Fatwood and Kids in the outdoors


Pine trees are the source of “fatwood”, or pitch, or lighter knot as it is called.

One of the joys of taking these kids to the great outdoors is showing them how to identify fatwood.  I can’t tell you how many times we’ve dug up a pine tree stump from a dead tree for fatwood. Get 2 or 3 boys digging away and they’re up to their elbows in sand and dirt!


I’ve also noticed that sometimes fatwood isn’t only found at the “base” or joint of a branch of pine tree, but on a number of occasions have found decayed pine that has essentially turned the whole tree into solid pitch or fatwood. Very, very solid resin and heavy, you’d almost think you discovered a live branch because of the weight (wood is lighter if it has seasoned).  

How do you find fatwood? How to tell if you’ve found a fatwood stump?  Kick it.  If it doesn’t bend and is rock solid, that’s the first clue. Cut a little chunk with your hatchet or knife.  If it’s orange in color, BINGO….that’s it.  The true pot of gold of finding the resin rich fatwood is the smell. Life the chunk you just cut and sniff it.  The boys and I all make the AHHHHHHHHH sound when we smell it.  Smells like Pine Sol, only better!!

It would make a great incense if it didn’t burn so black.

Benefits of fatwood:
1). Phenomenal tinder for starting campfires.  I’ll usually slice a sliver, or make some shavings, or fetherstick with my knife and start it with a match.  Burns for several minutes to ignite your campfire as you add kindling and more wood.

2). Burns dark black smoke.  

3). Keeps bugs away

4). Doesn’t spark – inlike other wood that may spark when burning, fatwood doesn't

5). Bugs don’t usually borrow in it.  


Want to know what to do with kids in the outdoors?  Go fatwood hunting.  Kids love being outdoors, and searching!


Scott "Poppy" Rauber