Smoke Signals

May/Jun 2012


Staff Writer





Makin' Fire in Wet Weather

Everyone in the primitive living and historical trekking hobbies needs to know how to make fire in ANY weather. Last year we attended a rendezvous and a good storm brewed up and hit the site where we camped and everyone who didn’t wake up and batten down the hatches had wind damage to their camps and the rain drenched everything. In the morning we awoke to a nice wet morning and I needed a fire for my morning coffee. As I was walking around to look for dry twigs and other wood in the trees I ran into another fellow longhunter and he said he had to go to his car to get some fire starter (lighter fluid).

My crew gathered a lot of dry kindling from the trees not on the ground. After we gathered our kindling I found a hollow tree that had a mouse nest inside and collected it for my tinder bundle along with some inner bark from a dead standing tree. After we gathered all the materials to get our fire started another person walked by and asked what I was doing and I said “building my campfire”, he laughed and said no one can build a primitive historical correct fire without cheating. I asked him if he wanted to make a small $20 wager and he just walked away to come back within a few minutes to see my fire alive and well all by using actual skills of our ancestors without any aid of modern incendiary devices. He actually was amazed because he never seen or thought a wet weather fire could be made using period methods.

The secret to building fires in wet weather is knowing where to locate your materials. First thing is NEVER look down on the ground for any of your materials even in dry weather. All the good stuff is in the trees off the ground. You can find so much material that is dead and dry in the trees. To build a fire you need tinder, kindling, squaw wood and bulk fuel woods. For tinder you can always find dry inner bark from many different trees like willow, popular, aspen, oaks, hickory and many others. Other tinders are dry grasses, wild grape vine bark, just about anything can be used that is fine and fluffy as long as it is DRY. To prepare your tinder bundle you just rub it between your hands to break down the larger pieces to make them finer to catch flame easier. Some tinders may crumble in your hands if this is the case find something else that will hold together but save the other stuff. The next fuel you will need is kindling that is the small pencil sized wood or smaller, this material you want to make sure you have an abundance of so you can make sure you have enough to get larger wood going. After you gathered up tinder and kindling you need some larger wood that ranges from pinky sized to wrist size as this will be your fuel for most fires. If you are going to use this fire for a group or just want a huge WHITE MAN fire you will need larger fuel which is also known as bulk fire wood. I never use large wood as I try to keep my fires small so I use less fuel and if the pesky Injuns show up I can put it out fast and run if needed. Also a small fire made with DRY hard woods makes less smoke and throws more heat than a fire made with moisture laden fuel. After you build your fire you can make new char with your char tin out of dry punky/rotten woods that will catch a spark almost as well as charred cotton or linen. Another fire tip is if you need a new stone to strike your fire steel against you can find the white quartz lucky stones in almost any creek here in the east and out west you can find flint rocks in the rivers that will throw a spark to allow you to obtain fire, these same stones can also be used in your lock to fire your rifle. Attached is a photo of some good tinders you may find in the field from dry inner barks and grasses that I just found on a short 5 minute woods walk.

Until next time keep your powder dry and your blades sharp

James Kellar

NAF# 127




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