Several Survival Uses for Pine Trees

Survival: Plants and Animals

Up-close view of a pine tree
Britany G/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

If you find yourself in a survival situation in the middle of a pine forest, you actually have a lot of resources available in your natural surroundings. Most parts of the pine tree have some sort of survival use, including their edible bark, sticky sap, and wood, which is an excellent fire-starter. Read on to learn how to identify pine trees and use them to your advantage in a survival situation.

Pine Tree Identification ​

Pine trees grow in an inverted cone shape and can be recognized by their bundles of needle-like leaves, which grow in clusters rather than in single needles emerging from the branch. Needles that emerge singly from a branch will likely belong to a spruce or a fir instead of a pine. 

Pine Bark Identification 

Pine bark is often reddish-brown in color and grows in a rectangular scale-like pattern around the trunk of the tree.You can easily pick or flake off chunks of the thin, brittle bark with your fingers.

Pine Resin and Pine Tree Habitats

Pine trees can also be recognized by their sticky resin, or sap, which drips from gouges and knots in the bark or trunk. Many different pine species exist, but pines generally prefer open, sunny areas. They can be found abundantly throughout North America, and they are also found throughout Central America, Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, in much of the Caribbean region, and in some places in Asia.

Uses for Pine Resin

Pine resin has multiple uses. Scrape resin from a tree and collect it in a tin container. Press the sap into the container until it is full, and light the sap at night. The odor will deter insects, and its warm glow will provide light.

The resin can also waterproof articles, such as boots, mittens, or tent seams. Heat the resin in a container, and use the resin as glue while it is still hot. Adding ash dust from your fire to the hot resin can help strengthen its waterproofing qualities.

If you can’t find enough resin on a tree, cut into the bark with a knife so that more sap will seep out. Come back later to collect new sap as it oozes from the cut.

Uses for Pine Needles

Brown or green pine needles provide an excellent bed for a survival shelter. Collect them into a pile, and spread them beneath you while you sleep. Laying pine branches and needles beneath you in a shelter will also form a natural insulation between your body and the ground so that you can stay warmer at night.

Make a tea from green pine needles by boiling the needles. Fill a container with water, bring to a boil, and add the needles at full boil. Boil for two minutes before removing the container from the fire. Let the needles stew for a few minutes, and either strain the needles from the water or drink the water with the needles in the container. This beverage will warm you up if you are cold, and green pine needles are also high in vitamin C.

Uses for Pine Cones

The seeds of all pine species are edible, and they’re especially good to eat when they’re toasted over an open fire. In the spring, collect young male cones. You can bake or boil the young cones as a survival food.

Uses for Pine Bark

The bark of young pine twigs is edible. Peel the bark from thin twigs by stripping it off in thin layers with your knife or by pulling it off in chunks with your fingers. On a more mature pine tree, the tender layer of bark beneath the brittle outer layer is also edible.

Uses for Pine Wood

Pine twigs and branches make excellent dry tinder when you’re ready to start a fire. Cut pine wood into thin strips to use as kindling. You may also burn pine logs to fuel your fire after you get it going.

The next time you find yourself traveling through a pine forest, try out one of the above uses of pine trees to practice your survival skills. At least stop to gather some green pine needles, and make yourself some tea on the trail or save it for a warm treat when you return home.

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