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Thread: Wet Conditions Firestarting, East Appalachian Temperate Rain Forest.

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    Scout Outrider's Avatar
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    Default Wet Conditions Firestarting, East Appalachian Temperate Rain Forest.

    Thoughts on Fatwood seem to be somewhat polar in the wilderness survival circles for a variety of reasons. Seems people either love it or they hate it. There are some are really staunch opponents of using the substance out there. Some of whom are truly skilled woodsmen with the belief that using it promotes laziness and dependence upon it in some people, which in turn limits the knowledge and skill of the user. I will admit, after seeing some people get hung up on it, that there is some merit to that line of thinking. Although I'm sure it's possible those same people would get hung up on birch bark if it were available in their area. I will be as quick as anyone to say that laziness in training is a bad thing. However the fact remains that in a true survival situation laziness is, to an extent, advisable in that every calorie needs to count for something. Also, often speed and efficiency are important. To me personally fatwood, light-wood, rich-pine, fat-lighter, lighter-ed pine, whatever you wish to call it, is definitely not the best tinder under every circumstance. I would never walk past paper bark, horse weed, thistle...or many of the other good tinders sometimes available in order to find fatwood on a dry day. All any of the above require are picking, placing in a tinder pile under a few leaves with some small twigs on top, one spark (when really dry even from the sparking wheel of a dead bic lighter) and soon you have flames. Conversely, if I actually needed a fire under wet conditions, I would never waste my time, energy, and my knife's edge whittling into the dryer center of a dead hardwood limb in an area where a quick scan will reveal several nice hunks of fatwood in my immediate area. Though the aforementioned skill is definitely a good one to practice. I live in the East Appalachian Temperate Rain Forest. The humidity is usually high here especially in the spring and autumn, and even in the winter months. For those of us who live here fatwood is a gift of nature that allows us to quickly start fires even under the wettest conditions using an organic substance easily found here in our forest.



    The background for the fire in the pictures below is this. Two days ago, after days and nights of off-and-on rains we had a severe line of storms pass through the area. At one point I could barely see cars passing the end of my driveway, only about 15 meters from my kitchen window, with their headlights and flashers on. Hale pommeled the metal roof of my front porch and torrents of brown water poured off of the ridge behind my house. The hardest part only lasted about 30 minutes or so. After it was past there were very large trees broken down here and there laying across roads, on houses, and on power lines. Parts of the city were without power for 28 hours. I went outside immediately afterward.

    My fire pit area was thoroughly soaked, as was my tinder, and all of the fuel I used.










    The attributes that make fatwood so valuable are that A) it is hydrophobic, the resin rich wood will not absorb water, B) the oils use the wood much like a wick so it burns for a good while, and C) it will easily take a spark and burn under even some of the wettest conditions.

    In this case I merely split the piece of fatwood into smaller pieces, whittle some shavings, and made a pile on some wet leaves on the wet ground inside the fire pit.

















    After that it was only a matter of sparking it to life and adding fuel. As you can see, the ground inside the fire pit is really saturated, as was the wood I used for fuel as you can see by all the steam.





















    I broke what most consider a cardinal rule of fire starting here just to make a point. Every twig and stick I used for fuel was picked up off of the wet ground. Under such conditions a small amount of fatwood will burn for a good amount of time, producing a fair amount of heat. It will dry out wet fuel saving you energy and giving you time to tend to other needs.



    One reason I really love micarta is that it is tough and cleans up well.

    Last edited by Outrider; 03-04-2011 at 08:29 AM.

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    Thanks for sharing Outrider
    “The longest journey of any person is the journey inward”

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    Nice post Outrider. Glad to see ya around.

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    i grew up in southern mo. had cedar trees everywhere got in tue bad habit of only using cedar bark for tinder, i moved to sw west virginia a few years ago and cedars are much harder to find. i had to relearn how to build a fire, not a good feeling

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    Nice post. Very informative. I use that often when I head out here in the PNW. Though my identification of fat wood has been known to be wrong. I'm getting better now and don't have to search so much.

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    Great post, as usual. Too bad people get hung up in such ways. One should be proficient in as many methods of firecraft as possible, and not be held back by opinions and predjudices.

    How's that Mohawk Hunter working out for you? Have had my eye on that one for a while.
    TRACKER PACK #13
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    Now thats fire making and I like that knife , the guard does its job without cluttering up the profile.
    The Cisco Kid is a friend of mine:)

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    FORMERLY KNOWN AS HOP

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    That is a NICE knife! Thanks for sharing.

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    Scout Outrider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mainewoods2 View Post
    Thanks for sharing Outrider
    Glad you liked it Maine


    Quote Originally Posted by HillbillyBushcraft View Post
    Nice post Outrider. Glad to see ya around.
    Thanks B, glad you liked it. I'm still around, I just get really busy sometimes...


    Quote Originally Posted by rob/saltrock View Post
    i grew up in southern mo. had cedar trees everywhere got in tue bad habit of only using cedar bark for tinder, i moved to sw west virginia a few years ago and cedars are much harder to find. i had to relearn how to build a fire, not a good feeling
    If there were enough of them and they were everywhere it would be easy for me to get hung up on paper bark maple. It's definitely my favorite tinder. There just aren't a lot of them in this area and mostly in the river bottoms.


    Quote Originally Posted by Silverlion View Post
    Nice post. Very informative. I use that often when I head out here in the PNW. Though my identification of fat wood has been known to be wrong. I'm getting better now and don't have to search so much.
    Like me, you also live in a temperate rain forest. I can see how fatwood would be a great resource in your area just like in coastal B.C.

    Just learn the smell, looks can be deceiving but the smell is unmistakable


    Quote Originally Posted by Chris View Post
    Great post, as usual. Too bad people get hung up in such ways. One should be proficient in as many methods of firecraft as possible, and not be held back by opinions and predjudices.

    How's that Mohawk Hunter working out for you? Have had my eye on that one for a while.
    I think it's just human nature on both counts. I think people just tend to gravitate to what they personally see, or what is "commonly accepted" as the best tool for any job no matter the situation, hence the term "thinking outside the box". Also people tend to listen to the opinions of those they see as more experienced. This in and of itself is not a bad thing, but it's still good to experiment and get input from multiple sources just like when doing a research paper.

    I've only taken it out a couple of times but so far I love it, wish I had seen it sooner.

    Quote Originally Posted by HOP View Post
    Now thats fire making and I like that knife , the guard does its job without cluttering up the profile.
    Thank you. I really like it too. Straight-forward, simple, and very functional. Great size, great shape.

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    Nice post, Outrider.

    FWIW...

    Back in the 80s I was in a Civil Air Patrol ground search and rescue unit. Almost every time we went out on a mission or a training exercise we had to deal with rain, and we almost never pitched camp until it was dark. We needed to get a fire going ASAP for light, warmth, to dry out a bit, and to cook dinner.

    I started carrying a 15 minute road flare in my buttpack. Cheating? Not really, just planning ahead so I could deal with the worst fire starting conditions possible. I didn't know anything about fatwood back then but if placed in the same situation today I'd carry some fatwood sticks with me.

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