different types of firewood for camping

What is the best firewood for camping?

Building a campfire is a must for almost any camping trip. The campfire creates an unforgettable ambience that becomes the meeting place for storytelling, relaxing, and hanging out with your other camping buddies.

But you might be wondering, can I just use any type of wood for my firewood? Well, you’d be surprised that there are many types of firewood to choose from and they each have their own pros and cons.

In this article, we examine the different types of firewood that you can use to build your amazing campfire. Each type of wood that we look at is described with its main advantages and disadvantages to help you make the most informed decision when stocking up for your next camping trip.

Many of us spend huge chunks of our daily lives stuck in front of a computer or in traffic. So when we are given a chance to go outdoors and perhaps build a campfire, it is a very special experience. The smell, the warmth, the sight! The feeling of being around a campfire is an experience like no other. 

Whether you’re sharing that moment with your entire family roasting marshmallows or taking a solo trip to reflect in the quietude of nature, a good campfire is always a welcome thing. 

Now, every campfire needs a very vital element to succeed – wood. That’s a pretty straightforward claim, but what kind of wood is best? What difference does it make? Well, just like everyone has a unique personality, trees all have unique constitutions and the wood they yield is structured differently. 

If you’re reading this and realize you never gave this enough thought, keep reading! Our list of the best firewood types around will be extremely handy.

And if you’ve done this before, you’ll still get something out of this article. There’s too much to share for you not to learn something!

cooking over a campfire using firewood

What Is the Best Firewood for Camping? 

While there is no definitive answer on which firewood is best, there are definitely several which are a cut above the rest. That’s why we’ve created the following in-depth list of The 7 Best Firewood Options for Camping. 

We’ll cover all the ins and outs of each firewood type including the pros and cons of each, how easy it is to find each type, and a ballpark estimate for how much you’ll pay.

So without further ado, here’s the list!

Ash

Ash is known for producing a strong steady flame with good heat. It can even burn well when green! It has traditionally been regarded as one of the best woods for burning and can hold up on its own, never needing to be burned with other types of wood. It is a reliable component for building a good campfire. It’s the type of firewood which will keep you very cozy in the winter months.

What are the advantages of using ash for firewood?

  • Ash is known to burn incredibly hot which means it’s a great pick if you’re going camping during the colder months. It will help tremendously in the winter, especially white ash since it produces an extremely impressive 23.6 million BTUs per cord. 
  • Ash wood is tough yet lightweight and easy to split. This is perfect for those just learning how to split their own wood. Also, its lightweight composition means it’s both tough and super easy to transport.
  • It’s one of the few types of wood which has the capacity to burn even if it’s still green. It’s still better if you wait for it to be fully seasoned, but the option is there.

What are the disadvantages of using ash for firewood?

  • Since ash falls into the category of hardwood, it tends to be more expensive than its softer counterparts. 
  • Ash tends to produce a slightly thicker smoke compared to other woods, so keep that in mind when using it around those with respiratory issues.

Oak 

If you find yourself wanting a slow and steady campfire for a relaxing evening toasting marshmallows and telling stories with your kids, oak firewood is the way to go. It’s light on sparks and light on smoke, but heavy on lasting glow. Oak trees grow abundantly in North and Central America with an estimated 600 different species or so. They produce a hardwood which is perfect for staying warm longer with less maintenance than other firewood.

What are the advantages of using oak for firewood?

  • Oak holds a substantial amount of energy per cord, allowing it to generate a lot of heat. This results in rich and warm fires that are perfect for the cold months.  Consider oak if you’re planning a winter camping trip.
  • Due to its biological makeup, oak is capable of burning steady for extended periods of time. So if you want to finish that 300-page book by the fire, oak will stick around and provide you with good company.
  • Oak is also helpful for people trying to avoid large amounts of smoke or sparks. For those with respiratory health concerns, oak is a really good bet.

What are the disadvantages of using oak for firewood? 

  • Premium oak can be on the pricier side, so keep that in mind when saving up for your next big camping trip. 
  • Oak is notorious for being the slowest wood to season. It takes approximately 2 years to reach peak form. It doesn’t burn well when green, so plan accordingly if you cut some down.

Maple 

Maple is an all-around firewood which has a good burn, great aroma, and is relatively quick to season. With 5 main species in North America, maple has made its presence known both in people’s campfires and in their kitchens! Maple syrup, anyone? While it’s sap is extremely tasty when used as a base for syrup, the wood itself is a splendid choice for anyone looking for a reliable campfire regardless of the season.

What are the advantages of using maple for firewood? 

  • Maple is less dense than other hardwoods, so you’ll need to use more of it. However, it holds a steady flame with limited smoke and very little spark. It is also very quick to ignite which gives it an advantage when compared to other hardwood options.
  • Maple also seasons at a quicker pace than other hardwoods. Speed is really on its side! It’s quick to season and quick to catch fire. 
  • The smell it gives off is breathtaking. Campfires already have a uniquely pleasant scent, but maple is the most aromatically sweet by far. 

What are the disadvantages of using maple for firewood?

  • With maple being on the softer side, you will need to use more wood in order to keep a fire going. It has a lower heat output than other hardwoods like oak, so mixing it with harder woods is recommended if you want the flame to stay alive longer. 
  • Maple trees differ pretty wildly. Some of their yield gets put into the softwood category and others into hardwood, so be sure to look into this before purchasing a certain type of maple firewood.

Birch

Birch is a softer wood which means it will burn quicker, similarly to maple. It is also recommended to mix in slower burning wood such as oak to help keep its fire alive. An added advantage to birch is that its bark can be used to start a fire since it’s very similar to paper. That’s a neat little pro tip which puts birch over the top as a useful and efficient firewood option.

What are the advantages of using birch for firewood? 

  • Birch is fairly easy to split which is great for beginners, and the seasoning process is shorter than with other hardwoods like oak. With an average seasoning period of 1 year, its process is one of the shortest on our list.
  • Even though it is a softer wood, it can still generate a generous amount of heat with limited smoke and sparks. This is especially true of black birch which produces a fantastic 26.8 million BTUs per cord.
  • This wood is known for its sweet and enticing smell when burnt. It also generates a limited amount of sparks, making it great for a pleasant night of camping delights.

What are the disadvantages of using birch for firewood?  

  • Due to its softwood qualities, birch often burns outs quicker than the average firewood. You will need a hefty supply of birch if you’re headed out on a long camping trip.
  • Birch is susceptible to rot if left without splitting for very long, so make sure you are diligent about splitting it before it goes bad.

Cedar

Cedar is a handy choice for a campfire because it splits easy, burns hot, and has a wonderful aroma. This one is the rebel in the group, though, since it is known to pop quite a lot. When using cedar firewood, take extra precautions and be careful with its many sparks. Cedar is also known for having smaller flames, but it can definitely be trusted for a longer campfire with that in mind.

What are the advantages of using cedar for firewood? 

  • Starting a fire with other woods can be somewhat fickle, but cedar starts up very quickly and can steadily hold its flame. 
  • When it comes to heat produced, cedar firewood is on the lower end. However, it still works great for a summer campfire and gives off a pleasant aroma. Maybe that’s why so many household products aim to capture its essence. 
  • Cedar is very easy to split. Additionally, the 9-month seasoning period is shorter than the majority of other hardwoods. 

What are the disadvantages of using cedar for firewood? 

  • Due to its oily composition, cedar can be quite volatile and cause many sparks. It’s definitely the most intense option on this list in this regard, so be cautious when using it.
  • This is another in the category of “burns quickly,” so make sure to overestimate how much you’ll need for whatever length of trip you’re taking.

Hickory

Hickory is a dense and heavy hardwood with a long burn time. In fact, it burns longer than many other other split wood options and provides some of the hottest and brightest flames around. It also gives off that classic crackle sound and its burning efficacy makes it perfect for cold nights around the campfire. As an added bonus, it also has an otherworldly scent which infuses into certain foods which are cooked on a campfire.

What are the advantages of using hickory for firewood? 

  • Hickory doesn’t hold in much moisture, so the drying process is quicker. Once it’s dried, hickory is extremely easy to ignite.
  • It is also easy to keep around without having to worry about insects or mold getting to it. Additionally, hickory is a low-emission firewood which makes it safer for both you and the environment. 
  • It has a long lasting burn and very little sparks to contend with! For a safe campfire, hickory is a really good bet.

What are the disadvantages of using hickory for firewood? 

  • Finding disadvantages for this type of wood was surprisingly tricky, so that says a lot! One concern is that it’s not the easiest wood to split, so make sure you have a reliable ax at your disposal.
  • Hickory is great for both outside and indoor use, but it can be a bit on the pricey side at times.

Beech

If you happen to live in the northeastern United States, you may be one of the lucky few who have seen a beech tree in the wild. But even if you don’t, you can still enjoy this unique silver barked wood as part of your next campfire. It burns long and strong, producing few sparks while still sporting impressive overall heat. It’s a real catch of a firewood if you can get some.

What are the advantages of using beech for firewood?

  • Beech produces heat at 27.5 million BTU’s per cord which makes it an excellent firewood choice. It is dense, so it will give you plenty of burning time without a lot of sparks.
  • For a hardwood that burns similarly to oak, it doesn’t take as long as oak to season. It only takes one year, so you can start planning to use it for next year’s camping trip as soon as you get your wood split up.
  • The smooth silver bark of beech wood won’t flake off as much as other types of wood out there. While it’s a great wood for outdoor activities, you can also use it at home and not have to worry about it making a real mess. 

What are the disadvantages of using beech for firewood? 

  • Splitting beech wood can be moderately difficult, so it is not recommended unless you have the right ax or hatchet in your possession. 
  • This is the kind of wood that needs to be very well seasoned before being used. Even if there’s just a little green, it’s going to be tough to ignite it. 

Frequently Asked Questions  

What type of firewood burns with the least smoke? 

Since hardwoods contain fewer resins, they produce less smoke and sparks. So if you’re trying to avoid a giant dark cloud, hardwood options are  best suited for you. Of the seven options on our list, there are four which burn with limited smoke – oak, maple, hickory, and birch. 

What wood is best to start a fire quickly and efficiently? 

Softer woods are known to burn faster and are therefore better at starting a fire quicker. Cedar is perhaps the best example of this, igniting extremely quickly without requiring a ton of firewood to do so. We recommend using cedar with hardwoods such as oak if you want to ease things up a bit.

What are the best ways to store firewood on a campsite? 

Let’s start with what you shouldn’t do. The worst place you can store wood is on the ground. Why? Because the soil is saturated with moisture which can be absorbed by the wood. A moist log doesn’t make for an efficient campfire. If you absolutely have no place to stack it above ground, then we recommend that you at least put a tarp down first. 

Ideally, you want to stack your firewood on something like a picnic bench or rock. Stacking your firewood keeps it away from the moisture in the soil and allows for adequate air circulation. Additionally, it keeps it away from any insects or potential mold.

Closing Thoughts

With so many different types of firewood to choose from, we hope this list has given you a better insight into what you need to make your next campfire an extraordinary one.

The more you know about firewood options such as oak and maple, the better prepared you’ll be for using them efficiently and effectively. There is no wrong answer if you’re picking one of the seven firewood types on our list, so have fun and be safe!