Identifying Good wood from Bad wood for your campfire

These tips will allow you to build a smarter and safer campfire.


This article is geared for someone who did not pack or bring firewood and need to gather some food for a fire or campfire. First and foremost it is important to recognize that all environments are different and so I cannot tell you specifically which wood to use in your circumstances, I can only give you hints and suggestions to finding great firewood for camping.


Types of wood to avoid:

  • Wood that is too hard at least while starting out – Hardwood makes for slower burning and is great after you’ve already started a fire, and want to keep it going. They have higher energy content per cord which basically means they release more heat.

  • Wood that is too soft – Softwoods can be defined as trees like Redwood, Cedar, Pine, and Birch. The problems with these woods are they often come with a lot of sap and this can make for a harder process of starting a fire and not to mention a lot of smoke.

    Once ignited they tend to burn fast and unless they have been dried appropriately or aged, depending on when the wood came down. The sap can tend to work against the fire. You will want to get these dried as soon as possible by setting them next to the fire to draw out moisture.

  • Mossy woods or rotted types of wood – these may have poisons that you do not want to inhale such as poison sumac, poison oak, or any other sort of foliage that may cause an irritating side effect. The last thing you want is respiratory issues while out in the elements.


The snap test

If you find a small stick of the branch or wood try and break it in half. If it has a good snap you’ll know it’s good wood and finding larger downed limbs or branches from the same tree will generally be a smart idea.

Bad wood will need to be bent at an angle then twisted/pulled and will splinter. Only use this wood as a last resort. If you have to use it, only use it after you’ve already got a fire going and will need some fuel for the fire. You will want to begin drying this wood immediately. You can do this by setting it off to the side of the firepit but allowing the heat to begin to dry the wood and get the moisture out.


Some good tricks and tips for finding good firewood:

Look for wood that has wood pores or blisters. This will allow for the wood to ventilate and breath some of the oxygen into the fire. You will want to place this wood at the bottom of the fire as it will allow more oxygen to flow in and thus allowing your fire to breathe.

Look for wood that has been dried and is not wet, this will go up fast in the fire and can be great for getting your fire started.

To summarize

What you do want is wood that has been down for a while and has aged. You do not want wet wood or wood that has anything green on it, as it will likely smoke and give off some unwanted aromas.



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