SURVIVAL TREES: BASSWOOD – Amazing survival resources from the Basswood Tree

As spring quickly approaches, I’d thought I share with you why the BASSWOOD tree is one of my favorite Survival Trees!


Trees can provide a survivor with elements from all four core survival priorities:  Shelter, Water, Fire and Food.  Trees can be used for warmth, hydration, food, tools, and self-defense.  It’s crazy to think that one can use a tree to start a fire, take shelter under it, and then find themselves able to eat and drink from it.  Trees provide an immeasurable number of materials essential to survival, and studying the different species, as well as what they offer, is a worthwhile endeavor that will pay major survival dividends time and time again.

This article is an except from my much more extensive POCKET FIELD GUIDE titled SURVIVAL TREES that will ship (autographed) in the APRIL FORAGER EDITION APOCABOX.  Each tree is accompanied with illustrated drawings of its leaves and (on occasion) other identifying features, such as fruits, nuts, barks, or buds.  The guide (nor this article) is not designed or intended to be a tree identification guide. Rather, it should act as a supplement to other guides on the subject, offering survival specific information and insight that typically is not covered (or even mentioned) in the average identification guide.  

The use of each tree type is broken down into some or all (if applicable) of the following five survival categories: Shelter, Water, Fire, Food, and Tools & Miscellaneous.  The information contained in these categories has taken me nearly two decades to compile, learn, and test.  Yet, I am sure there are still uses and resources for each tree that I do not know.  It is my hope that this article deepens your knowledge and appreciation for the amazing BASSWOOD tree.

Basswood (American Linden) : Tilia americana

The American Linden, or Basswood, is one of my favorite survival trees.  Not only is it entirely edible, but the Basswood also provides a surprising number of other survival resources.  In Britain, this species is often referred to as the Lime Tree, though it is not the source of the lime fruit.


The Basswood tree is not a particularly good tree for shelter.  However, mature Basswoods are notorious for sending up a slew of smaller sucker Basswood trees from their base.  This is one way I am able to identify Basswoods in the winter when their leaves are gone.  These sucker trees are usually very straight, tall, and easy to harvest.  Although not very strong, like oak or maple, they still make great shelter poles if fallen branches aren’t available.  Basswood is a very soft wood and a favorite among wood carvers. Even 2-3” diameter saplings can be cut easily with just a knife.  Consider this option before spending significant calories on a tree of a different variety.


Basswood trees can be tapped just as a Maple can be tapped.  Although not nearly as high in sugar content and not worth boiling down for a sweet syrup, Basswood sap is incredibly refreshing and is one of the fastest sap trees I’ve ever tapped.  Young sucker trees, as well as 1st season growth on branches (1/2” in diameter or smaller), can provide a survivor with a very functional spile.  The centers of these two are very pithy and can quickly be reamed out with a wire or a thin branch with a sharpened point. I’ve used many a Basswood spile while gathering drinking sap from Basswoods, Maples, and Birches.  Friends of mine who make tobacco pipes will often use a young basswood sucker for the tube because of its hollow nature.

The Basswood is also a sign that you are probably near water, as they prefer moist, water-rich environments.  If you’ve found a Basswood tree, keep looking because there is likely a water source close by.  


Basswood is not a great wood for extended warmth and heat, but it is without question my favorite wood to use for friction fire kits such as Bow Drill and even Hand Drill.  Basswood, especially sucker trees and 1st year growth branch wood, is the perfect consistency for friction fire lighting.  The light-weight, porous wood generates a nice hot ember very quickly.  Sucker trees at the base of mature trees are my favorite for this, but fallen limbs and branches will work just fine as well.  Regardless, it is one of the softest woods available.  When available, I use Basswood to make both the hearth-board and spindle for my Bow Drill fire kits (see POCKET FIELD GUIDE:  Master the Bow Drill).


Young Basswood leaves are my favorite wild edible green.  I eat a basswood leaf salad at least two times a week from March-May.  When their flowers are in bloom, I will add them to the salad, as they are edible too.  The leaves are very mucilaginous and may pose a texture issue for some.  While edible all throughout the summer, Basswood leaves are best when young and smaller than a silver dollar.  I also like to steep 10 or so flowers in a cup of hot water for 10 minutes to make a fragrant tea that I very much enjoy.

The seeds of the Basswood are edible as well, though, they are time consuming to collect.  They dangle from underneath the leaves in small clusters and are attached to a tongue-shaped bract.  The hard, outer shell must be cracked away to access the edible seed. I simply do this inside my mouth and spit out the hull, although I’ve been known to chew it up on occasion.  When green, before the hull turns hard and brown, these can be ground into a paste or added to soups and stews.  Basswood seeds, leaves, and flowers can all be added to soups and stews.

The inner bark of Basswood (the whitish layers between the rough outer bark and the solid wood) is edible as well and has a very refreshing texture and flavor.  It reminds me of cucumber.  It can be scraped away in handfuls and eaten raw or boiled to break it up and soften it for chewing and digesting.

Basswood leaves can get quite large and make perfect natural tin foil for baking meals in earthen pits or in the coals of a fire.  Wrap food in at least 5-6 layers of green leaves and tie with the peeled bark from young basswood suckers or branches.

An old-timer once told me that he heard of families in the Great Depression who added basswood sawdust to bread-mix as a filler to make rations last longer.  The wood is not poisonous, so it’s something to at least file away in your brain.

Tools & Miscellaneous

As mentioned previously, the hollow tubes from basswood suckers and young branches have many uses.  Some of these include: 

  •        Spiles for tapping trees
  •         Drinking straws
  •         Blowing tubes for making coal-burned containers
  •         Smoking pipes (not necessary for survival but interesting nonetheless)
  •         Trap systems that require a hollow tube (yes, there are some)
  •         Bobbers/floats for fishing

Basswood is a very soft, nonpoisonous wood and makes an excellent medium for a variety of cooking utensils including spoons, ladles, forks, chopsticks, stirring sticks, and spatulas.  Most of these can be carved with just a knife in very little time and with little effort.  Using basswood for such tools also reduces wear and tear on your knife blade.  Due to their fast and straight growth, basswood sucker saplings also make excellent quick and dirty arrows for bow and arrow or atlatl.  They are lightweight, have few branches, and very easy to fire or heat straighten.

By far the most incredible resource the Basswood tree provides is cordage.  That name “BASS”wood is actually derived from the word BAST, which means plant fiber.  The inner bark of the Basswood tree is one of the most easily accessible fibers I’ve ever gathered from the wild.  It is best gathered when the sap is running heavy during the spring months.  With saplings that are 3” in diameter or smaller, the tree can be scored from left to right.  A knife can be used to pick at the score line and once a piece large enough to grab is available, entire strips that are many feet in length can be pulled from the sapling.  If care is taken, saplings can be cut down and the entire sheath of outer and inner bark can be removed in one piece by carefully peeling from the bottom.  Pounding the bark with a wooden mallet (metal will damage the inner bark fibers) will help it to loosen and will be necessary to process trees much larger than 3” in diameter.  I’ve seen sheets of bark pulled from basswood trees (with many hours of careful peeling and pounding) as large as 2 feet wide by 15 feet tall.

The inner bark fibers, just beneath the rough outer bark, can be processed into cordage that can be used to make nets, clothing, baskets, traps, or any other accoutrement necessary for survival.  On the younger saplings with a thin layer of outer bark, the freshly peeled strips of bark can be used right away as crude cordage for shelter building or rough bindings.  In my courses, I’ve seen two adult men pull on opposite sides of a 2” strip of basswood bark and not be able to break it.

For a finer, more pliable cordage, the bark must be soaked (called retting) in water for at least a couple weeks.  The rotting process loosens the inner bark fibers from the outer bark.  It can then be easily pulled away in long ribbons that can be used as is or stripped down into thinner cordage.  The soaking can be done in a container or at the bank of a pond and river.  This process of retting works for many varieties of trees including, Walnut, Willow, Tulip Poplar and Cottonwood to name a few.

Because Basswood bark can be removed in large chunks from the tree (typically during spring months only), it is an excellent candidate for crafting bark containers.  Below is a basic pattern for making a seamless bark container.  The dashed lines represent fold lines.  



If you’re like me and like to learn how to glean food and resources from trees and plants, consider subscribing to the APRIL APOCABOX called the FORAGER EDITION.  It is all about foraging and includes an exclusive signed copy of my POCKET FIELD GUIDE titled SURVIVAL TREES where I detailed the survival uses for many more incredible trees on the forest.  To subscribe to the FORAGER APOCABOX, CLICK HERE:

For more of my Pocket Field Guides, please visit my page at:

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,


I’d Tap That! (Maple Tree that is.)

It’s February.  You’re lost in the woods.  You didn’t properly prepare for the hike – shame on you.  You hydrated before you left but didn’t bring a canteen.  You are starting to feel early warning signs of dehydration – dry mouth and headache.

Have you been listening to ANYTHING I’ve told you?

All you have is a snack pack of survival Funyuns in your pocket.  In a slight panic about your situation, you eat them.  Now, you’re really thirsty.  And, you’ve got horrible breath.

You try to remember everything you’ve read at and even on their awesome FACEBOOK PAGE (hint, hint) about what Creek writes in regards to finding water.  You proceed to go through a mental checklist of sorts:

  • There’s no snow on the ground for you to melt and drink, the temp is about 50 degrees outside
  • There’s no rain in the forecast for you to collect
  • There are no lush water rich wild edible plants like bull thistle to help with hydration
  • You can’t find any fresh water seeps or springs
  • There is a stream nearby but you know you can’t drink from it because of water borne parasites and you don’t have a way to purify it.  You’re not that desperate yet, even though you really want to wash out that Funyun taste.

What else can you possibly do?  How can you hydrate?

Late winter and early spring are the perfect time of year to tap a variety of trees for fresh, nutrient and sugar rich, drinkable sap that does not need purification.  The #1 candidate of choice is the maple tree – which can be found almost everywhere.  Any maple will work, but the Sugar Maple is best.  You can also tap birch trees, walnut trees and sycamore trees for drinkable sap.

Each year, 1000s of maple trees are tapped for their sugary sap.  This sap is then boiled down to make Maple Syrup.  Did you know it takes 40 gallons of maple sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup?

So what do you do?

Remember those Funyuns?  That’s the perfect container to collect fresh drinkable maple sap.  I used my axe to gash into the sap layer of this big sugar maple.  You can drill in with your knife or even gash it open with a rock.  You have to go about 1/4″-1/2″ into the tree.  You must break through the first few layers of bark.  You’ll know it when you hit it – the sap will start dripping.  You’re not going to have a modern spile in your pocket so you’ll have to use a little piece of leaf or bark to direct the flow of sap away from the tree and into your container.

These slices filled this package in about 20-30 minutes.  Not bad at all.

Get to know your Maples!

The maple tree is one of the easiest trees to identify – WITH THE LEAVES ON.  But, to the inexperienced, all trees start to look alike in the dead of winter with no leaves.  If you can’t ID maple without the leaves this winter, don’t let another summer pass you by without studying the bark of your local maples so that you can ID them without the leaves.  This knowledge could one day save your life.  Sycamores are easy to identify.

Got a Maple Tree in your back yard?

Tap that Maple!  The sugar content of maple sap averages 2.5% and is one of nature’s perfect energy drinks!  One maple tree can yield up to 10 gallons of sap in one season.

Did you know?

Natural latex rubber is also the tapped sap from a tree called the Para Rubber Tree.

These trees are native to South America but Malaysia is now the #1 latex rubber producer and it all comes from TREES!

Pine sap can be used to make an incredible survival epoxy.  See the post how to do it here:  Creek Makes Pine Sap Glue

From life-saving water to natural rubber to awesome glue, sometimes it’s just about knowing WHERE to look.  What other TREE SAPS have you heard of using?

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,



Turn Your Stainless Nalgene Water Bottle Into a Hunting Tool

As many of you know, I’m a huge proponent of packing at least 1 metal water bottle in your Bug Out Bag.  I switched out my aluminum military style canteen a couple months ago for this Nalgene Stainless Steel Water Bottle.  My only complaint is that is comes with a fabric rope tether between the bottle and the lid.

I’ll often use this bottle to boil water or cook meals and I’m always keeping an eye on that rope tether when it’s near the fire and I’m tired of taking it on and off.  Long story short, I was making a few snares for a mini-kit the other day and it hit me!

Remember the post I wrote about how to make your own homemade small game snares with picture hanging wire?  If not, here’s the link:

Using a cable ferrule I was able to make a noose in BOTH ends of an 18″ snare.  The photo below just shows 1 noose.  Make the same noose on the other side.

Now, you have a SMALL GAME SNARE that you can use as your lid tether to your Stainless Nalgene Bottle – or maybe even similar bottle brands.

This wire tether is not only FIRE-PROOF, but it also doubles as a multi-functional small game snare – making better use of space in your kit.  You can quickly remove the noose from the lid and double it up on the bottle and easily hang the bottle from a tripod over a camp fire to boil water or use as a hanging stew pot.  NOTE: Never boil with the lid on.  I actually keep my bottle tethered this way all the time.

So for those of you who use this bottle, consider changing out the rope tether for a more functional and useful wire snare tether.

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,


4 Light-weight Collapsible Survival Water Storage Containers

There  is a reason why I post so much about WATER.


Some experts say that the next greatest world resource shortage will be WATER.  In many parts of the world, access to clean drinking water is already almost nonexistent.  The ability to source, carry, store and disinfect water should be at the top of your survival preps and skill sets.

There are all kinds of different skills and products that are relevant to a discussion about SURVIVAL H2O.  Today, I’d like to discuss 4 SMALL Collapsible Containers with BIG Potential.


In many aspects of survival, portability is key.  Containers that are collapsible make sense to the survivalist for several reasons:

  • They weigh less
  • They take us less space
  • Can be carried easily in a BOB or BOV
Collapsible containers, however, are typically not as durable as their rigid counterparts.  You will have to decide when portability outweighs durability.

Below are 4 Collapsible Water Containers that I own – each have a slightly different place and purpose in my survival tool chest of products.  I detail why I own them, what I plan on or currently use them for, and where you can get them should you decide to add them to your survival preps.

The Water Bob

As you can see in the photo above, the Water Bob is a collapsible water liner that fits in your bath tub.  In the event of a natural or man-made disaster, the Water Bob can be deployed in a matter of minutes and holds a staggering 100 gallons of water.
The Water Bob also comes with a siphon for drawing out smaller portions of water.  Sure, you can just fill your bath tub up with no liner if you are desperate, but the food grade liner protects the water from A) Your nasty bath tub and B) Dust, debris, insects and air-born particles.

If you are limited on space for water storage in your house or apartment and you have a bath tub, the Water Bob might be a good solution for you.  If you see this fitting into your survival mix, you can order one at  for $24.95.

The 5-Gallon Collapsible Container

I bought this container from for $9.97.  Versions of this style container can be found in almost any camping section at any big box retailer.  I’ve seem them in hunting stores like Gander Mountain and even Wal-mart.  These are a great light-weight, portable solution for toting water from a water source back to camp or a Bug Out Location.  They can also be frozen.  This one is fitted with an easy ON/OFF spigot which is a nice feature.

The Jolly Tank

The Jolly Tank is my new favorite survival water storage container.  My friend (and occasional Guest Author on this site and owner of  JJ Johnson recently introduced me to the Jolly Tank.  I’ve been in the survival biz for 15 years and have never seen this particular product.  It holds 2 gallons of water or fuel (6 hour limit on fuel) and folds down to about the size of your wallet.  And, it only weighs a few ounces.  I’ve added one of these to my BOB, my Bronco and also to my in-home safe room.  Trust me, I need one in my Bronco – that thing SUCKS THE GAS.
JJ has done an excellent review on this item at  He also sells them for $10.  Other than his site, I don’t know of anywhere else to get them.

The Platypus Water Bottle

I’ve used a Collapsible Platypus Bottle ( ) for as long as I can remember.  I use it as 1 of my 3 Bug Out Bag water containers.  I have the 2 liter version and it literally rolls up into nothing when empty.  It’s the best use of space I can think of in a BOB.  I’ve used the same one for over 10 years so I can attest to its durability.  I love that I can reduce the bulk in my pack as I consume the water in this bottle.  It is just one of those items that makes sense.

The Big Drawback

The obvious drawback of collapsible containers in their thin walled design.  Though most of them are surprisingly durable, they are definitely more susceptible to being cut or punctured.  This needs to be taken into consideration when using and packing these types of containers.  In a survival scenario where weight is critical, the pros of these containers certainly OUTWEIGH the cons.

Are you using a collapsible container that the rest of us should know about?  If so, tell us about it in the comments below.

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

How To Disinfect Water With Household Bleach

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about this topic lately and I thought it would be a good idea to do a more lengthy post on the subject.

As everyone knows, many municipal water systems use chlorine to disinfect water.  Often, the use of chlorine is combined with other purification systems such as filtration and ultra violet treatments.  All you have to do is sniff your water tap water – it’s no secret.  Why chlorine?  Simple – it works.

It just so happens that Sodium Hypochlorite is the active ingredient in common household bleach.  Sodium Hypochlorite is the source of chlorine in bleach.  Most ‘off-the-shelf’ bleach products will contain in between 4 and 6% available chlorine.  It is in this range that all of the below information and ratios are based.  You will want to read the label and verify this first – otherwise you are just guessing.

It’s important that you only use regular bleach – nothing fancy with flowers, fresh mountains and little teddy bears on the label.  No frills – standard – unscented bleach.  The label should look like below:


When it comes to disinfecting water, it seems there is a different ratio and percentage for all kinds of different purifying agents and it can get really confusing.  It can be hard to keep these ratios and solutions straight but it is very important that we do.  All of the liters, quarts, drops, gallons, mL, cups and percentages are very easy to loose track of.  I have a very simple memory phrase when it comes to disinfecting water with bleach.  Once you read this phrase, you will never forget how to disinfect water with bleach again.  The phrase is:

You must be 21 to drink.


How simple is that?  It is a simple reminder that you need 2 drops of bleach per 1 liter or quart of water – hence 21.  And, that just happens to be the legal drinking age in the US so it’s very easy to remember.  Now, you will never forget it.    If you don’t have a 1 liter or 1 quart container in which to measure an exact amount of water, it’s OK.  Just remember that there are 4 quarts in a gallon and you can guesstimate the amount from there.  Everyone knows about how much is in 1 gallon.  Think about 1 gallon of milk and divide into fourths.  You do need to wait a while before drinking, though.  The wait time is 30 minutes.  I remember this with: 2 + 1 = 3.

Have you ever tried to get a couple drops out of a gallon of liquid.  It’s actually not the easiest thing in the world to do.  Here is how I do it.  You just need the cap to the bottle and a little piece of paper – toilet paper works great.

Then, place your ‘paper wick’ into a full cap with one end hanging over and it will begin to wick up the liquid and when turned at a slight angle will provide you with nice steady consistent drip that you can easily count.


 A note about the water

It is important that your water be clear and void of debris for the above calculations to be effective.  Ideally, you are already beginning with clear water.  However, have you ever heard of an IDEAL survival situation?  Me neither.  Consequently, you may need to Pre-Filter your water BEFORE you disinfect it.  You can prefilter your water using a huge variety of items – sock, t-shirt, bandanna, dried grass, feminine hygiene product and the list goes on an on.  You may even want to prefilter a couple of times.  Chlorine will not disinfect sediments.  If your water is cloudy, double the chlorine dose and the wait time.

Don’t Forget the Threads

If you are using a bottle with a threaded/screw-on cap, don’t forget to unscrew the cap a bit and slosh some of the chlorine treated water into the threads.  Otherwise, the water trapped in these threads could contaminate your water all over again.

Using bleach to disinfect water isn’t just a back-yard survival tactic.  It is even recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a viable form of disinfecting water in an emergency scenario.  You can check out their writings on their web-site here if you wish:  They also cover Iodine.


Chlorine bleach is a very common item in our society.  It’s good to know how we can use it to disinfect water if we needed to one day.  As I always say, it’s better to know it and never use it than to not know and need it.  Hopefully, this has cleared up some questions that anyone has about disinfecting water with bleach.  It certainly isn’t the only available chemical that we can use to disinfect water but it is a very common and viable option.

Thoughts anyone?

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,



Someone’s Trash Could Save Your Life: How to boil & purify water in a plastic bottle

I travel far and wide to experience nature.  Even when I think I am completely remote in a secluded area it seems I still cannot completely escape human litter & trash.  On almost every water-way I’ve ever traveled from rivers to lakes to oceans I’ve seen some kind of  human litter floating or washed on shore.

Plastic Bottle on River Shoreline

Plastic Bottle on River Shoreline

To a survivalist, however, someone’s trash can be a life-saving treasure.  It really is amazing how you can use complete trash that we throw away everyday to help meet basic survival needs.  It’s the simplest items that are the most useful in a situation when you have nothing.  In this instance – a container for boiling water. 

Boiling is 100% effective method of water purification.  It kills bacteria, cysts and virus.

  The ability to boil water can make the difference between life and death in any survival situation.  With all of the plastic bottles scattered throughout our lands and waterways it is not unlikely for you to find one – even in a remote environment.  If you can make fire, you can boil water using a plastic bottle.  Here is how it’s done.

Remove Cap & Suspend Over or Place Near the Fire

Plastic Bottle with Water Hanging Over Fire

Plastic Bottle with Water Hanging Over Fire

In this example, I propped a long stick up on a Y stick in the ground so I could easily control the height of the bottle over the fire.  I suspended the plastic bottle of water using a piece of rope.  I suspect I could have set the bottle close to the fire as well.  I kept the bottle at about 5-6″ over the coals and the flame licked the bottom on many occasions.

It took about 15 minutes to bring the water to a rolling boil and I left it boiling for about 20 minutes after that.  The bottle did distort in shape with the heat from the fire but the plastic did not fail.  I think you could use the bottle several times to boil if necessary.  I used a very thin walled plastic bottle so a thicker bottle would probably last longer.  Do not leave the cap on unless you want a hot steam explosion.  Below is a before and after picture of the bottle.

BEFORE boiling (RIGHT), AFTER boiling (RIGHT)

BEFORE boiling (RIGHT), AFTER boiling (RIGHT)

As you can see the bottle actually SHRUNK during the heating/boiling process.  I thought it would expand but it did not.  The lesson here is to fill your bottle only 3/4 full to prevent spillage into your fire.  If the wind is blowing hard you will also want to build a wind screen because the wind will effect your water temp in the hanging bottle and slow down the boiling process.

You never know when knowledge like this might come in useful.

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,


Creek's new survival fiction novel, RUGOSA, now available on!