In a hurry? Use these four steps to get your fire started in the rain

  1. Choose a suitable location to start your fire such as a rocky outcrop or the base of a cliff
  2. Harvest dry tinder from a number of sources such as the underside of a log or standing deadwood
  3. Ignite your fire with your ignition source of choice such as a lighter or Ferro rod
  4. Have patience as it will take longer to start a fire than normal.

In a survival situation fire is paramount.

It can keep you warm, cook your food, sanitize your water, and even keep the things that go bump in the night at bay.

However, there may be times where you are in “less than ideal situations” and have to get a fire started. Oddly enough, those situations tend to be the times you need to get a fire going the most.

If you were stranded in the middle of a downpour or a snowstorm could you get a fire started when everything around you is soaking wet?

Follow these steps and we’ll show you how to get that fire going and give you the confidence that you can keep yourself and your family safe in a survival situation.

Step 1: Find A Location

under a rocky outcrop
A rocky outcrop
under fallen tree
Underneath a log
base of large tree
Use the leeward side of a tree
base of cliff
Base of a cliff

Location is by far the most important aspect of getting a fire started in the rain or less than ideal conditions.

Without a dry place to start the fire safely, all of your fuel and tinder will become wet.

This will make the whole process of starting a fire even more difficult if not impossible.

Below are a few good places to get a temporary fire started.

Many of them have risks involved so it is recommended that once your coals and flame are established, that you move your fire to a safer location if you are planning an extended stay.

Locations for Starting Fire In The Rain

  1.  The first option is to make your own. A simple lean-to or another basic shelter for your fire. This can be time-consuming and could cost you a lot of valuable time in an emergency. This location is only recommended if none of the other options are viable.
  2.  A rocky outcrop (top left photo) could provide adequate shelter for a fire as long as you are safe and keep the flames away from the surface of the rock. It is advisable to minimize the heating of the rock’s surface. Heating of the rock’s surface can cause fractures, leading to falling rock or collapsing boulders. Keep the flame low and toward the edge of the outcrop to reduce the risks.
  3.  A cave is an excellent place to start a fire (as long as you follow the same rules for the outcrop) but are pretty rare and not typically found by the lost survivor. 
  4.  A fallen tree (top right photo) can be a decent place to start a fire if the tree is wide enough and raised up off the ground, but close enough to the ground to block some of the wind from bringing in the rain or snow. Setting the tree on fire is a risk, but not usually a problem if it’s been raining hard or for many days.
  5.  The leeward (facing away from the wind) side of a large tree (bottom left photo) can possibly provide a small place to start a fire in a pinch. A lot of times there will be a patch of dry ground at the base of the tree. Sometimes you can even find fuel or tinder here for your fire (more on that later). Careful not to set the tree on fire. Over time, a fire here will dry the trunk of the tree out and eventually cause it to smolder and possibly catch flame. 
  6. The last place is the leeward side of a cliff or large rock (bottom right photo). The same principles apply to the leeward side of a tree except you don’t have to worry too much about setting a boulder on fire.

Step 2: Harvest Tinder For Your Fire

Bark of a tree with deep ridges
fallen trees
Underside of a fallen tree
Finding standing dead wood for fire
Harvest standing dead wood
Collecting fluff and lint
Use cotton from clothing such as socks

The next step to getting your fire started in less than ideal conditions is by gathering dry fuel and tinder. The hard part is usually finding it in these kinds of situations.

Below I’ve listed a few places that I can usually depend on to provide me with the materials I need to get my fire started.

Options for Harvesting Dry Tinder

  1.  The bark of a tree with deep ridges (top left photo) is a staple for me. I like to call these my little “fuel nuggets”.

    They are found on the leeward side of a large hardwood tree. The outer layer of this bark is dead so taking some won’t hurt the tree, but avoid taking too much from one tree and also avoid exposing the flesh of the tree underneath the dead outer layer of bark. This invites bugs and parasites that will harm the tree.
  2.  The underside of a fallen tree (top right photo) can provide a lot of dry fuel and tinder if the right conditions are met (see the previous step). If you find a large rotting tree up off the ground this “punky” wood can be harvested with minimal effort.
  3.  Standing deadwood (bottom left photo) is a traditional favorite to many. Simply remove the wet outer layer of bark and carve out what you need from the dry trunk beneath.
  4.  Rocky outcrops, caves and other natural rain blocks can oftentimes bear dry fuel or tinder. Keep an eye out for these natural lifesaving formations. 
  5.  An often overlooked place to find amazing tinder is your socks (bottom right photo) or any other cotton clothing.

    Simply find a dry spot on your sock and start pulling at the fibers and fuzzies that form. Eventually, you’ll end up with a small coin-sized treasure trove of cotton tinder that takes a spark like no one’s business.

Step 3: Ignite Your Fire

cotton fluff lint collection
Harvested lint / cotton from socks
striking leaves with ferrocerium rod
Striking cotton with ferro rod

This step is simply adding a heat or spark source to your tinder.

Above you can see I used the cotton lint from the previous step for my tinder and a ferrocerium rod for my spark.

Other good choices for tinder are dry grasses and bark scrapings. You can ignite any one of these three using anything from a coal from a bow drill up to a spark from a spent lighter.

Step 4: Have Patience

Start of fire catching
Have patience as it will take some time to start your fire

All 4 steps are important, but patience is only second to location.

In the rain or damp snow, everything takes substantially longer to accomplish when building a fire.

Even when a material feels completely dry there may be a bit of moisture in it, especially when it’s been raining for an extended amount of time.

This has a lot to do with the moisture in the air. The dry material will often wick it up right out of thin air. 

In the picture above you can see me blowing my fire into flame, trying to give the coals enough oxygen so they can generate enough heat to dry the rest of the material out.

What should have been a 5-minute fire actually turned into 15-20 minutes. Luckily I had the patience to wait until the embers were established and some of the fuel was dry before I considered the fire established and able to support itself. 

Bottom Line

Fire burning
Fire is in full swing. Even in wet conditions

Nothing is ever guaranteed in survival, but following the steps above can help increase your chances of getting a fire started in less than ideal conditions.

Practice these steps over and over in the summer where hypothermia is less likely. That way if the need ever arises you will be familiar and well equipped to handle the situation.

Be sure to check back regularly for new how-to and gear review posts and videos. Thanks for stopping by and remember, adventure…is waiting.

With 15+ years of outdoors experience, dirt runs through my veins. When I was a child, often I would slip away with nothing more than a pack of matches and a kitchen knife to go on my "outdoor adventures". More than a decade and a half later I'm still here, with new adventures, a little nicer equipment, and a bit more wisdom.

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