Best Types of Wood for Outdoor Burning

A campsite just doesn’t feel complete without a nice fire. With just an axe or another appropriate, sharp tool, you can cut down green or standing dead wood, split it if necessary, and create a big stack of firewood for a fire. It keeps you safe and warm throughout the night, helps you dry moist or wet clothes, and allows you to prepare simple (or extravagant), delicious food to keep you going in the bush. By using just This article is about the best types of wood to burn outdoors.  We’ll look at a few types of wood that you’ll commonly find in North America and give you some tips so that you know how to choose and use the best wood in any situation.

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You’ll find pines growing all over North America. As such, pine is a plentiful resource for campers and hikers to use in their fires. The one great thing about pine is that it lights up fast and burns well. That is due to the pine resin it contains. It’ll go up in flames fast, even in wet weather, due to the extremely flammable nature of the resin.

The major drawback of pine is that it is terrible for cooking on – the resin goes up in the smoke, makes it black, sticks to food and changes the taste – as well as being very unhealthy for you. If you’re going to be cooking, try to use as little pine wood as possible. If pine is all you have, try to let it burn up as much as possible before cooking on it.

One thing that pine is also great for is that it is wonderful at starting fire – just use a bit of pine bark, resin, and fatwood (pine wood with a lot of sap in it) to create an excellent firestarter for other types of wood that you have.


Ash is historically widespread throughout central and eastern North America, and even green it burns well. That’s what makes it a great wood for burning when camping, bushcrafting, or hiking, if you can find it. It burns fast, though, so you’ll have to either find a lot of it or mix it in with some slower-burning wood such as oak, walnut, maple, hawthorn, or hickory.

Unfortunately, North American ash is threatened by an invasive species of beetle (the emerald ash borer) that it has no resistance to. As a result, ash numbers are declining throughout the North American continent. If you see an ash tree with large round holes in its bark, you know that it has been attacked by the EAB beetle. In this case, it’s almost certain that the tree is a goner and can be cut down and burned.


Birch is a wood that burns well and gives off good heat, but at the cost of burn time – this is not a slow-burning wood! It will burn green, however, and lights up with ease, so it’s a great choice of firewood when out in the bush or hiking a trail. Its papery bark is also great for starting fires, as it lights easily and can jumpstart kindling.

Other woods

If you come across fallen oak, maple, walnut or other hardwoods, don’t hesitate to add them to your campfire if the wood isn’t wet and rotten. Hawthorn contains little moisture and gives off great heat, as does hickory. It is, of course, preferable to burn wood that is dry and has seasoned for at least 8 to 9 months (softwoods) or a year and more (hardwoods).

In a survival situation, of course, it might not be possible to use such seasoned wood, so you’ll have to make do with what you come across. All the above-mentioned woods burn well and will provide you with a good fire, as long as you know how to use them in a fire. You won’t be able to get a good fire going out of green oak alone, but if you combine pine, birch, and oak, you’ll be able to get a crackling fire going in a short time and then stretch it out throughout the night if you thrown a piece of green hardwood (the oak) into it.

Hopefully this article helped – please share your wood preferences in the comments below! It’s always good to hear and exchange personal experiences and thoughts regarding survival and making yourself comfortable in difficult situations. Thanks for reading!

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Michael Culligan

I am a lumber worker who performs logging services for the forestry industry. I have spent years honing my skills and experience to become a well-rounded axeman. I'm exited to share my knowledge of axes and lumber tools with everyone to help.