NFR Tips and tricks for camp fires in the wet forest of NW WA?


Active Member
Standing dead wood is the key to harvesting wood during the wet season. Split it to get to the dry heart wood. Fat wood and pitch and ceder are our Birch bark. Dead lower limbs are also a good source. Theres a man that has property up on the south fork of the Hoh who I have seen start a fire with a bow drill in the middle of winter in the pouring rain just to prove it can be done. He has video of it on the you tube somewhere. I either use a chainsaw and maul if I am in the adventure van or a Silky saw and my hatchet if on foot. In my fishing pack I cary a small soldering torch as an emergency lighter in case I break a leg and need to hunker down and am not able to play boy scout. God luck and have fun!
If you don't have other fire starters to help, this is the best advice that I have followed.


WFF Supporter
C'mon guys-it's almost 2021! Rubbing sticks together went out with cod pieces or high button shoes, powdered wigs, etc.

Rutland Safe Light fire starting squares are about the easiest thing you will ever start a fire with.They burn hot and are essentially waterproof, are thin and have a low profile and are easy to transport. They come in a wafer that is 9'' long by a little over 3'' wide and not quite 7/16'' thick. Each wafer or brick breaks into 12 individual fire starters so you can carry as many or as few as necessary. A full brick can be carried in a backpack readily taking up very little room or broken down, placed in a zip lock and carried in a fishing vest. It's always good to have to have a full brick in your rig just in case, they will start a fire when many of the traditional methods fail.

A box of 144 cost <$20 and is really easy to store. I have started every fire in my wood stove with these for 20 years now and wouldn't be without them. Give them a try, it is a good way to carry a lot of fire starters in a very limited space.

Brian Miller

Be vewy vewy qwiet, I'm hunting Cutthwoat Twout
WFF Supporter
...It can be difficult to harvest enough dry material in the field during the wet season to get a good fire going in PNW. Look for dry wood and dead branches under mature trees. Dead, dry lichens and pine needles and cones are a good kindling source. Dry bigger fuel sources around the fire before burning.
Standing dead wood is the key to harvesting wood during the wet season. Split it to get to the dry heart wood. Fat wood and pitch and ceder are our Birch bark. Dead lower limbs are also a good source.
Do some strike anywhere matches too. My grandmother taught me that.
I find the old TeePee pyramid built small to big starting with knife shavings works well.

My younger brother was an Armored Cavalry Scout stationed in Bad Hersfeld in 1971-73. He was frequently forward deployed to watch the East-West border for signs of pre-attack Soviet army movement through the Fulda Gap. The weather there is apparently similar to western WA in winter, and cooler / wetter in summer. He could build a fire anywhere. I was in the USAF stationed at McChord at the time and a climber / Mt Rescue volunteer.

After he ETS'd home we took a hike to Blanca Lake in late spring. It was a partly sunny day, but there was 3-4 of snow on the ground, and the lake was frozen over except for a small slit near shore. It was gorgeous. The only "bushcraft" tools we had were Swiss Army knives. We built a fire on the snow to sit and have lunch with only natural materials gathered from around us as @SHD and @splett mentioned. We collected tinder, kindling and some slightly larger deadfall for fuel. He laid some deadfall down on the snow then built the fire as mentioned by @MGTom on top of it. Somewhere I have a pic of him proudly standing over the fire.


WFF Supporter
Glad to see a few of you mentioned variants of Boy Scout Water. I've used that on soaking wet kindling to get a fire going a time or two. I suppose that was a more obvious solution when it cost $0.30 or less per gallon. Now that it's closer to $3.00, some more creative and less expensive fire starters probably makes fiscal sense.


Active Member
A couple of 12 inch or 14 inch tires and a tiger torch, never had it fail. A bit smoky but wet wood on it is not a problem.


Active Member
I was a SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) instructor in the USAF and station at Fairchild in Spokane. We did our tropical/rain forest training in the Ho national forest.

Cotton balls and Vaseline are my favorite fire starter. They are light weight, take up no room, are readily available, and multi use. One or 2 cotton balls soaked in Vaseline, and then aerated very well is all you need. It will easily catch fire with a spark. I recommend a metal match for this as matches get wet and lighters can break or run out of fuel. I have started thousands of fire with the same metal match (magnesium stick, etc)

Build some type of platform to get the tinder and wood off the wet ground.

On the platform, place a brace that is about the size of your forearm. This is used to keep the 1st stages of wood off the tinder so that you can get oxygen.

Fire needs 3 things, heat (metal match) oxygen (brace) and fuel (cotton balls and your firewood)

As far as wood goes, pitch is my favorite, and I would always have a chunk on me when I was teaching. You can also use the pitch wood (fatwood) as a tinder by scraping it with your knife and creatinging wood shavings. Best place to find pitch is in stumps. If you see a big shard of wood sticking out of a rotten stump, its probably pitch.

Next easiest is what we called squaw wood. It is the lower branches of pine trees. Preferably with good cover above to protect from the rain. Get a big armload of this, break it into pencil lead, pencil, and thumb sized pieces and put that on the tinder in the smallest diameters and work your way up. I prefer a grid or log cabin style to start and then can use the teepee overtop of that if you have some bigger chunks of wood that might be a little wet.

If everything is soaked, then you have to get to the heart wood. Dead standing with bark still on it is the best if you can cut it or break it. Wedging between 2 trees and breaking will work in a pinch if you don't have an axe. Mini chainsaw in a can work good too. Its just the chain with 2 handles on it. Can saw half way through a coffee can sized tree and start rocking it and a lot of the time you can get it to split for you.

Thats about it. If you are going to be out in the backcountry and there is a chance that you could need a fire to save your life, then I strongly recommend practicing both a squaw and a split wood fire and be prepared just in case you ever need it.


Active Member
If you really need a fire in a hurry, get your dry wood as mentioned above, lay your fire, then ignite with a short road flare. Put a couple short road flares in your gear for an emergency.
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Active Member
If you're in a desperate need of a fire in western wa. remember that there are several things in your wallet that can make starting a fire easier. burning money and credit cards can help in getting a fire started. Haveing a good source of burnable material to get you through the night is also important if the fire is your only source of light. I remember a father and son that told me about staying overnight on the coast when darkness overcame them elk hunting before they were able to get back to the road. They moved from one cedar snag to the next before it got dark. Ended up building a fire at the base of one to get through the night.

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