Choosing the best type of wood for your campfire is very important. With the best campfire wood, you’ll have a hotter and more efficient fire that will burn for hours on end instead of smoking everyone out or fizzling out.
Keep reading for your guide to the best campfire wood, including the best types of wood to burn as well as the worst types of wood to burn on a campfire.
The Best Types of Campfire Wood
Hardwoods generally make the best campfire wood because they burn hotter and cleaner than softwoods, which put off a lot of smoke but very little heat.
Dried oak is one of the best hardwoods to use for a campfire, and it’s also one of the most commonly used types of wood by veteran campers.
Oak offers a fire that puts off significant heat with a slow and steady burn, so you’ll have a long-lasting campfire. This firewood burns long and hot, providing campers with plenty of warmth and light. It also doesn’t put off much smoke, so you won’t have to worry about it choking you and your family away from your campfire. You also don’t have to worry about your clothes smelling like smoke.
Oak is a great option for campfire wood since it provides slow-burning kindling with very few sparks, and it’s also super easy to find throughout the United States.
Typically, red oak will be easier for you to chop down or split than white oak, so keep that in mind when you’re searching for the perfect wood for your campfire.
Hickory is another hardwood that is great for a campfire. This wood burns slowly and hot, making it one of the best options for campfire wood.
Since it’s well known for enhancing the flavors of food cooked over a fire, hickory wood is great for cooking! Many campers actually prefer using this type of wood for cooking because of the smoky, sweet flavor it infuses into hotdogs, hamburgers, and so many more popular camp foods.
This type of wood doesn’t produce a lot of smoke, but it does create long-lasting coals, which is perfect for keeping the fire stoked throughout your night camping.
Hickory can be a bit challenging to split, so make sure you’ve brought along a sturdy and sharp ax to handle the job.
Ashwood, or Fraxinus, is a type of tree in the Oleaceae family, and it is considered some of the best campfire wood in the world. It’s ideal for use in campfires because it burns easily, retains just enough moisture, and doesn’t produce a lot of smoke as it burns.
Unlike most wood, ashwood is unique because it’ll burn even when it’s green! This wood makes for great campfires since it burns hot and clean and doesn’t put off sparks or soot. If you’re looking to roast hotdogs or toast s’mores, ashwood is perfect for the job!
Another bonus of ashwood is that it is pretty easy to split. You’ll likely only need a lightweight hatchet to help you chop down some kindling for your campfires.
Cedar is the best type of campfire wood for putting off a lot of heat to keep campers warm. With that in mind, if you’re planning a camping excursion in a rather chilly region, chopping down cedar wood to use in your campfire is a fantastic idea.
With a unique and pleasing aroma that’s not overbearing but still distinct, this dense wood burns slowly, so it’s great if you’re trying to keep a fire burning all night long or if you need to cook a meal over the campfire.
You’ll need to be extra careful when using cedar as campfire wood, however, since it does produce a good bit of sparks when it’s first lit. Make sure you’re following proper fire safety protocols to ensure you, your fellow campers, and the campgrounds around you stay safe.
Maple is another hardwood that makes some of the best campfire wood. Maple burns hot without putting off a suffocating amount of smoke.
It’s a great wood to use when cooking over a fire because of the mildly sweet, delicious flavor it releases and infuses into the food cooked over it. Maple enhances the savory flavor of foods such as burgers, steak, ribs, and more.
Maple wood isn’t as dense as some of the other hardwoods on this list, such as oak wood, so you will need a bigger quantity of wood than you’d need of the other hardwoods.
This wood is pretty easy to find around the United States. It’s easy to split and burns nice and cleanly, whether it’s sugar maple, hard maple, or black maple.
Any kind of cherry wood can be used as firewood, but black cherry wood is the best type of cherry wood for campfire wood.
Black cherry wood burns hot without producing a lot of smoke and releases the most lovely fragrance as it burns. The sweet scent enhances the flavor of meats like ribs, steaks, and burgers, as well as the flavor of other foods.
This type of wood won’t put off quite as much heat as some other types of wood we’ve talked about, like oak or hickory, but it’s still a great choice to enhance the flavors of different foods if you’re planning to use your campfire to cook food.
Birchwood is a fairly good option for campfire wood, although it does burn more quickly than some of the other kinds of wood we’ve discussed.
If you’ve decided to use birchwood for your campfire, then you may want to see if you can find other types of wood that burn slower so you can mix it with before starting the fire. This allows you to maintain a steady burn for longer, using less wood.
Birchwood puts off a nice amount of heat, and it doesn’t release much smoke when it burns, so it’s a great option for campfire wood.
In some parts of the northeastern United States, beech trees can be easily identified as some of the best campfire wood in the area.
The smooth, silvery bark on beech trees doesn’t flake away as it dries, making it much less messy to handle than other types of firewood.
Beechwood is generally fairly easy to split, and it burns beautifully without putting off too much smoke or many sparks. A fire using beechwood will burn hot, putting off a large amount of heat, perfect for keeping you warm on chilly nights while you’re enjoying camping in the wonderful outdoors.
Dogwood trees are native to the eastern United States, as well as northern Mexico. This wood makes fantastic campfire wood, so if you’re in an area where it grows native, use it to your advantage on your camping adventure!
Dogwood puts off a nice amount of heat and has good coaling qualities to keep your fire burning for hours.
Since dogwood trees are rather small, they won’t make a lot of firewood, but the wood can still be used in a pinch. They can also be a bit tough to chop and split for firewood.
Wood to Avoid Using for a Campfire
Now that we have discussed which wood makes the best campfire wood, let’s talk about which wood you’ll want to avoid entirely when it comes to a campfire.
Softwoods generally don’t make great kindling for campfires because they burn quickly and put off a large amount of smoke and sparks.
Poplar wood isn’t used for firewood mainly because of how quickly it burns up. It does burn pretty hot, but it just doesn’t burn for very long. You’ll want something more substantial and less porous to use in campfires.
Pine is a softwood that produces a large amount of smoke, so it should not be used in campfires.
Not only does pine produce a lot of smoke when burned, but it also emits a large amount of soot since it’s such a soft and resinous wood.
Burning pine can release harmful chemicals into the air as well, so it’s best to just avoid burning pine altogether.
While you technically can use willow wood for firewood, it’s definitely not one of the best campfire woods because it puts off a very strong odor as it burns. It also doesn’t produce very much heat.
This type of wood generally takes around four months to dry out enough to even be considered for use in a campfire. That’s a long time to wait for wood that doesn’t burn all that well to begin with. It’s best to just avoid using willow wood in your campfire if at all possible.
Spruce wood is actually pretty good when used for the quick ignition of suitable campfire wood. However, you should avoid using spruce as the main source of wood for a fire because it produces heavy smoke and a high resin content while providing a very low heat production.
The fast-burning nature of spruce wood means you’ll be looking for additional logs to add to your fire much more frequently than if you chose a harder wood that burns hotter and slower, with less smoke production.
Alderwood should be avoided for use in campfires on account of its high smoke output and its tendency to pop and spark.
You run the risk of accidentally setting fire to areas you weren’t intending to burn when using this type of wood since a piece of burning wood can pop out of the fire at any point.
Alderwood doesn’t produce very much heat either, so it’s all around a poor choice for campfire wood.
Treated Wood/Construction Wood
You should avoid burning any kind of treated or construction wood. The chemicals used in the treatment process are toxic when burnt and released into the air.
Avoid burning painted or varnished wood for the same reasons. These types of wood can release very toxic and harmful fumes into the air when burned.
Poisonous Trees and Plants
Burning poisonous trees and plants, like poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, and oleander, will release dangerous and toxic smoke into the air. Burning any of these types of wood will create poisonous smoke that can be very harmful to your health if inhaled. Best to avoid these altogether.
When you’re on the lookout for the best campfire wood, keep in mind that hardwoods burn longer and hotter than softwoods. Hardwoods also put off less smoke and don’t pop out as much as softer woods do when burned. You’ll also want to consider your cooking and temperature needs as well.
Having a campfire is an integral part of the camping experience, and we hope this guide helps you choose the best wood for your next camping trip!
Check out this guide on how to start a campfire for some very useful tips for starting a successful fire.
- About the Author
- Latest Posts
Brittany Tedford is a post-apocalyptic fiction author, an aspiring English teacher, and a writer for Apple Pie Media.
She currently lives in a small town in Northern Mississippi with her two children Anna and Eli, and her two cats Salem and Leo.
With a bachelor’s in Creative Writing and English and a master’s in the same discipline, Brittany is passionate about learning how to live off the land for camping trips, which is why she loves writing for Beyond The Tent. From the best camping gear to camping survival tips and tricks, to finding the perfect campground, there is so much information to share with others!
Brittany can be reached at email@example.com