A long-lasting campfire will provide warmth, light, and fun all night long. However, they don’t always last all night.
Half an inch of firewood burns for approximately an hour, but several factors can influence this. The type and quality of wood you’re using is the most influential factor in burn time. Dry, hard wood burns for the longest. Wet, soft wood will burn up faster.
There’s a lot of ground to cover on this topic, but I’ve done some research and collected information from seasoned outdoor explorers. Hopefully, this should give you an idea of how long a campfire can last.
How Long Will A Campfire Burn For On Average?
There’s a common piece of knowledge among seasoned outdoor explorers: half an inch of wood takes around an hour to burn.
Although, this isn’t a strict rule. Wood type, the air’s temperature, the campfire’s construction, and the type of ground the fire is built on matter, too. Wind is also a major player in how long your campfire will last.
Due to these variances, there’s no research or study that shows exactly how long a campfire will burn. Instead we have to rely on experimenting with what works and what doesn’t. And of course, anecdotes always help.
I got some information on this from a scoutmaster; he says adding a 4.4” by 18” piece of wood can extend an already-burning fire’s burn time by up to an hour. He also suggests gathering 5 times as much kindling as you think you’ll need.
It’s always better to have more kindling, as being underprepared is always awful, but being over-prepared will set you up for success!
Another seasoned outdoor explorer says that two average bags of gas station-bought firewood can fuel a small fire for around 6 hours. He recommends buying 5 bags, though, so there’s another example of using more than you need.
Having five bags per night is a good idea, even if you don’t use them all. You likely will, though, if two last six hours. You’ll need a third bag to get you through your 8 hours of sleep, and the fourth and fifth can fuel your evening’s pre-sleep activities like cooking, telling stories, and more.
What Type of Wood Is Best for A Long Lasting Campfire?
Hard wood with low moisture content is the best type of wood for a long-lasting campfire. It burns slowly. Most experienced campfire lovers recommend woods such as oak, pine, and hickory.
One publicly available school project shows a child conducting a science experiment on how long different woods burn. They used different woods with pieces of the same size, and oak burned the longest.
Oak not only provides a long-lasting campfire, but it makes for a very hot one with minimal sparks.
(By the way, if you’ve ever wondered about the temperature of a campfire, then all your answers are here as I answer, how hot is a campfire?)
Try to get your hands on the woods mentioned above if you’re going camping. Your campgrounds may sell bags of these woods, and many dispensaries and camping-related businesses sell them, too. You can even get small bags of oak on Amazon.
If you’re cutting your own firewood or kindling, hardwood trees have these characteristics:
- Oak: Deep ridges in the bark, very dark wood, deeply lobed leaves with rounded tips
- Pine: Reddish-brown/grey park, needle-like leaves, may grow pinecones
- Hickory: Ridged grey bark, easy to peel the bark, leaves with 5 pointed sections
What Type of Campfire Will Last The Longest?
A tipi (or teepee) style campfire lasts the longest. It’s a cone-shaped design that lets air circulate, fueling the fire well. The lower part of the wood burns and the top sections of the firewood then fall to further fuel the flames.
The ample air circulation and self-fueling elements come together to create a fire that’s very likely to last through the night if you top it up a few times.
Learning how to build a campfire is vital when you’re going camping. Here’s how you build a tipi style one:
- Place dry tinder in your firepit, loosely placed (dried leaves and twigs work well)
- Start creating a conical shape using your smaller pieces of kindling
- Place larger pieces of kindling on top, continuing the cone shape
- Use your firewood to rest against the kindling and further create the cone shape
- Place more firewood crisscrossing on top of the fire as needed
Make sure the wood isn’t compacted, so there’s lots of room for airflow!
How To Make a Campfire Last Longer
Using a tipi design and hard, dry firewood will give you the best chances of having your campfire last all night. However, there are a few more things you can do to make your campfire last even longer.
Use a Soft Surface
While hard, dry firewood is best, a soft surface is surprisingly helpful in making your fire last a long time.
If the surface under your fire is made of peat, or if the forest floor is carpeted with leaves, twigs, and needles, then it’s going to last a long, long time.
It can also last longer if you use coal, but that’s not always an option.
Fires built on peat are so effective that they often survive through harsh winters in Alaska. They’re called zombie fires. The fire will burn deep down into the peat, then snow falls and melts, and the peat deep beneath the surface is still burning.
If you start your fire on a peat surface, make sure you saturate the ground with water when you put the fire out. You need to ensure the peat doesn’t reignite!
Put Ash On It
Putting some ash onto your fire will help it last a little longer. It somewhat smothers the flames, making them need to burn their way through the ash to get to the firewood.
Your fire may go out if you put too much ash on it, as it’ll stop it from using oxygen to stay ignited. But if you collect ash from the previous day’s fire, feel free to put some ash on your new fire a little at a time.
Put Rocks In It
Adding a few rocks to the tinder when you’re starting your fire is a good idea. The rocks will hold heat and help your fire last a little longer than it would have without them.
Use a Self-Feeding System
A self-feeding fire system will ensure your fire stays burning even if you forget to fuel it. A tipi-style fire works well for this, but there are other ways you can create a self-feeding system.
If you have a lot of room and a lot of time you could create two ramps on either side of your fire, with the fire being the lowest area between the ramps.
Load the ramps with logs, and when one burns to ash, the next one will roll into the flames until all the logs are burned.
This works best on multi-night stays at a large campsite.
How Much Firewood Do I Need?
On average, you’ll need around 2–5 bundles of firewood per day to fuel your fire. The more firewood you gather or purchase, the better. You’ll need even more if you want your campfire to last all night. Anecdotally, 20KG of firewood should last 1–3 days.
It’s a good idea to experiment with how much firewood you need, though. If you live in a very dry climate, then you may need less, as your wood will be extremely dry. If you live in a humid area, then you’ll need more wood. It’s very difficult for wet wood to burn.
And, once again, the type of wood you use matters, too. If you can only find softwood firewood, then you should get a few extra bags—perhaps consider seven instead of five, or four instead of two.
Out of those bags you’ll need around 4 logs to refuel your fire per hour, with the placement spread evenly throughout the hour for best results. This will work for general use, like staying warm and seeing the area around you.
If you wish to cook on your campfire then you’ll need to refuel it more often using 6–10 logs per hour of cooking.
How To Start A Campfire With Wet Wood
- Scrape away any moist or saturated bark
- Use extra kindling and tinder; gather as many dry leaves and twigs as you can
- Keep your fire off the wet ground using lots of rocks
- Build and light your fire as usual
- Lay the rest of your firewood near the fire to help it dry out
- Refuel more often, working from small to large logs
It’s more difficult to work with wet wood when starting a fire, but it’s not impossible. Just remember to have more wood on hand, and do everything you can to get the wood as dry as possible before you use it as fuel.
There are plenty of tips and tricks you can use to keep your fire burning longer. Using the right wood, utilizing a self-feeding system, and ensuring you have enough firewood is the key. Remember the half-inch rule!
And remember to stay safe when around the campfire! Here are some campfire-related camping safety tips that you may wish to check out.