How Much Firewood Do I Need For Camping? Don’t Be Left In the Cold


We asked a number of campers what they think when it comes to how much firewood they use on a regular camping trip. This post has all that we gathered from their answers.

For camping, you may need anywhere from 2 to 5 bundles per day. The amount of firewood you use can depend on the weather, how long you usually sit around the fire, whether you are cooking with your campfire, and how often you want to have campfires.

That said, it’s worthwhile to know exactly what factors play into how much firewood you’ll need so that you can always bring the right amount. Read on and you’ll learn those factors alongside how much wood you’ll need in different kinds of weather, and how to make that firewood last as long as possible.

What Factors Effect How Much Firewood I’ll Need?

What should you be thinking about as you plan your firewood usage for a camping trip? There might be more factors than you realize. So many things can play into the amount of firewood that gets used, such as the climate, length of the trip, and whether you’re someone who likes fires in the morning and evening, just the evening, or only when you’re cooking.

Length Of The Trip

It only makes sense that longer camping trips are going to require more firewood than shorter ones. It’s important to keep this aspect in mind because it often means you need to have more cash on hand to purchase firewood with.

One of the rules that you may not be aware of is that bringing firewood from too far away is actually a very bad idea. Depending on the location you plan to camp in, it may even be illegal. This is largely due to problems that can occur with invasive species that may come along for the ride. Bugs and other critters can become serious problems for new areas. According to the Journal of Economic Entomology, there can be insects that live in or consume wood that may become an issue for the plant and animal life in a new area.

If you’re uncertain about the rules in your area, dontmovefirewood.org offers a fantastic map that will provide the information you need.

Follow your local park regulations, and use your best judgment.

How Often Campfires Are Needed, And For How Long

As you’re planning the amount of campfire you’re going to need, it’s worthwhile to think about how often you typically have fires when you’re camping. Are you someone who prefers to save the firewood for the night hours, or do you like warming up with a morning campfire as well? Maybe you enjoy keeping a campfire crackling all day?

Naturally, more campfires will require more wood, and longer campfires will do the same. Sometimes, that extra firewood use is necessary, but you may also find that you’d rather ration it out if you’re trying to keep your camping trip on a budget.

It can be hard to determine just how long a single bundle of wood will last you. Different types of wood burn at different rates. Generally speaking, a single bundle can last for a maximum of a couple hours. However, remember that your experience may not exactly fit that amount.

Climate & Weather

If you’re planning a summer camping trip in a hot, dry climate then it’s unlikely you’ll need a campfire as badly as you would somewhere cooler. In some areas, campfires may not even be allowed due to the danger of wildfires in the area.

Where you’re camping and when can play huge roles in the amount of firewood you’re going to need. If you know there’s going to be a potential for cold, expect to spend a bit more on wood to burn. It’s important to stay warm when you’re in the cold outdoors. Even if the weather forecast calls for sun, it doesn’t hurt to be ready to purchase some extra wood if things should shift.

Firewood Type

Those of us who are more casual when it comes to camping might think “wood is wood – it all burns the same, right?

You might be surprised to find that different kinds of wood actually do burn a little differently. For example, softwoods like pine, spruce, and cedar actually don’t burn as long as hardwoods such as oak, hickory, and maple.

Firewood can get expensive pretty quickly, especially if you’re planning a trip that is longer than an overnight or weekend. The last thing most campers want is to spend more money on firewood than they need to. Using softwoods in your campfire can result in a fire that burns out more quickly, meaning you’ll go through more wood.

Meanwhile, hardwoods take longer to burn, so you can get more campfire time with less firewood.

Wherever you’re planning to get your firewood, it’s important to make sure that it’s safe. Some firewood options can be considered toxic and are best to avoid. Our article on toxic firewood types will help you to keep your campfires safe. Learn more here.

The best option is to use softwoods to start your fire and hardwoods to keep your fire burning for a long time. Trying to ignite your fire with hardwood is pretty difficult.

Moisture Content

You can’t exactly head out and chop down a tree during the week before a camping trip and expect to get the ideal fire from it. Wood that fresh is still going to have a higher percentage of water content and water isn’t something that works well in a campfire!

Fresh wood not only is more difficult to ignite, but it smokes a lot which isn’t super pleasant to be around, and also has a lot more potential to crackle and pop, which can actually spread fire.

Whether you’re buying wood or gathering it from nearby areas, you’ll want to make sure it’s as dry as possible. Dry wood burns more effectively and it keeps you from having to deal with too much annoying campfire smoke. If you can, look for firewood that has a maximum of 20% moisture content.

To measure the moisture in the wood you want to use, one of the simplest ways is to use a device known as a moisture meter. The EPA even offers a handy PDF guide on how to use these devices effectively.

Park Rules

Before you get too excited about planning your campfires, take a look at the rules wherever you plan to camp. Whether it’s a campground or general camping space out in the woods, there are probably at least a few guidelines for campfire use.

Depending on where you plan to camp, there may be rules with regard to the size of your fire, or whether you can have campfires at all. It’s not uncommon for campgrounds in areas that are prone to wildfires to sometimes ban campfires altogether.

Essentially, don’t expect to be having large bonfires every night unless the rules (or lack thereof) in the area allow it.

How Much Firewood Do I Need For A Night And A Day Camping?

Short camping trips don’t tend to require too much wood. Depending on the size of the fire and how long you plan to keep it burning, a bundle or two can often be enough.

One of the biggest suggestions we received from other campers is to buy more than you think you’ll need, so if you’re really not certain how much wood you’ll go through, plan for more rather than less. If you realize you purchased more than you’re actually using, you can choose to enjoy your fire for longer, donate the remaining wood to a campground neighbor or leave it at the site for the next visitors.

Or, you can always pack it up and leave it for next time at that campground

How Much Firewood Do I Need In Cold Weather?

The weather can make a huge difference in how much firewood you’ll need when you’re camping. For tent campers in cold weather, the campfire is often the only source of heat available that doesn’t include cuddling up in blankets and sleeping bags for the entire day. If you actually want to be enjoy being outside, a campfire is necessary!

This is the time to pull out the stops. In the cold, it’s more likely that you’ll need a fire running for large parts of the day, if not for the entire day. Many people recommend somewhere between 3 and 5 bundles a day. Some even suggest as many as 7 bundles. Just keep in mind that the exact temperatures ultimately determine how much you’ll use.

There’s a special magic about being around a campfire in the cold. It’s an experience that brings you back to the roots of survival. Plus, roasted marshmallows in the cold are the most delicious for unknown reasons.

How Much Firewood Do I Need In Warm Weather?

Odds are, you’re not going to need anywhere near as much firewood in warm weather than you would in the cold. If you’re camping somewhere that is sure to reach 80+ during the day, you may only need a campfire in the evening.

Additionally, camping in the warm summer months also means the sun will be out for longer. Depending on how late you typically stay up, that might mean you only need enough wood for 2-3 hours at night before going to bed.

In these situations, it’s probably safe to assume you can get away with 2 or 3 bundles a day. Again, this depends on the exact temperatures and your personal campfire preferences. Some campers still enjoy warming up in the morning with a campfire for a while before the heat of the day sets in!

Also, if you’re planning to cook with your campfire that can impact how much wood you’ll need. Me and my wife get away with 2 bundles during Summer camping if we cook with the fire in the evening and cook with the fire for breakfast.

These fires aren’t bonfires, but we get them hot enough to enjoy sitting around it and hot enough to cook a meal.

How Much Firewood Do I Need For Cooking?

Ultimately, you’re going to want to think about what you’re cooking and how long it will take. If you’re only using the campfire for cooking and nothing else then you should be able to save on firewood pretty decently.

Generally, it’s a good idea to expect a bundle of wood to give you a solid fire for about an hour, sometimes two if you’re lucky. However, keep in mind that getting the fire started up can also take a little time.

Consequently, planning meals that won’t take hours to cook will be useful in keeping your firewood usage low. For example, if you’re just heating up a few hot dogs then you probably won’t even need an entire bundle.

Regardless of what you’re cooking, it never hurts to buy or pack more than you think you’ll need.

Whether you’re new to cooking over the campfire or just want a refresher, our article on campfire cooking is a great resource. Take a look at it here!

If we’re just using the fire for cooking, we will make a small log cabin fire (see the above link to find out what that is) as it burns slowly and it’s easy to put our cast iron skillets above it.

How To Make Firewood Last Longer

If you’re purchasing firewood near where you’re camping, it can get pretty expensive. Not to mention it can be hard to judge just how much you need for your trip. Aside from learning how long firewood tends to last, knowing how to make it last longer can really save the day when you realize you didn’t get quite enough.

Start With Softwoods

Many campers are familiar with the process of getting a fire started. It can take some time to get the coals hot enough for an effective flame. Often, you have to deal with quite a bit of smoke before you can sit around it comfortably or use it for cooking.

Instead of wasting your hardwoods on this part of the process, you may want to bring along some softwood twigs and branches. Because softwoods burn more quickly, they’ll be able to get your fire going more easily.

Once they’ve done their job, you can add in the hardwood for a fire that lasts longer.

Budget Your Firewood

Unless you have excess funds to purchase all the firewood you could ever need, or the space to bring along more than enough locally gathered wood, you may need to budget your firewood use.

That can mean limiting fires to when it’s dark out, placing a limit on how many logs you’ll use at a time, or the length of time you’re going to have a fire. There are several ways you can go about it, and they can all be worthwhile.

Start with the most basic timeframe – a single bundle can last up to 2 hours. From there, you may need to explore a bit in order to find out how to make your firewood last as long as possible. In time, you’ll get a better idea about just how much wood you’ll need for a typical camping trip.

Douse Your Fire When Not In Use

You may be tempted to just let your fire burn to ashes, but a super easy way to make your firewood go further is to douse the fire when you’re not using it.

A smoldering fire that can be given a second life if doused

This is a bit of an art, if you dump gallons of water on your wood, it’s going to be too wet to relight the next day. Douse it so the fire is out and the wood is cool to the touch, but try not to water-log your… logs. I guess that’s where that term comes from.

Consider The Shape Of The Fire

Experienced campers often swear by particular fire shapes. When I say “shape”, what I’m referring to is exactly how they set up the wood for a campfire.

You may be able to make a fire start with the firewood in a wide array of shapes, but some styles are more suited to different purposes. Some try to focus on designing the logs so that the fire is easier to cook on, while others try to create a fire that will last as long as possible.

If you are trying to make your fire last as long as possible, the worst possible fire style is the Teepee style. The Teepee fire promotes lots of oxygen, which causes the flames to go up fast and you’ll be wondering where your wonderful fire went.

When it comes to making your firewood last longer, you can try something like a pyramid shape or a style known as a Swedish torch. Both of these shapes are helpful for blocking the coals from any wind that may reach your fireplace.

If you’re uncertain how to put together these different fire types, REI offers a handy video on making a pyramid fire.

and iCreatables has a convenient video on making the Swedish torch fire:

Use Larger Logs

As you might expect, large logs take a longer time to burn completely than smaller pieces. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you should only use massive logs in your fire. There’s no guarantee that will work standard campfire setup you see in most campgrounds. Often the designated firepit doesn’t accommodate a huge stack of logs.

An example of the small size of a firepit in a park near us

Instead, use one larger log at the core of your fire. This log will continue to burn, meaning you’ll only have to replace the smaller pieces around it. Much like with softwoods and hardwoods, using a combination of wood sizes can help the firewood to last longer.

Keep The Wind Out

Keeping the coals hot is an important way to allow your campfire to burn efficiently. It keeps smoke to a minimum and ensures that the wood you choose to place on the fire is used in the most effective way possible.

In addition to setting up your fire in an effective way, you might want to use some tarps or other items to block excess wind entering your site. If you’re noticing that there’s a strong wind coming from a specific direction, blocking the wind on that side will keep you less windblown and help your fire to remain efficient, rather than wasting wood.

Wind brings oxygen, which will burn your fire too hot if you want your fire to last as long as possible.

Use Some Outside Tools

If you really want to get creative when making your firewood last, you can add some other ingredients to your fire that will help to keep the heat levels up without going through quite as much wood.

Adding some foil, rocks, and ash can be useful in keeping the heat flowing. Some campers use these items to create a campfire that will last longer than usual. Just make sure to use them in moderation, because these items are ones that can suffocate your fire.

It’s worth keeping in mind that rocks can sometimes cause problems when they’re added to a campfire. Luckily, our article on using rocks in your campfire without explosions can guide you through using them safely. Take a look at it here!

The idea is to create enough suffocation that the flames won’t blaze through all of your firewood, without putting it out completely. It’s also worth remembering that your fire might not look as impressive, but it can still provide warmth, light, and the ability to save on firewood.

The Best Kindling For A Campfire

For those who might be unfamiliar with what kindling actually is, it’s essentially the step between using tinder to get your fire started and adding in your larger, hardwood logs.

Tiny Kindling… the line between tinder and kindling and be vague

The idea is that when you’re starting a fire, you begin with small items that are easy to light, like dry grass, bark, leaves, and more. When these items catch the initial flame, you want to add something with a little more substance to the fire so that it can grow.

At this point, logs are going to be too large for a tiny fire to handle, which is why you’ll need some kindling. Basically, kindling involves small sticks that will allow the flames to grow without smothering them.

The most important aspect is that whatever sticks you use as kindling are dry. That way, the fire can consume them easily. You can use either softwood or hardwood sticks, but softwoods will likely be faster. If you can, try to have a stash of dried softwood twigs around that you can use as kindling in a pinch.

Peter

Peter is a software developer who loves to take every opportunity to go outside that he can get. Peter grew up going on long backpacking excursions with his family every Summer and now enjoys staying at the beautiful Texas State Parks and swimming in the amazing Texas Rivers.

Recent Content