I took my oldest two kids on a 3-day backpacking trip a few weeks ago. We hiked with some friends about a dozen miles on a trail that was rated “Strenuous.” At times there were some pretty steep inclines that we had to traverse, but overall it was a good, pleasant hike. It felt good to walk down the trail.
It had rained just prior to our first day of hiking. The woods were wet with the spring showers that had coated the area. No worries; it wasn’t going to dampen our spirits. We left our vehicles in the parking area and set out along the trail.
We arrived at at first campsite at dust and set up camp. After the tents were raised and we were settled in, we began gathering firewood for a small campfire.
Finding dry tinder and kindling can be a challenge in wet weather. The outside of any exposed wood will likely be wet. Such was the case for us. Everything we could gather was very damp. Still, we wanted (fortunately we didn’t need) a campfire.
So, I demonstrated to my kids and friends how to use a knife and a baton to get dry kindling from wet wood.
Getting Dry Kindling from Wet Wood
Seasoned wood that has been exposed to rain will, of course, be wet to the touch. At least on the outside. If you can get to the wood on the inside, though, it will more than likely be dry enough to burn. The trick is to get to the wood on the inside without an ax or hatchet.
That’s where having a good knife comes in handy. I carry a Ka-Bar Becker BK2 Companion with me almost everywhere I go; it’s an essential component of my Bug Out Bag.
I carried it with me on this backpacking trip. It weighs a pound, but it’s worth the extra weight, even when carrying everything you need on your back.
Step 1: Find a good straight and relatively solid stick to use a baton. In the picture below (taken in my yard after the camping trip), my baton is in my right hand.
Step 2: Take the stick that you wish to split and stand it on it’s end. This stick must have a diameter that’s less than the length of your knife. For example, the BK2 has a blade length of 5 1/4 inches so I can reasonably expect to split wood that’s up to approximately 4 inches in diameter.
Step 3: Place your knife across the top of the wood to be split. Now use the baton to hit the spine of your knife. Give it a good, firm whack to drive the knife blade into the end of the wood. Continue hitting the end of the knife, going down the length of the stick, until it splits.
Step 4: Take one side of the split piece and split it again using the same method as before. Continue splitting the pieces into smaller and smaller pieces to make your kindling.
Step 5: Once you’ve split plenty to dry kindling, you can take a few of the smaller, thinner pieces and shave some even smaller slices from them help your spark grow from the tinder to the kindling.
With a little preparation and a good knife, you can readily extract dry kindling and fuel from the wet wood you’ve gathered.
On this hiking trip, having a campfire meant the difference between eating cold marshmallows and toasting them until they are warm and crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside. In other instances, though, a campfire could mean the difference between surviving and hypothermia.
Have you used this technique before to collect dry firewood?