Backwoods Campfires 101

Campfires are the most important aspect of the camping experience. Even car camping has an abundance of campfires, but in the backwoods, it’s a survival tool. We will explore some tips and tricks for backwood campfires. Let’s look at softwood vs. hardwood, and some of the best fire starters you might find out in the backwoods.

Softwood Campfires

Softwood fires are big and smokey, they are typically easier to get going but are more labor-intensive. Most fires you will have when backwoods camping in Canada will be softwood as it’s more available to lay around on the forest floor. Typical softwood trees will be pine and cedar or any needle-type tree, the scientific term would be coniferous trees. Softwoods tend to smoke more because they are less dense than their hardwood counterparts. They also contain more sap which makes it harder to oxygenate the wood to burn it efficiently. In the backwoods I suggest to start out with softwood just to get you going, but when its time to cook, switch to hardwood!

Hardwood Campfires

Once your campfire is rocking and rolling, you will want to switch to hardwood. The key to good burning hardwood is trying to find the dry stuff. So look for dead maple, oak, and other deciduous trees that are well covered by the canopy. I recommend chopping up these trees with your folding saw and letting the pieces dry near your softwood fire. The beauty of hardwood is that it burns longer and hotter, yielding less smoke and more heat to keep you warm.

Fire Starters

When you first find a spot to set up your camp you should begin gathering wood. While you are out looking for wood you should keep your eye out for easy fire starters. Good starters for backwoods campfires are birchbark, dried cedars, and any fluff from milkweed or cattails. The goal of the fire starter is to be an easy light and develop heat quickly. Needless to say, do not peel the bark from living trees. I would also caution against dry pine needles or leaves because the trapped moisture and the sap will cause a lot of smoke and not allow quick heat development.

Winter Backwoods Campfires

The video below shows a neat trick for winter campfires. Jason builds a reflective wall in his video which serves two purposes. The wall will keep the wind-down and off the fire so that it can stay big and keep heat internally. Secondly, it reflects the heat back to Jason as he sits in his den, keeping him warmer for longer. You can use this trick in the backwoods when the nights start getting colder and you need some added heat.

Looking for other camping tips and tricks? Check out our camping page!

1 thought on “Backwoods Campfires 101”

  1. An intriguing discussion is definitely worth comment. I think that you should publish more about this topic, it might not be a taboo subject but generally people do not speak about these subjects. To the next! All the best!!

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