Activities | Camp
You've got your camping gear & the perfect destination all mapped out, now all you need is to gas up the car, shop for groceries & oh yeah, firewood. Make sure you bring your own camp fire wood (at least one nights worth). See below on where to expect to buy wood, obtaining a firewood permit & all the various types of wood. Learn all you need to know about camp fire wood (including where to find free wood)
This California fire wood list is also a great resource for those who heat their homes with firewood: Wood burning stoves or Fireplaces. Bookmark it today!
Where to find Firewood
|The most comprehensive list of firewood dealers in all
Click the regions to the left to find a wood supplier in your town or on the road along the way.
Small town general stores & National Park services and tourists towns are out to make their money off of seasonal campers buying food, firewood & forgotten personal items. These places tend to be extremely overpriced. This is where your so called "cheap camping trip" ends up costing a lot more than you expected. Plan ahead. Buy large quantities of firewood for a better price & have some left over for the next trip. Rural residents buy from locals who advertise locally on bulletin boards or local towns newspapers, or they collect their own in the forests.
The Night Run
Gathering wood at night while camping? (hey, it happens) Sometimes you need to make a night run. Nope, not to the general store for beer; for more firewood. Free wood in the wild forest w/ the wild animals. Bring a crew! Take your work GLOVES & hands-free Head Lamp. This way you are not tripping ahead, spilling all your valuable collections. Traipsing up a hillside in the dark gathering firewood is no easy task. Believe me, Miss Experienced. Gardening or work gloves are always a big savior. No fun in digging splinters out, after dinner, in the dark, without tweezers, by campfire light. Nuthin' a lil whiskey won't fix.
||Drown that Puppy!
Don't forget to thoroughly saturate that camp fire. Listen for sizzles and bubbling, keep pouring. You do not wanna be responsible for the seasons biggest wild fire on the 10 o'clock news. Remember, you can be held legally liable for an outta control fire that you cause.
HINT: your melted ice chest water is a source.
|Remember: Always bring at least one small bundle of wood & kindling, no matter how good the wood collecting is. Best for each vehicle to have a minimum of one bundle.
Heavily camped areas, even a few months outta the year, can be slim pickins for easy firewood. You may need to walk well away from your campsite to find a decent stash. Plus it's possible to go "off the beaten path" in your vehicle for a 'firewood run' and before sunset is always best.
||DRY & /or DOWN wood is usually depending on several factors:
- how wet is it? how much snow is still on the ground. how late were last seasons storms?
- do you have an adequate saw?
- your vehicle's clearance, 2WD dirt road exploration & willingness to hike off trail more than 20 feet
You can also try the area Visitors Center for local knowledge snow/weather conditions. Instead of hoping for the best circumstance, know the real conditions.
|Down or Downed Wood - This is fallen limbs, dried, ready to pick up, haul off & burn. Sunny locations are best, so look at the south west base of a old tree & the further back the better. If you break branches off of trees, make sure they are already dead limbs.
Campfire Burning Permits & Firewood Cutting Permits - Some experienced campers cringe when they see the signs: "Campfires in Developed Campgrounds Only." Crap! This means fire restrictions are in place; high fire dangers in California, usually in summer & fall months.
A wet year in California can mean great back country camping: Dispersed primitive style camping on almost any back road in most National Forest lands. Free to camp outside campgrounds means that you take on way more responsibility for your rural camp site: cleaning up trash, as well as obtaining a free camp fire permit at a local ranger station ahead of time.
Wanna bring the chain saw out & cut your own down wood, best look into getting a firewood cutting permit too.firewood cutting permits: Get a firewood cutting permit from the authorities in the local NF. Call ahead at the rangers station for any restrictions.
The Firewood Shortage:
As more & more people head into the forest for their weekend camping trips, rules get tougher & finding wood in the wilderness can be a rough job.
National Parks - will not allow you to cut or even gather down wood. You must bring your own
National Forests - allow cutting of big dead wood - with a cutting permit in posted areas. Campers can usually collect down wood unless otherwise posted.
State Parks - check with the rangers on fire regulations and gathering. Most State Park do not allow wood collecting
Anza Borrego SP does allow primitive camping almost anywhere, but does not allow ground fires. Bring a metal container to burn your fire in & take your ashes with you.
BLM - fires are allowed just about anywhere safe in a rock ring, always use good judgment. Check with local officials for exact regulations.
Rock Rings - a clearing 10 feet in diameter with a small wall of rocks to keep the fire contained. This practice is not allowed in National Park or State Park campgrounds at all, unless you are a backpacker in the back country. Self-made campfire rings are limited in Southern California to some fire safe areas in the National Forests & State Parks Check with Rangers or Park Regulations to find out if campfires are even allowed in dispersed areas. Most of the season you will see the yellow & red posted signs "Campfires in Developed Campgrounds Only."
tip Check with the Ranger & KNOW THE RULES regarding campfire and the high fire dangers. Fire season in California can be deadly &/or cost a small fortune. Do not be the cause of terrible destruction, you could be legally responsible.
DO NOT TO MOVE FIREWOOD: As of recent decades, authorities are advising - not to move firewood around the state. Insects and diseases can be spread from one forest to another and this practice can harm ecosystems. Visually check your wood (before loading it in your vehicle) to make sure it is free of pests and infection. dontmovefirewood.org/map/california/
Hardwoods vs. Softwoods for Firewood
burns longer & hotter
tips: Oak & Incense Cedar smell the best when burning at a campfire. Eucalyptus smoke can irritate lungs.
burns fast & splits easy
- Douglas Fir
- Pine (Jeffrey, Ponderosa, Pinyon, Sugar)
Manzanita is a protected wood. It is illegal to cut or burn it. Hard burgundy red wood from chaparral brush area & very abundant in California.
Make sure you that are Fire Safe while enjoying nature.
ROOF TOP RACKS
Where to find FREE wood:
- behind your local Home Depot, old lumber ...ask when garbage day is & get there the night before
- at construction sights, scrap piles, but don't be jumping any locked gates or fences
- inside industrial parks, palettes & such can be found in abundance behind these commercial concrete alleys. These puppies mean bon fire action with flames above your head; and you may need to clean up the nails, so bring a strong magnet.
- local parks & recreation centers, near city maintenance yard. Often trimmed limbs can be found.
- vacant lots being cleared; land that is recently under development, trees being thinned out
- National Forest Lands - while camping in NFS areas, collecting down wood for camp fires is allowed, unless otherwise posted. Bring your chain saw, get a permit from a ranger station & chop all the wood you want, all for your taking. Personal wood collecting is usually allowed, if it is not to be sold or traded.
super market bundles -
Approximately one cubic foot. Small wrapped campers packs. 6-10 pieces. Sold in grocery & general stores.
Overall price per piece is expensive.
If you have space for storage in the backyard, shed or garage, consider buying larger quantities, such as:
- cord - size 4' x 4' x 8', will fill up two standard pick up truck beds (level w/ sides)
- half cord - size 4' x 4' x 4', will fill the back of a standard pick up truck bed (level w/ sides)
- 1/3 cord - size 16 cubic feet - will fill the back of a mini pickup truck bed
... perfect for a few camping trips! (ask for a mix of hard & soft woods)
- 1/8 cord - equal to about 12 supermarket bundles
tip Wood storage in a shed or garage for longer periods of time? Use moth balls to keep rodents away. Wood rats, field mice and other critters love to shelter in stacks of firewood.
- seasoned - cut & dried for 2 full seasons, at least 6 months old
- green wood - recently cut wood that is not dry yet, hard to catch fire & smokes when it is burned.
- down wood - trees & branches fallen or previously cut that are already on the ground.
tip Collection of down wood is sometimes difficult around campgrounds & popular primitive camp areas. Best bet is after a day of sightseeing in the car, when heading back to the camp spot, pull off along the main road or highway & run up into the forest. You are bound to find areas that have never been touched.