Fatwood, also known as “pitch pine”, can be found anywhere pine trees grow. Among avid outdoors men, fatwood is known as “natures best fire starter” according to Outdoor Life. It can be quickly ignited and burns long and hot.
The Key is Resin
When a pine tree dies, usually as a result of being broken off or cut down, the pine sap aka resin is drawn up from the pine tree’s roots and gathers right above the tap root (the beginning of the central root where rootlets spring down into the earth to gather nutrients from the soil). This is where fatwood is found. It becomes fatwood because the pine wood becomes “fat” with resin.
Benefits of Fatwood
Resin contains terpene ( the main component of turpentine) and it is highly flammable. The terpene in pine tree’s resin makes for a superior fire starter. Additional fire starter or tinder qualities of fatwood are:
- Can be lit with a spark
- Can be lit when wet
- Resists wind interference
- Burns extremely hot
Just because you stumble upon a dead pine tree, doesn’t mean you will have a bounty of fatwood for tinder, though! According to www.ramblinjim.com, the best fatwood is found in pine tree stumps that are old and dried. This means that there has been plenty of time for the resin to accumulate at the tap root. New pine tree stumps are not rich in “fatwood”, so don’t waste your time harvesting that wood for tinder because it will be highly disappointing as a fire starter.
Where to Find Fatwood in Nature
The best places to find fatwood are in areas where pine trees have been killed by fires or where pine trees were logged. You’ll know you’ve found potential fatwood if the felled pine tree stump has the following characteristics:
- There are visible streaks, beads or puddles of dried sap on the surface of the stump
- There is a yellow or golden look to the wood in contrast to the surrounding grey weathered wood
- The stump is easily pulled out of the ground, meaning it has been dead for a while and the resin has been able to rise from the roots into the stump
- The scent in the air is strong with pine, almost like walking through a Christmas tree farm
Of course, if you don’t want to go hunting for fatwood, it can always be purchased. Let someone else search and harvest fatwood for you. All you need to do is light and enjoy!
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