How Much Wood Do I Need for a Campfire? 10 Tips for getting the Best Wood

By Emma
How Much Wood Do I Need For A Campfire? 10 Tips For Getting The Best Wood

Campfires can make your evening unforgettable, but it can be challenging to keep them burning. You need the right amount of wood to keep it going.

Here’s how much wood you’ll need to keep your campfire lighting:

Burn TimeFirewood Bundles Needed
2 hours1–2
4 hours3–4
6 hours5–6
Overnight8–10

You’ll need around one bundle per hour of firewood, but cooking, weather, and wood type can cause variance.

There’s a lot more that goes into this, though. I’ve done some research to try and give you the most comprehensive guide to your firewood needs, and it’s all outlined below.

How Much Wood Do I Need for a Campfire?

You need approximately 4–5 logs per hour of burn time for a campfire. This is equivalent to one bundle, or less than one bundle, per hour. If you’re cooking, then you’ll need 6–10 logs per hour, which is around two bundles.

However, it’s not always that simple. Lots of factors come into play here. Things such as the type of wood, weather, and more, will influence how much wood you’ll burn through in an hour. 

I recommend bringing more bundles than you need, as it’s better to have too much than too little.

You should consider looking into cords of wood if you’re a frequent camper or you’re going on an extended trip.

In general, though, how much wood you need won’t differ too much from the numbers stated above.

The table below will give you an overview of how many bundles you’ll need for different burn times. It also tells you how many sticks you’ll need, a number I came up with based on how many sticks are in a typical bundle.

Burn TimeFirewood Bundles NeededFirewood Sticks Needed
2 hours1–25–10
4 hours3–415–20
6 hours5–625–30
Overnight8–1040–50

If you’re going to be cooking on your campfire, then double bundles and sticks stated above.

What Are Bundles and Cords?

A bundle of wood isn’t very large. They usually have five or six sticks in them. The sticks are typically 14 inches long and around five inches in diameter. You can get a bundle for under $10 in most cases.

I recommend getting a few bundles of wood if you plan on going out for one or two nights, and you know how long you plan to keep the campfire burning.

On the other hand, a cord is 128 cubic feet of wood. You’ll get between 600 and 800 pieces of wood in a cord, and the stack will be 45 feet high and 8 feet long. This can cost you hundreds of dollars, but it could potentially last you years.

Factors That Impact How Much Wood You Need

Everything above is a guideline. There are lots of things that can influence how much wood you’ll need based on the burn rate. That’s why I recommend bringing more than required.

I go into some detail on this when answering, “how long do campfires last?” And I provide tips on how to make your campfire last longer.

However, below, you’ll find some of the things that can make it more challenging to state exactly how much wood you’re going to need on any given day for your fire.

Weather

Wind is a huge influence when it comes to your campfire. It can blow the flames out if they’re too small. If it’s cold, then you may also have trouble generating enough heat to get a fire going, particularly if your wood is cold.

Firewood is best if it’s at room temperature, or 20°C/68°F. Unfortunately, there are no available stats to say exactly what temperature your wood will and won’t burn at. There is also nothing specifying how much wood you’ll need in different weather temperatures.

Rain also makes it challenging to keep your fire roaring. Your wood may get wet. I briefly mention this when providing tips for camping in the rain.

Your wood may also be too wet to use if it’s been snowing, and that’s particularly challenging, as you desperately need a way to keep warm when camping in winter. However, I have 41 cold weather camping tips that may help you stay warm if you can’t keep your fire lighting.

Usage Needs

If you just use your fire for heating, then the tables above are as close to accurate as you’re going to get. All you’re doing is burning through wood at an even pace.

Cooking, on the other hand, uses more of the fire’s energy. You almost need to double your firewood per hour when you’re cooking, but it depends on the type of cooking you’re doing.

If you’re heating something, then you may only need one or two extra logs per hour. It’s fast and easy to heat something over an open flame.

If you’re boiling something, then it’s going to take a little longer. You may need two or three extra logs in an hour, and it depends on how much liquid you’re boiling, plus what container it’s in.

Cooking something from scratch will always take the longest, particularly if you have to cook meat, toast bread, cook vegetables, bake something, and more. 

Cooking from scratch requires the most extra logs per hour, so make sure you come prepared with at least two more bundles per hour than you think you’ll need.

Wood Type

Finally, wood type is a major player in how much firewood you’re going to need. If it’s very cold or rainy, then softwood is a great way to get a fire started. It ignites easily, but it burns through quickly.

Once you have a good fire going, then you need to switch to hardwood. It burns slower, and it doesn’t produce a lot of smoke. Hardwood will always be best for regular campfires, and softwood is good if you want a smoky, large fire like a bonfire.

What Kind of Wood Should You Use For a Campfire?

Below are some hardwoods that are excellent for use in a fire. I also provide tips on how and where you can purchase this wood.

Oak

Oak is a common hardwood to use in a fire. It’s widely available, and it’s one of the most popular campfire woods there is. It’s one of the hottest woods, too; oak usually burns at 24 million BTUs per cord. 

That level of heat is enough to keep you warm on a fall or winter night, and the heat will likely linger after the campfire goes out if it’s not windy.

If you want to see the answer to “how hot is a campfire?” then you can check out that article, too.

As for oak, in one school project, a student performing an experiment discovered that out of the woods they tested, oak burned for the longest.

You can buy oak from most places you buy firewood—there are small bundles available online, it’s often available at campsites. Any wood-selling company should also have oak logs for sale. 

Make sure it’s properly seasoned, though, as unseasoned oak won’t provide a lot of heat.

Hickory

Hickory burns hotter than oak, at 26.5 million BTUs per cord. Dense hickory is best, as it can’t store much water. This leads to an almost smokeless fire, long burn times, and intense heat.

With heat like that, you can expect to be very warm in winter, even after you put the fire out.

Hickory also provides meat dishes with a subtle flavoring that many campers find appealing.

Hickory is easy to find in hardwood bundles, too. It’s often sold as smoking wood chunks, and you can find it mixed into general hardwood bundles. Dense hickory and red oak are often sold together.

Ash

Ash is very light, but it’s extremely solid. It doesn’t hold much water, and it produces very little smoke when burned. 

This is one of the easiest woods to ignite a fire with, and it has a long burn time. It’s not the hottest word in the world, but it’s great for chilly evenings. Depending on the ash wood you get, you’re looking at 18.7–23.6 million BTUs per cord.

That’s plenty of heat to get you through a fall or early spring night. You may also need to use less wood per hour thanks to its long burn time.

One great thing about ash is that it has no smell, so if you dislike the smell of burning wood, then make sure you get ash. Any odor it produces is neutral.

Ash is one of the most popular file woods to purchase, and you can buy bundles and cords of it on its own from most places that sell wood.

Maple

Now we’re moving on to the woods that aren’t so easy to find in bundles. Maple is incredibly tough, so it’s difficult to split. However, it produces intense heat, so it’s great for fires that you want to last all night.

Maple burns similarly to ash, so it’s a great choice if you’re not a fan of ash logs. The only problem is, you’ll probably have to gather maple for yourself.

One reason you might choose maple is the pleasant smell. It’s a subtle aroma that smells mildly like maple syrup.

Beech

Beechwood is also rare to find in a bundle. It’s incredibly dense, but it needs to be seasoned for a year before you use it.

It’s very hot at 26.8 million BTUs per cord, making it a good winter wood. It has a low sap content, and it doesn’t produce much smoke.

If you can find and harvest beechwood yourself, then I only recommend doing it if you think you can handle the difficulty that comes with splitting beech logs. 

Harvesting your own beechwood is a great way to save money on purchasing bundles, but remember, make sure to season it for a year before using it. Some people even recommend letting it season for three years before using it.

Cherry

Finally, Cherrywood is an excellent one to pick if you enjoy a sweet, lingering aroma with your fire. It’s not the best idea to have a Cherrywood fire in an area frequented by bears, but if you’re away from their areas, then go ahead and light the cherry.

Cherrywood is also fantastic for cooking, as it provides your food with a wonderful flavor. The flavor is subtle and not too sweet.

It’s also fantastic if you harvest your own wood, as it’s easy to split and it’s not uncomfortable to handle.

I recommend using cherry if you’re camping in spring or summer, and you just need a campfire to cook and not for heat. It’s not as hot as some of the other woods on this list, at 20 million BTUs per cord.

List Of Woods By Burn Temperature

If heat is your priority, then here’s a list of woods and their BTUs by the cord. If the information above didn’t help you make your choice, then perhaps seeing a direct heat comparison will.

When Are Softwoods Good For Campfire Use?

Because softwoods produce a lot of smoke, they’re rarely ideal for campfire use—though if you do like a smoky campfire, you can learn about why campfire smoke follows you and how to avoid that.

If you’re not a fan of softwood, there are still instances in which softwoods may be a good choice for you. I’ve outlined these below.

If It’s Cedar

Cedar is surprisingly good for burning. It burns slowly, and the flames will remain small. It’s a great wood to burn during the day in fall, as it’s very hot, and fire can easily last you all day. It also produces a pleasant smell.

If It’s Weather-Dependent

As I said earlier, sometimes your wood can get too cold. It’s one of the reasons I talk about when discussing 7 reasons why your campfire keeps going out.

Hardwood needs a lot of heat to get burning, and if your wood has been sitting in the cold, sometimes the cold will stop the wood from easily igniting.

It’s easier to generate heat using softwood, then you can switch to hardwood when you have enough heat for it to burn.

If It’s All You Have Nearby

If you’re harvesting your own firewood, then I always recommend seeking hardwood. 

Unfortunately, sometimes you won’t be able to get your hardwood logs small enough to start your fire. In this case, I recommend getting some softwood if you can find or make small enough logs of it. You can use this to start the fire, but then you should switch to hardwood as soon as possible.

If you want to avoid having to use softwood, then ensure you have some smaller hardwood logs when you buy a bundle or cord.

Top Tips When Buying Firewood

Most people tend to buy firewood unless you’re really up for a challenge, so let’s look at ways to make buying firewood cost-effective and worth the price. 

If you’d rather collect and firewood, then I have tips later in the article.

Buy Locally

Buying locally makes things easier and more cost-effective. You won’t have to pay expensive shipping fees if you buy from businesses close to you. You’ll also save money on fuel when transporting it yourself.

Some local ways to buy firewood are purchasing it at your campsite or at the nearest gas station that sells it. Plenty of gas stations near campsites sell bundles or large bags of logs for you to use.

If you’re camping somewhere really off the grid, then purchasing your firewood in the last town you pass before getting to your site is a good idea. You won’t have too far to travel with it.

Be Aware Of Moisture Content

Buy the driest wood you can, as you want it to be burn-ready ASAP.

Make sure you buy your wood from somewhere reputable and ask about the wood’s moisture content. If you buy wood with a lot of moisture, then you’ll have to wait for weeks or potentially months before you can burn it.

If you don’t need your wood just yet, then buying wood with higher moisture content is fine. However, I always recommend getting wood with as little moisture as possible, just in case you decide to go camping before you initially planned to.

Don’t Buy Based On Weight

Weight can be misleading because of moisture content. Always buy wood by volume.

Wood is rarely sold based on weight, but if you find someone selling it based on that metric, then don’t purchase it. You can’t trust you’re actually getting 10 pounds of wood if the wood has 60% moisture content or something like that.

Buy In Bulk

You can get a great deal when you buy your firewood in bulk, so do that if you can. However, make sure you have somewhere to store it! Buying wood in bulk takes up a lot of space, so you’ll need a storage shed of some kind.

Make sure you store it in a cool, dry place, as you don’t want it to end up wet after purchasing it.

You’ll also need someone to help you when you’re buying wood in bulk. You can have it delivered to your house, but it’ll take effort to get it into storage. 

If you have a trailer to pick up the wood yourself, then you’ll need a hand loading and unloading. It’s rarely an easy job for one person!

Tips To Apply When Collecting Firewood At Your Campsite

If you choose to harvest rather than purchase, then these tips are for you. You’ll need a small hatchet or axe if you’re cutting your firewood at your campsite. You can also pick up fallen branches to use as firewood, but some may be too long, so you’ll have to snap or cut them.

The tips below will make sure you stay safe when collecting your firewood.

Start Early

You might end up quite far away from your campsite, so start gathering as early as possible.

When collecting firewood, you’re likely to end up quite far away from your campsite. It may take an hour or more to get there and back. This is why you should start as early in the day as possible. Being far from your campsite around sunset isn’t ideal.

Stick To Open Areas

Open areas that the sun can reach are most likely to have dry trees and dry sticks lying around. That’s why you should stick to them when gathering your firewood.

It’s also harder to get lost if you stick mostly to open areas and clearings, as there won’t be too many identical-looking trees twisting and turning in your path.

Keep Track Of Your Path

Never go out into the wilderness with no way to mark your path. Bring string to tie around trees on the way in, and remove them on the way back to the campsite so you always know where you’ve been.

You can also mark your path every few feet with large stones, or you could bring water-soluble spray paint to mark trees or the ground to show where you’ve been. 

Bring a Map and Compass

You should always bring a map of your campsite when you’re venturing away from your setup, but make sure you have Google Maps too, as it’s often more comprehensive.

Bringing a compass for emergencies is a good call, too. Hopefully, you won’t need a compass, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Wear Clothes with Thick Sleeves

Wood can be tricky and uncomfortable to handle, so make sure you’re wearing gloves and long sleeves when you’re harvesting it. This will minimize the risk of getting a splinter, even if you’re just passing a tree.

Stick To Small Trees

Finally, try to harvest wood from smaller trees in the forest. This will make it easier for you to harvest them. You don’t want to try and chop down a tree that’s too challenging for you to do with your small backpacking axe or hatchet.

How To Cut and Prepare Your Own Firewood

If you want to cut your own firewood before your trip, then here are a few tips that will help get you started. Make sure you have experience using all the tools you’ll need, though!

  • Dress right: You’ll need eye protection, face shields, hearing protection, gloves, long sleeves, thick pants, and ideally chaps for over your pants; boots and head protection are also a good idea
  • Don’t go alone: There’s always a chance that something will go wrong, so always bring a buddy when harvesting firewood; they’ll be helpful when you carry the wood home
  • Stay healthy and hydrated: Cutting wood is energy-intensive work, so always bring water and a snack
  • Have the right cutting gear: To cut wood, you’re going to need a chainsaw, and most likely an axe; you’ll also likely need a log jack, wedges, chain oil, chain sharpener, and chainsaw fuel
  •  Make sure it’s legal: You can’t legally harvest firewood everywhere, so double, triple check it’s legal to harvest wood where you plan to
  • Cut ahead of time: Cut your firewood at least 6 months before you need it so it has time to season

What Else Do You Need For A Campfire?

You’ll need some small twigs and grass to use as tinder and kindling when starting your campfire, but you won’t need much of it.

You’re also going to need buckets of water to put your campfire out safely at the end of the night, or before leaving your campfire. Bringing a trowel of some kind to pat down hot ash is also a good idea.

In Conclusion

Using approximately one bundle of hardwood per hour will lead to a campfire that burns hot and lasts all night. Oak and hickory are best if heat is your priority, but ash is fantastic if you’re looking for a slow burn.

Make sure to put your campfire out at the end of the night, and always practice campfire safety. Keep the area ventilated, keep kids back from the flames, and never leave a large fire unsupervised!

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AUTHOR

My name is Emma, and I’m a city dweller who jumps on every opportunity to get out and enjoy nature! I’ve gone on a number of car camping and backpacking trips over the past few years. I created this site to inspire others to get outside and to make the process easier for you.