Train with me @ ESCAPE THE WOODS

I receive emails everyday asking about how one can train with me. There’s a reason I haven’t released a public training schedule at Willow Haven yet this year. Besides being extremely busy filming and promoting FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS and writing a new book due out 2016, I’ve signed on to be the Lead Trainer at a series of events that I am very excited about. It’s called ESCAPE THE WOODS!



Escape the Woods is a two person survival team challenge designed to provide world class survival training and then test those skills in a head to head competition.  You’ll start your day by learning new survival skills from yours truly and my approved team of survival skills trainers.  Then you will have a chance to Prove it by putting your newly learned skills to the test against the other teams to earn points and collect clues to win the $1,000 Cabela’s gift card. You can also win a $200 Bug Out Bag by creating the best video of your day.  Do you have what it takes to ESCAPE THE WOODS???

“I started teaching survival skills because they’re fun.  I still teach them because they save lives.  As a natural competitor myself, I’m excited to be involved in a new project that combines my two favorite aspects of survival – FUN and LEARNING!  Escape the Woods is an action packed survival competition for people of all ages and experience levels.  You’ll learn awesome skills, meet incredible people and have a blast in the process!  Come test yourself – the woods is waiting!”


When, CR///EK, WHEN??!!

The 1st ESCAPE THE WOODS challenge is scheduled for September 12th & 13th in Delaware, OH.  I’ve planned a training curriculum that revolves around the CORE 4 – Shelter, Water, Fire and Food.  You’ll spend the morning jumping from training POD to training POD and then, after lunch, it’s time to put your skills to the test!  Trust me, this is survival training like you’ve never seen before.


First of it’s kind!

I like being a part of new and exciting projects.  ESCAPE THE WOODS is an action packed survival skills competition with a focus on very real survival skills.  You’ll learn some of my favorite survival skills, tips and tricks about how to secure shelter, water, food and MY FAVORITE – fire!  The chance to win something at the end of the day is just the icing on the survival skills cake.


Yes, this event has a head count limit.  Tickets are being sold on a first come first serve basis.  Because you’re a subscriber to my blog you are one of the first to even hear of it, but the word will spread fast.  You can find all of the details and sign up on the Escape the Woods web-site at


Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN…. I see you in the woods.  Are you ready????


You’re not going to believe what I do with this 2-liter bottle.

Just in case you missed the most recent episode of FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS, I had to write this blog post and show you a cool survival skill that I think you’ll really enjoy.  And, it’s a great way to source some awesome cordage in a pinch.  I call it the 2-Liter Bottle Cordage Jig.


Years ago I saw a video about how a small factory was recycling 2-liter bottles to make woven baskets.  They had a fancy electric powered piece of equipment that would allow an operator to feed in trash 2-liter bottles and it would strip them into long pieces of plastic that would then be coiled on a spool and used to weave baskets.


Trash 2-liter bottles (or similar) can be found all over the world, especially in coastal areas.  During our week filming FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS in the Florida Swamps I decided to create a primitive version of making cordage from 2-liter bottles using just my knife, my folding saw and a sapling stump.



Below is a link to the YouTube video filmed for the show that I think you will find very educational.  It’s rare to find a survival skill that you’ve never seen before and I’m proud to bring one to you in this post!


Like I always say, survival is about using what you have to get what you need and this skill is a prime example of that philosophy.

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,


Episode 202 – This week on FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS + the Gear List


This Sunday for Episode 202 of Fat Guys in the Woods we’re headed north to Drummond Island, MI for a freezing week in the Moose Spruce wilderness.  This north woods is covered with spruce, hemlock, pine, birch and SNOW!  Tennessee natives Kyle, Brian and Martin and in for a rude awakening when they’re delivered to Drummond Island via the only way to get there – by FERRY through frigid Lake Huron.


You’re not going to believe the series of events that get us through an incredibly dangerous week.  One of my days during this week turned out to be one of my best and worst days in the woods – you don’t want to miss it.


Below is a Gear List for this episode for those of you who are interested:

Creek’s Scarf:  Surplus military from 

Creek’s Axe Sling:

The axe Creek gives the guys:  Husqvarna :

Creek’s Coat: Filson Wool Packer Coat:

Knife # 1: Main Survival Knife:  Blackbird SK5:

Knife # 1: Sheath: Hedgehog Leatherworks:

Knife # 2: Custom handmade knife given to Creek by Bill Anderson from Season 1 of Fat Guys in the Woods – Thanks Bill – it worked AWESOME!

Knife # 2: Sheath: Custom Sheath by Voyager Leatherworks – I highly recommend them if you are looking for a custom leather sheath:

The knife I give the guys: Finn Bear Knife:

Klean Kanteen:

Stainless Mug:

Creek’s Pack:  Maxpedition Vulture-II:


I hope you catch Sunday’s episode.  You just aren’t going to believe our luck – GOOD and BAD!  It airs only on The Weather Channel at 9pm Eastern.

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,



Don’t Miss Season 2 of FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS

This Sunday, June 7th, at 9pm eastern ONLY on The Weather Channel

On the eve of the premiere of Season 2 of FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS I thought I’d take a minute and write a letter to the blog subscribers here at Willow Haven Outdoor.  Many of you were blog subscribers long before FAT GUYS existed and you’ve watched my career in the survival industry develop over the past 6-10 years or so.  I am grateful for your support to say the least.

As I anxiously await America’s response to the first episode of Season 2, I just can’t keep my lips sealed about what to expect.  Below are some things to look forward to Sunday night as well as a little insider info ;). Here goes:


First of all, we’re in the SONORAN DESERT of ARIZONA!

That’s right, this Indiana boy took 3 guys from Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Ohio and plopped them smack dab in the middle of one of the most hostile environments in North America.  I remember when one of them said, “This looks like the surface of mars!” Time to saddle up suckers!

My favorite childhood memories…


While most kids were reading comic books, I was scouring the pages from my Dad’s ARMY SURVIVAL manuals and I LOVED THEM!  In this first episode I decided to bring those pages to life.  This Sunday watch Randy, Peter, Jacob and I put these skills to the test and see if they really work.  I’ve been wanting to build a shelter like I’ve seen in the ARMY SURVIVAL manual my whole life and this week in the desert was my chance to do it.  You’re gonna love it.


WATER….uhhhh, I mean, WHAT WATER????

There was actually a point in the week when I doubted that we could make it the rest of the time with our water supply.  You’ll have to watch and see what happens but let me tell you something – I WILL NEVER take the water sources in the midwest for granted again.  EVER!

FIRE (time to cuddle boys)

I can’t wait for you to learn how we started a fire in this episode.  We actually used TRASH that we found and the method is going to blow your mind.  It’s a fire start that I’ve practiced in a controlled environment before but never in a very real scenario.  It was awesome and incredibly frustrating at the same time.  I think the guys thought I was crazy when I described it to them.  I played it cool, although it was crazy.

FOOD (I guess you can call it that)

This photo says it all – you do not want to miss what we eat!!!!


Oh, and do you see all of the skulls in the 1st photo in this post????  Those are boar, mule deer and jack rabbit.  BTW – have you ever seen a desert jack rabbit.  They are HUGE.  From ground to ear tips I’ll bet you they are 36″ tall.  See pics of them here if you’re curious:

 RANDOM thoughts…


You are not going to believe what Randy is putting into this mouth in this scene.  I hope this makes the episode so bad.  If it does, I hope you’ve also eaten and thoroughly digested your dinner by the time you watch it.


You know I’m all about teaching real survival skills.  I’m excited to teach you a trap I learned from a research scientist friend of mine.  I saw an opportunity to deploy it in the desert and think it’s a great trap to keep in your mental tool chest.


The photo above is just before we tear into a group desert brawl.  Just kidding…it’s time to celebrate a huge success.  Trust me, you’ll be celebrating with us Sunday night.

MY GEAR in this episode

I always get asked a ton of questions about the gear I’m using in each episode so I thought I’d just list it out if you’re interested.

The Gear I give the Guys:

Parting words

Last season aired at 10pm eastern – we’re moving up in the world and are now on at 9pm eastern.  You won’t regret watching it.  You’ll learn some real skills and meet some real guys who have very real stories.  If you have a moment, share this VIMEO clip promoting the premiere episode with your friends:

Oh!  And I’d love to hear what you think!

Interested in being on a potential Season 3 of FGITW?  Send your info/story to

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,


FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS: BLOG SKILL SERIES: Become a Fire Walker – Apache Match

You’ve probably noticed that I’ll often send the guys off on the morning of their solo day with some kind of fire carry method.  The ability to carry fire is an important survival skill for a variety of reasons.

First, if you can carry fire, you don’t have to recreate your fire start all over again.  It typically takes less energy and calories to carry fire than to start all over from scratch.  Survival is all about conserving calories.

Second, it’s not hard to imagine that you’ve used the last of your fire starting materials.  Maybe you only had 1 match?  Maybe you’re all out of char cloth?  The ability to travel with fire once you’ve created it could truly be a life-saving skill if you have no other means of making fire.

Thirdly, rarely is a survival signal fire built right at a base camp location.  Oftentimes, survival camps are built under the cover of tree canopies and near building materials.  Signal fires are built in opposite type places – out in the open where they can be seen by rescue planes, ships, vehicles or crews.  The ability to carry fire from survival base camp to a signal fire location could be the difference between being rescued or passed over.  When every second counts, you may not have TIME to start a fire from scratch at a signal fire location.


One of the easiest and most popular fire carry methods I know of is often called an Apache Match.  Primitive peoples both in this country and others have used similar methods to carry fire from camp to camp and even on long hunting/scouting trips.  This method of carry can last anywhere from several hours to several days.  I’ve heard rumors of Apache matches lasting for weeks but I would imagine that this is in fact a series of Apache Matches rather than just one.

The basic principle is to contain a burning coal inside of a tinder bundle.  By limiting the supply of oxygen and keeping the coal in a near-smothered state, it allows the coal and surrounding tinder to smolder for several hours.  I’ve had many Apache Matches last for 3-4 hours with little effort and maintenance.

Below are the steps to creating an Apache Match that is approximately 12 inches in length by 4 inches in diameter.  One this size can be expected to last anywhere from 2-3 hours depending on a variety of conditions – mostly how much oxygen the coal gets.

STEP 1:  The Coal and The Bundle


I typically use a bright red coal from the fire bed.  This is represented by a red 5-hour energy bottle cap in the following photos :)  The coal can be anywhere from 1″ to 2″ in diameter.  It can also be a collection of small coals.  This coal is embedded in between 2 big handfuls of tinder material.  ‘Tinder Material’ is the same as a tinder bundle.  In this case I’m using shredded cedar bark.  Grasses, cattail down, dried seed heads, dry inner bark and plant fibers would also suffice.  Even shredded newspaper would work in an urban scenario.

STEP 2: A Bun in the Oven


This photo shows the coal getting ready to be covered by 2 big handfuls of tinder material.

STEP 3: A Coal Sandwich


You can’t see it in this photo but the red ‘coal’ in officially embedded inside of the tinder material.

Step 4: The Outer Layer


Next, you need to add an exterior layer to the bundle.  This not only helps keep everything together but it also helps protect your hands.  These things can get a little hot when traveling.  The outer layer shown here is also cedar bark.  I left it in big strips versus ‘fuzzing’ it down to tinder material like on the inside.  You use any kind of bark really.  It can be dry or green, it doesn’t really matter.  I’ve even used cardboard before.  Don’t get too particular.

Step 5: Wrap the Bundle


Lastly, you want to loosely wrap the bundle in order to keep everything together.  This one is wrapped with willow bark but you can use anything – paracord, a hoodie drawstring, a shoestring, dental floss, plant fibers, yucca leaves, etc.  Don’t make the mistake of wrapping it too tight.  There is a delicate balance between too loose and too tight and only experience can tell the difference.  Too tight and you’ll smother the coal.  Too loose and the coal will spread through your tinder too fast.

Step 6: From Match to Flame


An Apache Match will require some maintenance and attention while traveling.  You may have to blow on it a little bit to make sure you’ve still got some heat.  You may have to tighten your lashings or even loosen them.  It’s important to check on it every few minutes.

Once you’ve reached your destination, making fire is as simple as unwrapping your Apache Match and blowing the tinder bundle into flame.  If you’ve done everything right, flame should be just a few breaths away.


I really believe the ability to carry fire is a necessary survival skill.  Would you like to see more posts dedicated to survival fire carry methods?  I’ve definitely got some tricks up my sleeve for carrying fire in Season 2!



Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,



In the first episode of Fat Guys in the Woods, we made an improvised Bow Saw using a bent sapling.  We then used this saw to help build shelters and process wood throughout the week.  This post provides a little more detail about this project.

First, about Bow Saws…

I love a good Bow Saw.  I actually prefer a Bow Saw over an ax.  A good Bow Saw can process an insane amount of wood in a short amount of time.  It’s safer to use than an ax, require less practice and takes far less energy.  It’s also much lighter.  My Bow Saw of choice is the Bahco 36″ model.  Here’s a photo below:


I’ll be the first to admit that they are bulky, especially the larger ones.  Luckily, the ‘BOW’ part of the Bow Saw can be improvised in the field using a flexible sapling if you just want to carry in the blade portion.  Below is how to do it.

Choosing the BOW.

I typically use either small saplings or branches that are about 3/4″ – 1″ in diameter.  I cut them about 6″ longer than my Bow Saw blade.  That’s typically pinky tip to thumb tip of my open hand with fingers spread.  They must be flexible.  They must also be GREEN wood.  No dead stuff.  I’ll often flex them around a large tree to break them in.  This really helps.

Next, split the end of each sapling in half about 3″ down.  The splits on each end must be aligned with each other.  They can’t be going in opposite directions.  This is necessary in order for the saw blade to be straight.

Key Rings/Wooden Peg Blade Attachment Options

Threading key rings onto each end of the Bow Saw blade in advance of your trip makes attaching an improvised sapling handle pretty easy.  All bow saw blades that I know of have holes in each end.  These holes are perfect attachment points for key rings.  Key rings can be purchased in the key making dept. of virtually any hardware store.

Start by inserting the end of the bow saw blade into one of the splits on the end of your sapling.  Fold the key ring over and around the sapling like shown below.  If your sapling is larger in diameter than the key ring then simple taper down the end with your knife so that it will fit.


If you don’t have key rings, an appropriately sized wooden peg will also work.


Next, carefully bend the sapling and attach the blade in the same way to the other end.  Flexing the sapling around a tree really helps to ready the sapling for this step in the build.


I’ll often tie some paracord around the blade and key ring for peace of mind but it isn’t necessary.  The entire build typically only takes 5-10 minutes and is a really fun bushcraft project.



Although not as robust as the metal store-bought versions, these improvised bow saws may surprise you.  I’ve been using one around Willow Haven for a couple years and it still works like a charm.  Besides, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of improvising and making tools in the field.



Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,



Remember these cool shelters that Joe, Opie, Zach and I built in the river valley?


One very important part of building this shelter is the bed frame similar to what I’ve shown below. 3-4″ diameter logs are stacked log cabin style to build a frame that can contain bedding materials (leaves/boughs/branches/grass,etc) and help brace the arch-style roof.  The logs are lashed together using the JAM KNOT.  I love this knot and it’s one of the most useful outdoor knots I know and I’d like to use this opportunity to teach it to you.


I’ve never been a big fan of teaching knots with the written word or photos so I’ve filmed a short video where I describe how to tie it step-by-step.  Below is the embedded video and here is the link:

It’s such a simple knot to use and works perfect for bed frames to contain loose natural insulation.


Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,



It may have been a little tricky to follow the exact details of how to make the Lever Rabbit Snare in the very first episode of FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS with Matt, Ben and Jesse.  I thought a clean instructional diagram might make it easier to understand.  I don’t think the diagram requires explanation but if you have any questions at all, feel free to post in comments.

The snare is engaged by a large weighted lever stick which is tied to a trigger stick.  The trigger stick is attached to a noose which is placed in line with a game trail or over the entrance to a burrow or nest.  When the noose is pulled, the trigger stick dislodges and the lever is released – thus suspending the animal in the air.

Below is a wide angle diagram of the snare:


Below is an up close diagram so that you can see the trigger system a little better.  It’s important to note that you can increase the sensitivity of the trigger system by tying the leader line closer to the Y-stick along the trigger stick.    The pressure of the trigger stick against the notched stake decreases the closer the leader line it tied to the Y-stick.


And now, an up close photo of one of the actual snares we made on the show.  This one was placed in front of a hole in a tree where we found signs of squirrel activity.





When it comes to making snares, you are only limited by your own creativity.  There are only a few trigger systems but they can be used in hundreds of different unique ways.  Remember, INNOVATION is one of your most important survival skills!


Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,



Many of you have asked for more details about the Live Capture Box trap that Bill, Dave, Andrew and I used to catch the Quail.  To my knowledge, this is a trap style that originates in Asia but versions of it exist all over the world.  It’s very unique in that it can be constructed from all natural materials.  Below I detail the trap design as well as the trigger I normally pair with it.


It all starts with 2 pieces of cordage and 2 sticks…

A length of cordage is tied between the ends of two sticks.  When tied, the length of rope should be a little longer (6 or so inches) than the sticks.  The shape at this point should be somewhat rectangular because the cordage sides are longer than the stick sides.  The length of your sticks will determine the size of your trap, in this case about 18″ x 18″.


Now, twist each stick so that cordage forms an X in the middle.  At this point, your trap should look fairly square.


The coolest thing about this trap is that it’s held together with tension.  You start by sliding sticks one at a time in a log-cabin pattern UNDERNEATH of the string.  The string will be loose in the beginning but will start to tighten as you build up the walls underneath with sticks.  It is this tension that ultimately will hold all of the sticks in place.


Below is a trap almost finished using a natural reverse wrapped yucca leaf cordage – just like we did in the episode of FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS.


Here the trap is finished with the trigger set.  Now, let’s discuss the trigger system that I use with this trap.  It’s awesome AND simple!






This trigger system is very simple and is in essence a double trip line.  There is a pretty cool trick to making the trigger stick.  I use a pencil below to illustrate:

First, cut a slice in the middle of the trigger stick that is about 1/2 of the way through.  The saw from a multitool works perfect for this.


Now, turn over the stick, move 1/2 inch down and make another cut 1/2 way through on the opposite side.


Then, with your thumbs at each cut, firmly snap the stick in half.


Nine times out of ten the stick will snap as shown above with 2 perfectly mated notches.  This completes your trigger stick.  The only remaining step is to tie two thin trip lines to one half of the trigger stick.  I typically tie them around the top of the bottom half.


The other ends of the trip lines should be tied to the back 2 corners of the box trap – in this case, an egg crate.


Now, assemble the trigger stick and prop up the front of the box.  You can see that the two trip lines are impossible for a small game animal to avoid when trying to get the bait that is located toward the back of the trap between the trip lines.


In the episode when we caught the quail, we used rose hips as bait and thin yucca fibers as trip lines.  The trip lines don’t have to be very strong because the trigger stick is very sensitive.




The basic principle of this trap design can be applied in all types of environments, both urban and wilderness.  Use your creativity when it comes to cages – even a cardboard box will work!  Innovation is one of your most important survival skills!


Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,



In many of the episodes of FAT GUYS IN THE WOODS, I instructed the guys how to ‘carry fire’ from base camp to their individual solo base camps.  Oftentimes, this was quite a trek through the woods and the fire carry needed to last up to a couple hours.  In the pioneer settlement themed episode with Dave, Andrew and Bill, we made fire on Day 1 using a YUCCA HAND DRILL.  When it came time to send them each out on their own, it was raining.  Making fire with a HAND DRILL would have been impossible under those conditions.  So, I decided to send them each with a couple of PINE FATWOOD TORCHES.  I didn’t get a chance on the show to really explain where I got these and how to find them so I thought I highlight that skill in this blog series.



The ability to source a torch that will burn upwards of an hour is a very important survival skill.  Not only can you use a torch to carry fire from one location to another but it has all kinds of survival uses.  It can allow you explore dark caves, hunt at night (frog gigging especially), travel at night, signal for rescue, and keep predators at bay.  It is an incredibly useful survival tool.


‘Fatwood’ is a term for wood (typically in the pine family) that has become saturated with sap, also called resin.  Fatwood is sold in stores and online as fire tinder and is an amazing fire starting material.  Pine sap is extremely flammable and wood that becomes saturated with it will burn for a very long time.  Fatwood makes an excellent torch!  Fatwood can be shaved into thin shavings and ignited with just the spark from a ferro rod.  Pine sap (dry or oozy) can be added to fire starting tinder as a flame extender and is a great substitute for PETROLEUM jelly when making PET balls (cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly).  Below is a photo of pine resin oozing from insect drill holes in the side of this pine tree.



If you can find pine trees then you can find FATWOOD.  I find that many people are confused about how to actually find fatwood.  If you are, I hope to clear that up.  The easiest way to find FATWOOD is at the base of dead, low hanging branches on pine trees.


Pine resin (sap)  tends to collect at these joints and will saturate the bottom few inches of the branch where it connects to the tree.  It will remain there long after the tree has died.  In fact, for this post, I am using the dead pine tree shown below which has been dead for over 10 years.  Notice the dead branches along the trunk.  This is where I will be looking for FATWOOD.  Even though much of the tree and the branches are dead and rotting, there is still fatwood at the base of many of these branches.



Here’s a closer look at a couple of the branches.


As I begin to hack into the base of one of the branches with my ax, you’ll notice that the wood inside has a rich amber color.  It’s also very dense.  This is fatwood and it is completely saturated with 10+ year old pine resin.


In the photo below you can clearly see the difference between the resin rich fatwood in the branch (left) as compared to wood that came from the trunk.


As soon as you cut into fatwood you can SMELL the rich pine scent and it is sticky to the touch almost immediately.




You can even see the pine resin glistening in the sun on the branch I collected below.  Once you’ve chopped a resin rich lower hanging branch from a pine tree, you have to prepare it for lighting.


It’s important to split the resin rich end to expose more fatwood surface area and allow oxygen to freely flow between the split.  This helps the torch to light and burn longer and more efficiently.


Once you split the end a few ways, press in some green spreader sticks to keep the splits forced open.




Depending on the size, a fatwood torch will burn for quite some time.  I’ve found there is a ratio to estimate how long one burns.  If the stick is 2″ in diameter, it will burn about  1 hour.  If it’s 1″ in diameter it will burn about 30 mins.  3″ = 1.5 hours.  Basically, divide the diameter in half and that’s how many HOURS it will burn.

FATWOOD is an amazing survival resource and is an unrivaled material in the natural world.  I hope this tutorial helps you be able to identify, harvest and use a fatwood torch!

Have you ever used FATWOOD to start a fire?  If so, tell us about your experience in the comments below!


Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,