How Much Firewood Do I Need for Camping?

Here at My Open Country, we often get asked how much wood is required for sustaining a campfire. Luckily, we have hundreds of collective years of campfire-making experience under our belts to share with you!

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Written by: | Reviewed by: Brian Conghalie
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Heading on a camping trip? If so, one of the most important tasks on your to-do list should be figuring out how much firewood you’ll need.

Whether it’s for a campfire where you can roast marshmallows or make s’mores, cook some simple dishes over an open flame, or provide some warmth and light in your campsite – having the right amount of firewood is essential.

But how much wood do you need to pack or collect? And what kind of wood should you be looking for? This post will tackle these questions head-on and provide a wealth of additional campfire-related info!

Campfire burning with a tent pitched in the background
How much or how little firewood do you really need?

Firewood for Camping: All You Need to Know

How Much Wood per campfire?

Gauging how much firewood you’ll need for any camping trip isn’t entirely clear-cut. Several variables come into play, all of which can impact the quantity required. Below, however, we’ve added an at-a-glance list giving a ballpark estimate of how many logs of firewood you’ll need for trips of different durations.

 
Burn Time (Per Day/Night)Amount of Wood Needed 
1 hour½ bundle (3 to 5 logs)
2-3 hours1 to 2 bundles (8 to15 logs)
4-5 hours3 to 5 bundles (18 to 25 logs)
6-8 hours5 to 7 bundles (30 to 40 logs)

Variables that Impact wood quantities needed

While the above figures can be used as a decent yardstick, taking the following variables into account will give you a more accurate idea of how much firewood you need for your camping trip. 

Trip Duration

Naturally, the length of your trip will be the biggest determiner of how much campfire wood is needed. The above table should give you a good idea of the required quantity, but it’s worth bearing in mind that you might not need a fire every evening (for warmth and/or cooking). 

Moisture Content: Green Vs. Seasoned Wood & Wet Vs. Dry Wood

Not just any old wood will let you get a healthy campfire burning. To explain what kind of wood you should be looking for, we need to establish a distinction between both dry and wet wood and green and seasoned wood.

Let’s start with dry vs. wet wood, which is far simpler to explain. 

This one can be taken at face value: wet wood is wood that has been exposed to rain or humidity and dry wood is that which hasn’t. As you might expect, dry wood burns far more efficiently than the wet kind, and it also produces less smoke. While you may be able to get logs that are partially wet to burn in a roaring fire, even then they will also produce less heat.

Pile of wet wood smoking after being lit (SS)
Burning wet wood results in an uncomfortably smoky fire!

Now let’s turn to green wood vs. seasoned wood, for which we’ll dip a toe into the world of science. 

“Green wood” (sometimes called “fresh wood”) refers to any wood (green, brown, beige, or otherwise) that has been cut recently and hadn’t been left to “season” (dry) or manually dried in a kiln. Seasoned wood is wood that has been stored for long enough for its moisture content to reduce by means of evaporation. 

Seasoned logs are considered to have roughly 20% moisture content relative to the green kind, which are considered to have 100% moisture content.

But what does this mean for our camping firewood? Well, the high moisture content in green wood not only means that it makes it harder to get your fire started, but that it burns slowly and produces less heat than wood that has been seasoned. 

The bottom line? Seasoned logs are the way to go!

If you’re gathering wood around camp and can’t tell how well-seasoned it is, a wood moisture meter is a handy tool to have! 

Weather Conditions

If you’re camping in wet and/or windy weather, we recommend carrying an extra bundle of wood (5 to 6 logs) per day of camping. 

Humidity and wind reduce your fire’s ability to burn efficiently, so you’ll need to use more wood to produce the same heat. Because partially wet wood is harder to ignite, you’ll also need a little extra kindling if camping in these conditions.

Season 

The season you’re camping in has a huge impact on the amount of wood you use in your fire.

If you’re winter camping, you’ll need a powerful fire to stay warm, and might end up using far more than the figures stated above. In summer, conversely, the opposite is true, and you will probably need no more than a small fire consisting of a log or two at a time.

Campfire and flask in a snowy forest
Evidently the cooler the season, the more firewood you’ll need.

Purpose

What will you be using your fire for? Heat in cold weather? Drying clothes? Cooking? Boiling water for your morning coffee? Or just for roasting marshmallows, the pleasant smell, and a little ambiance at camp?

Answering these questions will help ensure you bring enough firewood for any trip and let you get a more accurate idea of how many bundles you need.

If you’re using your fire for all of the reasons mentioned above, then you’re going to need a lot more wood! Ditto if you’re the kind of camper who prefers to lounge around in front of the campfire for several hours per night instead of merely using the fire for a short pre-sleep heat boost or to boil water for a dehydrated meal.

Small campfire in a fire ring with a metal mug beside it
If you only need to boil water for your coffee don’t go overboard with the size of the fire you make!

Hardwood or Softwood: What Wood Type Is Best?

Nothing affects firewood burn rate more than the type of wood you use.

Wood from hardwood trees is denser, so burns more slowly and produces more heat. Wood from softwood trees, on the other hand, is easier to ignite and burns quickly. A pair of softwood logs are likely to burn for around an hour, whereas a pair of hardwood logs of the same size might have a burn time of 2-3 hours. Hardwoods also produce less smoke.

The take-home? If you can get your hands on it, hardwood is best as long as you have enough kindling to get it burning. Burning wood from softwood trees isn’t problematic, but you’ll need a lot more of it to produce the same heat and burn time.

The best hardwood for campfires? Maple, ash, oak, birch, beech, and most fruit trees. Birch bark also makes great tinder!

Peeling birch bark
If you get your hands on birch be sure to peel off the bark for fantastic tinder.

Where to Get Your Wood

Buy Firewood

Buying wood is, of course, the most convenient option if you are car camping and won’t be transporting firewood any great distance to your campsite. 

The downsides? 

Well, why purchase firewood when you can have it for free? If you’re camping for multiple days the costs of using purchased wood can really add up. In most camping locations below the treeline, moreover, you should be able to forage enough free dead wood to keep a roaring fire going. 

Secondly, bringing your own wood with you might not be as convenient as you think. All that wood will take up a lot of room in your vehicle, will probably make a mess you’ll need to clean up later (put a few hours aside for the sap!), and the added weight will add to your fuel costs.

Campfire wood in the trunk of a car
Is there room for the tent in there?

Thirdly, stores that sell firewood bundles may be few and far between where you’re heading.

If you do choose to buy bundles of wood from a store, try to do so when you’re close to your camping destination or at the campground store (phone ahead to check they have it!).

 

Collecting Firewood

Collecting your own firewood is a great way to cut down costs and get the kids involved in campsite chores.

Collecting wood is also kinda fun and can feel like a form of treasure hunt. The downsides, of course, are that it might not always be easy to find downed tree limbs, standing dead trees, or driftwood for your fire. And if it is, the wood might not be dry enough to burn.

When collecting wood for your fire, remember to look for dry, dead wood instead of wet or green wood. Also, make sure you only take your wood from dead (not living) trees. 

Two campers collecting firewood in a forest
You only want to be collecting dry, dead wood for your campfire.

How to Store Your Firewood at Camp

There are various ways in which you can store your camping firewood. Let’s start with one way to avoid – storing it inside your tent. Storing wood inside your tent is a bad idea on various levels. First, it will rob valuable storage space. Secondly, it may rip your tent or leave sap on it. Thirdly, it will contribute to condensation unless it’s bone-dry. 

The best way to store your wood at camp is either under your vehicle, under a picnic table, or under a tarp. If using a tarp, make sure you leave a little room for air to circulate around your pile and use a few branches to raise it off the ground. 

How to Make Your Campfire More Efficient (and Burn Longer With Less Wood!)

  1. Use Hardwood: As mentioned above, the burn time of hardwoods is far superior to that of softwoods.
  2. Make a Smaller Fire: By making a smaller fire you’ll be reducing the amount of wood required to keep it going. What do we mean by “small”? Anything under 2.5 feet in diameter.
  3. Burn Larger Logs: Large logs burn slower than little ones, so you’ll get more burn time out of a bundle of firewood consisting of larger pieces than one made of smaller pieces.
  4. Reduce Airflow: Fires need air to burn, and the more they have of it, the quicker they’ll do so. To reduce the amount of air getting into your campfire, create a wind block with rocks or foldable windproof plates.

How Much Firewood Do I Need for Camping?

Whether you plan to gather firewood at camp or buy it before you arrive, we hope this guide on how much firewood do you need for camping has helped you gauge just how much you’ll need (and ensure you’ll have enough wood!) for any camping trip. 

If you liked this post or have any questions, drop us a line in the box below. And if you’d like to share this article with your friends, please do!

Last update on 2024-05-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Kieran Avatar

Kieran James Cunningham is a climber, mountaineer, and author who divides his time between the Italian Alps, the US, and his native Scotland.

He has climbed a handful of 6000ers in the Himalayas, 4000ers in the Alps, 14ers in the US, and loves nothing more than a good long-distance wander in the wilderness. He climbs when he should be writing, writes when he should be sleeping, has fun always.

Kieran has taught mountaineering, ice climbing, and single-pitch and multi-pitch rock climbing in a variety of contexts over the years and has led trekking and mountaineering expeditions in the Alps, Rockies, and UK. He is currently working towards qualifying as a Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor and International Mountain Leader.

Kieran’s book Climbing the Walls—an exploration of the mental health benefits of climbing, mountaineering, and the great outdoors—is scheduled for release by Simon & Schuster in April 2021.

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