I don’t know if y’all have noticed it or not, but if you’re in the South… it’s been rainin.’ A lot. I could probably count the sunny days we’ve had in 2019 on both hands. Rain is a natural and unavoidable part of living in nature, and can be tolerated pretty well with proper planning and gear. But one thing is for sure – it certainly amps up the difficulty of firecraft. While constant rain, wet materials, and high ambient humidity make for a harder row to hoe, there are plenty of workarounds that you can use to be more effective at building a fire when it counts. Here’s one we use almost every time we build a fire.
If you've ever been to one of our Firecraft courses, more often than not, we're processing our firewood - be it tinder, kindling, or fuel - on some kind of moisture barrier, like a poncho or a tarp.
There are three main reasons for this.
The primary one is that if you're working on wet ground, your carefully prepared dry tinder and kindling will absorb that moisture way more quickly than you realize. On seriously wet ground, it can happen in a matter of minutes, and the drier and more absorbent your tinder, the more quickly it will happen. The poncho serves as a moisture barrier, keeping your material safe. Without a barrier, you may be disappointed to find your flash tinder not wanting to take a spark.
Another is that it's just a better way to organize your resources, plain and simple. In the heat of the moment (pun totally intended) of starting a fire, especially in difficult conditions, having your material staged and ready is a big help. Keeping things neat and organized can help you move more quickly and efficiently in those crucial early seconds of a fire, especially when you’ve only got enough material for one shot.
Thirdly, it's an insurance policy against bad weather: if you've worked this hard to get all of your material prepped, the last thing you want is a rainstorm coming and drenching it before you can get it under a shelter. With this method, you can simply flip the end of your tarp or poncho over your resources and they're good to go. You can even walk away and go foraging, hunting, etc. and have the peace of mind that your tinder is safe. Also, if the rain really starts coming down, this allows you to move your entire setup without scrambling around and losing half of it trying to move it under your shelter in a hurry.
As we've said before... there's no magic bullet for excellence in firecraft. More accurately (and like many other things in life), it's lots of minor improvements and optimized processes that accumulate into success.
On a closing note, this weather is a great opportunity to practice emergency firecraft. These are perfect hypothermia conditions – cool, rainy, and breezy. Almost all of the times I’ve had to start a fire in a hurry, when it really mattered, it looked a lot like it has for most of February in Georgia. You don’t rise to the occasion, you fall back on your training. And this is one thing you can’t YouTube your way out of. You’ve got to actually get out there and put in the time. So get after it, and keep your tinder dry!