Are you planning a camping trip by the lake and wondering what kind of firewood to bring? In this beginner’s guide to lake camping, we will discuss the importance of choosing the right firewood for a successful camping experience. We will explore the different types of firewood available, their characteristics, and which ones are best suited for cooking, warmth, or ambiance. By the end of this article, you will have a clear understanding of how to select the perfect firewood for your next lake camping adventure.

Why is choosing the right firewood important for lake camping?

When it comes to lake camping, having a cozy campfire is one of the highlights of the whole experience. Whether you’re roasting marshmallows, warming up on a chilly evening, or simply enjoying the crackling sounds and flickering flames, the campfire adds an extra element of magic to your outdoor adventure. But in order to have a successful campfire, you need to choose the right firewood.

What factors should be considered when selecting firewood for lake camping?

Wood Types

The first factor to consider when selecting firewood for lake camping is the type of wood. There are three main categories: hardwood, softwood, and mixed wood. Hardwood, such as oak or maple, burns longer and produces more heat, making it ideal for cooking meals or keeping warm for an extended period of time. Softwood, such as pine or spruce, ignites quickly and produces a bright, lively flame, making it perfect for starting the fire. Mixed wood is a combination of both hardwood and softwood, offering a balance between burn time and ease of ignition.

Moisture Content

Moisture content is another important factor to consider when choosing firewood for lake camping. Wet or green wood contains a high amount of moisture, making it difficult to ignite and produce a strong flame. It also creates a lot of smoke, which can be bothersome to both you and your neighboring campers. On the other hand, dry or seasoned wood has a lower moisture content and burns more efficiently, producing less smoke and providing a consistent heat output.

Burn Time

The burn time of the firewood is also crucial when selecting wood for lake camping. Long burn time wood, such as oak or hickory, will last for hours, allowing you to enjoy your campfire without constantly needing to add more logs. Medium burn time wood, like birch or beech, will burn for a moderate amount of time, usually a couple of hours. Short burn time wood, such as pine or cedar, is perfect for a quick campfire or when you only need a small amount of heat.


The fragrance of the firewood can also enhance your lake camping experience. Some firewood types, like cedar or applewood, produce pleasant aromas that can add a touch of nature to your surroundings. However, it’s important to note that some people may be sensitive to strong smells, so it’s best to avoid firewood with overpowering fragrances if you’re camping in close proximity to other campers.


Lastly, consider the availability of the firewood in the area where you’ll be lake camping. It’s essential to choose firewood that is locally sourced or readily available at camping supply stores. This ensures that you’re not introducing invasive species or transporting pests that may harm the local ecosystem. Additionally, buying firewood locally supports the local economy and reduces transportation emissions.

Choosing The Right Firewood: A Beginners Guide To Lake Camping

What are the different types of firewood suitable for lake camping?


Hardwood, such as oak, maple, or hickory, is an excellent choice for lake camping due to its long burn time and high heat output. These dense woods provide a steady source of heat and create a bed of hot coals, making them ideal for cooking meals over an open fire. They also produce less smoke compared to softwood, resulting in a cleaner and more enjoyable campfire experience.


Softwood, such as pine or spruce, is a popular option for starting a campfire due to its quick ignition properties. It has a high resin content, which aids in the easy lighting of the fire. Softwood produces a lively flame that dances and crackles, creating a cozy ambiance. However, it burns relatively fast, so it’s best used in combination with hardwood for a longer-lasting fire.

Mixed Wood

Mixed wood is a combination of both hardwood and softwood. It offers the best of both worlds by providing a balance between burn time and ease of ignition. This type of firewood is versatile and can be used for various purposes, whether you want a quick fire for warmth or a longer-lasting fire for cooking. It’s a convenient option if you don’t have access to a specific type of wood or want to mix different wood types for a unique campfire experience.

How does the moisture content affect firewood for lake camping?

High Moisture Content

Firewood with a high moisture content, also known as wet or green wood, can be challenging to ignite and sustain a fire. The excess moisture prevents the wood from reaching its ignition point easily, resulting in a smoky and inefficient fire. Wet wood also produces less heat compared to dry wood, making it difficult to warm up or cook food effectively. Moreover, the excess moisture creates more smoke, which can be bothersome and contribute to poor air quality in the camping area.

Low Moisture Content

On the other hand, firewood with a low moisture content, also called seasoned or dry wood, is the preferred choice for lake camping. Seasoned wood has been properly dried, allowing it to ignite quickly, burn efficiently, and produce a strong flame with minimal smoke. It provides a higher heat output and longer burn time compared to wet wood, ensuring a more enjoyable and efficient campfire experience.

Seasoning Firewood

To ensure you have the right firewood for lake camping, it’s important to properly season your wood. Seasoning firewood involves allowing it to dry out naturally over a period of time, typically a minimum of six months to a year. This process reduces its moisture content and increases its energy content, resulting in a higher-quality firewood. You can season firewood by storing it in a dry, well-ventilated area, such as a woodshed or covered structure, where it will be exposed to air circulation.

Choosing The Right Firewood: A Beginners Guide To Lake Camping

What is the burn time of different firewood types for lake camping?

Long Burn Time

Hardwood, such as oak or hickory, offers a long burn time, typically lasting several hours. This makes it ideal for situations where you want a sustained heat source, like when cooking meals or providing warmth during colder evenings. Hardwood produces a slow-burning fire that generates a bed of hot coals, maintaining a consistent heat output over an extended period of time.

Medium Burn Time

Some firewood types, like birch or beech, have a medium burn time, usually lasting a couple of hours. These woods are suitable when you want a moderate amount of heat for a shorter duration, such as when gathering around the campfire for storytelling or enjoying some s’mores. They provide a reliable flame that burns steadily without requiring constant tending.

Short Burn Time

Softwood, such as pine or cedar, has a relatively short burn time. It ignites quickly and produces an immediate burst of flames, making it ideal for starting the fire or creating a quick blaze for warmth. Softwood is perfect for shorter activities like boiling water for hot beverages or heating up a small cooking pot. However, it’s important to have additional wood on hand if you want a longer-lasting fire.

What fragrances are desirable in firewood for lake camping?

Pleasant Fragrances

Choosing firewood with pleasant fragrances can add an extra level of enjoyment to your lake camping experience. Woods like cedar, applewood, or cherrywood release a delightful aroma when burned, immersing you in the natural scents of the outdoors. These wood types can enhance the ambiance of your campsite and create a more immersive and sensory experience.

Avoiding Strong Smells

While some campers enjoy the pleasant fragrances of certain firewood types, it’s important to consider the preferences of others in the camping area. Strong smells from firewood, such as mesquite or some fruitwoods, can overpower the surroundings and may not be appreciated by everyone. It’s best to choose firewood with more subtle fragrances or to check with nearby campers to ensure they don’t have any sensitivities or preferences.

Choosing The Right Firewood: A Beginners Guide To Lake Camping

Where can you find and buy suitable firewood for lake camping?

Local Wood Vendors

One of the best ways to find suitable firewood for lake camping is to source it from local wood vendors. These vendors often offer a variety of firewood options, including hardwood, softwood, and mixed wood. By buying from local vendors, you can support the local economy and reduce the environmental impact of transporting firewood over long distances. Local vendors can also provide guidance on the best choices for your specific camping needs.

Online Retailers

If you prefer the convenience of shopping from home, many online retailers offer firewood for sale. These retailers provide detailed descriptions of the firewood types, including their burn time, moisture content, and fragrance. However, it’s important to consider the carbon footprint associated with shipping firewood long distances, as well as the potential for introducing invasive species to new areas.

Camping Supply Stores

Most camping supply stores also carry firewood specifically designed for campfires. These stores often stock firewood that is suitable for both starting and sustaining a fire, ensuring you have everything you need for a successful campfire experience. Additionally, the staff at these stores can offer advice and recommendations based on their expertise and knowledge of the local camping area.

How to properly store firewood for lake camping?

Covering and Protecting

Properly storing firewood is crucial to ensure it remains dry and ready for use. Start by covering the top of the woodpile with a tarp or a waterproof cover to protect it from rain or snow. This prevents the wood from absorbing moisture, which can make it difficult to ignite. It also protects the wood from direct sunlight, which can cause it to dry out too quickly and become brittle.

Stacking and Ventilation

Stacking the firewood properly is important for ventilation and airflow. Place the logs in a crisscross pattern, creating gaps between each piece to allow for better circulation. This allows the wood to dry evenly and reduces the risk of mold or pests. Avoid stacking the woodpile against a wall or a structure that limits airflow and instead position it in an open area where it can receive proper ventilation.

Keeping it Dry

In addition to covering and stacking, it’s essential to store your firewood in a dry location. Choose an area that is sheltered from the elements, such as a woodshed, garage, or covered structure. This ensures that the firewood remains protected from rain, snow, and excessive humidity. Avoid storing firewood directly on the ground, as this can lead to moisture absorption from the soil. Instead, use a raised platform or pallet to keep the wood off the ground and maintain its dry condition.

Choosing The Right Firewood: A Beginners Guide To Lake Camping

Can you use fallen branches and driftwood for lake camping?

Safety Precautions

Using fallen branches for your campfire can be a convenient and environmentally friendly option. However, it’s important to consider safety precautions when collecting fallen wood. Look for branches that are sturdy and free from rot or decay. Avoid using branches that are too large or heavy, as they can create unstable fires or cause injury when they collapse. Always handle fallen branches with caution and wear gloves if necessary.

Considerations for Driftwood

Driftwood, which is wood that has been washed up on the shore by water currents, can also be used for lake camping fires. However, there are a few considerations to keep in mind. Firstly, make sure that the driftwood is free from any coatings, such as paint or varnish, as these can release harmful fumes when burned. Secondly, be aware of any local regulations or restrictions on collecting driftwood, as some areas may have specific rules in place to protect the environment.


Choosing the right firewood is essential for a successful and enjoyable lake camping experience. Consider the type of wood, moisture content, burn time, fragrance, and availability when selecting firewood. Hardwood offers a long burn time and high heat output, while softwood ignites quickly and produces a lively flame. Mixed wood provides a balance between the two. Low moisture content ensures efficient burning, and properly seasoned wood improves the overall quality of your fire. Pleasant fragrances can enhance the atmosphere, but it’s important not to overpower the surroundings. Local wood vendors, online retailers, and camping supply stores are all excellent sources for firewood. Properly store your firewood by covering and protecting it, stacking it for ventilation, and keeping it in a dry location. Fallen branches and driftwood can be used, but it’s crucial to prioritize safety and consider any regulations in place. With the right firewood, you can create memorable moments around the campfire during your lake camping adventure.

Choosing The Right Firewood: A Beginners Guide To Lake Camping


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