Wet Conditions Firestarting, East Appalachian Temperate Rain Forest.

Discussion in 'Fire' started by Outrider, Mar 3, 2011.

  1. Outrider

    Outrider Scout

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    Last edited: Mar 4, 2011
  2. mainewoods

    mainewoods Maine Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    Thanks for sharing Outrider
     
  3. HillbillyBushcraft

    HillbillyBushcraft Scout

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    Nice post Outrider. Glad to see ya around.
     
  4. rob/saltrock

    rob/saltrock Scout

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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
     
  5. Silverlion

    Silverlion Scout

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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.
     
  6. Chris

    Chris Guide

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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.
     
  7. Bush Otter

    Bush Otter Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Now thats fire making and I like that knife , the guard does its job without cluttering up the profile.
     
  8. rg598

    rg598 Guest

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    That is a NICE knife! Thanks for sharing.
     
  9. Outrider

    Outrider Scout

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    Glad you liked it Maine


    Thanks B, glad you liked it. I'm still around, I just get really busy sometimes...


    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.


    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


    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.

    Thank you. I really like it too. Straight-forward, simple, and very functional. Great size, great shape.
     
  10. Dave_Markowitz

    Dave_Markowitz Supporter Supporter

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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.
     
  11. Chris

    Chris Guide

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    Yup, got to be a free thinker.

    Yeah, it's like that with TOPS -- there's so many models to sift through that it's easy to overlook one. Been wanting one of them for a while now...
     
  12. joe305

    joe305 Guide

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    good stuff...I can tell you from personal experience that dry tinder is not always available...when this is the case I will use what ever is best. If Im hungry, wet and thirsty...Im lighting a fire with whats available whether its toilet paper, fat-wood or trioxane. I always keep trioxane with me...
     
  13. Outrider

    Outrider Scout

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    Never carried flares in a pack, but I wouldn't consider anything cheating. When a fire is needed, a fire is needed.


    Yeah, they do have a lot of designs. I thought I had looked at them all but I guess not. I should probably wait a while and check the site out again :)


    Thanks. My thoughts exactly. I always keep a bar of trioxane handy too.
     
  14. Chris

    Chris Guide

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    I ordered a TOPS Ferret a coulple of weeks ago. It's almost like a keychain sized Mohawk Hunter; hasn't come yet though -- they were out of stock. I'll post some pics when it finally arrives.
     
  15. AlteredMentalStatus

    AlteredMentalStatus Bushmaster Bushclass I

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  16. mwesnav

    mwesnav Guide Bushclass I

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    Nice post thanks for sharing!
     
  17. Outrider

    Outrider Scout

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    Thanks guys, glad you liked the post.

    I had the Ferret for a while, my brother has it now. Good little knife, though a bit heavy for a key chain. I thought it was a little heavy for a neck knife. Now I have the TOPS Key knives. Nice and thin, and light. I like them a lot for neck knives.
     
  18. Weltz4u

    Weltz4u Scout

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    Good post
     
  19. 3fires

    3fires Guide

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    Another great write up. I don't consider fatwood or birchbark cheating, if i did i'd guess that a firesteel is cheating too. Although, i have become a bit spoiled by the two.
     
  20. Independent

    Independent Scout

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    This is an essential point. Thinking ahead is not "cheating", it's being prepared. If you truly need fire it doesn't matter whether you conjured it with a bow drill and a wren's nest or a Bic and dryer lint. What matters is the skill set and knowledge base to make best use of opportunities at hand.
     
  21. Outrider

    Outrider Scout

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    Thanks guys, glad you enjoyed the post. My point exactly. Having suffered through cold weather injuries and watching the doctors faces as they worked through whether or not they were going to have to remove toes or not I don't see anything as cheating when a fire as needed.

    I do however think that using the "easy" ways when just out kicking around and not studying other ways is cheating yourself of knowledge. Who knows what the situation will be when fire is needed to preserve life and limb. When i suffered the worst I was young, 17, and it was my first trip above the Mason Dixon line. I was hitch-hiking and found myself in an unexpected (for me) fluke blizzard 20 miles outside Evansville Indiana before I knew it the ground was covered and all I could see for miles were white fields and an over pass. I wasn't properly dressed for the occasion and had nothing but a bic lighter to work with. I actually owe a truck driver I never got to thank for my being alive. But there have been many times since that knowing how to efficiently use the materials available in an area have saved the day.
     
  22. Gabriel11

    Gabriel11 Tinder Gatherer

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    Awesome! You must have had a great time in the rain forest.If anyone wants to enjoy this kind of rain forest experience then it is better to visit apollo bay, this is a must visit place to enjoy the beauty of nature. Search in the internet and know more about this place.
     
  23. justin_baker

    justin_baker Bushmaster

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    Cool man. In my woods, literally all of the tinder in the forest gets wet. Gotta make wood shavings with plain old hardwood.
     
  24. cody1

    cody1 Scout

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    Nicely shown. Pitchwood rocks....
     
  25. shumanlives

    shumanlives Scout

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    Great pics and info. I find fatwood a great resource in camping. When you have hungry kids around, it's important to be able to get the fire going.
     
  26. Pict

    Pict Guide

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    Good post. Your thinking and conditions are very close to my experiences growing up in Pennsylvania. I was one of those people addicted to birch bark, it was everywhere and we used it as our main fire starter. Very rarely did we have to do anything but scrape off the wet bark from the fuel and set it over a pile of birch bark.

    If you have a resource like that in your environment you use it, it's that simple. Here in central Brazil we don't have birch or fat wood but we do have Candeia, a very stinky, oily wood that is waterproof and lights up like gasoline when dry. I make a point of making sure people can ID the tree by sight and smell and know how to process it, just like pointing out fat wood or birch up there.
     
  27. GA_MTN_MAN

    GA_MTN_MAN Scout

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    It was good to see this post again. During a long work day it's sure good to see something like this and dream of the weekend.
     
  28. MtnManJoe

    MtnManJoe Guide

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    Yeah - Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have mainly coniferous trees (pine, fir, cedar, etc - And, we also have rain .. LOTS OF RAIN)

    There is really no need to worry about 'dry' tinder, as in addition to pitch-wood, just about every tree has 'pitch nodules' that will burst into flame if you even look at them harshly .. lol

    [​IMG]
     
  29. crimescene450

    crimescene450 Scout

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    i keep a old pill bottle packed full of fatwood shavings in my kit for my 'need fire fast' situations. but i try not to use it because i like making new shavings.
     
  30. walkabout

    walkabout Guide

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    If you really want to get creative mix in some dryer lint with the shavings, its enough to give a pyromaniac a woody! i just recently picked up a small steel pencil sharpener just to make shavings with, it makes great little shavings out of fat wood slivers.
     
  31. Pantucci

    Pantucci Scout

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    Very cool. I want to go hunting for some fatwood now...
     
  32. Outrider

    Outrider Scout

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    Thanks for the kind words guys, glad you enjoyed the post.


    Hey Mac, how ya been? I was just wondering what you were up to a couple of days ago.

    Thanks, I know it's good to practice with lots of things, but it's also always good to figure out what the most efficient materials to use under wet conditions in any given environment are. That Candeia sounds interesting, I'll have to try to remember that if I'm ever down that way. Got any good pics?


    Thanks, yeah I have online friends in B.C. who like to show of the pitch nodules all the time. Seems like some awesome stuff, I can find resin here at times but not like out there.
     
  33. crimescene450

    crimescene450 Scout

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    I was actualy just thinking that today, or possibly mixing it pj cotton with it. :4:
     
  34. pure_mahem

    pure_mahem Guide

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    Just for emergencies it never hurts to carry a 20 minut road flare!

    I only carry them in my car. I don't winte camp but I keep a all weather survival kit in my car. If I did think I would be traveling a hypothemic or frostbite temperature enviroment I would add one to my pack possibly 2. Hey you never know! This is all good stuff. I agree there is no such in cheating. The best time to practice difficult fire methods isn't when your life depends on it. It's when it's tropically balmy and your on vacation or in your yard!
     
  35. Outrider

    Outrider Scout

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    I tend to keep some kind of "fire now" chemical tinder around; PJCBs, Trioxane, hexamine, esbit...In a pack flares worry me in my terrain.
     
  36. mainewoods

    mainewoods Maine Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    I too Like to carry some thing like PJCBs and esbit.
     

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