Best and Worst Alaskan Wood to Burn
Camping, cabins, and wood burning stoves are an integral part of Alaskan life. Picking the right wood to burn in your stove or campfire can mean the difference between a nice, warm, cozy fire and a miserable smoky mess. Here are some of the best and the worst Alaskan woods to burn.
The Best Alaskan Woods for Burning
- Cedar: Alaska yellow-cedar and Western redcedar are both coastal trees found mostly in southeast Alaska. Both are considered good burning wood with a consistent and long heat output. Neither will have a large flame, but they will crackle and split. If you are using it in your indoor stove, the sap can leave deposits in the flue. The deposits need to be cleaned out regularly since the build-up can catch fire.
- Pine: Both shore pine and lodgepole pine grow in different parts of Alaska. Pine like cedar burns well but will leave sap in your stove’s flue. Pine burns with a medium sized flame, but you have to make sure it is seasoned well.
- Birch: Birch is one of the most common trees in Alaska, and it produces good heat for campfires and stoves alike. It burns very fast, which can be a benefit for a recreational campfire, but a drawback if you are looking to keep your cabin warm all night long. Interestingly enough Birch can be burnt unseasoned.
- Aspen: Quaking Aspen grows across the interior and southcentral Alaska. It produces about half the heat of other hardwoods but it is straight grained and easy to cut. It also ignites quickly making it attractive as kindling. Some find the smoke from Aspen to be less strong than pine, making it suitable for campfires.
- Cottonwood: There are some who hate to burn cottonwood, and it has a reputation for smoking more than it burns. However, when fully dried (it can hold a lot of water) it splits easily and burns fast with high heat. Because it takes so long to dry, it does take more work to get it ready to burn, so it’s not popular as home or cabin heating wood, but it will work great in your campfire.
- Hemlock: Is found mostly on the Kenai Peninsula and in South Eastern Alaska. It burns very hot and fast and pops and sparks while it burns. This can be dangerous in some campfire situations but creates a beautiful ambiance in a fireplace. Hemlock dries quickly but must be seasoned in dry areas. It makes good kindling and fire starters.
The Worst Alaskan Woods for Burning
- Alder: If you’ve spent any amount of time hiking in Alaska, you’ve probably gotten caught in an alder patch or two. They quickly colonize disturbed areas and take over like weeds. It is not a good wood to burn, it burns fast and produces very little heat. It is considered one of the worst for heating you home.
- Willow and Poplar: Does not burn well even when seasoned. It has a very high moisture content and will rot before it dries if you don’t split it.
- Spruce: Has a low BTU’s, so it tends to have poor heat output and does not last long.
When you are out camping, you don’t always get a choice on the type of wood you use for your fire, but if you are picking wood for your indoor stove, it is smart to know what you are burning.