When you go camping, one of the most important and iconic features of camping is the campfire. It provides warmth, comfort, light, helps to keep the biting bugs away, and you can cook on it. When you are getting a campfire going, you want a big, bright, and hot flame, so here we have compiled a list of the 9 best woods that burn the brightest for your fire.
For the brightest flames, hottest fires, and longest-lasting burns, hardwoods are best. They burn bright, create less smoke and creosote, and produce hotter, brighter fires. Firewood from hickory, beech, pine, hawthorn, oak, birch, dogwood, maple, and fruit trees burn the brightest.
With so many options now for firewood, how can you tell which ones will bring on the brightest flames? Continue reading on as we have compiled a list of which wood will burn the brightest in your campfire or fireplace.
Why Are Bright Flames Beneficial?
Since the dawn of time, people have had a fascination with fire. It keeps us warm, cooks our food, and in the early days, fire-protected our ancestors from predators, so it’s only natural that we feel comfortable around a fire. When we start a fire in the fireplace or at the campsite, we want bright flames, and here’s why.
Bright Flames Typically Mean Hotter Fires
A good bed of coals is great for cooking and toasting marshmallows, though tall flames can set your marshmallows on fire, turning them into knobs of flaming napalm. The bright flame is what we want when we are all gathered around the fire. They light up the campsite and provide warmth for everyone while keeping wild animals away.
I’m sure we have all heard the term “white-hot,” while technically the blue-violet flame is the hottest, a white flame is still over a thousand degrees. When it comes to wood-burning fires in your fireplace or at the campsite, a brighter flame is hotter than the glowing bed or orange coals.
You do not want a small, smoldering fire in your house or at the campsite. It does not provide the benefits of a clean, bright, efficient fire.
The USDA addresses this in their article; Fuel Efficiency & Conservation–Firewood, that you should not allow your fire to smolder. A low, smoldering fire creates a lot of pollution because the low temperature doesn’t allow for proper combustion. You get more smoke and unburned wood being swept up the chimney and into the air.
Brighter Firewood Is Cleaner
Brighter flames signify a cleaner fire. When the wood burns hot and clean and you can see the flames, it signifies a healthy fire. You have probably noticed when the firewood is too wet, or you do not have a good bed of coals for your fire, it usually smokes more. Thick smoke will chase away the bugs, but it will chase away people gathered around the fire as well.
When burning in a fireplace, the last thing you want is a smoky fire. Smoke carries larger particulates, which can stick to the sides of your chimney. This means you have to service your chimney more often by having the deposits cleaned off. You also do not want smoke wafting through your house smelling the place up and leaving everything looking dingy.
Now, some of the firewoods below while they do burn clean, should not be burnt inside and should be used for outdoor firewood. We’ll cover that in the list below!
9 Brightest Burning Firewoods
Without further ado, let’s get to the best and brightest burning firewoods!
1. Hickory Is The Brightest Burning Firewood
Topping the list of bright burning firewood is hickory. This firewood is among the best firewood you can find for all your wood burning needs. Hickory provides a lot of heat, slow burn, and a bright flame.
Hickory is a very dense wood and may take some time to get burning, but once this hardwood has caught flame, the bright flames dancing around this wood cannot be beaten. You will get a long burn and a pleasant smoky aroma that might have you thinking about smoking some meats around this campfire instead of s’mores.
To add some more heat to the fire, hickory is also #1 on our list of the best overall firewoods to burn!
2. Beech Wood Burns Hot And Clean
Beech is another excellent choice for bright burning fires. This hardwood throws off bright yellow flames when it’s burned. It may not be as dense or long-lasting as hickory, but you probably will not notice the slight difference.
Beech firewood burns clean and also has a pleasant odor when burned. It rarely sparks and leaves a good bed of embers, so you might still have warm enough coals in the morning to start breakfast rather quickly.
3. Fruit Woods Smell Fantastic When Burned
Fruit woods include favorites such as cherry, apple, or plum trees. When you cut these trees for firewood, they make great, bright flames you can watch burn for extended periods. Of the fruit woods used for firewood, apple wood is the king here.
Apple wood smells great, burns hotter than most other fruit woods, and burns brightest among them all. Cherry wood is also a great smelling—probably the best smelling in my opinion—long-burning firewood, but it does not quite compare to apple wood’s heat and brightness.
4. Pine: The Bright Burning Softwood
Pine is a softwood and comes with some cautions when you choose to burn this wood. First off, you should only use pine as kindling when burning it inside. Pine contains a lot of resinous sap, which can make it smoke quite a bit, and will cause creosote to build up quickly in a fireplace or wood-burning stove.
As a firewood, you should only burn pine outside.
However, pine burns with a bright flame. The downsides are heavier smoke than most hardwoods, burning hot and fast, and plenty of sap pockets, which pop and send sparks everywhere.
Pine is good in a pinch, and you can find pines almost everywhere. You will frequently find broken limbs lying around when you are out gathering wood and kindling for your campsite.
5. Hawthorn Is An All-Around Great Choice
Hawthorn is great firewood for all-around purposes. The downside to hawthorn is it is not very prevalent, and it has menacing, 3” thorns. Although, it is a very bright burning, hot firewood! Maybe because it seems to be a tree from hell with all those thorns.
Jokes aside, hawthorn firewood is a dense, hot burning, long-lasting, bright burning firewood, and it would make a great addition to any fireplace or campfire. If you have any of these trees on your property and are thinking of chopping them down, consider making them firewood. It would be a superb choice.
6. Oak: The Middle Of The Road Firewood
Oak firewood is an amazing firewood for all the right reasons. Therefore, you will see oak time and again on nearly any firewood list. Oak firewood is dense, burns hot and clean, does not pop, has a neutral odor, and burns bright in any setting. Oak is also very prevalent nearly anywhere you live.
You can find out where the specific species of oak trees in your area fall on our tiered list of the 10 best oak firewoods here.
If you weigh oak firewood solely for how bright it burns, it’s still in the middle of the pack. When burned, it produces solid, bright flames. You will not have to wear your sunglasses at night when you burn it, but it will still produce nice, pleasing, bright flames.
7. Birch Bark Is A Great Fire Starter
Birch firewood is a decent choice for how bright it burns. Overall, as a firewood birch is a pretty good choice as it burns clean, burns pretty hot, and does not spit sparks often. It also has a pleasant smell when burned.
The bark, if collected, is a natural tinder and firestarter because of the peeling, papery effect. Birch firewood is a good choice if used in a fireplace or wood-burning stove and certainly has a nice, bright flame when burned outdoors in your firepit or campfire.
8. Dogwood Trees Make An Excellent Bright Fire
Yep, you read that right, dogwood makes a great, bright burning firewood. There are people out there who use it as firewood, but since dogwoods are mostly ornamental trees, most people, myself included, have never burned this tree as firewood.
If you have dogwood trees and they have been destroyed by a terrible storm, or have reached the end of their life cycle, then it’s a brilliant choice to save for firewood. The wood is dense, and it burns hot, leaving you with a bright flame. The only reason it is not higher on the list is that dogwood firewood can be difficult to find.
9. Maple Firewood Burns Bright
Maple comes in last because of all the previous firewoods on the list, its flame is still bright, but just not as great as the others. This does not mean maple firewood is subpar in any way; it is a wonderful firewood.
Maple firewood is a fantastic choice for firewood. It is a dense, good-smelling firewood and works great in your fireplace, wood-burning stove, and outdoor fire. Some people, depending on the variety, say they smell maple syrup when they burn this wood.
This checks out since the sugar maple is where the mouth-watering syrup originates from.
As far as bright flames jumping off your firewood, maple is not a great choice, but it is not an awful choice. If you have maple around your house or can find it for sale, go ahead and pick some up. It will not disappoint you.
To add some more heat to maple trees here, it comes in as the #2 slowest burning firewood on our top 10 list.
2 Tricks For A Brighter Fire
Even if you have firewood that isn’t blazing with eye-piercing, bright flames, you can still make the flames just a tad bit brighter with the way you burn them. If you throw your logs in the fire without caring how they land, you will get them to burn, but below, we have two ways to capitalize on fire dynamics to get brighter flames.
1. The Teepee
The shape of the teepee works best for outdoor fires, but the conical shape helps to increase the number of flames, thus giving you a brighter fire. The way to get it started is to ball up your fire starter in the middle, then stack small pieces of tinder around the tinder in a cone shape. Once the fire has taken off, continue to stack your firewood in this fashion when the flame gets low, to keep a bright fire burning.
This shape increases the surface area of the wood, so there is more space for flames to take hold. More flames means a brighter fire, so even if you have firewood that does not burn as intensely, you can manipulate the fire to make it brighter.
The only problem with the teepee method is you have to put a few logs in at a time to keep them standing on end, and it can fall over after the wood burns for a while. As long as you have a good fire ring, there is little danger of sparks and flying embers.
2. The Log Cabin
The log cabin stacking method works for fireplaces as well as outdoors and is a little more stable than the teepee stack method. It starts with your fire starter or tinder inside, but you lay two logs flat on either side, then stack two more logs on the ends of the first pieces.
Those of you who used to play with Lincoln Logs as a kid know this method intimately.
Keep alternating stacks until you have three or four stacks high. Laying the logs this way forces more airflow through the gaps in the firewood and helps to create a bright burning stack of firewood. When the flames die down, add two more logs and they will light up and quickly knock the darkness back again.
3. Don’t Smother Your Fire
For a fire to keep burning, it needs three things; heat, fuel (firewood), and oxygen. If you stack your firewood too closely or too densely, then you restrict airflow and that can smother your fire, or even prevent it from really taking off. A smoldering fire you cannot get to catch on is no fun, as the smoke will have everyone choking and running off to do other things.
When you start your fire, and when adding logs to an existing fire, keep airflow in mind. Leave plenty of space between the fresh pieces of wood you throw on there and the existing flames, and you will continue to have a bright burning, pleasing fire.
Here’s a Little Something For Added Campfire Fun
A fireplace or outdoor fire can be a great place for friends and family to gather, hang out, and have fun. Whether you have beverages in hand, are roasting weenies, or toasting marshmallows for s’mores, the warm ambiance of a fire cannot be beaten.
Unless, of course, you add in a little fun to your fire. Put one of these packets into your fire and watch the colors change before your eyes with these Magical Flames. Just toss the unopened packs into the fire and watch the colorful show they have in store for you!
This Fire Has Burned Out!
There we have it. The 9 best woods that burn the brightest for your fire burning needs. You cannot go wrong with oak, hickory is one of the hottest, and brightest burning hardwoods out there, and beech and fruit woods work wonderfully to burn off the encroaching darkness.
Go out there, have fun outdoors or inside with a bright burning, warmth-giving fire. Just be responsible whenever you burn firewood.
Ramos, M. A., de Medeiros, P. M., de Almeida, A. L. S., Feliciano, A. L. P., & de Albuquerque, U. P. (2008). Can wood quality justify local preferences for firewood in an area of caatinga (dryland) vegetation?. Biomass and Bioenergy, 32(6), 503-509.
Abbot, P., et al. “Defining firewood quality: A comparison of quantitative and rapid appraisal techniques to evaluate firewood species from a southern African savanna.” Biomass and Bioenergy 12.6 (1997): 429-437.
Collier, Kathy, and Larry W. Turner. “Obtaining, Seasoning & Burning Wood: Part One in a Series on Wood as a Fuel Source.” (1979).
Chen, Y., and T. C. Bond. “Light absorption by organic carbon from wood combustion.” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 10.4 (2010): 1773-1787.
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