Being able to light a fire by friction, using a bow drill is often seen as one of the key bushcraft skills. In this blog, we’re going to show you how to choose the correct wood for a bow drill and have a quick look at which types work best together.

Remember, the best way to learn how to light a fire by friction is to sign up to a bushcraft course with an experienced instructor. Click the following links to find out more about our friction fire lighting and weekend bushcraft courses.

 

Bushcraft in Dorset

 

Anatomy of a bow drill

A bow drill is composed of four main parts – the bearing block, the drill, the hearth, and the bow.  At it’s most simplistic, a bow drill works by grinding two combustible materials which are rubbed together until the material is taken beyond its auto-ignition temperature, this then creates an ember which is used to ignite timber. To find out more about how bow drills work and the anatomy of them read our blog Bow Drills a Beginners Guide.

 

 

Choosing wood for a bow drill

 

Suitable lists for your bow drill

What follows is not an exhaustive list of woods that are suitable but rather a selection of those that we consider some of the best suited to making a bow drill in the UK.


Remember, never take live wood. Look for dead wood that has not yet started to decay.
Bushcraft is about living in harmony with nature, not overcoming up.

 

Learn the art of fire lighting on our weekend bushcraft course
Click here to learn more

 

Elder (Sambucus Nigra)

Elder is native to the UK and is thought to be named after the Anglo-saxon ‘Aeld’ which means fire. This is because its hollow stems were thought to be used to blow air into embers. 

Choosing wood for a bow drill in the UK

 

Willows (Salices)

Willow (Salix or Salices) is a very varied genus. The Salix Fragilis crack willow is one of Britain’s largest native willows and grows to around 25 metres. 

Salix fragilis

 

Hazel (Corylus avellana)

Hazel is a tree that is native to the UK. Not only is it native, but it is also one of the most useful trees for bushcraft.  Throughout the ages, Hazel has been thought to protect against witchcraft, protect against evil spirits, in ancient Ireland it was considered to be the tree of knowledge.

 

Hazel trees for bow drill

 

Silver Birch (Betula Pendula)

Silver Birch is incredibly useful for bushcraft. It is also heavily bound up with Celtic mythology. In the past, it symbolized renewal and purification, love and fertility.  Silver Birch is also great for fire lighting using sparks. 

Silver Birch Bark trees

 

Learn the art of fire lighting on our weekend bushcraft course
Click here to learn more

In this blog, we’re going to be looking at knife skills for bushcraft. In particular, we will be looking at how to use a knife to make feather sticks. Feather sticks are a great fire lighting tool and can help you to get a fire started in damp or even wet conditions. Read on to learn more about the bushcraft knife skills needed to create feather sticks.

 

 

First, a word on knives

 

Knife skills for bushcraft


A knife is often seen as a key part of a bushcraft enthusiast’s kit. Topics on ‘which’ knives are popular on many bushcraft internet forums, and knives are often fetishized among certain groups of bushcraft enthusiasts. We believe though that a knife is a tool and, like any tool, a knife is made to be used – not locked away and only ever taken out to look at. Also, like any tool, you need the skills to use it. Read on to learn more about knife skills for bushcraft and how to make feather sticks. 

 

 

Making feather sticks

bushcraft knife skills

 

When it comes to knife skills for bushcraft, feather sticks, like almost everything else, doesn’t start with the knife, it starts with choosing your materials.  Whatever you are doing in bushcraft, you should be looking to be using standing, deadwood. Bushcraft is about being in harmony with nature, not overcoming it.

Choosing wood for feather sticks

The wood that you should be looking for when it comes to feather sticks should be standing dead wood. The wood should be around the thickness of your arm and about the length of your extended middle finger to your elbow.

 

Knife skills for feather sticks

The first bushcraft knife skill that you will need for making feather sticks is battoning. Battoning is splitting wood by placing your knife on top of the wood and then, making sure that about an inch or so of the tip of the blade protrudes over the edge of the wood. Gentle tap the blade, being sure to hit it along the centre, into the wood. Keep bashing the knife into the wood until it splits, then repeat the process until you have split the piece of wood that you have chosen into four. 

 

Using your knife to make feather sticks

The next knife skill that you will need involves making the curls that form the feather sticks. To learn how to do this, watch the video below.

 

 

Weekend bushcraft course

Sharpen your bushcraft knife


On our
weekend bushcraft course we will introduce you to some basic knife skills. We will show you several knife techniques that you need for basic bushcraft skills and how best to put these into practice.  Our Intermediate Bushcraft Course will introduce you to more advanced techniques in a way that enables you to live out in the woods for a week. 

 

The ability to light a fire by friction is one of the fundamental skills of bushcraft. It is a skill which our ancestors perfected over millennia, before, sadly, losing these skills in the face of industrialization. Mastering this skill though can give you a huge degree of freedom. Once you are truly comfortable with bushcraft, you will be able to go into the woods with nothing other than what you are wearing, and live comfortably. As we like to say here at Wildway Bushcraft, it’s about more than ‘just survival’.

Read on to learn more about the origins of friction fire-lighting, what you can learn on our weekend bushcraft course, how to perfect your technique, and how we can help you.

 

 

Origins of friction fire-lighting

Learn friction fire lighting on our course

Friction fire-lighting is a skill that has been around as long as humans. There is even evidence of fire being used by Homo Erectus around one million years ago. The fact that our ancestors were able to light fires and, importantly, replicate this technique whenever they were called upon to do so, ensured the survival of our species. There is a range of academic theories that believe fire lighting began with exploiting natural fires, such as lightning strikes. This then evolved into our ability to transport embers, then, eventually master the art of friction fire lighting.  

 

Friction fire-lighting on our weekend course

Friction fire lighting UK

Our weekend bushcraft course, held in beautiful woodland on the Dorset/Hampshire border, introduces you to the basics of friction fire-lighting. If you already have a degree of knowledge around friction fire-lighting, then our instructors are willing to work with you to help you to develop your skills further.  

 

Introduction to bow-drill

Bow drill ember

 

 

On our Weekend Bushcraft Course, we will introduce you to the basics of bow-drill techniques. Having shown you how to use a knife in a way that enables you to make the cuts needed to construct a bow-drill. From there, we will show you how you can use your bow-drill to hopefully get an ember.  If you’ve never heard of a bow-drill before, have a look at our blog on perfecting your bow drill technique.

 

Develop your technique further

Our courses are very flexible. As we’ve said, if you have a basic level of understanding, then we are willing to work with you to help you to get the most out of our sessions.  If you would like a specialist fire lighting session then book on to our one day friction fire lighting course.

 

Let us help you!

friction fire lighting from Wildway bushcraft
Have a go at making your own bow drill and practice your technique at home. Upload photos to our Facebook group here and let us know how well you are getting on with your bow drill. We will try our best to help you from a distance!

We at Wildway Bushcraft are excited to announce the dates of our courses for 2019. It’s an exciting year ahead with highlights including our River Spey Canoe Trip, Women’s Only Bushcraft Course and our Intermediate Bushcraft Course to name but a few. Read on to find out more about our courses and click on the links below to book your space!  

Foundation in Bushcraft Skills and Wilderness Living Course Level 2 – Weekend Bushcraft Course. (IOL Accredited Course).

Course dates for 2019


8-10 February
8-10 March
12-14 April
24-26 May
7-9 June
26-28 July
9-11 August
13-15 September
18-20 October
22-24 November

One Day Bushcraft Course

Weekend bushcraft courses UK Dorset Hampshire

9 February
9 March
13 April
25 May
8 June
27 July
10 August
14 September
19 October

23 November

Spoon Carving Course

Sharpen your bushcraft axe

30 March
21 September

River Spey Canoe Expedition

Seawater into drinking water
Takes your breath away.

27 – 31 May

Women Only One Day Bushcraft Course

Friction fire course

16 March
17 August

Friction Fire Lighting Course

family bushcraft course

17 March
18 August

Intermediate Bushcraft Course

Clothing for winter camping

28 September – 2 October

After a hard day walking in winter conditions, there is nothing better than a hot brew. That’s why, in this blog, we will be looking at how to make the most of your stove in winter conditions. When we’re looking at winter conditions we are looking at those in places of the UK such as the Brecon Beacons, Dartmoor, and the South West in general. We will not be considering winter conditions in mountainous regions or Scotland where winter conditions can be equivalent to the Arctic. Read on to learn more about maximising your stove use in winter.

 

Key considerations 

Making the most of your stove in winter


This blog is simply an overview of the different types of stoves and their effectiveness in winter. It does not compare stove types nor the enormous number of variations which can impact on the stove’s effectiveness. These variations include things such as, the altitude that the stove is being used at, the type of windshield being used, the temperature of the fuel beforehand, the wind speed/direction and of course the experience of the person using it. 

 

Solid fuel stoves 

Solid fuel stoves use either fuel blocks, such as ‘hex’ blocks or alcohol gels. One of the main drawbacks with these types of stoves is that the fuel is not readily available in your local camping store, nor can you control the heat output of the stove. The fuel is unlikely to be affected by winter temperatures but is obviously prey to the conditions that affect all stoves in winter.

TREAT SOMEONE TO A WILDWAY BUSHCRAFT VOUCHER.

 

Unpressurised liquid stoves

Unpressurised liquid stoves, such as the Trangia, typically run on a methanol, parrafin, or kerosene fuels. Typically these have a lower burning temperature than gas or multi-fuel stoves and, once again, the temperature can be hard to regulate. They can be impacted badly by cold weather although there are several things that you can do to improve their performance in winter. These include, insulating the stove from the ground, using more fuel to heat the stove first, keeping the fuel insulated and warm while carrying it and while at camp.

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Gas Stoves

Gas stoves light instantly, without the need for priming, and are largely maintenance free. The fuel for gas stoves is generally widely available and can typically be found in local hardware stores as well as camping shops. Their performance in winter is more to do with the fuel that is being used than the stove itself.  

TREAT SOMEONE TO A WILDWAY BUSHCRAFT VOUCHER.

 

Butane/Propane

Pure butane is a poor fuel for use in stoves in winter as it stops vapourising (e.g. the gas will remain liquid) at around – 1 degrees celcius. Propane, on the other hand, can be used at temperatures down to – 42 degrees Celcius, making it an ideal choice. However, it is extremely difficult to manufacture pure propane canisters that are suitable for camping. This leaves us with a butane/propane mix, typically canisters of this type will use a 70/30 butane/propane mix.  Even using this mix, however, effectiveness can be reduced in cold weather as the stove empties.

TREAT SOMEONE TO A WILDWAY BUSHCRAFT VOUCHER.

 

Pressurised liquid/multi-fuel stoves

Stoves of this type, such as the MSR Whisperlite, are excellent performers in all but the most extreme conditions.  These stoves can be used with both gas canisters and a liquid fuel known as ‘white gas’, a pure form of gasoline. These stoves, however, can be difficult to use for novices as they typically require priming and can be prone to flare-ups, making them less than ideal for using inside one’s tent.

TREAT SOMEONE TO A WILDWAY BUSHCRAFT VOUCHER.

 

Fires

Cooking on a fire in winter


Provided that you are able to light a fire in winter (have a look at our blogs
here and here) then they can be a great source of heat, light and can be easy to cook on.  However, you do need to be mindful of the environment in which you are having a fire. Provided that you are not in a genuine survival situation where anything goes then you need to consider if you have permission, the environmental impact of having a fire and, of course, how you can have a fire without leaving any trace. 

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Kit 

Below we have listed a few pieces of kit that are essential for going out into the woods during winter or at any time of the year. 

 

Further Reading 

Here are some other blogs that might be of interest, use the arrows to navigate between them.

 

TREAT SOMEONE TO A WILDWAY BUSHCRAFT VOUCHER.

As we move into autumn and then into winter here in the UK, the weather gets colder and, more often than not, wetter. In these conditions, it can become more difficult to find dry wood with which to light a fire. The true bushcraft practitioner, however, has no difficulty finding dry wood and kindling with which to light a fire in the winter. Read on to discover more tips on how to source dry wood in wet conditions. As always, feel free to read the whole blog or skip to the section that interests you the most

Don’t forget the basics

Fire lighting in damp autumn conditions
Before we look at finding dry wood in wet weather in more detail it is worth stressing that just because the weather conditions have changed there is no reason to forget the basics.  All the principles that normally apply to good fire lighting practice apply double in the winter. Take care of your tinder and use lots of dry and suitable kindling. When it comes to kindling the amount that you use in wet weather should be several times more than you would use in dry conditions. Don’t also forget to build a small platform of twigs on the floor in order to raise the fire off the damp floor.  

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

 

Importance of keeping your kit dry

Fire lighting damp conditions


In wet or wintery conditions it is of vital importance to keep your kit dry at all times. This applies equally to sleeping bags, tents, and everything else that you might be carrying. When it comes to fire lighting it is important that you keep your tinder, whether you have gathered it as you have gone along or bought it from home, it is vital that it is kept dry. When gathering tinder and fuel as you go along one of the easiest ways to keep it dry is to put it in the pockets of your waterproof jacket or trouser pockets underneath your waterproof trousers. Care should be paid to keeping your fire lighting tools – such as matches or Swedish firesteel – dry. It is always worth carrying several methods of fire lighting in your kit, for example, a fire steel, matches and lighter. 

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LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

 

Gathering as you go

Leave no trace after camp fire is finished

One of the easiest ways to find dry fuel for the fire while out in wet weather is to gather it as you go along. Rather than trying to find it all in one place at the end of your journey, gathering fuel as you go along not only saves you time when you reach your camp but it also enables you to look for fuel in different sites along your route, often when the weather conditions are more favourable.

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

 

Making feather sticks 

One of the best sources of dry wood in wet weather is in feather sticks. While the outside of the wood might be wet the ability to make feather sticks will help you to access the dry wood on the inside. Provided that the wood is not saturated with water then feather sticks can be an excellent way of lighting a fire in damp conditions.  

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Learn more about making feather sticks in our video. Watch via our YouTube channel or in the blog below.

 

Kit 

Below we have listed a few pieces of kit that are essential for going out into the woods during winter or at any time of the year.

 

Further Reading 

Here are some other blogs that might be of interest, use the arrows to navigate between them.

 

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

Autumn and winter in the UK can seem like a time of inactivity in the woods. For those who know where to look and what to look for there are plenty of things going on. In this blog, we’re going to take a short look at a few of the plants that make an appearance during autumn and winter in the UK.

Read on to learn more or click on the links below to skip to the section that interests you the most.

 

Lesser celandine

Plants for autumn and winter

Ficaria verna, commonly known as lesser celandine

Lesser celandine is related to the buttercup family. It’s yellow flowers, which resemble stars, bloom from late February into May. Look for lesser celandine carpeting the woodland floors as winter begins to relax its hold on the earth. It is one of the plants that is used to provide an indication of the passing of seasonal events, for this reason, the flowering of lesser celandine is seen as a sign of spring. The flowers of lesser celandine provide an important source of nectar for bumblebees and other insects that begin to emerge in early spring.

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Mistletoe 

Plants to identify in autumn and winter

Mistletoe

Mistletoe is so much more than just a plant for awkwardly kissing under at Christmas.  This parasitic plant typically grows on plants such as hawthorn, blackthorn, and rowan. The white berries of mistletoe appear in winter while the plant itself flowers in at some point between February and April. Many animals depend upon mistletoe throughout the winter and it forms a key part of the surrounding ecosystem.  The plant has associations with fertility and vitality in western medieval culture. 

 

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

 

Primrose

 

Plants to identify in autumn and winter

Primrose

 

Primroses typically flower between late December and early May and are often found in woodland clearings. They are found throughout Europe, stretching in distribution from the tip of North Africa to Norway. The flowers and leaves of primroses are both edible and can be used in soups and stews. 

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

 

Dog’s Mercury 

 

Plants for autumn and winter in the UK

Mercurialis perennis, commonly known as dog’s mercury

Dog’s Mercury is common throughout the UK, most often found carpeting the floor of ancient woodlands.  It often spreads to such an extent that it crowds out species such as Oxlip, shading woodland floors. Dog’s Mercury flowers in February through to April, although it bears leaves throughout the year. It is also, and most importantly, very highly poisonous. Eating Dog’s Mercury can lead to vomiting, the victim falling into a coma and then death.  

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

Kit

 

Further Reading 

Here are some other blogs that might be of interest, use the arrows to navigate between them.

 

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

In this blog, we’re going to have a look at some of the things that change in our woods in autumn. As all skilled bushcraft practitioners know being in tune with nature is the key to improving one’s skill set. Every time we go out into the woods it is important to look around and take it all in, this blog will help you do just this by providing you with some autumn characteristics of UK woodlands to look out for.

 

Animal behaviour 

autumn in the UK woods


Autumn doesn’t just bring with it a change of colour in the leaves, it also brings a change in animal behaviours. Here are a few to look out for.

  • Birds
    Falling temperatures and declining availability of foods cause some species of birds to migrate throughout the autumn.  Keep an eye out for birds such as Swallows which migrate from Europe to Africa in the winter, returning to their feeding grounds in spring.  There are other less long-distance migrants, altitudinal migrants – those that migrant short distances from north to south – include Skylarks, Meadow pipits and Snow buntings.
    For more information see the RSPB’s website here.
  • Hedgehogs, dormice, and bats
    Hedgehogs, dormice, and bats consume large quantities of fruit, nuts, and insects in the run-up to winter in order to increase their proportions of body fat and prepare for their hibernation.
  • Deer and Boar
    For larger animals, such as deer and boar, autumn can be a busy time of the year. These animals are all seeking mates, so while it is a good time of the year to see them it is best to keep your distance.

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

 

Fungi 

Mushrooms in autumn in the UK woods


Autumn is a great time of year to spot fungi. Remember though, never eat anything that you have not 100% positively identified as safe. The kingdom of fungi is an enormous one, with over 15,000 species in the UK alone. The Woodland Trust outlines several of the most common types of fungi found in the UK,
here on their blog

 

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

 

Trees

Alder trees for bushcraft 

The UK woodland is a fantastic sight in autumn. The deciduous trees are losing their leaves and the woods are carpeted with an amazing array of colours. Identifying deciduous trees in autumn and winter is a key bushcraft skill that will help you with other bushcraft skills including friction fire lighting and shelter building.  The Woodland Trust has an introduction to identifying trees in the UK in autumn and winter in their blog here. 

 

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

 

Kit 


Autumn is a fantastic time to get out into the woods and practice your bushcraft skills. We’ve listed some equipment below that might come in handy when practicing your autumn bushcraft.
Please note that aside from Bear Blades Wildway Bushcraft is not associated with any of the brands or pieces of equipment listed below – we don’t get anything extra if you choose to purchase one of these items!  

 

Further Reading 

Here are some other blog posts that might interest you. Use the arrows to navigate. 

As autumn draws in around us and thoughts turn to winter our bushcraft practices adapt and change with the seasons. Though we might not have as much snow this year as we did at the start of 2018 there still might be enough to practice one of the most essential winter bushcraft techniques; lighting a fire on snow. In this blog, we will briefly recap the basics of fire lighting and then discuss some techniques for lighting a fire on snow. Read on to learn more or skip to the section that interests you the most.

 

Fire lighting essentials

Lighting a fire on snow
We’ve covered the basics of fire lighting in detail here, but essentially it comes down to correctly gathering and preparing your materials, not rushing or skipping any stage of the process and ensuring that you have all of the materials that you will need before lighting your fire.


If you are interested in more advanced fire lighting techniques then why not join us on our one-day friction fire lighting course or our weekend bushcraft course.

 

Is it worth the effort?

Before starting to attempt to light a fire on snow it is worth asking yourself it is worth the effort. If you are already cold, tired and wet, in short, if it is coming close to a survival situation, then you need to be sure attempting to light a fire will not exhaust your remaining energy reserves. You will need to judge each situation on its own merits and make your own decisions based upon the situation and your confidence in your skills.

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

 

Lighting a fire on snow

When it comes to lighting a fire on snow the key thing to remember is that it melts. This means that building a fire directly onto the snow itself will not only get your tinder wet but will also, should you manage to get it lit, melt the snow beneath it and disappear into it.

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Building a platform

One of the easiest ways to construct a fire on snow is to build a platform, either consisting of split logs or stones and place your tinder on top of it. This will give you a dry and firm base on which to light your fire.

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

Digging down

If the snow is of a reasonably shallow depth, like the kind that we might experience in the south of the UK in winter, then it is a better idea to dig down. Removing the snow until you have reached the level of the earth and then constructing a base on this earth (so as to keep the moisture out) will not only insulate the fire but will also ensure that it doesn’t melt the snow.

Preparation for lighting a fire in the snow

Lighting a fire on snow

Successful fire lighting depends on good preparation, in any weather, however, this goes double when there is snow on the ground. Ensure that you have plenty of dry tinder with you, and ideally keep it in your clothes where it can’t get damp, and plenty of firewood to keep the fire going throughout the night.

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.

 

Kit 

Lighting a fire on snow

Here are some pieces of kit that you might find useful when lighting a fire. Please note that aside from Bear Blades Wildway Bushcraft is not associated with any of the brands or pieces of equipment listed below – we don’t get anything extra if you choose to purchase one of these items!

 

Further Reading

Here are some other blog posts that might interest you. Use the arrows to navigate.

Lighting a fire in damp conditions is a vital bushcraft skill. Fire is key for keeping warm, cooking food and a whole host of other bushcraft activities; as with all elements of bushcraft the real skill comes in being able to do it in less than ideal conditions. This week, we’re going to look at how to light a fire in damp conditions. This will include a recap of the basics of fire lighting, a look at some basic axe techniques and a video of how to make feather sticks – a very useful tool when it comes to lighting a fire in the rain.

Feel free to read the whole blog or skip to the sections that interest you by clicking on the links below.  

 

Fire lighting basics 

Light a fire in damp conditions


No matter what the conditions are, successfully lighting a fire relies on following some basic principles. In this section, we’re going to quickly recap some elemental fire lighting principals. Never rush these as getting the basics wrong will make it much harder for you to succeed in lighting a fire and therefore cause you to waste more energy than is needed. 

 

  • Start with tinder

    Successful fire lighting begins with finding appropriate tinder. Whether this is natural tinders such as birch bark, or tinder that you have brought with you, such as balls of cotton wool. In damp conditions, you will need more tinder than you would in dry conditions.  If it is going to be damp it is better, if at all possible, to plan in advance and bring your tinder with you. After all, you don’t want to have to spend time looking for tinder when you are already cold and wet.

  • Kindling

    Now that you have more tinder than you think you might need, it is time for kindling. Kindling is small twigs or sticks no more than pencil thickness. It very important that kindling is dry, we will look at how to find dry kindling in damp conditions later in this blog. After gathering kindling of pencil thickness,  collect sticks that are around as thing as a thumb. If wood this size is not readily available it can be made by splitting thicker pieces of wood into smaller individual pieces.

     

  • Larger pieces of wood

    After the thumb-thick pieces of wood, it is time for larger pieces of firewood. You need to several pieces of firewood of steadily increasing size and thickness. Split wood will burn faster than wood that has not been split. We will look at axe techniques for splitting wood later in this blog.

  • Preparing the ground

    Before lighting your fire it is important to prepare the ground. In damp conditions, it is a good idea to raise your tinder off the ground. This is best done by clearing away any fallen foliage, down to the bare earth and then laying a platform of small, pencil-thick sticks. You can then use this platform to build your fire on.

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE. 

 

Sourcing wood in wet conditions

Fire lighting in damp conditions


Keeping in mind the basic steps for fire lighting, the first step (after having checked that you’ve brought your tinder) is sourcing dry wood for kindling – or for making into tinder if necessary.
Remember, when you’re looking for wood, dead, standing wood is the best for fire lighting. With that in mind here are some tips and techniques for finding wood in damp conditions. 

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  • Gather as you go


    One of the most common mistakes is in waiting until you are at your campsite before starting to gather fuel for your fire. Rather than waiting until you’ve arrived at your destination gather materials as you walk into camp.

  • Look for dry patches and don’t pick wood from the ground


    Look for patches of dry ground around trees, such as patches that have been sheltered by the tree’s canopy. If dry, dead, standing wood is not available then look for twigs on the ground under the shelter of the tree. Dry, dead twigs will snap cleanly if pressure is applied to them if the twig does not break cleanly or simply bends then discard it and continue your search.

     

  • Look for the wood inside


    While the outside of the wood, be it a branch or twig, might be wet the chances are that the inside of the wood is dry. Provided that the wood is not soaked through then whittling away the outside of the wood can give you access to the dry wood inside. For larger pieces of wood, you will need to split it either by batoning or by using an axe.  We will look at the finer points of both techniques further on in this blog. 

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE. 

 

Techniques for batoning

Batoning is a technique for splitting smaller pieces of wood with a knife. It involves placing the knife on one end of the piece of wood and the other end of the wood on the ground. The back of the blade should then be struck with another piece of wood to force it into the piece of wood that you are trying to split. With the blade of the knife now embedded horizontally into the piece of wood you should now strike the front part of the protruding blade. Strike this part of the knife regularly with equal force each time until the wood is split.

Considerations when batoning

When batoning it is important that you use a fixed blade, e.g. not a folding blade, knife. The knife should ideally be full tang, or narrowing tang otherwise you risk breaking the blade on the knife and causing yourself injury. Batoning should only be attempted on pieces of wood that have a diameter that is smaller than the length of the blade of the knife. For larger pieces of wood an axe should be used.

Axe techniques for splitting wood

Weekend bushcraft course

Larger pieces of wood will need to be split with an axe. Remember to ensure that you are stood or knelt in such a way that, should the axe slip, it will not strike your legs (or any other part of your body).

Splitting smaller rounds

Smaller rounds of wood can be most easily split by holding the axe and the round of wood horizontally together so that the head of the axe is in contact with the top of the round. The axe and round of wood should then be brought down together hard on a raised surface – such as a tree stump.

Splitting larger pieces of wood

Choose a stump about knee height and place the larger piece of wood on this stump at the furthest stable distance away from your body. Position your legs away from the stump so that should your swing miss the axe will not hit your body. Raise the axe to around chest height, ensuring that you have a good two-handed grip on it, then bring the axe down, in a smooth and slow motion, into the wood that you want to split. Remember to let the weight of the axe do the majority of the work.

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LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE. 

 

Carving feather sticks

Feather sticks are a great way of lighting a fire when it is damp. The can be made from small rounds of wood that have been split either by axe or by batoning. Watch the video below to learn how to make feather sticks.

Watch: Carving Feather Sticks

 

Kit

Here are some pieces of kit that you might find useful when lighting a fire in damp conditions. Please note that aside from Bear Blades Wildway Bushcraft is not associated with any of the brands or pieces of equipment listed below – we don’t get anything extra if you choose to purchase one of these items!

 

Further Reading

Here are some other blog posts that might interest you. Use the arrows to navigate.

 

LEARN FIRE LIGHTING, SHELTER BUILDING, AXE SKILLS AND MORE ON OUR WEEKEND BUSHCRAFT COURSE.