Lets face it, there are times when the world and its wife seem to feel that they can produce a good survival manual yet they end up producing the same, tired, old rubbish. Mostly they are thinly disguised copies of old military manuals, often Lofty Wiseman's, and to be frank they offer nothing new or helpful. I must have owned or read at least 50 of them and there's so little difference between the great majority you'd be hard pushed to tell which is which.
A Different Style
On alternative approach is that of Cody Lundin's 98.6 Degrees - The Art of Keeping your Ass Alive! - he's now better known as the barefoot bush-hippy on the Dual Survival TV show.This is a manual which not only strips away all the unnecessary but also concentrates on what you need. Gone is a reliance on food; instead we concentrate on water, temperature and psychology.
Indeed, the mental aspect is dealt with very well in this book. In general the author looks at what is likely to kill you in a stereotypical 72 hour survival situation and then on how to combat it.
The style is informal and a probably a little crude for some tastes but it gets the point across well. It is probably a book of interest for any bushcraft bibliophiles such as my self but I think would be of most use to the adventure sports crowd. The tone and down to earth approach would likely strike a cord with them.
Some of his tips, how not to die, can be seen on this clip. I also have the companion volume When All Hell Breaks Loose which focuses more on preparation and survival in urban disasters. After watching the havoc wreaked in New York and New Orleans it's pretty clear that you need to plan to look after yourself as much as you can.
For the more traditional approach we can look across the pond to the Maine department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. I know it is a shock but a government agency actually managed to do something of use for the bushcrafter! They produced a downloadable manual entitled
"You, Alone in the Maine Woods"Primarily aimed at hunters it contains lots of sensible but traditional advice and I first saw it recommended, partly due to the bright orange colour, by an article in Tactical Knives. It's definitely worth a download but remember the advice is both seasonally and geographically specific to Maine in the Autumn and Winter.
The next manual is more of a mixed bag. It is called the "Complete Illustrated Book of Survival" and is wide ranging in the extreme. It goes from long term survival techniques to using stone tools to how to fight off an attacker.The bushcraft bits with stone tools are great and really fresh and original. A chunk of the material has appeared in other books though - the book admits to 2 others with similar content in the cover but I'm sure I've seen some of the pictures in knot books and other places over the years. I'm really against putting self defence advice in books - you need to practice and learn in the flesh. If you want to do this find an instructor who knows what you want and has similar size to you - there's no merit learning from a 6'4" 17 stone instructor if you are 5'5" and 10 stone - what works for him isn't going to work for you.
Overall it is a book which will mostly stay on the shelf - not sure quite where to pick up a copy as it was a present. My parents said they got it in a garden centre! This type of glossy compendium is fairly common and this is a good example of it. That said, there's not enough which is innovative or unique in it for it to make it through my minimalising process.
The Logic of Survival
The last manual I'll mention is Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales. It isn't a simple manual, nor a how to book. Instead it's a an investigation into survival situations. The writer has looked at many situations and how people reacted within them and the outcome - as the tag line says "Who lives, Who dies and Why".
It's a vitally important read for anyone involved in planning outdoor activities or anyone who wants to avoid a survival situation. It isn't simply an inspection of the statistics or psychology it's a really holistic look at the whole phenomenon of survival. It's one of the few genuinely unique books in the genre and I can't believe it's not mentioned more often.
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