Firecraft is about building a controlled fire with ease and safety. Reasons for building a fire are warmth, cooking, protection, light and signaling, to name a few.
If your matches are damp, comb the head of the match through
dry hair fifteen or twenty times to draw off excess moisture. The static will aid in drying the match. Do the same with the striker.
Where to build your fire:
An area protected from wind and weather with any hazards removed.
Preferably in sand or on stone. A campfire can burn roots and smolder (for hours, days, or even years) underground then erupt anywhere.
How to build a fire
First, you need tinder that will ignite easily and burn hot enough to start your kindling. (i.e. dried grass, cattail fluff, scorched cotton) In a pinch, you could use one of the alcohol prep pads from your first aid kit.
For kindling use small twigs, bark, or wood shavings (hope you have your survival knife) that are dry enough to snap in your hands. Top your kindling with small branches then larger chunks of fuel.
Fuel selections include: hard or soft wood, brush, dried cow patties, and coal, among other things.
Avoid using gasoline. If you must, do so sparingly, never pour it on your fire. The flames may race up the stream of gasoline igniting the container in your hands, or the blast of heat could scorch or ignite your clothing and char your skin. Always think firecraft safety.
Leave air gaps around your kindling and fuel. Packing too tight will limit the air supply and produce a smoldering affair with little or no heat, if you can even get it lit.
A classic teepee fire will give you one or two inch air gaps around kindling. Lean small sticks over your kindling or lay out a crosshatched pattern around and over the kindling three or four layers deep. Be sure you can get at the tinder during set-up so you can light it.
Mountain Man Tinder
Mountain men used to carry a tin with a small hole in it. The tin would be filled with cotton patches and placed in the coals of their fire. The cotton would not burn for lack of oxygen in the can, but, it would char nicely. They would carry a supply of this scorched cotton with them for use as tinder and make more as they needed it. An old tee shirt would provide a large supply.
Lighting a fire in the rain:
The trick is to find enough dry kindling to get your damp wood burning. The best source for dry kindling is the dead branches still attached to pine trees near the base. If you split seasoned wood that is damp on the outside, the inner core will be dry. Well seasoned wood is wood that has been down for at least a year (well dried but not rotted). Green wood produces more smoke. Keep this in mind for signaling.
You can laugh guys but the girls have something we don't. . . for use as firestarting tinder: Would you believe tampons?
Remove tampon from the applicator
Cut that chunk of cotton into three equal sections
Feather one section out for use as tinder, it will give you about a minute to a minute and a half of flame which should get your fire going.
The basic layout of a fire is always the same. However, in damp conditions, you will need to keep a closer eye on it to keep it burning. In a downpour your fire will need some kind of shelter like a small cave, a canvas canopy, or be well sheltered by trees. Always practice safety with your firecraft.