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How To Build a Fire in Rainy Conditions

It’s bound to happen. You’re relaxing in the great outdoors, surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature, enjoying the much-anticipated getaway you’ve been planning for months, and then you hear it. First it starts as a barely audible rumble off in the distance. You attribute it to a truck off in the distance, only because you don’t want to even think about rain putting a damper on your trip that, so far, has gone off without a hitch. But then you hear it again, and this time it sounds a little closer, the rumble a little louder. Your eyes slowly scan your campsite, pausing at your crackling fire. What if this goes out, you think. Can I get a fire going in the rain?

While building a campfire with wet materials isn’t the easiest way of doing things, it’s definitely doable. And knowing how is an important skill to have when (not if!) you find yourself in wet camping conditions. So listen up and take notes on how to build a fire in rainy conditions so you’re prepared the next time a rumble of thunder threatens your outdoor adventure!

Camping materials needed:

  • Knife

  • Waterproof matches

  • Tarp, optional

  • Tinder materials, optional (such as dryer lint or cotton balls coated in petroleum jelly)


  1. Go on a hunt to collect tinder if you didn’t bring any from home. Nature’s tinder includes pine needles, cedar shavings, cattails, and birch bark shavings.

  2. Now look around for kindling and fuel wood. Dry places include under a leaning rock or fallen tree, or the lower branches of a large evergreen tree. Good choices for kindling include tree limbs, twigs, branches, split wood, even pine cones. Since these will be wet from rain, use your knife to whittle off the damp bark from the sticks before using. Split larger pieces of wood and use the dry inner pieces. To determine if it’s dry enough, try to snap the kindling with your hands. If it snaps, it’s dry enough. If it doesn’t snap, it’s too wet to catch fire.

  3. Now find a location to make your fire. A large tree should provide enough dry space for a fire. If there aren’t any trees with a large overhang nearby, string your tarp (if you brought one) between trees to create a dry shelter for your fire.

  4. Since a fire won’t start easily on a wet surface, create a bed for it so it’s not directly on the ground. Use tree branches or bark to make a bed in the shape of a tic-tac-toe board.

  5. On the bed, make a pile of tinder (pine needles, cedar shavings, or homemade tinder). Make a teepee of kindling that goes over the tinder. Then make an even larger teepee over that with your fuel wood.

  6. Using your fuel source (waterproof matches), light the tinder from underneath and gently blow on it as it gets going. Blowing too hard will put out any flames and could even blow your structure apart.

  7. While your fire gets going, set any other tinder or wood you’ve collected next to the fire to help it dry out for future use.

Anyone and their grandma can make a campfire in dry conditions, but only a real camper can turn wet wood into a roaring fire and make it look easy! Use these handy, easy directions to save the day the next time rain clouds move in and your gang starts talking about heading out.

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