Sap, Resin, and Pitch. Differences and Applications for Survival

Sap is where pancake syrup comes from, resin clogs your smoking pipes, and pitch is what you do with a ball, right? Well, not quite, close though. Sap is the lifeblood of trees or other plants, but usually when we refer to sap we are thinking in terms of a tree. Sap runs through the outer layer of a tree. If you were to cut through the bark and outer most layer of a tree, all the way around the tree, the tree will die.

Respect the Trees

This is why in survival situations if you are utilizing natural elements, you must consider the damage you are doing to the tree. A tree is a living, breathing organism. If you use it for materials needed for, say, making pitch to seal a vessel, or a canoe, or for affixing an arrowhead to an arrow, you must respect it and treat it as such so that it continues to live and breathe and provide materials for you.

birch use canoe

Look for Naturally Occurring Resin

If you must collect resin from trees, look at several trees and try to find an area that is already secreting sap and gather that, rather than injuring the tree yourself for the intention of gathering sap for pitch or other uses. It should be mentioned that the best time for collecting sap is in the early spring when the sap is running. It can be done at other times of the year, but with greatly reduced results.

The “V” Cut

If you find that you MUST wound a tree to collect sap for pitch, or whatever use you intend, one method for doing so is to use your hatchet or knife and cut a “V” into the tree. Then use another piece of stick that you have sharpened to a point and flattened, insert that stick into the bottom of the “V,” and the sap will run and drip off the stick into a collection vessel.

Tap Pine Resin

Collecting Naturally

If you find naturally occurring injury areas on the tree, you can collect the hardened resin from that area. If you were to collect that resin and mix it with charcoal dust, then it becomes a form of pitch. The terms pitch and resin are often used interchangeably.




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