man gathering wood to make a fire man gathering wood to make a fire

How to Start a Fire in the Snow

How to Start a Fire in the Snow

Freezing temperatures and snow isn’t the sort of thing that stops an adventurer like yourself. So, if you find yourself camping, hiking or just want to impress your friends, our favorite outdoor expert Teddy Cosco has a few tricks for sparking a flame in wintry conditions.


There’s nothing like a warm fire on a cold day; however, it’s a bit trickier in the winter than in the summer. But with a little bit of preparation you can get a raging fire going with just your Leatherman Signal®. 

leatherman signal with included tools

Step 1

Try to find wood that does not have snow on it, either from the middle of a stack or collected from under trees. Moisture is your enemy, so avoid wood that is water-logged, snow-covered, or has been directly on the ground.

man walking in the snow with logs

Step 2

Prep some kindling of varying sizes and stack it up in an area where there is no snow (or clear the snow away). You’ll want a bunch of very small kindling as it ignites better, and you’ll need that heat to burn off any moisture. Pro tip: wood in the middle of a log is generally drier than the exterior of the log, so use this first. (The Signal®’s saw will be useful for this step.)

making kindle with the leatherman signal for a fire

Step 3

Prep some feather sticks with the driest pieces you have. Before lighting the fire, I try to clear out as much snow from the area as possible and use a piece of wood that has been cut to be flat as the base of your fire.

Step 4

Facial tissues and toilet paper are not only great for the sniffles, but they are my go-to firestarter. Using some TP as a base, I’ll place the feather sticks directly on top. With a few swift strikes of the ferro rod on the Signal®, the TP should light right up. 

Leatherman Signal lighting a fire with ferro rod

Feed it

From this point, you can build your fire as you would in warmer climates: gradually add pieces of increasing size to the fire. Once the fire really gets going, I like to “preheat” some of the wetter logs by laying them close to the fire, e.g. on the outside of a fire ring. This will reduce some of the moisture in the log and/or melt some of the snow, providing a better burn and less smoke once you put it on the fire.

man in front of fire in the snow

Whether you’re in the backyard or the back 40, you’ve got the skills to start a fire in the snow, especially with the Signal® by your side.

Teddy Cosco is an assistant professor at Simon Fraser University, a passionate outdoorsman, enthusiastic home cook, and sometimes-lucky fly fisherman. Exploring the tundra via floatplane, fishing off the coast of Alaska and camping throughout Western Canada, he grew up with the outdoors in his blood. Follow @castandiron for adventure and recipe inspiration.