Building a fire, campfire, man sitting next to it.
Photo by Francisco Perez Carrasco
Building a fire requires good wood for a reliable source of fuel.

Since the dawn of time, the control of fire is one of mankind’s greatest achievements, and because of it, he was able to cook his meals, extend the day’s light, ward off predators, and keep warm. However, which kind of wood should do you use when building a fire. Obviously, in an emergency situation, the best wood is the closest wood. However, does your firewood need to last all night? Do you need coals for cooking? Or do you just want to light up the campsite? For each circumstance, there are different kinds of wood that present different benefits.

Collecting the right wood is essential in building an efficient fire, and since there are hundreds of types of trees around the world, not all if it makes for a good source of firewood. Here are a few examples of popular woods available for building a fire.

Good for Building a Fire

  • Ash: Best burning wood; has both flame and heat, and will even bum when green.
  • Birch: The heat is good but it burns quickly. The smell is pleasant.
  • Cedar: Burns small when dry, but will burn for a long time. It produces crackling a popping sounds.
  • Maple: This wood produces a good flame with a high heat output.
  • Oak: Dry old oak is excellent for heat; it burns slowly and steadily.
  • Pine: Bums with a good flame, but the sap content causes the wood to spit.
  • Sycamore: Burns with a good flame and moderate heat but needs to be well dried.
Building a fire, firewood, campfire
Building a fire, depending on what you want to accomplish, can only be done effectively if you have good wood to start with.


Not Good for Building a Fire

  • Alder: Doesn’t provide a great deal of heat because it burns quickly.
  • Beech: A rival to ash in heat and flame, but does not burn well when green. It produces a great deal of embers.
  • Chestnut: Produces a small flame and very little heating power.
  • Fir: Not a good burning wood. Makes a small flame and very little heat.
  • Elder: This is a very smoky wood that burns quick with little heat.
  • Elm: In order to burn well, it needs to be very dry (as it contains a lot of moisture).
  • Poplar: A very smoky wood with low heat production.
  • Spruce: Burns too quickly and with too many sparks.
  • Willow: This is a poor burning wood, even when dry.

Check out the latest issue of Survivor’s Edge magazine (Winter 2019) on sale Oct. 2. Get your copy at

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