I recently spoke with an old hunter about some difficulties I had on a recent camp in the Tararuas.  The weather had been rainy for a few days so needless to say the place was dripping and finding tinder was trickey.  I managed it with persistence, the main issue being not enough time left in the day before camp (this said, I didnt really need the fire, it was more for some soggy practice).


He mentioned that the old bloke that used to take him hunting use to get the bark off one of the trees and easily had a roaring fire even in the wet.


What experience do you have with soggy bush syndrome and finding useful tinder?

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In my experience it is pretty hard. Breaking it down, I guess you need dry tinder, dry kindling, and dry wood. You can carry some things with you to help with the tinder part, even if it only as a backup. Pieces of tyre inner work great with a lighter, cotton wool soaked in vaseline with a ferrocium rod or a lighter, etc. I always carry a couple of solid fuel tablets just in case I get into trouble. Light them and they burn for 10 min or so, cheap as chips from kiwidisposals.

If you want to do it the challenging way you can make a firestick using some dry standing (off the ground) sticks. Shavings of dry bark also work well like you mentioned.

The kindling and firewood is found much the same way, you want to look for branchs that have broken and dies but still hanging or caught up. This way they are dead, relatively dry from shelter, and off the ground so not soggy. sometimes shaving off the damp bark reveals dry(er) wood underneath.

Learning how to find and use fatwood will really come in handy! (video, blog post)

We have a great video Firelighting in a wet pine forest which you should watch. More firecraft resources here.

A good tip is when the fire is started with your driest wood, stack the damper wood around it and the fire will dry it out.



Great response thanks Ryan.

I always have an section of inner tube with me and two firelighters just for such occasions.  I hadn't heard of fat wood so I will keep my eye's peeled (they usually are, but normally more for footprints, eaten leaves and scrapes ;)  ).

I'll dig a bit deeper on the bark front.  Apparently this guy used to walk to his "special" tree, strip some bark off and sort a fire quick smart in the wet (while this ethically could raise questions nowadays this is back in the good ole blazing days).

The biggest lesson I learned on my last outing was giving yourself time.  I went in a bit heavy so took too long getting to where I wanted to be and didnt have enough time to scratch around for drier wood.  I ended up pruning dead manuka branches and foliage but it was still hard going, but persistence paid off...even if I was over a brew by that point!

It might have been fushia bark

Manuka Bark? Not sure about the name of this tree or if it would work, but when trapping up in Jollie Brook there was a tree covered in bees that had tiny hairs sticking out with sap on them, I wonder if this bark would be any good. Sorry hopeless with identifying plants.
Have won much beer over the years lighting fires using slivers of Kauri pulled from dead wood in streams. The cotton wool and vaseline mentioned by Ryan is my favorite "goto" firestarter though - works even when wet. Just tease the fibres out and even the smallest spark will catch.

Kauri from streams? Do you split it to get to dry wood inside?

Im not too good at identifying different wood are there any key things to look for to spot kauri wood?

Can't really describe it as it varies, just 'looks' right, if you rub it vigorously you can smell the gum. Don't need to worry about drying, as it's the resin that works in this case. Just shave off really fine whiskers, almost scraping with the knife rather than slicing.

the leaves are awesome tinder, as is the shed bark. It is always easy to find a dry bit as they shed so much litter.

For tinder The bark of manuka sheds fairly easily and is quite fibrous and if the bush is quite dense so the bark has a reasonable chance of trying dry even in reasonably wet weather.
If you peel it carefully sometimes you get a white layer on the inside which if scraped up fine enough can take a spark from a fire steel.

I agree about Kauri it's very rich in resin.

For manmade fire lighters I generally take inner tube and a bic lighter.

Although I've just made. Batch of 'magic biscuits' which are cotton wool make up remover pads dipped in candle wax they are water proof and take from a fire steel spark if fluffed up a bit....They also last a long time and provide really good tinder.

For kindling and fuel wood I tend to look for twigs that get caught in branches as these tend to be dryer as they not sat on the floor in water. Often splitting wood down and shaving feather sticks us the way to go.....

I was in the bush over the weekend

I wanted to use natural tinder but most things were soggy even though it hadn't rained.

I made a twig bundle from dead branches of low scrub plants that had moss on them, not fine enough for tinder but one stage up, a small clearing yielded some dryish dried grass stems which lit the bundle nicely.

I have also made feather sticks when it's been raining, quite time consuming but if there's no choice, needs must.


ive used manuka bark on many occasions, but with a ciggy lighter, rather than with straight flint or magnesium, never had any problems getting a fire started, but what can be tricky is moving up to a reasonable flame that will dry, and then take bigger pieces of damp or green wood, when a good fire is under way tho, you can practically burn rocks.

oh yeh, and dont underestimate dead ferns and brackens of all sorts, even when wet, even if you only have a small flame it will quickly dry and flare up briefly, but this is often long enough to set larger rainwet twigs on to build the next stage, general knowledge on how a fire is best built(teepee/logstack/pyramid/etc) will help here, just make sure to start small, one mistake i see people make is just bundling lumps of damp material onto a struggling fire and seeing it smoke and die like badly maintained diesel engine.


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