Firemaking tools in tough conditions?

I think of myself as a good fire maker. I have heated my house with wood for 30 years, and I can get a campfire going with one match – when the wood is DRY. But in the Everglades in January, on Picnic and Rabbit Keys, I realized that my fire making kit was barely adequate for wood that had to be coaxed to catch. I found dry, down mangrove wood. I found some scraps to use for kindling. But i was struck by how the dry black managrove twigs took much longer to catch than twigs at home would have. (Because of salt?) So for most fires i used a tea candle to keep a flame on the twigs till they caught. (I had only 3 of these candles; they were an afterthought.) I did not have enough of emergency cotton balls with vaseline and my splinters of heart pine to fuel fire after fire.

Next time I need to carry more aids.

So my question: what do you all carry to start fires in wet or in salty environments? Thanks for suggestions.

G in NC

I guess you know all the usual tricks
If I’m camping after a lot of rain I carry one of the little Duraflame starter logs and break pieces off as needed.

We’ve had this discussion here before. My favorite idea was carry a propane torch. I haven’t needed to do that yet, but it’s filed away.

If it’s wet I find dead standing wood that isn’t rotted, cut off rounds, and then start splitting them into smaller pieces. For kindling, if nothing else is available or dry, I make shavings from the same wood using my knife. Lots and lots of shavings. Some paper-thin and some thicker. It’s nice if you can find a long (3’ or so) piece to get the shavings from. That’s easier and faster than trying to shave from a 10" long chunk. Usually works well but I still struggle in the rain.


I just use my backpacking stove
Just light it and set some pieces of wood across the burner and they light up in no time. This way don’t have to worry about bringing anything extra.

Another idea would be to bring a handful of Styrofoam peanuts. Add a little fuel from your stove and it will disolve them into a flame able paste which will work also.

One last safer idea is to get a egg carton and fill the holes with dryer lint and candle wax. Before the wax dries place one of those trick birthday candles into each one so that the wind will have a hard time blowing them out.

vacuum seal pet shavings
I vacuum seal pet shavings with matches for emergency situations.

Birch bark
Mangrove is by nature a tough wood to get to burn.

I don’t bring the bark to the Everglades. I can’t imagine lighting a fire below high tide line there

How do you avoid scarring the beach?

For firestarters I use an old Boy Scout

– Last Updated: Feb-05-16 5:36 PM EST –

type: Gasoline! Not really.
Get a paper egg carton and fill each pocket with drier lint.
Melt some paraffin and pour the pockets full of wax. The wax should saturate the lint and carton.
Let it cool and cut the pockets into individual starters.
They will not absorb moisture, are small and light and put out some serious heat for awhile.

In the Everglades and…
every where else, we use a tiny butane stove.

No need to have a wood fire.

like you I have heated with wood all my life, and when I am in the wilderness, I don’t want or need a camp fire.

When we were in the arctic circle on a fifteen day trip on the Noatak river we just used pages from a paper back novel. My wife was urged to read faster!

jack L

Thanks to all for suggestions
Some of these are pretty wild. Most I had never thought of.

Kayakmedic, we always built our fires below the high tide line.

Mangrove was hard to get going but burned very, very hot once under way.

Our fires were small and were for good cheer, not cooking. But i always carry emergency firestarter at home and away for a just-in-case scenario.

Not Salt Water
but here in NE when it’s wet and cold I carry a road flare. Light to carry, hot as hell and will get anything burning in no time. I usually carry a 3 pack. Sometimes we have to float logs to our campsites as they’ve been picked clean. After a long wet paddle in it’s nice to get a fire going without messing around.


Ignite-O fire starter
Each packet weighs 20 grams and burns for 15 minutes. You light the edge of the packet and get an instant hot little fire.

Agree with that
Road flares are great emergency fire starters even for wet wood.

A good fire starter that I keep in my dry bag when I’m paddling in cold weather and in case I get wet and need a fire fast. A bottle of butane lighter fuel. Squirt a little butane fluid on a pile of twigs and light, quick fire even if the twigs are damp. The bottles are small and don’t take up much space. That together with a bic lighter make a great emergency fire starter.


small hose to fan the flames
I carry three feet of hose to fan the flame once the fire starts. It’s just a latex hose with 1/4 inch inside diameter. They sell fancy ones, but a plain hose is good. A gentle puff of directed air is much more effective than just blowing or trying to fan with a hat.


Spray some lighter fluid on the end of a small stick and light it then use that to light the pile of twigs.

Ditto the stove
Either using one to cook and make hot drinks and hot water bottles, or to get a fire going.

The other great fire tool I’ve seen is a persuader. A flexible tube with a metal tip to stoke the flames.

Cedar shavings
I carry a baggie of cedar shavings. I also use the wax in paper egg cartons but I fill the cups with cedar shavings before I pour the wax. These do a great job of getting damp wood going.

a candle to melt on the tinder,
and some birch bark, yeah I do pack the birch bark to other places, and one of those nice gas grill lighters works well.

Go on the youtubes
and search for “bushcraft.” Those folks have this fire game down to a science.

Solid fuel tabs
Does anyone use those? Any reason not to? They’re pretty cheap. A friend of mine swears by them.

+1 on the dryer lint and a question
I’m a big fan of dryer lint and I’ll have to try the egg carton and wax Idea.

Another thing we have is fire in a can. Roll up corrugated cardboard into a can fill with melted wax and just burn that. A lovely light, a little heat, and no fire pan needed. When you are done slide on the lid and let it cool. Put it back in the boat in the morning. Cans with lids come in a lot of sizes. Cookie tins are net.

Ok for the next question. Where do you find these so called birch trees? I grew up in Florida and I do not think I’ve ever seen one. Is this a Canada only thing?