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Best Wood for Campfire Guide! Oak vs. Hickory vs. Cedar, and More

There are many different types of wood you can use for a campfire. But, not all woods are created equal. So – where should you start? Well – we’re about to discuss the best wood for campfires. We’ll also share one firewood you should avoid.

Keep reading to learn more about the best wood for a campfire!

Best Wood for Campfire

Many types of wood can get used for a campfire, but some are better than others. Hardwoods such as oak, hickory, and maple are ideal because they burn hot and slow. Their slow burn means they will last longer and provide more heat than softer woods like pine or fir.

In addition, hardwoods produce less smoke. With hardwood firewood – you won’t have to worry about your clothes smelling like campfires at the end of the night. So if you’re looking for the best wood for a campfire, stick with hardwoods. 

But – there are other campfire and wood burning nuances to consider.

So – let’s take a closer look at the best wood for campfires. In much closer detail!

Shall we?

chopped oak firewood sitting in woodpile
Choosing the best wood for campfires is all about firewood seasoning. If you’re lucky enough to have a pile of dry and seasoned oak – you can easily enjoy a warm and satisfying fire. Using dry and seasoned wood is also our favorite way to reduce smoke in your fire pit. And at your campsite. Seasoned firewood usually gets split and then stored off-ground for nine months. At least! That means the wood has low moisture content and will burn beautifully.

Hickory for Campfires

Hickory is an outstanding wood for campfires. Hickory burns hot and slow, so it’s excellent for cooking. It also has a nice flavor that can enhance the taste of food cooked over a hickory fire.

In addition, hickory produces little smoke, so it’s ideal for use in areas with a fire ban. Or, if you have nosey neighbors!

And because hickory is such a dense wood, when it burns, it creates long-lasting coals perfect for stoking a fire throughout the night. 

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09/27/2022 08:54 am GMT

Ash

Ash is one of the best woods for campfires, as it provides a good balance between these two extremes. Ash burns hot and clean, with few sparks, making it ideal for cooking hotdogs and s’mores. At the same time, ash logs are simple to light. And ash logs keep the fire going for a reasonable amount of time. 

Cedar

Cedar is a relatively dense wood, which means that it burns hot and slow. The slow burn rate of cedar can be beneficial if you want to prolong the fire or if you need to cook food. However, it can also be tricky to get a cedar fire started. 

Additionally, cedar produces a lot of sparks. So it’s vital to be careful when burning cedar wood in a campfire. Cedar is a good option for a campfire overall. But it’s critical to be aware of its pros and cons before preparing for bonfire night.

rural shed housing wood for campfires
The best wood for campfires is always dry. And it’s almost always among the harder firewoods. Most reliable sources cite red and white oak, birch, hickory, and maple as excellent hardwoods for burning. A few wood heating varieties also surprised us! Apple trees, green ash, and walnut were all rated excellent as heating firewood. Willow trees rate among the worst firewood for heating. (It was the only firewood we could find marked as poor.)

Is Oak Good for Wood Burning?

Yes! Oak is one of the best wood for campfires – no doubt. Oak is a good option because it burns hot and long, providing plenty of warmth and light. In addition, oak wood produces little smoke, so you won’t have to worry about your clothes smelling like smoke when you go home. 

Another advantage of using oak wood is that it’s easy to find. Oak trees are common in many parts of the country, so you’re likely to be able to find some oak wood even if you’re camping in a remote location. 

Read More – 7 Ways to Reduce Smoke In Your Fire Pit!

Is Pine Good for Wood Burning?

Pine tends to produce a lot of smoke and create large sparks. Pine sparking all over the campsite can be a problem if you’re trying to cook over the fire. Or if you’re trying to avoid attracting attention.

Pine also burns very quickly. Pine’s fast burn rate means you’ll need to keep feeding it logs if you want your warm campfire to last. For these reasons, pine is not generally considered the best wood for campfires. 

harvesting firewood in winter using wheelbarrow
Harvesting firewood in the early fall is one of our favorite ways to prepare for winter! It feels good knowing we have plenty of cordwood ready to burn. And you should always split the wood with an axe or log-splitter before stacking. Make no mistake. This wood got chopped many moons ago! Most reliable sources cite that the best wood for campfires dried for a year before burning. A lot of homesteaders try to cut corners. But – dryer wood will almost always produce a superior smoke. And it ignites easier and without stress!

Best Wood for Campfire Cooking

cooking-firepit
We love a good steak on this handy portable grill! Anytime we have wood to clean up around the property, we bring the grill with us (and the marshmallows!)

We think oak, cherry, hickory, and maple are the three best wood for campfire cooking options. But consider the following when choosing the best wood for campfire cooking! First, select firewood that burns hot and produces little smoke. Second, ensure the campfire wood is free of chemicals or other contaminants. And – you’ll also want to ensure the wood is dry and seasoned. 

With these factors in mind, here are a few of the best woods for campfire cooking.

Best Wood for Campfire Cooking

  • Oak – Oak is a hardwood that Burns hot and produces little smoke. It’s also a good choice for cooking because it’s free of chemicals and other contaminants. It also has a mild – yet pleasant aroma. It’s one of our favorites overall.
  • Hickory – Like oak, hickory is a hardwood that burns hot and produces little smoke. It’s also a good choice for cooking because it has a high sugar content, which helps to caramelize food.
  • Maple – Maple is another hardwood that burns hot and produces little smoke. It’s also a good choice for cooking because it has a mild, sweet flavor that can enhance the savory flavor of food. Maple is perfect for cooking ribs, steaks, burgers, pork, and more.
  • Cherry – Cherry burns hot and has a lovely fragrance! And it doesn’t produce much smoke. It’s also a good choice for campfire cooking because it has a sweet flavor that can enhance the taste of meats and other foods.
fresh chopped hickory laying in leaves during autumn
We think hickory earns a spot on our list of the best wood for campfires. Here’s why. Hickory logs smell perfect when tossed atop a roaring flame. Hickory is also one of the best woods for cooking Texas-style barbeque! Hickory is also dense firewood – and provides plenty of energy if you want to stay warm during the cool autumn evenings. We also think hickory fires make smoked ribs, barbequed hotdogs, and sausages taste better!

What Wood Should You Not Burn in a Fire Pit?

Whether roasting marshmallows or just huddling around the campfire for warmth, a campfire can be a great addition to any camping trip. But not all woods are equally well-suited for burning. 

If you’re planning on building a fire pit, choosing the right type of wood is critical. Some campfire woods can release harmful toxins when burned, while others produce too much smoke. Still, others don’t burn well, making for a frustrating and dangerous experience. So, what wood should you never burn in a fire pit?

Softwoods like pine and cedar are poor choices for fire pits. They can produce a lot of smoke! And can release harmful chemicals into the air. Hardwoods like oak and maple are a superior choice, as they burn hot and slow with minimal smoke production. 

However, avoid burningtreated lumber, as the chemicals in the wood can be released into the air when burned. 

Finally, always use dry wood for your fire pit. Damp wood is more difficult to ignite and produces more smoke. If you follow these straightforward campfire tips? You can ensure that your fire pit is safe and enjoyable for everyone.

Read More – Does Smoke Keep Mosquitoes Away? Or Not?!

What Wood is Toxic Burning?

Wood smoke contains several harmful pollutants, including particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds. Burning certain types of wood can release these pollutants at higher levels than others. For example, burning green wood or construction lumber can release more particulate matter than burning seasoned firewood. 

Burning treated wood is very dangerous! The chemicals used to treat the wood can get released into the air. In addition, burning painted or varnished wood can release toxic fumes into the air. For these reasons, we advise burning only clean, untreated wood (seasoned cordwood) in your fire pit.

bright campfire in woods ready for barbecue
Want a secret to starting a campfire without fuss? Use kindling. And small sticks! Even the best wood for campfires benefits from a thick stack of firewood kindling. Kindling is our favorite fire-starting method, whether you’re cooking for warmth, entertainment, or barbeques. Kindling makes everything easier! Don’t forget to bring along a few campfire games to make your night’s stay even better. And more fun! Dead branches also make the perfect fire starter.

What Kind of Firewood Burns the Longest?

Anyone who has spent an evening around a campfire knows that not all firewood is created equal. Some types of wood burn hot and fast, while others smolder and smoke for hours. So, what kind of firewood burns the longest? The answer may surprise you.

One of the best choices for long-lasting firewood is oak. Oak is a dense hardwood that burns slowly and evenly. As a result, it produces consistent heat over a long period. 

Another good option for long-burning firewood is fruitwood, such as apple or cherry. Fruitwoods tend to be slightly softer than hardwoods, but they still burn slowly and produce plenty of heat.

One of the most critical factors when choosing the best wood for a campfire is the seasoning! But – how does campfire wood seasoning work? Keep reading to learn more. 

stacked firewood waiting to get chopped and seasoned
Look at these fat chunks of firewood! This massive firewood stack will someday provide ample warmth. But it’s not ready for the campfire yet! It needs to get split – and then seasoned! Unseasoned firewood usually contains around 80% water weight. Imagine all the wasted energy that goes into evaporating that water. If you want the best wood for campfires? Seek dry – and seasoned firewood. That’s our number one rule for seeking the best wood for campfires. And it’s worth repeating. Always!

How Long Does It Take to Season Firewood?

If you heat your home with a wood stove, you know that firewood is a valuable commodity. Seasoned wood burns more efficiently and produces less smoke than unseasoned wood, making it a worthwhile investment. But how long does it take to season firewood? That all depends on the wood variety. And the seasoning methods you use. Hardwoods like oak and cherry can take up to two years to properly season, while softer woods like pine may only need six to twelve months. 

The best way to speed up the seasoning process is to split the logs into small pieces and stack them in a well-ventilated area. Over time, the moisture will evaporate from the wood, leaving behind fuel that’s ready to burn.

Read More – 5 Smokeless Fire Pit Designs! Easy and DIY!

best firewood for campfires
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Conclusion

Campfires are a quintessential camping and homesteading experience! And the wood variety you use can make or break that experience. 

We’ve given you our best tips on the best woods to use for campfires and one you should avoid. Now it’s time to get outdoors and start roasting marshmallows! Have you tried any of these woods? 

If so – which, in your opinion, is the best wood for campfires? Or maybe you have a fire-starting fix that can help fellow homesteaders?

We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks so much for reading.

And – have a great day!

Author

  • Rebekah Pierce started a small farm with her husband in 2016 in upstate New York, near her native Adirondack Mountains. With a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in special education, she has been writing professionally since 2017, but only recently left the world of teaching to pursue writing and farming full time. She now writes full-time in the education, business, finance, and of course, homesteading and farming niches.