The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Firewood for Campfires

If a perfect campfire is your dream, but you’re not sure what type of firewood to choose, look no further. You’ve come to the right place. This ultimate guide to choosing the best firewood for campfires is full of firewood-buying tips, recommendations for which types of wood to avoid and a whole lot of practical advice. So, grab some marshmallows, a roasting stick and settle in for a deep dive into the topic of firewood selection. Let’s get started!

Quick Overview

The best type of firewood for campfires is hardwood, such as oak, hickory, and maple. Hardwoods burn longer and hotter than softwoods, making them ideal for extended fires over several hours.

Types of Firewood for Campfires

When choosing the best firewood for a campfire, it is important to understand the different types of wood available, and the positives and negatives associated with each. Generally speaking, there are two common types of wood for use in a campfire – hardwoods and softwoods.

Hardwoods are typically considered to be preferable for use in a campfire due to their higher calorific value. This means that they burn longer and hotter than softwoods, making them particularly useful when camping in colder climates or if planning an overnight stay at a campsite. Furthermore, hardwoods generally produce less smoke than softwoods and create more consistent flames, which some find appealing when building a campfire. There are also several aspects associated with hardwoods which make them less attractive as firewood for camping trips. Firstly, hardwoods tend to be heavier than softwoods and therefore more difficult to transport over long distances or rough terrain. Secondly, hardwoods may take longer to light than softwoods due to their harder exterior, meaning extra patience may be required when building a campfire from these woods.

Softwoods can provide an effective source of fuel for a camping fire, creating flames which give off considerable heat – ideal for cooking meals out in the wilderness. Despite their lower calorific value in comparison to hardwoods, many campers appreciate softwoods for their easy lighting and portability; most varieties are higher in moisture content than harder woods and thus require little effort or preparation before igniting a fire. A significant downside of using softwood is its tendency to produce sparks that can get out of hand quickly – this can pose a danger if there is too much dry foliage present near the campfire. Additionally, as these kinds of woods tend to be lightweight they often don’t last very long in comparison to hardwood and require constant topping up keep the fire going strong.

Overall both hardwood and softwood can be used effectively as sources of fuel for a camping fire depending on one’s goals; while some may prefer the longer burning times associated with hardwood other perhaps enjoy convenience offered by softwood and its diminished need for maintenance throughout the night.

Now that we've discussed both types of wood available for campfires let's take a look at what makes softwood unique in our next section: “Softwoods”.


Softwoods, such as pine and cedar, are excellent for campfires because they burn hotter and longer than hardwoods. Pine produces a very hot flame and is the recommended wood for cooking over an open fire. Additionally, softwood trees generally have a lower density which makes them lighter and easier to transport.

However, one of the primary drawbacks of burning softwoods is that they take longer to season or dry than hardwoods. Therefore, after cutting and splitting the wood, it should be seasoned for at least six months in order to reduce the sap content that can lead to smoke and starting problems.

Additionally, while softwood can create more heat than hardwood, the heat output per cord of wood is usually lower due to resin content that can prevent efficient burning. For this reason, many campers prefer using hardwoods for their campfires as a better heat source for cooking.

Overall, it's important to consider all factors when deciding between hardwoods or softwood for your campfire and choose the best option depending on your specific needs.

Now that you have a better understanding of softwoods, let's discuss the pros and cons of using hardwoods in our next section.


When it comes to choosing the best firewood for campfires, hardwoods are often a popular choice. Hardwood firewood is usually denser, drier, and heavier than that of softwoods. This makes it more difficult to ignite, but its stability and longevity once lit makes up for this difficulty. The heat produced by hardwood is also more intense than softwoods, which makes it last longer and provide more warmth.

The key to using hardwood for campfires is selecting the right type of wood for the desired atmosphere. Oak is perhaps the most popular choice among experienced fire starters due to its slow burning properties and minimal visible smoke. Hickory and cherry wood are also good options as they burn hot and have a pleasant aroma when burned.

On the other hand, some argue that hardwood is over-rated when it comes to campfires, claiming that softwoods like pine and spruce produce similar heat with minimal smoke production while also being easier to light. Softwoods are much more common in many regions as well, meaning that it may be easier – and more convenient – to locate them in a pinch.

In any case, understanding the different properties of hardwoods and softwoods will be beneficial for those looking for an enjoyable campfire experience. With that said, the next section will focus on preparing your firewood for campfires.

Preparing Your Firewood for Campfires

Preparing your firewood for campfires is a critical step for a safe and successful camping experience. The first thing to consider is whether or not the firewood needs to be split according to the size of the campfire. Logs should always be cut so that they are no larger than five inches in diameter. Doing this ensures an even distribution of heat and will help keep a constant flame.

Some experts suggest that splitting logs is unnecessary if the firewood is already kindling-size (2-4 inches) as long as it is dry and aged for one full season; however, it is important to note that the wood should still be small enough to fit on top of each other with minimal overlap. Doing so will ensure the fire starts easily, burns efficiently, and produces less smoke.

On the other hand, some campers prefer larger pieces of wood since they typically last longer without needing more fuel. This would require splitting logs with an axe or chainsaw prior to burning them in the campfire. Both methods work but can be time consuming and potentially dangerous depending on the size of the logs. For example, large logs are more likely to cause injury because of the force needed to split them.

Though there may be preferences for both sides of this argument, safety should always come first when determining which type of wood you use for a campfire. Preparing your firewood properly by either splitting it or choosing appropriate sizes can make all the difference when starting a safe, efficient campfire.

Now that you know how best to prepare your firewood, let's move on to discuss splitting logs in our next section: “Splitting Logs”.

Splitting Logs

Splitting firewood is an essential part of ensuring that campfires burn hot and strong. Understanding the techniques, tools, and approaches involved in splitting logs can make this process easier, safer, and more efficient.

It's important to select wood that has been cut for at least six months before it is used. This will allow the wood to thoroughly dry out and create less smoke when burned. Split logs should be larger than 4” thick so they still hold together while burning but break apart easily with a few hits.

The most common tool used to split logs is an axe or maul. A maul is preferred because it offers more power but requires more strength to use; however, it can cause fatigue quickly if not used correctly. An axe is smaller and lighter making it useful for smaller pieces of wood but does not have as much force as a maul. Both methods are effective for splitting logs for campfire use.

The safest position for splitting firewood anywhere near campsites is near the log pile with your back facing away from the trees or branches being split. Being sure to keep all bystanders at a safe distance while doing so. Protective gloves and eye protection are recommended as well as wearing proper clothing such as jeans and closed-toe shoes while working with any type of chopping tool. Begin by striking the log in the middle then striking each side until deeply cracked along the entire length of the log – taking care not to leave sharp edges on either end – then finish off by cracking the log open along its length. When finished, you will have two half pieces of firewood ready for burning in a campfire!

Now that we understand how to properly split logs for campfire use, let's move on to discussing storing your firewood properly prior to using it.

  • The best firewood for a campfire is hard wood such as oak, maple, hickory, birch and ash.
  • Soft woods such as pine or cedar should be avoided as they produce an excessive amount of smoke and can also cause a fire to flare up.
  • Burning unseasoned (green) wood will create heavier smoke and take longer to burn, reducing overall heat output and increasing the possibility of smoke inhalation.

Top Summary Points

Splitting firewood is an essential part of ensuring campfires burn hot and strong. It is important to select wood that has been cut for at least six months to allow it to dry out, and the logs should be larger than 4” thick. The most common tools used are an axe or maul, although an axe is more suitable for smaller pieces of wood. When splitting logs, it is important to take safety precautions such as facing away from the trees or branches being split, wearing protective gloves and eye protection, and wearing proper clothing. After splitting the log into two pieces, they should be properly stored prior to use in a campfire!

Storing Firewood

Once the perfect firewood is obtained, the job isn’t over. It is important to store and care for it properly in order to preserve its quality. Using a tarp or some other kind of cover, stack the wood on off-ground surfaces such as pallets, cement boards, tarps or plastic sheets. Controlling airflow will also ensure that the firewood stays dry; so keeping the pile small and loose helps create air pockets around each log. The moisture content of firewood should measure between 20% – 25%. Firewood stored indoors may still require some sort of weather protection if placed near windows, as extreme temperature swings can be damaging. Some argue that leaving wood outside prior to use will not significantly increase the moisture content, but others disagree and believe that leaving wood exposed allows the log to absorb higher levels of moisture from rain and snow which can then lead to a sludge-like residue in chimneys. Therefore, weighing both pros and cons when considering how to store wood leads to different answers depending on the environment in which it is kept.

With proper storage methods in mind, we can now move on to “Getting The Campfire Going”, where tips such as choosing an area with plenty of ventilation and learning easy ways to light a campfire will be discussed.

Getting The Campfire Going

It can be a challenge to get the campfire going, especially at first glance. No matter how much effort is put into gathering fine firewood and tinder, using it correctly is essential.

To begin, the right kind of tinder makes a huge difference in the success of a campfire. A variety of material such as dry twigs, leaves, pine needles and bark should be gathered together with some larger pieces of wood that can be used for fuel in the early stages of the fire. Care should also be taken to create a safe atmosphere that meets all safety regulations from local authorities.

Components like newspaper strips and cardboard should also be considered when gathering materials for the fire. Newspaper can create a great base for lighting the kindling with its embraceable characteristic so it doesn’t blow away easily. Cardboard can turn into carbons and burn quickly, though it won’t last as long as other materials such as wood logs. It's important to take care when deciding between these two options.

When stacking up the kindling, a small teepee of dry firewood should be created to help direct air flow and maximize heat production inside the space created by the teepee. Once lit, air needs to be able to move through the stack quickly enough to keep building up heat until eventually the firewood is thick enough where it will remain burning without the aid of drafts or excessive oxygen intake. Every part of this arrangement must be kept dry or else it won't combust properly and will result in a failed campfire effort.

Finally, some cautionary guidance should be given about lighters or matches being used as an ignition source for many seemingly harmless fires: gas lighters are known to release volatile fumes potentially leading to more dangerous accidents if directions are not followed meticulously. Matches need extra caution with both windy conditions and flammable liquids – an accident waiting to happen. When starting up any kind of fire, certain guidelines should always be followed for maximum safety for everyone nearby.

With proper care taken in getting your campfire going safely and knowledgeably, you can now proceed onto adding kindling carefully considering different kinds before addition so that your fire stays crunchy and warm throughout!

Adding Kindling

Adding kindling to your firewood can help create a strong and lasting flame. Kindling is typically made of small, thin pieces of wood such as twigs, bark, or thin logs – the objective being to catch and keep the flame going. Using too much kindling or the wrong type of kindling can make your fire harder to start and shorten its life, whereas using the right kindling can significantly increase your success rate when starting a campfire.

Although there are many options for kindling, experts recommend using softwood such as dried pine or fir branches with multiple layers of needles since they are filled with pitch which will help ignite the fire quickly. Pine cones can also be used by opening them up and exposing more fuel for the fire to burn. Fire starters (also known as paraffin wax logs) can also be used as kindling; however it is best not to include these until everything else is ready otherwise you might end up overloading your fire with fuel.

When adding kindling, you want to place it around your firewood in a way that allows maximum airflow. It's important not to stack too much or pack it down too tightly because it will hinder oxygen circulation and reduce flames. Dedicate an ample amount of time working with different kinds of wood and adding them in certain configurations – practice will make perfect when it comes to creating an organized and aesthetically pleasing campfire that will stand the test of time!

Now you should have a strong foundation set in place – head into the next section to learn how to start your fire!

Starting the Fire

When it comes to starting a campfire, there are two different approaches: using traditional firewood or an electronic campfire lighter. Each approach has its benefits and drawbacks, so choosing the best option requires that you weigh the pros and cons of each before setting out on your camping trip.

The traditional method of building a campfire by focusing directly on gathering good quality firewood is still widely used. The main advantage of this approach is that it is more economical and does not require special tools or equipment. It's also typically less complicated than trying to use an electric campfire lighter, as you can simply source materials from nearby wooded areas. However, getting the firewood ready for burning is still a time-consuming process. Gathering sticks, bark, barked sticks, cones and other suitable items needs patience and skill which can make this option a waste of time for some people.

On the other hand, electric campfire lighters offer a quick and easy way to start up a campfire in minutes. This can be especially convenient when camping with kids as they don’t have to wait around while you get busy collecting firewood. In addition, these electronic devices often include temperature settings so you can control how quickly the flames ignite and how large they get during burning process. However, while they may be faster and easier to use than traditional firewood starting options, they are often more expensive due to their advanced features.

With both methods having their own pros and cons, it’s important to assess each approach before deciding which one is best for your camping requirements. Now that you’ve learned about the various options for starting a campfire, let's move on and explore how to maintain a campfire in the next section!

Maintaining the Campfire

Maintaining a campfire is something that can take some practice, as the perfect fire is often not just a one-and-done scenario. Depending on the type of firewood you’ve chosen and the kind of campfire you’re hoping to create, there are different steps you’ll need to take for achieving campfire success.

If you want to maintain an even, low heat for a longer-lasting fire, then you’ll want to opt for smaller pieces of wood, such as twigs or logs that have been split into halves or thirds. Throwing in larger chunks of wood will cause the fire to burn hotter and faster, so if that’s what you’re looking to do, then go with large chunks or log rounds instead.

When adding fuel to the fire, it helps to feed it slowly so that it doesn't become too intense. Doing too many big log throws at once can lead to flames shooting up; leaving only ashes behind when they subside – not exactly an ideal flame. To keep your campfire steady, add more fuel gradually when needed and try to place each piece of fuel around the edges of the burning pile. This will help your fire stay hot and bright without becoming uncontrollable.

Of course, if your goal is to have a bonfire with lots of smoke and plenty of sparks flying around, then by all means load up those logs and let ‘er rip! But be sure to be mindful of your surroundings before igniting this type of blaze – especially near flammable materials or dry vegetation. Make sure you’ve done enough research so that your bonfire will remain safe and under control at all times.

The key takeaway here is that maintaining your campfire largely depends on your goals, so find out what kind of experience you’d like first – and then plan your approach accordingly. Now that we've gone over the basics of selecting and maintaining the right type of wood for your fireside needs, let's move onto the next step: Feeding the fire.

Feeding the Fire

Keep in mind that a fire requires attention and continual supply of fuel to remain going. When selecting firewood for a campfire, choose logs that burn slowly and steadily, and keep them separate from faster burning kindling. Campers should be aware that some woods are best for starting fires, while others are great for keeping them going. Soft woods such as pine, birch, and spruce are usually easy to light with a match or lighter, but tend to burn quickly and don’t produce much heat–though they make great kindling. Whereas, hardwoods like hickory, ash, elm, oak, locust, and maple provide long-lasting heat over time. They tend to burn hotter than their softwood counterparts which makes them better suited for feeding the fire once it is lit.

That being said, not all hardwoods will perform the same when added to an established fire. For instance, some hardwoods such as locust can burn very quickly due to its high density while others like cypress or red gum may burn more slowly because they contain more water content. Before adding wood to your campfire be mindful of how it will fit in with the existing flames–choosing pieces that complement one another.

Finally, when tending the fire camping enthusiasts should keep in mind that more isn’t necessarily better when it comes to fuel–adding too much at once can reduce combustion which will result in smoke instead of flame and thus cause poor performance from the fire. Furthermore, adding too much fuel can also leave you with unburnt pieces initially doused in lighter fluid at the end of your campfire session; so proceed with moderation when stocking up your flames!

With this knowledge under your belt now you can move onto figuring out the best techniques for keeping your campfire blazing: which will be discussed in our next section about “Keeping The Temperature Up”.

Keeping the Temperature Up

When selecting firewood for a campfire, it is important to remember that temperature is key. The temperature of the fire will determine many factors such as smoke production, heat intensity, and ember production. Keeping the temperature at an adequate level not only affects the quality of the fire and its components but also can be a safety factor for both people and surrounding environment.

Choosing high-temperature firewood is essential for keeping the campfire burning strong and steady, lasting long enough to cook food, create warmth, or even just provide hours of light and enjoyment. Softwoods such as spruce, pine, fir and cedar contain pitch or sap in them which can make them difficult to ignite due to the water present in these woods. Hardwoods such as oak, ash, hickory, or maple contain less moisture than softwoods and therefore burn hotter and longer with fewer sparks.

One way to ensure your firewood keeps a high temperature is to use dry wood with as little moisture content as possible. Therefore it is best to keep any firewood stored off of the ground in a dry place that has good air circulation to avoid it drawing moisture from the ground. It is also recommended when building your campfire to avoid using green wood which contains a lot of water and can reduce the temperature of your fire significantly.

It's important to remember however when building a campfire not too choose wood that burns too hot; this can be dangerous not just in terms of heat but also because fast-burning wood creates more sparks which could put people or things around the fire at risk. Finding a balance between long-lasting heat and controlled sparks requires experimentation and experience over time.

Keeping the temperature up can make all the difference for your campfire. Now let's look into some campfire safety tips that are crucial for anyone who plans on having their own fire outdoors.

Campfire Safety Tips

When it comes to campfires, having the perfect wood selection is only half the battle – you also need to ensure that your fire is lit safely and in accordance with local regulations. Here are some important safety tips for enjoying a campfire:

  1. Check local fire regulations before starting a fire. Make sure that campfires are permitted in your current location, as they may be prohibited during dry season or other times when the risk of wildfire is increased. If fires are allowed, use established fire rings where available to help contain the flames and embers.
  2. Clear the area around the fire ring of debris and combustible materials such as leaves and sticks, and maintain an absorbent surface such as sand or soil underneath the fire pit to prevent embers from escaping. Keep a bucket of water or sand nearby, just in case you need to extinguish the fire unexpectedly.
  3. Only light a fire if you have all necessary materials on hand, including a source of ignition (such as matches or a lighter), kindling and larger logs. If needed, build a proper starting structure, such as a teepee or log cabin configuration.
  4. Begin with small fires and steadily increase the size by adding more wood in stages once you have good control over it. Avoid using accelerants as they can lead to unpredictable flare-ups and cause injury or damage to property.
  5. Don't leave your campfire unattended at any time and take appropriate measures when leaving such as stirring up any remaining embers and ensuring that everything is cool to the touch. When disposing of ashes left over after your fire has burned down, pour water over them until they are completely extinguished – if possible, wet them further by mixing them with soil before disposing in an appropriate location away from dry vegetation.

By following these safety tips, you will be able to enjoy your campfire while also keeping yourself and those around you safe from potential danger!

Answers to Common Questions with Explanations

Are there any particular types of wood that are better than others for campfires?

Yes, there are particular types of wood that are better than others for campfires. Hardwoods such as oak and hickory produce hotter and longer-lasting fires than softwoods such as pine and cedar. Hardwoods also create less smoke, so they're more pleasant to be around in a campfire setting. Additionally, burning hardwood logs is far less likely to spark than burning softwood logs. Finally, hardwoods produce far fewer dangerous gases, like carbon monoxide, than their softwood counterparts; this makes them a much safer option for a typical campfire setting.

How should I select the best firewood for campfires?

In order to select the best firewood for campfires, you should consider a few key factors. First, make sure the firewood is dry and not damp or wet. Wet firewood will not burn efficiently, so it’s important to use only dry wood that has been seasoned for 6-12 months. Second, look for woods that are dense and have low resin content since lighter woods with higher concentrations of sap will create smoke and burn faster. Additionally, avoid softwoods like pine which produce sparks that can cause uncontrolled fires. Finally, select a size of wood that fits your firepit or you can easily break into smaller pieces.

By taking these factors into consideration, you can select the perfect firewood for campfires every time!

What are the benefits of using different types of firewood for campfires?

The benefits of using different types of firewood for campfires largely depend on what you’re looking for in your campfire. If a long-lasting, low-smoke flame is what you’re after, hardwoods like oak, hickory, beech and cherry are good options. These woods burn longer than softer woods like pine and spruce, providing an all-night blaze with minimal smoke. Softwoods may be better suited for smaller fires as they ignite faster, although they tend to produce more smoke.

If you need your fire to quickly reach optimum heat levels without having to wait long periods of time, consider using softwoods like pine or fir. These woods contain high amounts of sap and resin which work alongside the wood's natural oils to help it quickly light up and spread across the area being heated.

Finally, certain woods may provide a unique flavor experience for roasting food over an open flame – so carefully selecting your wood can enhance any outdoor experience! Woods like mesquite, maple or applewood will infuse their own flavors into the food that is being cooked, resulting in superior flavor compared to just plain wood smoke.