Is Hickory Good Firewood? Your Guide to Campfire Fuel


When it comes to firewood, there are many different qualities that need to be considered. 

There are so many variants of firewood to consider these days, and virtually all of them are readily available to consumers. 

Therefore, it’s imperative to do your due diligence before deciding to buy in order to ensure you’re purchasing the best quality product.

The question is: Is hickory good firewood?

Hickory is widely regarded as a high-quality firewood due to its density and high BTU that allows it to burn hotter and for longer periods. It also only produces low levels of smoke, and has a distinct, pleasant aroma that is excellent for cooking. 

In this article, we’ll explore the many different facets of hickory firewood and how well it holds up to other types of kindling.

Looking up a shagbark hickory tree close to the tree trunk and its unique bark way

Hickory Firewood Facts

BTU: 28 million BTU/cord
Weight: 5104 lbs/cord (green)
Seasoning Time: 12-24 months
Resin / Sap Content: Low
Splitting Difficulty: Difficult
Coals: Good
Smoke: Low
Fragrance: Sweet and pungent
Overall Quality: Excellent

What is Hickory Wood? 

Hickory is a tall, dense tree that produces sturdy, versatile firewood. Left on its own, a Hickory tree can live up to 300 years old and grow up to hundreds of feet tall.

The name “Hickory” comes from the Algonquian word “pockerchicory” or “pocohicora”, which is believed to be the name of the nut produced by species of the tree.

Types of Hickory Wood

As with most trees, there are many types of hickory wood. One famous variety is the pecan tree, which is well-known for its pecan nuts that are used to make popular dishes such as the delectable pecan pie. 

Other popular varieties of Hickory include:

  • Pignut
  • Shagbark
  • Shellbark 
  • Bitternut

Hickory is mostly native to the United States, but it’s also found in Canada, Mexico, and even in parts of Asia. 

British Thermal Units 

As previously mentioned, Hickory is one of the more popular woods for firewood due to its dense and durable properties. Campfires, depending on the fuel you’re using, can produce wildly different ranges of heat.

Measured in “British Thermal Units” (aka BTU), a registry of BTUs indicates how hot a piece of wood needs to be in order to burn– which also unsurprisingly leads to a longer burn time. 

Some varieties of Hickory wood, such as Shagbark and Bitternut, have BTUs of 27.7 million and 26.5 million respectively, whereas the Pecan counterparts generally have a lower BTU of 22.5 million.

Qualities of Hickory Wood 

Hickory typically has a reddish-brown color coupled with golden highlights. This attractive look makes it popular to be used for interior decorating due to its rustic, consistent appearance.


Hickory firewood has what can be described as a pleasant, distinct, and classic “firewood smell” when burnt; somewhat sweet, while not being too overpowering. 

In fact, the smell of hickory is so highly regarded that its aroma is often used to make liquid smoke flavoring.

Hickory wood chips are also widely used to smoke meats worldwide due to the distinctive, sought-after taste it imparts to the food. This quality makes it undeniably excellent for campfire cooking!

Cut and Split Difficulty

As it is a dense fibrous wood, Hickory wood can at times be difficult to cut and split compared to other softer woods. 

The upside to this, however, is that when Hickory pieces are properly seasoned, it will provide a long lasting burn due to its granular toughness. 


Hickory usually takes somewhere between one to two years to season properly depending on the climate and wood condition. 

When “green”, Hickory wood contains a moisture level of roughly 80%- thus making it quite difficult to ignite. However, once properly seasoned, it will only contain a moisture level of around 20% thus making it much easier to ignite. 

Burn and Efficiency

Given that hickory is a dense, fibrous wood with a high BTU, it has a consistently lengthy and high-temperature burn. 

In other words: Hickory will produce a high amount of heat and burn for a long time, which is definitely a desirable trait for firewood. This means you can leave it burning overnight, and expect consistent heat production all throughout. 

Smoke and Sparks

Compared to other types of wood, hickory produces low amounts of smoke and sparks. This quality also makes it an excellent firewood for campfires, as it reduces the probabilities of a fire hazard.

The exception to this is if the hickory wood hasn’t been seasoned properly, as the high moisture content can cause intermittent sparks and higher smoke levels. 

Best Tips and Practices for Using Hickory as Firewood

Hickory tree in brilliant yellow foliage in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto.

Split and Elevate

The optimal way to store your hickory wood for firewood is to split the wood before stacking. This allows for more surface area on the wood when drying out. 

It’s always a good idea to elevate the wood to provide more airflow, as this helps the wood to dry more quickly. 

Cover and Position

Ensure that hickory woods are properly covered once they’re split and stacked. This will help to keep them dry from rain and other precipitation. 

Position the rack in an area with good airflow and away from the shade to keep the wood dry and prevent moisture development. 

Hickory vs Other Firewood

How does Hickory stack up compared to other firewood? Hickory, being such a dense hardwood, has a very high BTU when compared to most other firewoods. As mentioned earlier, this will allow it to burn hotter for longer. 

According to most sources, Hickory is high up on the list for firewood with lofty BTUs, usually only being outperformed by Black Locust wood or Maclura pomifera (more commonly known as Osage Orange). 

It also produces very little smoke and sparks when compared to other firewood (when seasoned properly) such as pine or hard maple, due to its low sap and resin properties. 

The only downside is the length of time required to season the wood properly. However, once it has been seasoned properly, hickory will ignite quickly and burn consistently with excellent coaling properties. 

The Verdict: Is Hickory Good Firewood?

So, is hickory good firewood? 

Hickory makes excellent firewood. As a dense hardwood, hickory has a very high BTU thus allowing it to burn long and consistently hot. It produces low levels of smoke and spark, and the smell is described as a pleasant, distinct aroma. 

It can take a full year or two to season– longer than other firewoods– but once seasoned it performs dependably well and can be regarded as an excellent fuel for the campfire. 

All in all, hickory can be considered as superb firewood and is definitely worth taking on your next adventure.

Firewood Facts – Your Guide To Campfire Fuel

There are many types of firewood you could use for your campfire. All of them offer different characteristics which make for better or worse campfires – depending on what you’re looking for.

Discover, below, the key differences between some popular firewood’s to help you determine which wood would be best for your next campfire.

For a complete firewood facts guide, check out our Best Firewood Facts Chart article.

Mitch Taylor
With over 20 years experience with camping and hiking, I've taken it upon myself to share my insights. From common camping and hiking questions to gear recommendations, your adventure starts here.

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