How often do you chop firewood while in the bush?

Lifecraft

John McDouall Stuart
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One thing I've taken note of while watching bushcraft/hiking/camping/outdoors type videos online, particularly the real life overnighters and multiday treks people post, is just how often I see people chopping wood for the fire. And how much time and energy they spend doing it.

While I really like having a hatchet with me in the bush, and there are times I use it to chop firewood.... I actually don't use it all that often when it comes to firewood.
I've noticed there are many trips where I don't chop a single piece of timber, yet I still have a raging fire.

That's probably because I will collect small sticks, etc. rather than split timber for kindling, and once it's going well I'll lay larger pieces across the fire to let it burn in half, then lay the halves on the fire.
I do spend time snapping sticks, and stomping on logs to break them. But that's usually far less work than hacking through it with a blade.

Often I see people in videos splitting wood into smaller pieces when I'm not sure that's even necessary.
I feel like it's more common to see people spending ages splitting firewood, than it is to see someone collecting sticks or laying a large log across the fire and let it burn through.

Maybe some people are just having fun playing with their cutting toys, so any excuse to chop something will do.
If that's the case I see no problem with it, considering most bushcrafters should be fairly well stocked with food energy to be able to afford to waste some playing with their bushcraft toys.
But I'd rather get a nice fire going then sit down and enjoy it, than chop wood unnecessarily.


Obviously there are some places where you have no choice, because all you have is a few logs, where all the sticks and small stuff was burned by other people.
I do tend to go to some of the less populated bush locations so I don't usually have that much of a kindling shortage.

Also the "chopless" approach isn't necessarily feasible with a hobo stove, or another cooking method where it doesn't work to just lay a big log on and let it burn through.

There is a downside to my approach too... There's typically a few long logs sticking out at least one side of my camp fire. That is a bit of a safety hazard in the dark, but compare that to the inherent risk of using a hatchet or axe and I'm guessing the risk of tripping over is probably a safer option than the risk of a hatchet ricochet (I've had a few close calls, close enough to draw blood but without any major damage, even when I thought I was being careful).

Curious to know the approach other people take, how much time/energy you expend on preparing firewood, or whether you get away with not chopping any at all.
Are you in an area where there is no kindling?
Do you use a hobo stove which means you need to chop up the wood so it fits?
Any other reasons you have no choice but to chop firewood?

Or do you find you rarely need to chop firewood at all?
 
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Lepmeister

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Interesting point, I was watching a vid last night and this guy (From the states) was chopping wood 3 or 4 times during the evening. I can only take it was for the fun of it.

And yeah, I'm a bit keen to have a play with a saw, axe and knife at any chance.

But in thinking about it... When in the bush twigs and branches seems to do the job, if in a camp that is more used and all the easy stuff has been taken then wood processing is required. And also in pine forest I seem to process, that could be as it's easy, fun and something different.
 

Thrud

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For the big branches, I lay them across and burn them in half, I agree there is probably no need to do a lot of chopping, but as long as I have 9 fingers I love chopping stuff!!

If I had to do it everyday though I'm sure it would rapidly lose its charm and I'd wind up with a pneumatic log splitter!
 

Ben Dono

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I'm in your camp on this one lifecraft. I did do a lot of firewood processing when I was young as it was fun and an excuse to use and test my tools. But now I just go the easiest option. Twigs and sticks are usually what I focus on. If I have a large bow saw I might cut a few bigger logs if it looks like I will be up late, but I don't do that anymore.....I'm in bed soon after the sun goes down now!
 

apsilon

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I'm one that typically can't be bothered even though I like my toys. if I have a new toy to test then yes, I'll do some chopping but otherwise I'll only chop/saw wood if I can't find enough small twigs and sticks to get the fire started or if a piece is too heavy for me to carry back to camp.
 

biggles1024

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I manage to find enough wood of the sizes I want just by looking around on the ground or on dead fallen timber. The only cutting I do and even this is rare, is cutting to length. The main reason I think that I have no need to do more than this is because of the type of trees, hardwoods, we have here in Australia.
It ought to be remembered that most videos online are made in the Northern Hemisphere and up there softwoods dominate their forests. I think that has a lot to do with the differences we see between 'them' and 'us'. :)
 

Ben Dono

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I reckon you on the money Biggles! Our denser sticks burn long enough for cooking fires.

I'm sure you could batten some of our hardwoods...but I don't see the need for it. I think it's pretty hard on a knife as well.
Maybe that's the reason knives are getting bigger and softer as people want their knives to handle the smacking, I would rather a thinner and harder knife... But that's just personal preference. I know people batten with small mora knives but that's pretty heavy work for a small knife.
 

Mountainwalker

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In dry conditions processing wood is more for fun as generally the Aus bush provides lots of suitable combustible material. I get a lot of satisfaction going out in really wet conditions and challenging myself to get a fire going. That's when a hand saw and a half axe comes in handy. Of late I've just taken a hand saw and a sturdy 4-5 mm thick knife to baton with. I used to think batoning was a pointless endeavor but on wet days I find it works great, I'd even say better than a GFB wilderness style axe. Also makes a really compact kit. Plus, I just enjoy doing it :)

On this outing it had been raining for a number of days so all the wood was really wet. I removed the bark and outer layers of wood to expose the dry core which burned beautifully.

1 MP Batoning Dford.jpg

1 MP Dford kindling.jpg

knife and kindling.jpg

sharp image stove with wood.jpg

wood burning.jpg
 
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Ben Dono

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Hahahaha! I still enjoy being wrong!
That is a good reason to batton timber in Australia! Can't say I ever thought of that.

Nice on mountainwalker!
 
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pap11y

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Chopping wood.. I don't really do it. When I do, I mainly do it just to use the tool for experience rather than necessity. Same with batoning. I am not as fond of wet camp outs as mountainwalker :D (great pics BTW mate..)

Sawing wood is my go to preference, especially now that I have a bucksaw..



That being said I could have a fire (in our bush) without any processing at all as I was taught from a young age to burn anything (I could not snap) in half and then repeat etc..etc..

Its also surprising what you can do with a bahco saw :)

 
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Aussie123

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I'm with you guys. I do the least necessary to get a fire going !

Pick up sticks, rather than cut. Saw rather than chop.

Last time I chopped was to split up some big (1m plus) rounds of wood which had been chainsawed. I split them to "normal" firewood size.
 

Walker

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Coming from a Bushwalking Club background, never carry a hatchet or need to chop wood - we walk predominantly in remote areas = no tracks, so wood is abundant. As noted above by others, just simply carry or drag large logs and lay them across the fire, throughout the evening/night, just push them further in. It's also a good method to ensure hot coal in the morning during rainy weather.
 

MongooseDownUnder

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I always chop my wood because I like it to be in nice manageable bits. I never lay a log over the fire as I don't want to be the first person to trip over it and land in the fire. For home use as I only have wood heating I do have a nice 25t hydraulic splitter.
 

Lifecraft

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I never lay a log over the fire as I don't want to be the first person to trip over it and land in the fire.
I have tripped over one of the logs sticking out of the fire in the darkness, so it is a real risk to be aware of. (The beers probably didn't help.)
I didn't fall over but I stumbled. I think being barefoot tends to make me realize a split second sooner that my foot has hit something than when I wear shoes (I do occasionally), so I typically recover from a trip/stumble without falling over when I'm barefoot.

Still have to compare that with the inherent risk of using a cutting tool like a hatchet. I've had more close calls with a hatchet than with tripping over a log sticking out of the fire.
I'm thinking I should move up to a small axe because although it's larger and heavier it's a lot safer. The length of the handle meaning it's more likely you'll bury the axe into the ground after a ricochet than into your shin. I'd rather damage the cutting edge than my shin.

It's probably difficult to compare the risks and they're probably fairly even, so I'd probably just come back to thinking it's just personal preference as to which approach to take.

Also I tend to camp solo lately so a log I put down I should know where it is. It could be different when someone puts a log down and someone else trips over it because they weren't aware it was there.
If I was camping with a group I think I'd be more cautious about having logs sticking out of the fire.

I'm very familiar with the damage a fire can do when someone falls in. My young nephew fell into a backyard fire and had pretty bad burns. He was airlifted by chopper to the hospital. He's fine now, the scars have healed up surprisingly well.
If there were any kids around I would be far, far more cautious. In those cases I'd rather I take the risk myself (of using the cutting tool) and expend the energy to chop the wood smaller.
I think that's a very good time/reason to chop the firewood up small so there's never any logs sticking out.
 
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woodsrunner

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If in winter i'll carry a buck saw and a boys axe for felling, bucking and splitting smaller standing dead trees.
the rest of the time i'll just scrounge for wood....i almost always carry a large blade of some sort in the event there is some minor chopping and splitting involved...woods
 

Hairyman

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Cant remember the last time I chopped wood in the bush.
Usually twigs and small sticks are enough to boil my quart pot.
I do burn a bit of wood in the backyard during winter, I hardly ever chop wood for this either.
I look for those eucalypt branches about as thick as my forearm that have died and hung up in a living tree for
many years, they come down eventually. These are very good solid firewood and can be cracked into short sections by
whacking them on something hard like a rock or log.
 
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