One of my favourite pastimes is hanging out around a campfire with a cold beverage and amazing company by my side. And, I can confidently say that it is not as enjoyable if your campfire is producing too much smoke or burning embers are constantly popping out at you.
If you’re in a hurry, here are my top 5 choices for the best firewood for camping:
- Oak Firewood– arguably, the best wood for campfires because it’s relatively easy to find, burns slowly, produces a lot of heat and barely any sparks.
- Birch Wood– while it is a softwood, it’s also easy to find and it burns easily but slowly. Plus, I love the smell of birch.
- Hickory– it burns slowly, is low-smoking, produces a lot of heat and smells amazing (think bbq!)
- Ash Wood– it’s easy to split, burns slowly and produces very little smoke.
- Maple Wood– it smells delightful, is easy to split and burns very clean.
There is, however, a lot to consider when choosing the best wood for camping. If you have some time, let’s take a closer look.
What To Consider When Choosing The Best Firewood For Camping
In a nutshell, hardwoods are the best choice (over softer wood) when it comes to choosing the best types of wood for burning. In addition to that, here are the top criteria that I consider when choosing which kind of wood to use for my campfire or in a wood stove:
- Does it produce minimal smoke?
- Does it produce minimal sparks?
- How hot does it burn?
- Does it smell good when it burns?
- How long does it burn?
First and foremost, you want wood that produces very little smoke (the less smoke the wood burns the better) and very few sparks. Not only does this affect the experience, but it can also be devastating in dry conditions.
You also want wood that provides plenty of heat and burns hot for a long time. This means you’ll burn less wood which is very important if you’re buying it. You’d be surprised at how much wood you can burn through in a night!
And, while the smell isn’t the most important, it does add to the ambience of the night! I’ve included many different kinds of wood so that you can choose the best option for yourself (as I know we’re not all from the United States or Canada). Now let’s go over the best firewood options (for your next camping trip) based on each of these criteria:
The Best Low-Smoking Firewoods
Let’s be real, nobody likes to play campfire musical chairs (trying to escape the smoke) when they’re sitting around a fire.
These woods are a good choice because they will produce the least amount of smoke when seasoned properly (we’ll get into this later, but it’s related to moisture content.) I must say, however, all good firewood will produce some smoke (it is burning wood after all.)
Now that we’ve cleared that up, here are some of the best low-smoking firewood options:
- Oak Wood
- Maple Wood
- Cherry Wood
- Ash Wood
- Beech Wood
The Least Sparking Firewoods
If you’ve ever had a hot ember from a fire land in your lap, you know how important this is. I personally have several pieces of clothing with holes in them from this very thing.
Not only are sparks from firewood annoying and dangerous to you, but they can also be dangerous if conditions are dry. Therefore, it’s important to choose firewood and kindling that produces the least sparks (especially if you’re having an open fire).
I’ve selected these woods because they are dense and burn slowly, making them a great choice if you’re looking for minimal sparks.
- Oak Wood
- Maple Wood
- Beech Wood
- Birch Wood
- Black Walnut
- Sugar Maple
The Hottest Burning Firewoods
It’s not a real fire unless it makes you scooch your chair back a foot or 2! But seriously, when you’re sitting around a campfire (especially on cold nights), you’re looking for some heat.
These woods have a high energy content per cord, which means that they produce a lot of heat. It sounds crazy but this is actually tested by measuring the amount of heat that a 4’x4’x8′ cord of split and seasoned wood puts out (measured in BTUs) when burned.
- Oak (particularly White Oak)
- Maple (particularly Sugar Maple)
- Black Birch
The Best Smelling Firewoods
The smell of burning firewood can add to the ambiance of your camping experience. I find this especially important if you’re going to be doing some campfire cooking. The best-smelling firewood options are:
- Cedar Wood
- Fruitwoods like Apple, Cherry and Pear (my favourite is apple!)
- Oak Wood
The Worst Smelling Firewoods
Some of these smell absolutely terrible! From skunks to sewage (potentially), it’s a good idea to think twice before burning them in a campfire.
- Red Oak (when it’s green)
- Silver Maple
The Longest Burning Firewoods
Long-lasting firewood is essential for a camping trip, especially if you’re planning to cook food and spend the night around the campfire.. These woods are dense and burn slowly, which means they produce a long-lasting fire (and you will get the best “bang for your buck” out of a bundle of wood).
Most well-seasoned hardwoods will burn for a long time, but here are some of our favourites:
- Oak Wood
- Cherry Wood
- Maple Wood
- Ash Wood
- Hickory (longest burning)
- Beech Wood
- Apple Wood
Types of Wood You Should Never Burn
It’s important to know what types of wood to avoid burning. Depending on the type of wood, not can not only create a lot of smoke but can also be harmful to you and the environment.
Here are some other types of wood you should never burn:
- Softwoods: Softwoods like pine, fir, and cedar may be tempting to use because they burn fast, but they also create a lot of smoke and leave behind fine ashes (instead of nice cooking coals.) Your best bet is to avoid them if possible.
- Green Wood: Burning green wood, or wood that has not been properly seasoned, can also create a lot of smoke. It also contains a lot of moisture, which can make it difficult to light and keep burning.
- Construction and Furniture Wood: Wood treated with chemicals or paint should never be burned. Maybe you took down an old log cabin or fence and want to use this wood. However, burning these types of wood can release harmful chemicals into the air that you, your pets and your children should NEVER breathe in!
- Non-Local Wood: Burning wood that has been transported from another area can introduce invasive species and diseases to the local environment.
- Poisonous Wood: Some types of wood are poisonous and should never be burned. Examples include poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac.
- Endangered Wood: Burning wood from endangered species is illegal and can result in fines and penalties.
- Habitat Wood: Burning wood from habitats such as rainforests can contribute to deforestation and habitat destruction.
- Rotten and Moldy Wood: Burning wood that is rotten or mouldy can release harmful spores and bacteria into the air. Again, not something that you (or your loved ones) want to breathe in.
- Driftwood: Driftwood may seem like a great option for firewood since it is readily available on beaches and riverbanks, but it can be dangerous to burn. Driftwood can contain salt and other chemicals that can be harmful to breathe in when burned.
Preparing Your Firewood
Storing Your Firewood
The best way to store your firewood is to keep it off the ground and covered with a tarp or other waterproof material. This will prevent moisture from getting into the wood, which makes it difficult to burn.
We built a simple wood storage shack out of some recycled pallets and it works great! Get creative ad see what you can come up with.
Seasoning Your Firewood
So the first thing that you want to do is pick your favourite seasonings. What food do you want your firewood to smell like? Tacos, cheeseburgers, lasagna? You also want to make sure that you’re generous with the salt.
Oh my goodness, I’m KIDDING! Seasoning your firewood involves allowing the wood to dry out for several months (or even years) before using it. The best way to season it is to stack it in a dry, well-ventilated area. This will allow air to circulate around the wood and help it to dry out more quickly.
Cutting and Splitting Your Firewood
If you’re cutting and splitting your own firewood (like a beast), it’s important to use the right tools and techniques. A chainsaw is the most efficient tool for cutting down trees, but a handsaw or axe can also be used. If you are lucky enough to have a wood splitter, even better!
Also, make sure that you’re allowed to cut down the trees. Check out your local laws and rules when it comes to chopping down trees.
When splitting the wood, make sure to use a sharp axe and aim for the center of the log. It’s also important to wear protective gear, such as gloves and safety glasses, to prevent injury.
It’s also important to consider the size of your fire pit. You don’t want to bring pieces of wood that are too large or too small. A good rule of thumb is to bring pieces that are between 12 and 16 inches long and 3 to 6 inches in diameter.
This will ensure that the wood fits well in your fire pit and burns evenly.
Before You Go…
Now that you know what the best firewood for camping is, I think you’ll enjoy reading some of these articles next:
What is The Best Firewood For Camping?
The best firewood for camping is a hardwood that is dry and seasoned. Oak, hickory, and maple are popular choices because they burn hot and slow. Birch and Ash are also good choices.
How Much Firewood Should I Bring For a Camping Trip?
It depends on the length of your trip and how much you plan to use the fire. A good rule of thumb is to bring at least 2 bundles of firewood per day (which will give you about 4 hours of burn time.)
What Size Should Firewood Be?
Depends on the size of your firepit but, the firewood should be cut into pieces that are approximately 16 inches long and 4 inches in diameter. This size is easy to handle and will fit most fire pits.
Can I Bring Firewood From Home?
If you are camping locally, yes. However, if you are not, it is not recommended to bring firewood from home. It can spread invasive species and diseases to the campsite. It is best to use local wood.
How Do I Store Firewood at the Campsite?
Firewood should be stored in a dry place, such as under a tarp or in a covered area to prevent it from getting wet. It should also be kept away from the campfire to prevent it from catching fire.
Can I Burn Pine or Other Softwoods For Firewood?
Softwoods like pine can be used for campfire wood, but they burn quickly, spark more and produce a lot of smoke. Hardwoods will provide the best campfire experience and should be the go-to.