Man and fire have a bond dating back to roughly 1.5 million years ago. To people, fire means food, warmth, and ultimately survival in the wild, making it crucial to know about all aspects of the element if you’re going to be spending time in the great outdoors. In today’s world, technological advancements keep us warm, but when we venture out into the wild to discover our primal selves, the use of fire is our gateway to the past.
It’s important to not only know how to make a campfire but also about the types of wood that are ideal to use. A campfire is not only useful for warmth and light, but it’s also beneficial in that it frightens off predatory animals and fends off insects with its smoke. In searching for the right firewood, we stuck to mostly hardwoods, which naturally burn better than most other types, but we also included some softwoods, since they start up quicker and can burn for a decent amount of time. Our list of campfire wood consists of types that provide plenty of heat, last for a solid amount of time, and give off minimal smoke and sparks.
How To Start A Fire
A Brief Guide
Before we get into the different types of wood that are ideal for building a campfire, we’ll go over some basic steps about how to start a campfire. After all, what’s the use of knowing the best types of wood for a campfire if you don’t know how to start one? We’ve got you covered:
1. First, you’ll start by assembling your kindling and firewood in either a teepee, log cabin, or pyramid setup.
2. Leave space between the logs so the fire can get a solid supply of oxygen, and place tinder and kindling in the center and on top.
3. Light the tinder with a match or lighter and blow lightly at the base of the fire to provide additional airflow, increasing the potency of the flame.
4. Move the embers to the center in order to burn them thoroughly and reduce them to white ash.
5. Put out the fire by pouring water on it, stirring the ash, and applying more water. Repeat this step as often as you need to in order to put the fire out completely — if you start a fire, your most important responsibility is to put it out.
Burning in the medium-to-hot range, Ash is considered to be an all-American wood. It’s tough wood, yet it’s lightweight and fairly easy to split with the right technique. Ash is also known to burn extremely hot, capable of keeping you warm and toasty for colder camping nights. It’s one of the most user-friendly types of wood you can get for your campfire with no glaring downsides. Of the many types of ash, white ash is your best bet, as it produces 23.6 million BTUs per cord.
After being seasoned for at least a full year, Beechwood burns long and scorching hot, making it optimal for colder camp adventures. It’s able to emit an enormous amount of heat with only nominal sparks and smoke. And, it has a smooth, silver bark that doesn’t flake off as much as other types of wood out there. Beechwood is an outstanding firewood choice, burning hot a clean, producing 27.5 million BTUs per cord.
Birch is softwood that burns fast, yet still puts out a comforting amount of heat. It produces lively flames with only a small amount of smoke and sparks. Depending on the species of Birch you choose, the wood can range from mediocre to excellent for your campfire. Black birch is the most reliable choice, as it produces 26.8 million BTUs per cord. We recommend you use a durable axe to split this type of wood into small pieces and give it a sufficient amount of time to season.
Black Cherry is a type of wood that’s easy to handle and a breeze to split. It gives off little smoke and only a moderate amount of sparks, although it does give off more than the other types of wood on the list. It gives off a solid amount of heat, making it a reasonable choice for camping during spring or summer. However, the best part about Black Cherry wood is its delightful aroma, making it a popular choice for smoking meats in your camp kitchen.
Dogwood is an all-around star when it comes to firewood for your camping escapade. This type of wood is very compact and heavy, which makes it a winning choice for firewood. It has healthy coaling qualities with a small quantity of smoke and sparks. Many people heat their home with Dogwood, but it’s just as serviceable outdoors because it helps to produce bold flames. Having said that, because the Dogwood tree is ornamental, the base of the trunk is smaller in diameter, so its recommended for quick trips.
If you’re into chopping down your own trees for firewood, the Douglas fir is one of your better options. Unlike other trees, Douglas Fir trees have typically straight trunks with only a small portion of branches and needles. However, if you decide to grab a saw to cut down a Douglas Fir tree, we recommend you let the wood season for about a year before you take it along for a camping trip. You’re able to split the wood with ease too. Douglas Fir wood smells wonderful and conjures up medium to hot flames ideal for your camping adventure.
With a clean bark that won’t make a mess on your campsite, Madrone is an excellent choice of wood to help ignite your campfire. It’s a dense hardwood capable of burning blistering flames and creating a fantastic coal bed for overnight burns. Compared to oak, it produces very little ash — with a rating of 30 million BTUs per cord, it ranks higher than most other types of firewood. Note that Madrone is easier to split when the wood is green and wet. When it dries, it becomes a tough chore, requiring more labor with your maul or splitting ax. One year of seasoning time should be enough to effectively prep this firewood.
Similar to oak, maple wood is dense and somewhat difficult to chop. But, it will burn for a long time and produce powerful flames. This type of campfire wood generates high heat with a small amount of smoke. There are several types of maple wood to choose from, but sugar, Manitoba, silver, and red maple are the best ones to use for sustaining a lengthy campfire. Sugar maple produces 24 million British Thermal Units (BTU) per cord. BTU is a measurement of thermal energy and more specifically the amount of energy needed to raise one pound of water 1°F at sea level.
Premium seasoned hardwood like oak is going to going to be pricier than most. However, oak is dense and slow-burning, giving off little to no spark. More importantly, oak produces a wealth of heat. This wood also has a superb amount of energy content per cord, allowing it to generate a ton of heat. Oak consists of about 600 different types of trees with many able to live up to 200 years, growing as tall as 100 feet. Perhaps the most notable type of oak is white oak.
There are over 115 different types of pine trees out there. It’s a solid type of wood to use for a campfire because it doesn’t decay quickly or attract insects after being cut down and is ideal for starting a fire because it lights up quickly. Splitting the wood into kindling, a tiny amount of pine can be used to start your campfire. It doesn’t burn as long as other types of wood but makes the cut because it’s a perfect fire starter.
Primer: How To Start A Campfire
Now that you’re aware of the best types of wood to start a campfire, you’re ready for a more thorough guide on how to get the flames going. Check out our primer on how to build a campfire and stay warm outdoors.