There were many times in which I got surprised by a pouring rain during camping. When I was still new to this, I was terrified of that and believed it was impossible to keep my fire going. I remember that one time I postponed my flight to Europe since the forecast predicted a few rainy nights. Over the years, I’ve learned different methods to overcome that obstacle and enjoy nature even when the weather gets harsh. Let’s get into it and answer one of the most common questions – how to keep a fire going in the rain?
In this article, I will describe deeply ten different ways to do so.
You can keep your fire going in the rain by using a cover from above which can be a tarp, a large log, a plastic plate or even tinfoil. You can also do it by lighting up your tinder while it is still in a plastic bag, building a self-feeding fire, using a burn barrel, taking advantage of dry wood, or by digging a pit in the ground. In all methods, you should pump a sufficient amount of oxygen that would feed your fire and overcome the wet surroundings.
1. Place a Large Log on Top
The first method I will be discussing is placing large, dry firewood at the top of your campfire. Frankly, I haven’t tried this trick in person; however, during my research, I came across an interesting Youtube channel that mentioned it.
The idea is that the large log would keep water away from the ongoing fire underneath. As you might have already guessed – you do need to prepare foundations beforehand.
This method works correctly when the rain surprises you when you’ve already got a burning fire. Therefore, I suggest that you keep thick, heavy firewood next to you each time you anticipate rain – this way you can place it quickly when it starts pouring.
Keep in mind that this method requires maintenance – you do have to add logs and kindling once in a while.
Although if you already have a fire – adding wet firewood would be easier since water vapor quickly under the heat. I also suggest that you keep yourself a small firewood stock under some rain cover – this way you can add dry wood when conditions get worse.
2. Create a Tarp Shelter
It’s hard to comprehend how essential tarps can be in camping until you try them.
On that matter, I suggest that you read my article regarding how beneficial they can be when placed under your tent – I gathered you there all of my experience through countless camping adventures.
Tarps also serve a great deal on protecting your campfire on a pouring night. All you have to do is the place it from above, although you shouldn’t build it in the shape of a pyramid.
Instead, make it flat – this way water can accumulate on the top of it and wouldn’t drip on your gear. If you still go with the pyramid shape – make sure that you build it wide enough.
To hang a tarp properly, you do need to get familiar with camping knots. I’ve been spending three whole days to pour all of my experience in this article; regarding fifteen different types in a detailed way, followed by videos and pictures.
I highly recommend that you read that article before you go on your adventure – it may save you a lot of time and frustration.
3. Try Tinfoil
I remember when I’ve first learned that trick – it was on boy scouts, probably ten years ago. When I was researching the ongoing fire under wet conditions topic, I was shocked to see a Youtube video of a guy that does the same thing.
When you have a burning campfire, and it is suddenly starting to rain – take your tinfoil and place it on the top of it. The beauty in that method is that the foil acts as a water repellent material and can endure extremely high temperatures.
Another advantage is that the tinfoil blocks wind flows. That might sound like a downside at the beginning since fire requires oxygen to keep going.
Nevertheless, when you limit the airflow, the firewood burns slower, and the entire fire would burn – in general – longer.
Keep in mind that tinfoil is lightweight and the wind might push it away. For that, I suggest that you set it in place by using some heavy rocks. You may also get more creative and hook it to the ground using stakes that you prepared beforehand.
4. Build a Campfire Table
If you are an experienced adventurer – you probably know that improvise is required once in a while. I’ve been talking previously about creating a shelter using a tarp from above.
Let’s admit – when things start to go wrong, we are very frequently not prepared with the necessary stuff. There is a good chance that we don’t have a tarp at the moment, or perhaps the trees aren’t located in the right place.
Well, that’s where improvisation gets into play. I got this idea from a Youtube video, and it is building what resembles a table above your campfire.
All you have to do is getting yourself four pieces of branches and sticking them perpendicularly to the ground in the shape of a square. Then, take a flat plastic surface and place it from above.
To cover your fire, you can use the lid of your food container, for example. You may also use the tinfoil trick discussed above here by sticking it through the branches.
Frankly, each material is okay as long as it is water resistance. This method isn’t perfect – water can still come from the sides, although in desperate times it is better than nothing.
5. Use Kindling & Tinder in a Plastic Bag
If you’ve already read my article regarding tips on how to light wet firewood, you probably know that you should use a significant amount of kindling and tinder to light things up when it is wet.
If you haven’t – I highly suggest you do, that guide would turn the newest in the field to an expert and change your entire camping experience.
When it comes to keeping your fire going in the rain – my little research brought one technique I haven’t thought of before.
The guy on the following videos talks about using a considerable amount of burning materials to light it up in the first place, however, he approaches it from an original angle.
Instead of placing the kindling as it is in your fireplace, you can put it in a sealed plastic bag to keep it dry. Only when you are ready to light things up – open the bag and light it with matches – this way the tinder doesn’t get wet while you are setting your campfire.
Regarding the plastic bag – don’t worry too much about it – it will melt, and oxygen would get in gradually quicker.
6. Pump Oxygen
There are three main components which a burning fire requires; burning material, heat, and oxygen. I’ve already mentioned that you need a significant amount of kindling to keep your light going in the rain – that section talked about burning materials.
Regarding oxygen, you have to ensure that air flows to your fire as much as possible, especially at the beginning. When the firewood is starting to catch fire – heat will grow, and the campfire would feed itself so that you may invest less effort.
On early stages, use a rigid plate pump oxygen in – and do it vigorously. One mistake so many people do is using pumping materials which are loose and frail, such as carton pieces.
That is terrible and would probably require you to put much more effort since when you wave such a material, it will bend and air would flow into different directions.
You should also pick the fireplace in a way it would be exposed to air circulation. I wouldn’t choose a dense forest for that reason, even though the treetops may protect you from the rain – that is because trees tend to drip water long after the storm has already stopped.
7. Build a Self Feeding Fire
That is probably one of the most known, however, less used methods. A self-feeding fire will consume firewood automatically by itself, so you don’t have to make any effort except in building it.
The concept here is to create two ramps which turn towards each other and are loaded with thick logs. When the wood at the bottom has been consumed and burned into ashes, the next firewood will roll down and take its place.
That, of course, will turn your fire long-lasting, perhaps over ten hours long. Although that isn’t the only advantage of a self-feeding fire – it would also allow you to handle your campfire in the rain better.
Since you use thick firewood – it will take time before water will soak it. Besides, even when it gets wet on the outer layer – heat from underneath would haste water evaporation.
The only disadvantage here is that it takes time and effort to build that kind of structure in the first place. It does require some training and learning, however when you understand the general idea – it will be less of a problem.
I was also discussing that technique in my article regarding tips on how to make a campfire that would burn all night – this is a must-read guide if you are about to face some cold nights on your adventure.
8. Use a Burn Barrel
Burn barrels work great in improving your campfire endurance under the rain for a couple of reasons.
In opposed to tarp covers or to building your own ‘campfire table’ as described above, the barrels keep water away from the sides. Moreover, they allow you to use flammable materials, such as gasoline if you are having troubles in lighting wet firewood.
You should also take into account that the sides blockage also blocks wind flow – that requires you to put a lot of effort at the beginning.
Nevertheless, once the fire has caught and the barrel reaches extremely high temperatures – the rain wouldn’t affect it much.
The obvious con with this method is that barrels aren’t a common thing to have in your campsite. Although if you do have one at home and you are mobile – I highly suggest you take it on the road if you anticipate rain.
You should also consider drilling holes at the bottom and sides to permit airflow and water drainage. If it’s your first time using one, I suggest that you read an in-depth guide beforehand.
9. Make Some Dry Wood
That might sound odd, although dry wood could also be found under wet conditions. If your gear includes an axe, you can use it to cut through dead tree trunks, since the inner layer is probably dry.
Distinguishing dead trees from living ones isn’t that obvious, and it’s easy to confuse between the two. My first tip on that matter is to observe the top section of the tree. If you see any green leaves – that means the tree isn’t dry and probably still alive.
You can also take a glance at its roots – if they are loose and the tree isn’t perpendicular to the ground; he is probably dead for a long time now.
You can also use a knife to get yourself dry kindling and tinder from wet firewood since the inner section can be still dry if it was just recently rained.
Making dry wood out of wet logs is a great solution to start a fire; however, it could also assist you in maintaining an existing one once it is starting to rain.
10. Dig a Small Pit
Digging a pit in the ground can be the solution in creating a dry foundation to your campfire while the surrounding is wet.
I’ve already talked about this method in the article mentioned under the 5th tip; however, the pit should be a little different when facing a pouring rain.
You should take into account that the rain tends to accumulate; once you have a pool in your pit – it would be impossible to get things going.
For that, I suggest that you use a drainage technique, perhaps digging a little tunnel.
The pit solution resembles the burning barrel in the way it protects the fire from getting wet from the sides – of course only when the pit is deep enough.
I would also suggest that you build it on an incline instead of plain ground and that your tunnel faces downwards – that would haste water drainage.
Is it Safe to Place a Tarp Above My Campfire?
Hanging a tarp over your campfire is a useful way to keep it going under the rain; however, you should take some precautions.
The answer for that questions depends on the material your tarp is made of and the firewood you are using. Nylon tarps don’t take the heat so well and could be ruined even in a distance that the temperature feels normal on your skin.
When your cover is starting to melt, you are probably going to feel an odd smell and perhaps even see it warping or blistering.
If you are using nylon, hang your tarp relatively high. I would also suggest that you use a fire reflector to block the wind a little – when its too strong your fire isn’t under control, and the heat would increase dramatically.
In general, I would say that it is safe to place a tarp over your campfire, although I wouldn’t go to sleep with the fire still going since you can never know what to anticipate during nighttime.
When it’s time to get into your sleeping bag, put some thick logs into your fire and take down your tarp – that would warm you out for several hours without causing any damage.
What Should I Prepare Beforehand?
If you anticipate it would be rainy during your journey – you should get prepared with the right gear beforehand.
At first, I would start with a Fire Starter Kit Match Case that contains stormproof matches and tinder. This kit, in particular, would help you to accomplish tip number four by lighting the tinder while it is still in a plastic bag.
That kit also features its lighter; however, you can get more advanced by getting a separate Outdoor Camping Windproof Lighter that could resist strong winds.
I also recommend that you get yourself a sharp knife to craft your tinder by yourself as described above, or even an axe if it’s not too heavy.
What is The Right Method For Beginners?
I do believe that the best way of learning is by trying on your own, although if you are new to this, things could seem intimidating.
If you are a beginner, I presume that hanging a tarp or building a self-feeding fire might be difficult since it requires knowing some camping knots beforehand (although I do recommend that you learn them at some point – check my article on tip number two).
Instead, I would stick to more straightforward methods, such as placing tinfoil or improvising a little campfire table. Also, I wouldn’t hesitate on preparing some tinder upfront or perhaps even buying some from outdoor stores.
There is no shame in learning, and you should remember then even the experts had to start at some point.
Building a campfire that would keep going under a pouring rain may seem impossible at first, although when you learn the different techniques, things do start to make sense.
In this article I’ve described ten different ways in which you can make this happen, however, you should know that the options are, in general, limitless.
I’ve tried to gather you the most useful ways that would fit both experts and beginners since I do believe that in each point there are things you can still learn.
Do not postpone your adventure due to a rainy forecast – you can still enjoy nature under a pouring one.
If you have any ideas on your own, I would most certainly be glad to hear all about them; let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below!