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How to Pick Wood for a Campfire

Learn how to pick wood for a campfire from Heather Menicucci, author of Let's Get Primitive: The Urban Girl's Guide to Camping, in this Howcast video.


There’s three kinds of wood that you are going to need to start a fire. There’s really small, pencil-sized twigs, and this stuff, along with broken up leaves, even paper that you might have lying around from camp, that stuff is all tinder. It's the stuff that lights really easily and helps to keep the fire going long enough that the bigger stuff can burn.

This, something that is kind of a pepperoni width, or like a baguette width, this is the kindling. You need a good pile of sticks like this, too. These guys, the tinder, burn up real easy, and they are going to get these guys going, then these are going to take a little bit longer to burn.

Then you also need logs. If you are lucky, like where we are today, they have been cutting down some of the dead trees, so they just chop it up and they leave it around for campers to take, which is awesome. That's not always the case. Obviously if you are in a forest in the middle of nowhere, that's not going to be the case, so that's why it is great to have like a camping saw or a hatchet, something that you could use to cut up bigger pieces of wood into more manageable pieces. But these are the three types of wood that you are going to need to get your fire going.

This stuff burns up first, this stuff burns up second, and then this stays lit long enough that it gets these big guys going, and then this is the fuel. This is the stuff that is going to keep you warm and keep the fire going, and allow you to actually cook over the fire. If you don't get logs like this burning, then you're not going to be able to cook and you're not going to have a fire that goes all night. Some tips on gathering wood.

First, you don't want to go over to a tree and chop off any branches. It’s, "Take only pictures, leave only footprints," and don't damage wildlife, trees, anything. You want to look for fallen branches all over the ground where you are. A good place to look is under trees, obviously, and also under bushes, because if it’s been raining where you are, those have been protected from the rain probably. You can often find some dry stuff under bushes.

Just send out the troops, everybody just sort of divides up and starts looking, and you make your piles. I like to keep everything organized by the fire, it just makes building the fire really easy. The rule of thumb is that if it breaks easy, if you can really hear it snap, which you can, it's going to burn really easy. Anything that’s green or wet or too bendy, that stuff isn't going to burn as well.

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