Last Updated on 04/11/2021
How Much Firewood Do I Need For Camping?
Knowing how much firewood you need is essential for making a fire that lasts all night. The right amount of firewood will depend on how long you’re camping for, what you’re going to be using your fire for, and the type of wood available. Use this guide to collect the right amount of firewood every time you go camping.
A campfire is one of the most important parts of any night spent out under the stars. This can be all too short-lived if you haven’t collected the right amount of firewood. If you’re cooking on a night, making coffee on a morning, or using the fire to stay warm, not having enough firewood can have serious consequences.
If you’re thinking ‘How much firewood do I need for camping?’ then we’ve got you covered. Most campers will find that they use around 2 – 5 bundles of wood per day for their fire. This depends on whether you’re cooking on your fire, in which case you will need more fuel.
Practice makes perfect, as they say. The more camping you do, the more of an idea you will have of how much wood you need. The right amount is important not only so you don’t run out, but so that you avoid wasting any firewood that didn’t need to be collected.
How Long Does Firewood Burn?
As we’ve just seen, different types of firewood burn for different lengths of time. They also burn with different heats. The table below is a rough guide to how long your bundle of firewood will burn. If you’re cooking, your firewood is working harder. That means it burns off more quickly and you will go through wood much faster than if you are just using your fire for warmth.
|Campfire Time||Amount of Firewood Needed for 1-3 People||Amount of Firewood Needed for 4+ People|
|1 Hour||3/4 Bundle (7-8 logs)||1 Bundle (9-10 logs)|
|2 Hours||1.5 Bundles (14-15 logs)||2 Bundles (18-20 logs)|
|3 Hours||2 Bundles (18-20 logs)||3.5 Bundles (34-35 logs)|
|4 Hours||2.5 Bundles (24-25 logs)||5 Bundles (38-42 logs)|
|5 Hours||3.5 Bundles (34-35 logs)||6.5 Bundles (63-67 logs)|
|6 Hours||4 Bundles (38-42 logs)||8 Bundles (75-80 logs)|
How Much Firewood Do You Need For Camping?
The factors that make an impact on how much firewood you need for camping are the number of nights you will need a campfire, the size of fire or number of people that need to fit around it, the time of year, the type of wood, and whether the wood is dry or wet. All of these factors should influence the amount of firewood you need so let’s take a closer look at each.
Firstly and perhaps most obviously, the amount of firewood you will need depends on how long your trip is. It will also depend on your intended use, for example, whether you intend just to have a fire to cook on, or for warmth. Do you need the fire just in the evening, or for cooking breakfast, too?
If you plan on having your campfire lit for around 4 – 6 hours per night then you probably want around 2 to 3 bundles or 20 to 30 logs for a small fire per night. For a larger fire with more people you probably want between 6 – 8 bundles or 60 to 80 small logs per night.
If you are gathering firewood from nature then you should aim for a pretty big pile as raw branches don’t stack as neatly as cut logs. A good piece of advice for gathering firewood for a campfire is to gather as much wood as you think you will need and then double it.
If you require your fire for warmth, your group size will play a part in how big you have to build your fire. If there are more of you, you will require a larger fire and more fuel to keep the group warm. This is so that everyone can get space to sit around the flames and stay warm without anyone being left in the cold.
The beauty of a small campfire is that you don’t need much fuel at all and can get away with adding twigs and small sticks instead of having to carry and process larger logs. Small campfires can be contained with a rock circle or by using a compact wood-burning stove which avoids nasty scorch marks on the earth – leave no trace.
A small 1 person fire will normally fit 3 people around it in a triangle formation and requires the least amount of firewood. We estimate that 1 bundle of firewood will provide a decent campfire for up to 1 hour and then keep you warm with the embers for up to another 30 – 40 minutes.
Season and Climate
The season or climate can make a significant difference in how much firewood you will need to keep warm and not run out of fuel before it’s time for bed. It only makes sense that in summer when the nights are warmer and longer, you don’t need as much firewood to keep you warm. This also goes for spring and summer if you live in a warmer climate.
In winter and other colder seasons where you live, you will need much more firewood to keep you warm for longer as the temperature dramatically decreases before sunset. The problem with this is that dry firewood is often harder to scavenge in colder seasons due to it often being wet or covered in snow. You may need as much as double the amount of firewood in winter than in summer.
In terms of temperature, once it drops below 0 degrees you will again need much more firewood to keep you warm. It is also worth mentioning that wood burns fractionally less efficiently in the cold and so it is often more of a battle to keep the flames high. It is certainly harder to get a fire started in the cold but once the fire is going you should be ok.
The quality of your camping firewood will also impact how much you need. If you have a lot of softwood trees around, you will require more wood as this burns more quickly than hardwood. Likewise, if you are burning oak logs then you will get the longest burn time due to it being a dense hardwood.
For a small campfire, you won’t notice a drastic difference in the amount of firewood you need but if you are having a fire every night it doesn’t take long to notice the difference in the volume of wood burnt. For example, you may notice you are having to restock your firewood store far more frequently when you are burning a low-quality hardwood or a softwood.
You will have to compare the benefits of the different types of wood in terms of price vs burn time. Yes, you might be saving money buying softwood or poor quality firewood but if it burns twice as fast as something like oak then unless you are paying half the price, it isn’t worth the hassle.
Wet or Dry
There is no surprise to find out that dry wood burns better than wet wood but does it make that much difference to how much firewood do I need for camping? Yes and no. If the wood is wet it takes longer to catch alight, won’t burn as well, and can sometimes lead to a fire’s demise. But if your fire is already established then wet firewood won’t stay wet very long once added to the inferno.
The main problem with wet firewood is that it requires far more effort to process and if it is raining you will need far more wood just to build up the fire and prevent it from going out. We take a more in-depth look at how and where to find dry firewood further down the page.
Types of Firewood Burn Time
Some wood burns better than others and the difference can be significant. Wood is generally divided into two main categories. Hardwoods are denser and slower-growing wood that burns slowly. Softwood burns more easily and is often a better kindling, but it doesn’t burn with the same heat as hardwood.
Hardwoods should be your preference when choosing your camping firewood. These hardwoods give off more heat and leave better embers. That said, different hardwoods do burn with different efficiencies and you should select the most efficient hardwood available.
Oak is widely considered to be the best firewood available. These ancient trees grow slowly and with a high density. Oak logs need to be seasoned for a long time to be dry enough to burn. This is a non-smokey wood that leaves fantastic coals. These coals are great for cooking on or restarting your fire the following morning.
Ash is also one of the best firewoods that can be found. This hardwood has a low water quantity when fresh and so requires less seasoning. In fact, the water content is so low that if you have to, you can burn ash fresh. Ash burns slowly and with good heat.
Birch burns particularly easily but also burns quite quickly. This easy burning makes it a good wood to start your fire with. It can be useful to combine birch with a slower burning wood like ash or oak. Most people know about birch bark as a tinder. Thin strips of bark, especially that of the silver birch, make a very effective firestarter.
Hickory is one of the few kinds of wood that burns even hotter than oak. Hickory requires at least a year of seasoning, otherwise, it gives off a lot of smoke. Once seasoned, this is not a smokey wood but one which burns easily and with a very good heat. A low sap content in hickory gives it a cleaner burn. This lowers the levels of creosote so you can burn hickory safely indoors. Hickory is hard to work with, though, and splitting it can be tiring work.
Apple tree wood holds a lot of moisture when fresh and requires a long seasoning process. Once seasoned, though, Apple is one of the most pleasant types of wood you can burn. The sweet smell and lack of sparks make this a very appealing wood to burn. It gives off little smoke and burns with a high temperature too.
It’s a versatile tree, maple. It may conjure images of syrup and pancakes, but it also burns very effectively too. It might not surprise you to know that maple burns with a very sweet, pleasant aroma. As far as hardwoods go, maple is not very dense. This means that it dries much quicker, but also burns quicker. You will need more maple than you would of the likes of oak or apple.
As far as hardwoods go, walnut is not especially dense. This means that it dries out quickly and burns with little smoke. It also means you will burn more walnut than you would with oak or similar. Walnut has a pleasant smell and creates a nice fire. It does give off less heat than other hardwoods, so is seen by some as a less efficient wood.
Cherry is fairly good firewood but requires a long seasoning. The heat it gives off is low compared to other hardwoods, but it is a pleasant wood that gives off few sparks and little smoke. Cherry does leave excellent coals though if you’re looking for wood to cook on.
Processed Fuel Logs
They may not have the same visual appeal as traditional firewood, but processed fuel can be a fantastic alternative. These briquettes are made from compressed woodchips. They are available in a wide range of woods, so you can pick and choose your burning time and intensity.
These processed fuel logs often provide more heat for your money, with some claiming up to 50% more heat than logs give off. They’re easy to store and good for the environment as they’re usually made from recycled wood.
How Much Firewood Do I Need for Camping More than One Night?
It would logically follow that however much wood you need for one night simply needs to be multiplied by the number of nights you will be camping out. There is a little more to it than that, though. Looking at the weather for your whole camping stay will allow you to plan accordingly. You will also need to judge your camping firewood stock based on the type of wood you can find.
Where to Find Dry Firewood?
Finding dry firewood can appear to be a bit of an art. Some people disappear into the woods and come back fully loaded with armfuls of burnable firewood. But how do you find enough dry firewood to get you through the night?
For a start, we know that living trees are full of moisture and would take at least six months of seasoning to be dry enough to burn efficiently. It’s important to find dry, deadwood. In some areas this is easy, but in wetter climates, you might have to search a bit harder.
Dead but standing trees or fallen branches are preferable. Avoid fallen branches that are flat on the ground, as they are likely to have soaked up moisture from below. Logs which have been on the ground for too long are likely to have rotted and will produce a smokey and inefficient fire.
How Long Does it Take Firewood to Dry When Camping?
Collecting wet camping firewood can sometimes be unavoidable. In these situations, we need to be able to properly dry our wood before burning it.
Properly seasoning fresh firewood can take anywhere from six months to two years, depending on the type of wood. If you have time to prepare, then seasoning this firewood is the best course of action. Collecting wood in late spring and seasoning through the summer can have a supply ready for winter.
If you’re already out camping and need the firewood instantly, there are ways to avoid this lengthy process. Firstly, but collecting wood that is dead and only wet from rain, you can often dry it out within 24 – 72 hours by sheltering it and keeping it warm.
Alternatively, start your campfire with small pieces of softwood, which burns easily but for less time. Place your hardwoods close enough to the fire that they can dry out from the heat and are ready to burn. Try to dry your wood as much as possible before adding it to your campfire to avoid wasted energy.
How to Keep Firewood Dry When Camping?
Once you have collected your stash of firewood, you need to store it for the duration of your trip so it is ready to use. Firstly, try to keep it off the ground. You can use a handful of logs to create a platform.
Cover your firewood with anything you have available. Carrying a spare tarpaulin is usually preferable and can make a large enough cover for bigger piles. Try to locate your store close to your campfire and use the heat to keep your wood dry.
If you don’t have a tarp, either use natural defenses like trees or hollows to keep your wood dry. The porch of a tent is a useful last resort, but you will probably want to keep this space free for your kit.
Does Wood Burn Faster in the Cold?
Wood will not burn any faster in cold weather and in fact, may burn slower. The reason for this is that wood needs to reach a certain temperature for it to ignite and so when a cold piece of wood is added to a fire it spends its first moments trying to reach the temperature it needs to alight.
So, burning wood in cold weather may take slightly longer but once a fire is established has reached the heat of hundreds of degrees, it takes seconds not minutes to heat up a piece of wood. The time difference is actually minute for burning fires however in the beginning fires in cold weather will take more effort and time to get going.