Thursday, September 21, 2023


Are there unspoken rules about taking leftover firewood?

There wasn’t a campfire, but folks were hot—and not because of the summer heat! Consider the recent conversation around the “campfire” about leftover campfire wood to see which side you’re on.

Leftover campfire wood

“It was sitting there, so I grabbed it,” Frank stated. “When our RV neighbors vacated their site, I spotted their leftover campfire wood sitting beside their fire ring. I knew they weren’t coming back, so all I did was ‘relocate’ the leftover wood to my RV site.”

Ruth looked uncomfortable. “I don’t think it’s right, Frank. You didn’t pay for that wood. Even if the RVers left the park, that wood wasn’t yours to take.”

Frank objected, “It was paid for! The campground got its money. Besides, there are no ‘leftover wood rules’ in the campground paperwork. Look and see for yourself.”

Whose campfire wood is it?

Folks around the campfire quickly took up sides. “Leave Frank alone. What he did was perfectly legal. He’s just lucky he found the wood before I did,” Rick grinned. “I would’ve taken it, too.”

“I’ve been in campgrounds where the camp managers gather up any wood RVers leave behind. It’s their property and they clean up the RV sites,” Joan noted.

“Yes,” Rick went on. “Then the campground bundles up the leftover wood and resells it! How is that right? For them to sell the same wood over again?”

Ask permission?

“I think you should have talked to your RV neighbor about the wood,” Ruth suggested. “Maybe they intentionally left the wood for the next camper who’s assigned to that site.”

Jill joined the conversation. “Or inquire at the campground office for permission to take the wood?”

Rick laughed, “It’s not hard to imagine how that would end!”

The right thing?

“If we have leftover campfire wood, I always ask my RV neighbors if they’d like it,” Rick continued. “Usually someone will take it before we leave the park.”

“That’s different,” Ruth insisted. “You paid for the wood so you can do what you want with it.”

No conclusions

The campfire crowd reached no conclusions. What do you think? Is leftover campfire wood “fair game” or should RVers leave it alone? Is it okay for campgrounds to resell leftover wood? Let us know your thoughts in the poll and comments below.

Last time in Around the Campfire:


Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh is an avid RVer and occasional work camper. Retired from 30+ years in the field of education as an author and educator, she now enjoys sharing tips and tricks that make RVing easier and more enjoyable.


  1. I never like to take left over fire wood home. So I make sure I burn it all or ask the neighbors if they want it. The lighter my truck and trailer is the better when going home. Oh ya if I see left over firewood, you bet I’m taking it.
    But I would never ever leave wood sitting in my site. LEAVE YOUR SITE BETTER THAN YOU

  2. While camping at Colorado Campground last week, I just happened to ask this very question of the Forest Ranger inspecting a damaged tree from lightning. He replied, no do not leave firewood at a campsite, camp host are required to remove all firewood left at a site. This firewood cannot be resold but is tossed in the same pile as burnt ashes. So yes, I have no problem walking over to a vacant campsite and removing any left unburned wood. Also, the Ranger mentioned it is illegal to glean for firewood, if caught you will be issued a court summons. The policy is leave it lay.

  3. I would take it. We have had camp hosts say its against the rules but that was just so they could get the wood for themselves. It was not in the written rules. It is not stealing if its abandoned.

  4. When we had a seasonal site we would drive around in our golf car looking at sites recently vacated to see if they left any firewood.

  5. We always offer our leftover firewood to other campers and I can’t think of a time when leftover firewood from a neighbor who was vacating wasn’t offered to us. Maybe depends on what kind of neighbor you’ve been?

  6. If it was not gifted or permission was not given, it’s called stealing.
    Are you a thief at heart or not is the question.

    • How dumb… Its not stealing if someone intentionally left it behind. And in fact firewood is not supposed to be moved from one campground to another so they most likely left it because they are not supposed to move it. Wood left behind is left for someone else to use… otherwise why would they leave it… Maybe they will come back next year and claim it???

  7. We know some camp hosts and what gets left behind goes into their own stash, and they say the same of other hosts. As long as you are sure it’s a vacated site, it’s up for grabs.

  8. No matter who gets the wood, wouldn’t the campgrounds thank people for helping to clean up after the folks who left? Abandonment is abandonment whether wood or dirty diaper’s. .

  9. The man ordered 4 piece chicken dinner 2 sides and roll. He ate 3 pieces and left the roll and 1 piece on an napkin and he left. The homeless man came in and he saw the chicken and roll so he took it and ate it. Should he have asked anyone if he could have it or let the restaurant throw it away??? Same thing as the wood.

  10. To me, it would depend on the circumstances. If wood was left in a campsite I was moving onto, I would consider it fair game. If someone left it behind while I was camped, say in the site next to me, and didn’t offer it to me, I’d leave for the next guy. A bit of firewood wouldn’t make or break me, and that guy might need it a lot more than I do.

  11. At my age I no longer want a campfire, but in my younger years yes I would gladly take it. I have stopped when I’ve seen scrap would along the interstate and picked it up to use.

  12. When younger, we collected abandoned fire wood from campsites. At my age, it is not worth the effort. And most of it now is construction scrap, green, or stuff not even the person who left it would burn.

  13. If I go get limbs from the woods I’m ok. So if I find wood closer I’m better. Today sites do not want materials brought in from other places due to bugs and such. Must get fire wood local. Why not off the vacant fire pit if some is available.

  14. I would not take it. But it has nothing to do with an ethics question. I use a propane fire pit. Instant on, instant off. No dousing and stirring then more dousing. Plus no smoke to irritate me or others. LOVE IT!!

  15. I’d never take it. In fact, if it were up to wife and I, campfires other than propane would be outlawed. When weather conditions are right and smoke just hangs there we end up in the rv with windows closed and ac on. Really don’t plan on having eyes burning and wood smoke in my lungs

  16. i’ve been on both sides. in our early, rookie years, i’ve taken the wood. but i always felt guilty so I stopped. IF the campground takes and re-sells the wood, well, that’s on them.

  17. I’m not sure how long this “don’t bring outside firewood” rule has been going on but at its onset it was a legitimate concern. But now that campgrounds, especially in NYS, have discovered this new revenue stream, this invasive species concept will never die. Even once the invasive species are gone, or eradicated. Simply yet another way to separate us from our money under the ruse of “saving the environment”. Were there no profit in this, these rules wouldn’t continue to exist.

      • Key word is “sell”. In NYS, our officials have *softened* their stance to allow wood brought in from within a 50 mile radius of the campground. How do they police this? Verify It? Is there a stamp of origin somewhere on the wood? Do the invasive species encounter some invisible wall at 51 miles that they can’t pass? I’m sure you catch my drift.
        Think about it another way: What of bringing home firewood you haven’t burned, they won’t hitch a ride in that direction? If there were a genuine concern over invasive species, wouldn’t this be taken into account? At which point, you’d be forced to leave unused firewood behind. For resale, ‘natch.

        Gov’t has worked hard to earn my cynicism.

        • Forgot to mention: NYS also has regulations in place that you can’t bring in chainsaws, (a noise rule which seems appropriate) can’t cut wood, dead or alive, standing or fallen. Now why can’t one handsaw a dead log lying on the ground? Well, truthfully, it cuts into the revenue stream. Can’t have that.

    • I agree. I have often wondered how many invasive species have taken a ride in or on my RV to a new place they are welcome.

  18. While I never scavenge other campsites for firewood left behind I have no problem with those who do. We frequently leave a few pieces of unused firewood behind, neatly stacked, when leaving campsites and I could care less about who gets and uses it.

  19. I wouldn’t take it, not mine. Some of our campgrounds also have yurts and cabins. Once, I stayed in a yurt, left for an hour, and when I returned, someone had stolen my wood. Very tacky and cheap, I’d rather go without a fire than do that. And I don’t need a fire anyway. People let them smolder all night, what a pain.

  20. Me personally, I leave it.

    I figure if I’m too lazy to cut my own or too cheap to buy my own, I don’t need to build a fire.

    In fact, I am often the guy that leaves extra wood at the site as against my best efforts, I tend to overestimate what we might burn. (I will not carry it out and risk cross-contamination)

  21. This really seems like a non issue to me. If it’s been abandoned, and you can use it, why not take it? Unless some arrangement has been made with a neighbor. (and I would think it would have already been moved)
    Does not seem like an ethics problem to me.

  22. If I were the camper leaving firewood when I left (unlikely), I have left it for someone who needs/wants it. The next camper in the site or neighbor, I don’t care. Hope they enjoy their fire

  23. I admit it! I routinely scour the park on Sunday afternoons, after checkout time, for left over firewood. Since all of our cooking is done over the fire, I can use all I can scrounge.

  24. We always leave wood behind i have so much at our house and i take so much as my wife would say. I don’t want to haul it back and restack it.. Let the next family have it maybe they don’t have a truck or there just in tents and don’t have the room to haul it there.. So get those kids out there when someone leaves..

  25. Left over firewood is fair game. I know that when we leave firewood it is for any one who can use it and not necessarily for the ones checking into the specific site next. We have left the campground so we don’t really care who uses the firewood, it is a gift to anyone who comes upon it.

  26. As a work camper of many years and many campgrounds I have two things to say 1) I’ve never been at a campground that “re-bundled ” for resale, left over wood . 2) it is the worker who cleans the sites who gets to take it to his or her site and use it . That is one of the few perks of work camping .

  27. Firewood- the wood was paid for and left for the taking. If a new bag of charcoal was left… you leave it for the rv park to pick up? No, it’s there for the taking.

  28. Personally I don’t like to take it, but my wife is over there as soon as they pull out and scavenging for wood. Nothing wrong with it in my opinion, It’s been bought and paid for.

  29. We have left unused firewood at the campsite stacked near the fire ring or near the picnic table for the next person. I’ve even offered it to a fellow camper. There have been times we found that the previous camper had done the same thing.

  30. As far as I know, it has always been an unwritten rule, if you leave firewood behind, whoever wants it takes it. I’ve seen seasonal campers riding around on golf carts loading up leftover firewood. There has been a time or two when a neighboring camper has offered leftover firewood but those times are few and far between.

  31. I left wood before with the hopes that someone would be able to use it. If you don’t want it used by others, put it in the dumpster when you leave.

  32. I have a different view about wood for the campsite. We usually stay at a state park when visiting our kids and grand kids. Once we’ve set up camp, we usually go around looking for fallen trees, branches, and the like for our campfire. The park does sell wood, but we usually get our own. Several times, other campers who have left the site we now have, have left unused wood for the next camper. We’ve seen this all over the campground and have only seen someone go after the wood once the occupants left. I always thought it was an unspoken gesture of kindness to leave something for the next camper.

    • I concur. Firewood left at one campsite is essentially the property of that campsite until the camp host/Rangers/caretakers decide to remove it. It’s like a bonus when you rent a particular campsite if someone else has left you firewood, gathering firewood from around the area is a freebie when allowed. If someone else had to buy that firewood, then they’re leaving it for the next occupant. If someone takes the firewood from nearby campsites, I consider them to be thieves. Either choose the site that has firewood or go buy your own!

  33. After years of wood fires, I switched to a propane fire pit and for many reasons, I prefer it. So while I would not “grab” wood left behind, I believe it is fair game. Yet perhaps the unwritten rule should be that departing campers with leftover would should offer it to a “neighbor” to eliminate any controversies.

  34. Yes, I would take it and likely donate it to someone else in the park. In many parts of the country it is illegal to transport firewood between counties. Why? Same reason as fresh fruits and vegetables are illegal to cross into other countries – the chance of transporting critters that can destroy trees in other locales. Don’t transport firewood! Obtain and use it in the area where it was cut.

  35. As a workkamper, one of my tasks is checking/cleaning sites as they are vacated. If there is unburnt firewood I gather it up and return it to the firewood shed. However, we do not resell this wood. We save it and give it to veterans when they check in and would like firewood. It’s our way of giving back.

    For the record, I voted “no, I don’t take left over firewood from a vacated site.”

  36. We’ve never taken firewood from another site that was left but we’ve had leftover firewood taken from our site by others, while we were sitting there! Not a word or request was spoken. Just walked over to us and took it. I don’t see an issue of grabbing wood that’s been left behind, but I would make certain the site was empty first.

    • If you are still occupying that site, it isn’t “leftover”…..those who walked over to you and took it were stealing it. Why would you simply say nothing?

    • ditto, what the hey? If that is the case, would you go to their picnic table and sit down and eat their food while they are at the firepit? I would have inquired why they were there and just what the h*** they were thinking


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