Choosing the Best Firewood

Firewood seems like a simple choice: find wood and burn it. It can be that simple, but if you want a really great, long-lasting fire, you should choose wood carefully for size and type to start your fire and keep it burning for a long time.


Starter should be wood shavings, straw, and even steel wool. Ok, so steel wool isn’t wood, but the ideas is that your starter should be ultra-fine materials that will catch a spark and light on fire. This is a material that you will need to keep very dry and clean.

The best way to make sure that you have starter for the next day is to gather it and dry it the night before. For example, take up whittling. As you carve a wooden masterpiece, keep the shavings off the ground and dry. When you wake in the morning or in the afternoon after a day of hiking, you can easily start a fire with a single match or flint and steel.


This should be small, about finger diameter sticks of softwood, like pine. If you’re using actually branches, scrape off the bark and put it with your starter. The bark can be harder to light.

The purpose of the kindling is to create a lot of flame and heat. This is the fire that you will add the next layer of wood to.


The branches will range from about one inch in diameter to the size of your wrist. You will want this to be relatively dry, but not too green or waterlogged. The middling is how you will create coals for the large pieces that will burn for hours. Middling can be made of dry hardwood; that will create long-lasting coals that will stay hot for hours.


Depending on how large your fire is at this point, you can put very large pieces on the fire. If you have a piece of wood that’s extremely large, set it on the edge of the fire and let the flames slowly burn their way in the wood. You can push it forward as it burns. This applies to long branches that you can’t cut.

Green Wood

If you have a lot of green wood, you should put it near or above the fire. If you can suspend it a few feet above the fire, the heat will dry it out without burning it. Also, be sure that the green wood is exposed to the sun all day so that it’s ready to be burned in the evening.

For the most part, people don’t give a great deal of thought to the firewood that they use, but if it’s your only source of heat and safety, you need to put thought into the process.

Important note: Be sure to obey any local laws regarding wood and transportation. In some places, you can only use wood that is locally purchased. In other places, building a fire is strictly forbidden. Make sure you know what you’re doing and what’s allowed. Of course, keep your fire under control; you don’t want to be the cause of a massive forest fire.