How to Collect Firewood Legally

When you head off on your next camping trip, think twice before collecting firewood in the area. In most cases it's illegal to collect firewood, even if you're just gathering wood that's fallen down in the area. The idea of collecting firewood legally is a complex one and you have to learn a lot about the area where you're camping.

Determine where you're camping and if it falls under the category of common land, which is different from public land. Common land is any tract registered as common land and open to everyone. Public land is owned by the state or national government and is registered as public land, not common land.

Check with the ranger station or an authority figure in the area about the firewood-gathering regulations. In some areas you must purchase a permit before you can gather wood. In other areas, you simply need to inform the people in charge that you're camping in the area and that you plan to collect firewood.

Ask other campers in the area about their firewood, where they gathered it and how they did it. If you're confused about collecting firewood without breaking any laws, this is your best bet. Keep in mind that just because the person collected firewood in the area, it isn't necessarily legal.

Collect firewood that's already been gathered, cut and set along the path. Homeowners who live in the area and cut too much firewood may leave it along the path for campers. You may also find firewood set aside by campers who left the area before using all of their wood.

Buy firewood from an approved retailer if all else fails. If you're camping in a campground, a state park or another approved site, the camp store should offer firewood. You can also collect firewood by buying from someone outside the area who sells firewood collected on his property.


Use firewood that's been left behind by other campers. Often times campers will set aside extra firewood at the end of their trip for others who need it. Never take firewood unless you're certain that it's set aside for campers. You may find that you're taking firewood from someone living in the area, or another camper.


Carrying or transporting firewood across state lines or outside of an approved area is usually a crime punishable by a steep fine and possible jail time.

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About the Author

Jennifer Eblin has been a full-time freelance writer since 2006. Her work has appeared on several websites, including Tool Box Tales and Zonder. Eblin received a master's degree in historic preservation from the Savannah College of Art and Design.