Camping opens your eyes to many wonderful activities, such as hiking and exploring in new places, sleeping under the stars, learning survival skills, and cooking over a hot campfire. Anyone can head out into the wilderness and enjoy what camping has to offer, but it’s always best to do your research before you try anything new. You need to know what essential equipment you should take along that will keep you safe, dry, and warm. You need to learn about the area you’re going to. And you need to know how to get a fire started for warmth and dryness. When it comes to building a fire, there are two things you should know before you head out on your outdoor adventure—how to build a fire, and the best wood to use for your fire. In this post we’re going to look at tips and tricks on choosing the best firewood.
Two Types of Wood
When choosing your firewood, you will come across two types of wood—hardwood and softwood. They burn differently and should be used for different reasons.
Hardwood trees are often identified by their leaves. The leaves on hardwood trees are usually broad and they fall off in the fall. There are many types of hardwood trees, but the most common that you’d come across in the great outdoors are ash, beech, elm, maple, and oak. Hardwoods are generally better to use for a campfire because they burn hotter, longer, and the fires are more intense. Due to their denseness, they can sustain a fire for a long time and they produce coals that burn hot for hours, creating a great stove over which to cook delicious campfire meals, like these Sausage Potato Green Bean Foil Packs. Hardwood trees also do not produce much smoke or many sparks when they burn. This creates a healthier, cleaner-burning fire. However hardwood trees can take a while to dry out or season and they don’t light easily on their own. This is where softwood trees come in!
Softwood trees smell good! These are the trees with the needle-like leaves and the succulent aroma of pine coming from them! The most common softwood trees are cedar, fir, red pine, and spruce. While these trees are great to stop and sniff, they don’t make the greatest firewood. Since they have pitch and/or resin on them, they smoke a lot when burned and just leave fine ashes behind instead of nice, hot coals for cooking or restarting your fire at a later time. This abundant smoke can also leave a black residue on the underside of your campfire cooking pots and pans. They create a large, pretty flame, but just as you’re grabbing your drink and settling in to enjoy it, it’s gone. But don’t rule them out completely for campfire wood. Since softwood trees are thinner and less dense than hardwoods, they burn quickly, making them a great choice for kindling! And if your campfire has died down or is having a hard time getting started, you can add a few softwood pieces to it to give it some life.
Get To Know These Woods
Birch—Since birch is a softer hardwood tree, it is ideal for creating a hot, intense fire with a lot of light. This hardwood is actually great as a fire starter due to its softness. Try Paper Birch or Gray Birch. Birch leaves are usually egg shaped or triangular with serrated edges.
Cherry—Cherry wood gives off a pleasant fruity aroma when it burns! While it doesn’t give off much smoke, it also doesn’t give off as much heat as other hardwood trees. So this type of wood is perfect for a hot, sweltering summer evening when you want to sit around a campfire but don’t want to melt! Cherry trees have a clustering of unscented flowers that are either pink or white.
Elm—Great for campfire wood, Elm gives off a decent amount of heat for cooking and socializing near. But since it’s so dense, it can be pretty hard to split. Elm trees have leaves that are oval and pointy at the end. The edges are jagged and many are smooth on the top and fuzzy on the bottom.
Maple—Maple is a popular choice for campfire wood since it burns hot and produces little smoke. Once you get this kind of hardwood lit and going, it’ll last for hours! One downside to Maple is that it is very difficult to split. Maple leaves have multiple lobes with veins that originate from a single, central point on the leaf.
Oak—Oak can be found far and wide and is a great choice for campfire wood. It is extremely dense, so you’ll need to use some kindling to get it going. But once it catches a good burn, you can sit back and enjoy the mesmerizing flames dancing in front of you. While there are many kinds of oak trees, most oak leaves are lobed.
Pine—Since Pine is a softwood, it should be used for kindling instead of for your main firewood. It burns hot and fast, but doesn’t last long. Coupling Pine with Oak or Maple would make for a great campfire that burns hot and lasts long. Pine will give off a fresh outdoorsy scent, but it also burns off the resin, so only use this firewood outdoors so it can dissipate into the air. Look for pointy pine needles when looking for a Pine tree.
When preparing to build a campfire, make sure you have the right kind of firewood so that you can enjoy a beautiful, roaring campfire and cook your favorite camping meals over it, like these On the Fire Reuben Sandwiches. Using the wrong type of wood will result in underwhelming fires and needless frustration. If you use a hardwood as your base and a softwood as kindling, you should be able to pull up a chair, grab a drink, and enjoy hours of fun and campfire games with family and friends around a crackling fire!
As always, buy firewood close to where you are going to burn it. This helps avoid the transportation of potentially devastating diseases and insects that can travel on firewood and destroy forests. Do your part to protect our outdoor playground—always buy and burn locally!
Do you have any tips or tricks on fire building that you’d like to share? Please do so in the comments! We’d love to hear from you!