Rain-Proof Fire Mastery: Using Simple Chemistry to Ignite Wet Wood

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Rain-Proof Fire Mastery: Using Simple Chemistry to Ignite Wet Wood

Any noob can start a fire, but it takes a survivalist to start a fire in the rain. Which one are you?

This guide is your ticket to mastering fire-starting in wet conditions. It shows you how to light a spark, even when everything around you is drenched. 

Ready to prove your skills and stay warm no matter the weather? Read on to discover how.

Must-have fire starters from InstaFire: Hurricane-Proof Safety Matches, Magnesium Fire Starter, and InstaFire Fire Starter Pouches

Must-Have Fire Starters

While mastering fire-starting skills in wet conditions is crucial, they should not be your first line of defense.

Every survivalist needs to have reliable fire starters readily available. Stockpiling the following types of fire-starting products ensures you can create a fire quickly and efficiently, regardless of the weather:

InstaFire Fire Starter Pouches: These pouches use a blend of volcanic rock, wood pellets, and paraffin wax to ignite even in wet conditions. Lightweight and compact, they offer a reliable fire-starting solution in any weather.

Hurricane-Proof Safety Matches: Coated with a special compound, these matches ignite in heavy rain and strong winds, burning intensely. The stormproof case ensures they stay dry and ready for use, making them indispensable for igniting fire starters or kindling when conventional methods fail.

Magnesium Fire Starter: Scrape off magnesium shavings and ignite them with the built-in striker. Magnesium burns at a very high temperature, making it ideal for igniting even damp tinder. Durable and lightweight, it's a reliable fire-starting method for any condition.

Advanced Techniques for Fire Starting Without Commercial Starters

In the event you run out of commercial fire starters, knowing some alternative methods can be crucial. Here are advanced techniques leveraging chemical reactions:

Dripping Glycerin onto Potassium Permanganate


Why It Works: The combination of potassium permanganate and glycerin creates an exothermic reaction, releasing a significant amount of heat, which can ignite surrounding materials even in damp conditions.

  1. Materials Needed
    • Potassium Permanganate: Commonly found in water treatment kits and some medical supplies for its antiseptic properties. In a pinch, it can sometimes be found in older first aid kits or ordered from specialty chemical suppliers.
    • Glycerin: Available in first aid kits, skin moisturizers, or as a byproduct in soap-making kits. If you're in a tough spot, it might be found in some food items or skincare products.
  2. Where to Find Them
    • Potassium Permanganate: Apart from specialty suppliers, check older pharmacies, medical kits in abandoned vehicles or buildings, and water treatment kits in remote cabins.
    • Glycerin: Look for it in personal care items, certain food items, or medical supplies that might be found in abandoned homes or health centers.
  3. Procedure
    • Step 1: Create a small pile of potassium permanganate on a flat, fire-safe surface.
    • Step 2: Form a slight depression in the center of the pile to hold the glycerin.
    • Step 3: Carefully add a few drops of glycerin into the depression. Be cautious as the reaction can be vigorous.
    • Step 4: Stand back as the reaction will start within seconds, producing smoke and then a flame. Use this flame to ignite your main fire lay.
  4. Tips on Use
    • Carry these chemicals in separate, secure containers to prevent accidental mixing.
    • Use small quantities to control the reaction and avoid wastage. The reaction is quick, so prepare your kindling in advance.
  5. Safety Tips
    • Conduct this reaction in a controlled environment as it can produce intense heat rapidly. Avoid inhaling fumes and perform in well-ventilated areas. Always have a safe distance and a water source nearby.
A pile of Zinc Powder.


Why It Works: The mixture of zinc powder and sulfur, when ignited, undergoes a vigorous exothermic reaction, producing a high-temperature flame capable of igniting wet materials.

  1. Materials Needed
    • Zinc Powder: Often found in chemistry sets or can be sourced from suppliers of metal powders. Alternatively, look for it in galvanized metal products or industrial supplies.
    • Sulfur Powder: Commonly available in garden supply stores as a fungicide or in chemical supply shops. In a pinch, sulfur can sometimes be found in older household products or industrial chemicals.
  2. Where to Find Them
    • Zinc Powder: Apart from chemistry sets, check for it in hardware stores, old industrial sites, or even scrap metal yards.
    • Sulfur Powder: Besides garden centers, sulfur can be scavenged from certain types of older cleaning products or industrial supplies.
  3. Procedure
    • Step 1: Mix equal parts of zinc powder and sulfur powder in a small container. Ensure they are well combined.
    • Step 2: Form a small mound of the mixture on a non-flammable surface, like a piece of metal or rock.
    • Step 3: Use a spark from a ferrocerium rod, a flint and steel, or even a match to ignite the mixture. Make sure your spark-producing tool is reliable and capable of producing a hot spark.
    • Step 4: The reaction will produce a bright, hot flame capable of igniting tinder and kindling. Carefully feed the flame with small, dry tinder to build your fire.
  4. Tips on Use
    • Store the powders separately in airtight containers to prevent moisture absorption and accidental ignition.
    • Use small amounts to control the intensity of the reaction. Have your tinder and kindling prepared before initiating the reaction.
  5. Safety Tips
    • Handle these chemicals with care, as the reaction is vigorous and can be dangerous if mishandled. Wear protective eyewear and gloves when mixing and igniting. Ensure you are in a clear area free from flammable materials.
Calcium carbide or CaC2 reacts on contact with water and produces flammable acetylene gas.


Why It Works: Calcium carbide reacts with water to produce acetylene gas, which is highly flammable and ignites easily, even in wet conditions.

  1. Materials Needed
    • Calcium Carbide: Commonly used in miner's lamps and can be found in some welding supply stores. In survival situations, it might be found in old mining equipment or industrial sites.
  2. Where to Find Them
    • Calcium Carbide: Available online, at welding supply shops, or in old mining or industrial equipment storage areas. Look for it in older hardware stores or mining camps.
  3. Procedure
    • Step 1: Place a small amount of calcium carbide in a fireproof container. Ensure the container is sturdy and can handle the reaction.
    • Step 2: Slowly add water to the container. The reaction will produce acetylene gas. Use just enough water to start the reaction, avoiding excessive amounts that could dilute the gas.
    • Step 3: Ignite the gas with a spark from a lighter, ferrocerium rod, or match. Be ready to quickly add tinder once the gas ignites.
    • Step 4: The resulting flame will be hot enough to ignite even damp tinder. Add kindling and build your fire gradually.
  4. Tips on Use
    • Store calcium carbide in a sealed, moisture-proof container to prevent it from reacting prematurely.
    • Use only small amounts to produce controlled quantities of acetylene gas. Ensure your tinder is ready before starting the reaction.
  5. Safety Tips
    • Handle with extreme caution as acetylene is a volatile gas. Perform this reaction in a well-ventilated area and avoid inhaling fumes. Always have a fire extinguisher or water source nearby for emergencies.

Everyday Items to Scrounge for Fire Starting

If you find yourself without commercial fire starters, there are several everyday items you can use:

Balls of steel wool.


Why It Works: The fine strands of steel wool catch fire easily when exposed to an electric current, providing a quick ignition source that can be used to start a fire with proper tinder.

  1. Materials Needed
    • Steel Wool: Found in hardware stores for cleaning and polishing. In a pinch, it might be found in cleaning supplies in abandoned homes or garages.
    • Battery (9-volt preferred): Commonly found in household electronics or smoke detectors.
  2. Where to Find Them
    • Steel Wool: Available at hardware stores, grocery stores, or online retailers. Look for it in cleaning supplies sections of abandoned buildings.
    • Battery: Found in household electronic devices, hardware stores, general retailers, or scavenged from smoke detectors and remote controls.
  3. Procedure
    • Step 1: Tear off a small piece of steel wool and fluff it up to increase surface area. Ensure it is dry and clean.
    • Step 2: Hold the steel wool against both terminals of the 9-volt battery, making sure the wool bridges the gap between the terminals.
    • Step 3: The electrical current will heat the steel wool, causing it to ignite. Gently blow on the ignited wool to keep it burning.
    • Step 4: Use the ignited steel wool to light your tinder and kindling. Carefully add more kindling to build the fire.
  4. Tips on Use
    • Carry steel wool and a 9-volt battery in your survival kit for an easy, reliable ignition source.
    • Ensure the steel wool is dry before attempting to ignite it. Store it in a waterproof container.
  5. Safety Tips
    • Be careful not to touch the battery terminals directly with your hands while holding the steel wool, as it can cause a burn. Have your tinder ready before initiating the spark.
Char cloth and steel tool for antique fire starting.


Why It Works: Char cloth catches sparks easily and burns slowly, making it an excellent tinder to help start fires even in wet conditions.

  1. Materials Needed
    • Char Cloth: Made by charring cotton fabric in a low-oxygen environment. Old cotton clothing or fabric scraps can be used.
    • Flint and Steel: Traditional fire-starting tools. Look for durable pieces that produce good sparks.
  2. Where to Find Them
    • Char Cloth: Make your own using cotton fabric and a metal container with a tight-fitting lid. Look for old cotton clothing in abandoned homes or thrift stores.
    • Flint and Steel: Available at outdoor supply stores or online. In a pinch, use a sharp rock and the spine of a knife.
  3. Procedure
    • Step 1: Place the char cloth on a flat surface, ensuring it is dry and ready.
    • Step 2: Strike the flint against the steel to create sparks. Aim the sparks towards the char cloth.
    • Step 3: Direct the sparks onto the char cloth until it begins to smolder. Blow gently to encourage the smoldering.
    • Step 4: Transfer the smoldering char cloth to your tinder bundle and gently blow to ignite the tinder. Gradually add kindling to build your fire.
  4. Tips on Use
    • Store char cloth in a waterproof container to keep it dry. Have multiple pieces ready.
    • Practice using flint and steel to become proficient before you need to rely on it in an emergency.
  5. Safety Tips
    • Ensure the area is clear of flammable materials when striking sparks to prevent unintended fires. Always be cautious of where the sparks land.
Close up of man hand using petroleum jelly


Why It Works: The petroleum jelly extends the burn time of the cotton ball, creating a long-lasting flame that can help ignite damp kindling.

  1. Materials Needed
    • Cotton Balls: Commonly found in first aid kits. Look for them in bathroom supplies or medical kits.
    • Petroleum Jelly: Available in drugstores and general retailers. In a pinch, it might be found in skincare or cosmetic supplies.
  2. Where to Find Them
    • Cotton Balls: Found in the first aid section of grocery stores, pharmacies, and online. Scavenge from abandoned homes or medical kits.
    • Petroleum Jelly: Available at pharmacies, grocery stores, and online. Look for it in bathroom cabinets or health kits.
  3. Procedure
    • Step 1: Coat a cotton ball with petroleum jelly, ensuring it is thoroughly saturated. Store them in a waterproof container.
    • Step 2: Fluff the cotton ball to expose fibers for easier ignition. Make sure it’s ready to catch a spark.
    • Step 3: Place the coated cotton ball in your fire pit and light it with a match or lighter. Ensure it is sheltered from the wind.
    • Step 4: Add small kindling to the ignited cotton ball, gradually increasing the size of the fuel. Feed the flame gently to build it up.
  4. Tips on Use
    • Prepare several petroleum jelly-coated cotton balls and store them in a waterproof container for quick access.
    • Use these as your primary tinder when conditions are wet, as they provide a reliable and long-lasting flame. Always keep them dry and ready.
  5. Safety Tips
    • Store petroleum jelly away from open flames, as it is highly flammable. Keep your fire-starting area safe and clear of excess flammable materials.

By preparing adequately and practicing these methods, you can ensure a fire even in the harshest conditions, maintaining warmth, cooking food, and signaling for help when necessary.

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