What is it?
Fatwood is sap or resin saturated wood and is one of Nature’s best natural fire starting substances. It is mainly found in pine trees but also in some other evergreens. It also goes by names such as pitch wood, fat lighter, lighter wood, and pine knot or heart pine. Survivalist, preppers and those who practice bushcraft seek after this wood because of its fire starting properties.
There are a couple of places to get fatwood.
Purchase Online. Many companies offer wide varieties of this wood, from little shavings to small branches. Buying fatwood on the internet is an effective way to acquire fatwood if one is content with purchasing burning materials or do not know where to find it in the wilderness. Plow & Hearth sells 25 pounds for just $29.95. (on Amazon.com) You can also purchase small all-natural firestarter sticks from Pine Mountain. (Great for your BOB)
Collect it yourself. For those who like doing things themselves, fatwood is found primarily in old rotten pine tree stumps, but also in the joints where the branches meet the trunk. The fatwood matures as the stump ages. This is because the roots are still giving resin to the tree, but the tree has nowhere for it to go, so there is a buildup of resin over time. This buildup soaks the wood right above the taproot and produces fatwood.
Why use fatwood?
So, if fatwood is the same as regular wood, but is hard to get and expensive and is sticky and messy, why use it over regular wood? Well, the answer is simple. Fatwood burns hotter is waterproof and wind resistant. Your fire won’t blow out as it can with just tinder of traditional dry wood. So next time you go backpacking take some fatwood.
How do I harvest it?
Harvesting fat wood is not a small task. It requires a lot of work but is fulfilling nonetheless. To harvest fatwood, one must have an: ax or hatchet, Bowie knife or substitute, wedge and or machete. When harvesting, use a machete to disband most of the rotten stump. That wood is not worth your time. Keep hacking away until you reach the hard, sticky core. Then use the wedge to break off pieces of the core. After that use your ax or hatchet to cut the broken pieces into long slender shards, then use your knife to sliver the shards into squares or small fire starting pieces that will light fast and easy. (Note: the resin from fatwood will stick to your blades and tools. Use a degreaser ahead of time to minimize this dilemma.)
While there are a lot of fire starting substances available, few compare to fatwood, and it is satisfying to know that you might be able to locate and utilize this natural substance in a survival situation. But why wait till then, why not get out there and see if you can find some fatwood now.
If you have found fatwood or would like to add something that I have missed. Please let me know in the comments below.