rain that it is almost impossible to find dry kindlings to get the fire started. In this case, you can use sawdust and wood shaving as a substitute. In order to find dry wood shavings and sawdust, strip away some of the wood you get at “step 2”.

Step 4 – start your fire

First things first, find a dry spot to build your fire pit. If you can not find a decent place, dig a hole in the ground until the soil is no longer wet. Also make sure your fire pit is built at a reasonable distance from trees, bushes, or other flammable materials.

Then, start by igniting your sawdust, kindlings or wood shavings. Once your fire has started, feed it with additional wood as needed.

Step 5 – sustain your fire

At this point, you should already have established a small fire.

You do not need to shave the wood anymore, as you can use the flames to heat and dry pieces of wood by placing them right next to the fire. Since this will put off a lot of hot smoke, make sure you are at a reasonable distance. Once the wood is dried properly, use it to sustain your flames.

Do you want to learn all the dirty secrets to keep your fire going all night long–and with no maintenance? Visit our guide: how to keep a fire burning for hours.


Next time it rains or snows, you will not have to worry about building a fire! You just have to remember the following steps:

  1. Find some wet wood.
  2. Shave the outside.
  3. Strip away some of the wood to make some sawdust and shavings.
  4. Start your fire with the sawdust and shavings, sustain it with some dried wood.

If you have any questions or remarks, leave a comment below.

Leave a Reply

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