What’s camping without the warmth of a blazing campfire? Isn’t campfire night all about the starry sky, roasted wild bird meat & marshmallows, burning & scrunching wood, and endless laughter? But all this fun depends on one thing – enough campfire wood to last long into the cold night.
If you haven’t been to camping much, you might be unsure about the amount of wood you need for a campfire. In my personal experience, whatever you think will be enough, make it double and then throw in a few more logs.
In general, you will need 2 bundles of wood per day to make a campfire last for 4 hours. If you want to sit around the fire longer, you can carry additional bundles accordingly.
Factors like the type of wood, usage requirements, the amount of wood you can carry, weather, and trip schedule determine how much wood you need to carry for a campfire. Do note that you need firewood not only for a campfire but for cooking your meal as well so that’s a factor we are going to consider as well.
Let’s look at things in more detail.
How do you buy wood for camping?
Before jumping on to factors that determine the wood quantity, the fundamental thing to know is how do you buy wood. You obviously wouldn’t go to the closest store and ask the guy to give you “5 woods”, right?
Like every other product, there are a few units to measure wood. Wood can be measured in kgs but firewood is usually bought in cords or bundles
- A ‘bundle’ is a small cluster of firewood. A bundle has around 5-6 thick sticks of wood with a length of 13-14 inches and a diameter of 5-6 inches. This usually costs around $6 – $7 approximately.
- A ‘cord’ of firewood has a volume of 128 cubic feet made up of around 600 to 800 pieces of tightly stacked woods. This stack usually has a width and height of 4-5 feet and a length of 8 feet. An average cord can cost around $200 depending on the wood rate of that season.
Factors affecting your wood burn rate
Before we can discuss how much wood we need for our campfire, let’s quickly understand the factors which affect the burn rate of the firewood. Just to give you a heads up,
Hard wood vs. Soft wood
Fire woods are divided into these two categories. Hardwood usually doesn’t ignite fast but is much denser and burns for a longer time.
Whereas softwood is less dense and easy to burn but is consumed faster.
For camping and bonfire, softer woods like pine wood are considered because they flame well and provide good warmth. Hardwood for camping should only be considered for long camping trips with a big group because it works pretty well for cooking if you are not carrying a propane tank for cooking your meals.
Weather – cold snowy nights or hot sunny day?
It is pretty obvious that it’s way too cold in the wild to spend a night without enough fire around. Even if you are camping in a park, you need two times more wood in the winters than in summers.
You only need fire for cooking in a hot climatic region but in winters you need to light up a large pile of woods to warm yourself up.
This is the most important factor to predict the actual requirement. Your usage depends upon the number of campers, your cooking or sleeping schedule.
Most campers on a trip avoid taking breaks and try covering the maximum distance they can before night, by this they only need wood for dinner and breakfast.
It also depends upon the amount of fire required to cook for 2 or 20 people which obviously needs a particular amount of wood per meal. Also, consider what you will be cooking. A meal prepared from scratch will consume more wood compared to a precooked and vacuum-sealed meal or just add water meals you got from the market.
How much wood do you need for a campfire?
Now that we have a better idea of how firewood is used and how different factors affect it, the below table gives you a rough estimate of how much wood you will need for a campfire – both for cooking and for sitting around.
|Time duration||Firewood for cooking||Firewood for warmth|
|1 hour||1 bundle||1 bundle|
|2 hours||2 – 3 bundles||1 – 2 bundles|
|4 hours||3 – 5 bundles||2 – 4 bundles|
|6 hours||5 – 7 bundles||4 – 6 bundles|
|8 hours||7 – 9 bundles||6 – 8 bundles|
Best firewood for camping
There are a thousand different species of wood available in the wild. Knowing which one to burn and which one to leave can help a lot.
The wood with the highest BTU is usually considered good for camping because it provides higher energy output per unit weight or volume.
Which wood to avoid?
Woods are a part of nature, and nature can be beautiful yet harmful at times. When cut or burnt, some woods release poisonous gas that can not only cause discomfort but can also be harmful and life-threatening.
Woods like poison oak or Ivy can be lethal if burnt.
Which one to buy?
Since we talked about the BTU, there are some preferable woods that are not only easy to light but also have a high BTU level. The higher the BTU level, the more energy it will give you per unit weight.
|Type of wood||BTUs/Cord (mills)||Easy/ hard to burn|
|Hickory Wood||28.7||Easy to burn|
|Western Larch (Tamarack)||22.3||Easy to burn|
|White Oak Wood||26.5||Hard to burn|
|Douglas-Fir (Red Fir)||20.6||Easy to burn|
|Black Oak Wood||24.5||Hard to burn|
|Lodgepole Pine||17.5||Easy to burn|
|Grand Fir (White Fir)||16.7||Easy to burn|
|Hard Maple Wood||23.7||Easy to burn|
In my experience, the best wood for camping will undoubtedly be hickory wood. Why? It is easier to ignite than others and provides the best burn time and heat.
Types of wood aside, a wet log would burn with much more difficulty than a dry log. So, make sure the bundle you get has low moisture content. You can actually measure the moisture content with a small handy device called a moisture meter. For a smokeless and effortless campfire, make sure the moisture content in your firewood is less than 20%.
Hacks to make you master of the (camp)fire
If you have been on even one or two camping trips, you might already have an idea that the amount of wood you have is NEVER ENOUGH.
You always end up using more wood than you thought you would. On my last trip, I consumed one bundle on some days and two on others. So what to do if you run out of woods?
Buy fire woods locally
It is never a good idea to keep your wood on the back of your car or truck and travel miles with it. It is not only risky but is pretty inconvenient. Woods usually carry bugs and bacteria, and you might be carrying that bacteria to where ever you go.
Leave that aside, can you imagine the amount of energy loading and unloading the bundles would consume and space those bundles would take up.
For this reason, the best thing to do is go to the camping place and search for a nearby place where you can get an adequate amount of wood. If it is not a managed campsite, and you are camping in the wild, you can pick up your firewood from the last town on the road.
Collect tinder and kindling
If you are not sure what this is – Tinder includes different tiny materials that help light the fire. It can be dry grass, tiny wood sticks, or even fluff. Whereas Kindling is slightly bigger in size than tinder but consists of dry woody material.
If you get a chance to find tiny woods or stuff like that in the wild – collect them as they will come in handy when you sit down to start your fire. Burning a large wood piece is quite a task and to get the fire started, you will need the tinder and kindlings.
These tiny materials can do wonders if you burn them first.
Find a carpentry with generous people
This may sound funny, but since we discourage wood hauling – it can be difficult at times to find the right amount of wood in the wild.
This was my personal experience that wood artisans or carpenters who live around the wild can either lend you some of the wood or sell wood or even guide you to the place where you can get some. If you are left with no other options, then go to the nearest carpentry.
I recently read a good article about finding free firewood by the Spruce.
Even if we predict the amount of wood we will need, it requires a couple of experiences to understand wood consumption completely. From my perspective, having more than an adequate amount saves you from a lot of trouble.
Running out of woods in the middle of a trip is no less than a misadventure. But by following the above-mentioned tips, tricks and calculations you can not only enjoy the camp-fire a bit more but can sustain it for longer times.
Bonus: below is a 10 hours long soothing video of a campfire to make you fall in love with camping and campfire. Enjoy 🙂
Recommended Camping Gears: I have compiled a list of my favourite camping gear in one place. The selection is based on my own personal experience using them for many years camping as well as feedback from fellow campers. Check them out on my Recommended Camping Gears page