If you want to have the best campfire, you’re going to need the right wood! Today I’m talking about the best firewood for camping so you can have little smoke, lots of heat, and a slow burn.
Camping just wouldn’t be the same without sitting around the campfire. You just haven’t camped if you haven’t cooked a hot dog on a stick. Or let that marshmallow catch on fire and blow it out before the sugary treat is burned to ash. It’s all part of the camping experience.
After the food, you can sit around the campfire telling stories and singing songs while the sounds of crackling wood and popping embers fill the background.
The Best Firewood for Camping
Not all wood burns alike! Some wood burns slow and long while others are fast and furious. When it comes to firewood for camping, here are the best types of wood you’ll want to use when gathered around the campfire.
- Oak: relatively easy to find, oak wood is great for cold nights around the fire. It burns with lots of heat and is slow and steady. You’ll also notice that it rarely sparks.
- Hickory: while a very tough wood and difficult to split, it holds little moisture. This makes it even hotter than oak which is great for cooking over.
- Pine: when it comes to pine, you’ll be able to find plenty of it. It lasts a long time when stored and doesn’t decay easily. However, it does burn quickly and will spark more often thanks to its high resin content.
- Ash: this wood burns very easily and produces little smoke. It’s one of the few kinds of wood that burns well while green. It’s light in weight but gives off a steady burn. A bonus, it’s easy to split.
- Birch: a softwood, birch burns very easily but does burn quick. However, it’s easy to find and doesn’t require much prep work.
- Cedar: If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on some cedar, you’ll be able to enjoy the very pleasant smell it emits while burning. While not a large flame, it does burn hot.
Firewood to Avoid
Now that you know what to look for, here’s what to avoid when it comes to burning in the fire pit.
- Poplar, spruce, willow, and alder wood
- Green/young wood
- Poisonous wood
- Wood too large to safely fit in the firepit
- Non-local wood
- Decaying wood
- Wet wood
How Much Firewood Do I Need for Camping?
When you’re packing up for camping, you want to make sure you’re not forgetting anything. Including wood! On average, you need about one bundle of wood per hour. As the fire burns, you’ll find you’ll require less wood as the coals stay hot and burn,
It also depends on if you’re using the fire for cooking or staying warm. Less is needed for warmth as the coals stay warm long after the fire is gone. If you’re cooking with fire, it’s always a good idea to bring a backup method for cooking like a stove. This means you can still eat regardless of weather or fire bans.
Ask yourself how often you will be lighting a fire? A couple of bundles a night will give you a fire at the end of the day.
Where to Buy Firewood for Camping
Before camping, you can find wood for sale at most gas stations and hardware stores. However, the cost is often inflated, and you’ll be paying double what you might elsewhere.
The cheapest option is usually those selling it independently. Look for ads on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or on the way to your campsite. Be cautious not only about meeting up with someone but that the wood is quality enough for burning.
If you forget to bring your firewood with you, you should be able to purchase some at your campground. This is usually my preferred method because I know it’s local and safe wood to use. And I don’t have to pack it!
The location of your campground is important if you plan on bringing firewood across national borders. US Customs and Border Protection states that untreated wood cannot be transported from Canada into the United States. The concerns are the transportation of larva from Canada into the United States. Larva would not be visible to the eye but could mature and infect US forests with wood-boring insects. Likewise, you cannot also bring firewood from the USA into Canada. Check with local authorities if you plan on crossing borders.
Collecting Firewood for Camping
In Canada, you must have a permit to cut firewood on crown land. Only dead or down trees may be used for the firewood. Without a permit, you will be fined, and the wood confiscated.
In the USA, campers are allowed to gather dead and down wood for use as long as it’s not removed the US Forest Service land. You must burn it where you are camping. You may also not cut any standing wood.
Every region and even park has its own rules about collecting firewood for camping. Always double-check before taking any wood and burning it.
BUT even better, don’t collect firewood at all. Dead and dying trees provide food and shelter for insects and wildlife. Every time you take wood to burn, you’re disrupting the local ecosystem. Instead, try to buy your wood from the campground or reputable local sellers.
If there’s a fire ban, you can always use a propane firepit. I love mine as it means I always have a fire to stay warm and enjoy no matter the weather or current conditions. Some larger campgrounds offer rentals for propane firepits. And yes, you can still roast your marshmallows and hotdogs over the stove!
Campfires truly are one of the joys of camping. It brings people together. The smoke makes your food taste better. It warms you up on a cold night! If you can, don’t deprive yourself of this fun, traditional way to spend the night.