Kim C. is an experienced snowshoer who lives in Tacoma, WA.
One winter, he went on a snowshoeing trip to Washington’s Mount Rainier and during the trip he became lost.
Kim was leading 16 members of a hiking and climbing club when he slid down a slope and became separated.
He tried to meet up with the group farther down the trail but he became disoriented, then he tried to radio the group but was unable to reach anyone.
When the group returned to the parking lot they launched a search for the missing man.
Kim tried to keep walking but the snow was too deep. Then he made a shelter near a big rock and tried to stay warm. Kim stayed alive by digging out a snow tunnel.
He made a fire, drank hot water, and ate rice.
Building a fire was critical to Kim’s survival. But he didn’t have any firewood. Instead, he burned his personal items – his socks, then $1 and $5 bills from his wallet.
He said he fought off sleep by thinking about a nice hot sauna.
According to Kim’s son…
“He burned everything he had. He burned his toothpaste, Band-Aids, extra socks. He burned whatever he could.”
After spending two days in blizzard conditions, Kim was rescued by a ranger and two Crystal Mount Ski Patrol members.
Kim was in such good shape when he was found that he didn’t have to go to a hospital, instead he went home with his family.
Kim had served in the Vietnam War and he told local media that the skills he learned as a soldier helped him survive.
When Kim was found, the weather was so bad that a helicopter couldn’t assist in his rescue, so it took nine hours for Kim and his rescuers to get off the mountain.
There is no question that one of the reasons that Kim was found in such good shape was because he was able to build a fire.
When it comes to building a fire, one of the most important factors is clearly the fuel you have to burn. In Kim’s situation, he burned whatever he had, including money.
But obviously, it’s better to have real fire starters.
The key to building a survival fire is to have a good foundation of tinder. Without a good source of tinder, it can be hard to keep a flame going.
This is why you might want to consider adding fatwood to your survival gear.
What is Fatwood?
Fatwood is also called light wood, fat lighter, pine knot, or pitch pine.
It’s derived from pine trees.
Pine trees contain a terpene, which is the main ingredient of turpentine. It’s extremely flammable, and it’s why these types of trees burn so quickly.
When a pine tree falls over, the resin settles in certain areas of the tree.
These areas of the tree develop a high concentration of the resin making it more flammable.
For the most part, fatwood is a great source for getting a fire started. It’s a lot more flammable compared to other wood.
Fatwood can ignite even when it’s wet. Shake the excess water off, and it should light as if it were dry.
Also, fatwood can light and burn even in windy conditions.
Of course, it’s not 100% guaranteed that it will stand up to everything, but it stays lit better compared to other types of wood.
And fatwood is easy to ignite.
When you are limited on matches or don’t want to waste your lighter, fatwood will ignite quicker compared to other wood.
Use it multiple times:
In theory, you could put one or two pieces of fatwood in your survival bag and make it last.
What I mean is, each fire will take a different amount of fatwood to start depending on the conditions and fuel.
So in perfect conditions, you could cut a piece of fatwood into multiple pieces and use it more than once.
Also, if you get a fire going and don’t need to use the entire piece of fatwood you can reuse the piece if it hasn’t burned.
Many other sources of starting a fire such as cotton balls burn completely and are not reusable.
With a knife, you can create a match from your piece of fatwood. This way you can ignite the base of your fire setup.
Plus, you can use as much or as little fatwood as you need to get the flame going.
Ideally, I would make the match about as thick as a pencil, and the length will depend on how far you need to reach.
Another advantage of fatwood is that you can create wood dust to spread around your fire.
With a knife or another piece of wood, you can rub the fatwood together over the fire to create wood dust.
You want to create small shavings that can be spread around to start a fire.
As I mentioned, fatwood is a product of pine trees. There are plenty of pine trees in this world where you could find fatwood.
If you cannot find any pine trees you can buy fatwood from hardware stores. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to buy some and become familiar with it and how well it works.
Next time you are stocking your firewood stack, make sure you have some wood from pine trees.
And if you end up buying fatwood, keep a piece or two with your survival gear.
It can go a long way when building a fire is the only way to stay alive.