Say the word “maple”, and the first thing that probably comes to your mind is maple syrup– the perfect compliment to heaping piles of pancakes.
However, what you probably don’t think about is how maple fares as firewood. Does it have a clean burn? Is it better when compared to other types of kindling?
Overall, is maple good firewood?
Yes, maple generally makes for good firewood for the campfire. Its satisfying aroma, low sparking, and ease of splitting makes maple a versatile and effective firewood for your next trip out into the wilderness.
Read on to find out all you need to know about the beneficial qualities of maple and how they make it ideal as campfire kindling!
Maple Firewood Facts
BTU: 18-25 Heat per Cord (Million BTUs)
Weight: 3904 lbs./ Cord (Green)
Seasoning Time: 12-24 months
Resin / Sap Content: Low
Splitting Difficulty: Easy/Medium
Fragrance: Pleasant, Sweet
Overall Quality: Fair
What is Maple?
Maple is a type of tree that belongs to the genus Acer. There are approximately 132 species of maple trees found throughout the world, with most species being native to Asia and North America.
Maple trees are known for their distinctive leaves (which typically have either three or five “fingers”) and for their sap, which is used to make maple syrup. They are also renowned for their vibrant fall foliage, with leaves turning shades of yellow, orange, and red.
Maple trees are deciduous trees, meaning they lose their leaves in the fall. They can also grow to be quite large, reaching heights of up to 40 meters or more.
Most maple varieties also live quite long, with their lifespan usually lasting for over a century.
Maple trees can be found throughout the US, particularly in the northeast, but some varieties can grow as far south as Florida.
Common Types of Maple Trees Used for Firewood
Maple generally comes in two types: Hard maple and soft maple. These have different burn qualities, and one is more suitable than the other depending on your needs.
While we will differentiate between hard and soft maple through this article, keep in mind that maple is a hardwood species and not a softwood like pine and cedar.
These are some common maple varieties used for firewood:
- Sugar maple
- Silver maple
- Bigleaf maple
- Red maple
The Burn Qualities of Maple Firewood
One of the reasons many people choose to heat with maple is because it has a very pleasant aroma. The smell is soothing and not too overpowering, and some say it even smells like the syrup it produces.
This makes maple especially good for people who enjoy cooking with firewood or smoking meat. Maple will give a subtle, very slightly sweet flavor to your food.
Resin and Sap
Sap from the sugar maple is used to make maple syrup. Despite this, maple isn’t too messy in terms of sap when you’re processing or burning it as firewood.
It takes about 40 gallons of maple sap to make one gallon of maple syrup, and a tree typically has to be at least 40 years old to be large enough to tap for syrup.
Cut and Split Difficulty
This again has some differences between the hard and soft varieties of maple.
You can also determine which kind of maple is easier to split based on its name; soft maple splits easily compared to hard maple.
For both types, it’s better to split maple firewood when it’s green since the wood will harden and become much less yielding once it has been fully seasoned.
Depending on the type of maple—hard or soft—the wood generally takes anywhere from six months to two years or longer to properly season. Silver maple, however, seasons in as little as 90 days.
Generally, softer maples dry faster due to their lower density while sugar maple and boxelder will take longer.
It’s important to make sure that you’re drying maple with plenty of ventilation through the stack and high up the ground.
Green maple rots easily, so if you’re seasoning it in the shade or where there is an excess of moisture, you run the risk of losing a lot of your firewood.
How to Tell if Your Maple Wood is Correctly Seasoned
If you’re seasoning firewood, it’s always worth buying a moisture meter. You should aim to have your maple at or around 20 percent moisture before burning it.
You can also roughly determine if the wood has been correctly seasoned by checking if the logs are dark and cracked.
Properly seasoned maple provides a long, steady burn—particularly the harder varieties.
It’s one of the best varieties of wood for coaling, a process where wood burns down to coals and embers and produces heat for longer.
In this respect, it burns very efficiently and is a good option for keeping the camp warm.
Heat Output and Efficiency
Maple isn’t the most efficient in terms of heat output, but it’s not bad either.
If you’re looking to maximize the amount of heat from burning maple, you can use it alongside hotter-burning firewoods like oak or beech.
You also might use maple for heating during the spring or fall, when you don’t need as much heat output. For winters, sugar maple is the best firewood among other types.
British Thermal Units
The British Thermal Unit (BTU) is the standard measurement of heat output. For firewood, this is recorded as BTUs per cord, and one cord is 128 cubic feet of wood.
Softer maples like red maple and silver maple produce about 19 million BTUs, similar to aspen or elm. Harder varieties like sugar maple put out 24 million BTUs—just a little less than white ash. Bigleaf maple is between the two, at around 22 million BTUs.
Again, there’s a difference between the soft and hard varieties of maple.
Softer maples produce less smoke overall. However, hard maple doesn’t produce a lot of smoke either, making it suitable for burning indoors, if required.
Creosote is a tar-like buildup of unburned particles such as sap and soot which can line the inside of a chimney or stove. If not cleaned, it can ignite and cause chimney fires.
All firewood will produce creosote, and maple is no exception. However, since maple is a hardwood, it doesn’t leave a lot of creosote as long as it is properly seasoned.
Many of the dangers of open fires come from the tendency of some woods to pop and spark. When you’re outdoors, excessive cracking and sparking can not only be annoying, but may create a fire hazard as well.
Maple doesn’t produce many sparks at all once it gets going, so it’s a great option to use in a campfire. Of course, you should always take precautions and keep an eye on the flame to remain safe.
Pros and Cons of Using Maple as Firewood
- Readily available throughout the US and North America
- Steady burn with good coaling
- Pleasant aroma without excessive smoke or sparks, adding to the overall ambiance of the campfire
- Doesn’t burn as hot as other firewood
- Softer varieties will be less efficient
Maple vs Other Firewood
While maple isn’t as optimal as some other hardwood species which can burn hotter and longer, the fact that maple is common and easy to find makes it a good staple for your camping trips.
The Verdict: Is Maple Good Firewood?
In general: Yes.
Properly seasoned maple is a quality firewood with plenty of things going for it. The pleasant smell, low sparking, and ease of splitting the softer varieties make maple a good firewood for all-around use, and for your next campfire!
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.