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The Best Survival Books : Outdoor and Survival Preparation

Any avid camper or survivalist has likely been gifted more than their fair share of wilderness survival books. The market is seemingly flooded with these reference manuals, and their quality varies from “excellent” to “nearing negligence.” That said, there are a few gems on the market if you know where to look.

For this roundup, we’ve selected some of the best survival books across different topics and disciplines. From foraging to medical aid, there is a little bit of everything in this group. If you are looking to improve your survival skills, these references are a great place to start. 

The Best Survival Book Reviews

SAS Survival Handbook, Third Edition: The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Anywhere

I had heard about this book for many years but had only skimmed its pages before this review. However, I have read several of John Wiseman’s other works and was familiar with the quality of his information. While there is unquestionably some great information in his SAS Survival Handbook, you need to know what to expect when purchasing this book.

This guide is not designed to provide an in-depth or exhaustive guide to any specific aspect of camping or survival. Rather, it takes the approach of giving a general overview of the basics of survival without becoming too burdened by details. There are pros and cons to this approach. This can be an extremely helpful introduction to any newcomer. Yet, expect to walk away with plenty of questions. For any aspiring survival expert, this is a great jumping-off point to further knowledge.

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SAS Survival Handbook, Third Edition: The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Anywhere
  • Harper Collins Pub Sas Survival Handbook Revised by John Wiseman - 9780062378071
  • Wiseman, John 'Lofty' (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 672 Pages - 11/11/2014 (Publication Date) - William Morrow Paperbacks (Publisher)

Last update on 2020-07-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival

This guide by David Canterbury is considered by many to be the definitive introduction to primitive survival. While it is a helpful work, I would not go so far as to label it an end-all solution. The premise of Bushcraft 101 is to illustrate a slightly more primitive and nature-focused approach to survival. On the spectrum of “glamping” to “dropped in a desolate wilderness”, this falls somewhere in between. This guide does assume that you will have some basic survival gear on-hand but does not expect you to max out a credit card at the local camping supply store. 

For a visual learner, this is an excellent resource, as the diagrams and charts are a true highlight. While some have criticized this book for overemphasizing the basics, I would push back on that criticism. Ultimately, everyone starts from nothing at some point, so I appreciate this guide’s thorough approach to survival strategies.

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Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival
  • Bushcraft 101 A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival
  • Canterbury, Dave (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages - 09/01/2014 (Publication Date) - Adams Media (Publisher)

Last update on 2020-07-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Prepper’s Long-Term Survival Guide: Food, Shelter, Security, Off-the-Grid Power and More Life-Saving Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living

The term “prepper” often comes with a loaded connotation, and the reaction to that word varies. Thus, when I picked up this guide by Jim Cobb, I was not entirely sure what to expect. It should be noted that this is not a camping or survival manual, nor is it an exhaustive guide to off-grid living. Instead, this book straddles the line between philosophy and how-to guide.

The topic of off-grid living and self-sufficient preparation is an almost infinitely deep topic, so you should not expect this book to teach you every last detail about canned vegetables on one page and solar power the next. However, as a general overview of the rational, various approaches, and general logistics of off-grid living, this book is a helpful resource.

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Prepper's Long-Term Survival Guide: Food, Shelter, Security, Off-the-Grid Power and More Life-Saving Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living
827 Reviews
Prepper's Long-Term Survival Guide: Food, Shelter, Security, Off-the-Grid Power and More Life-Saving Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living
  • Prepper s Long Term Survival Guide Food Shelter Security Off the Grid Power and More Life Saving Strategies for Self Sufficient Living
  • Cobb, Jim (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 208 Pages - 03/08/2020 (Publication Date) - Ulysses Press (Publisher)

Last update on 2020-07-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Survival Medicine Handbook: The Essential Guide For When Medical Help is NOT On The Way

Given the amount of time I spend in and around the camping and survivalist community, I am often surprised how little medical preparedness gets mentioned. Many hikers can make a frappucino with the USB powered accessories in their pack, but couldn’t tell you how to splint a finger. Despite this, few things are more important to survivalist learning than having a broad knowledge of first-aid and field treatments. In terms of medical handbooks, The Survival Medicine Handbook by Joseph and Amy Alton is the best I have come across.

My only complaint is that it may actually contain too much information. At over 650 pages, the weight of this manual is its only drawback. However, if you need a comprehensive and clear guide to dealing with any imaginable mishap, this book is clearly laid out, efficient, and helpful.

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The Survival Medicine Handbook: THE essential guide for when medical help is NOT on the way
  • Alton MD, Joseph (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 700 Pages - 06/07/2016 (Publication Date) - Doom and Bloom, LLC (Publisher)

Last update on 2020-07-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Popular Mechanics Essential Survival Guide: The Only Book You Need in Any Emergency

Ever since I was a child I have been a fan of the Popular Mechanics magazine, and hold a huge amount of respect for the organization to this day. Naturally, I had high hopes for this book. My summary of this guide would be “great information, questionable delivery.” The focus of this book is on preparing for and coping with emergencies and natural disasters, a task it does fairly well. However, I often found the tone slightly too cartoony for the topic at hand. I understand the temptation to make a difficult topic more fun, but the overall effect made me more uneasy than amused. If you can look past the odd choice of illustrations and phrasing, the information is nonetheless solid.

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The Popular Mechanics Essential Survival Guide: The Only Book You Need in Any Emergency
  • Popular Mechanics (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages - 10/02/2018 (Publication Date) - Hearst (Publisher)

Last update on 2020-07-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

How to Eat in the Woods: A Complete Guide to Foraging, Trapping, Fishing, and Finding Sustenance in the Wild

For any lover of old-school nature manuals, this guide by Bradford Angier will become an instant favorite. Despite being written in 2016, it has the tone and appearance of a turn of the century exploration guide. This was a deliberate choice and one that works with great effect. Although the title indicates that this is a generalized guide to all aspects of survivalist eating, much more attention is paid to the topic of foraging. 

I think this focus was appropriate because the techniques and details of foraging will be the most foreign to most people, and the most dangerous if done incorrectly. The guidance provided by this book is clear, helpful, and thorough. My only criticism would be that more illustrations would have helped identify certain foliage, but I understand the constraints of the format. 

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How to Eat in the Woods: A Complete Guide to Foraging, Trapping, Fishing, and Finding Sustenance in the Wild
  • How to Eat in the Woods A Complete Guide to Foraging Trapping Fishing and Finding Sustenance in the Wild
  • Hardcover Book
  • Angier, Bradford (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 320 Pages - 03/15/2016 (Publication Date) - Black Dog & Leventhal (Publisher)

Last update on 2020-07-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

101 Skills You Need to Survive in the Woods: The Most Effective Wilderness Know-How on Fire-Making, Knife Work, Navigation, Shelter, Food and More

I’ve read dozens of survival books over the years, and they each try to differentiate themselves from the next. You might think that this would make them more interesting to read, but the reality is that the gimmicks get old quickly. So many books are labeled with bizarre titles like “how to survive the zombie apocalypse” or some other nonsense. The number of straight-forward non-nonsense survival guides is surprisingly small.

Thankfully, this guide by Kevin Estela is among that elite group. There is not a lot of fluff here, and frankly, Estela’s writing style is not particularly engaging. However, as a basic overview or a quick reference, this book is densely packed with practical and easy to follow information. It’s dry, but it’s instructive.

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101 Skills You Need to Survive in the Woods: The Most Effective Wilderness Know-How on Fire-Making, Knife Work, Navigation, Shelter, Food and More
153 Reviews
101 Skills You Need to Survive in the Woods: The Most Effective Wilderness Know-How on Fire-Making, Knife Work, Navigation, Shelter, Food and More
  • Estela, Kevin (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 208 Pages - 04/16/2019 (Publication Date) - Page Street Publishing (Publisher)

Last update on 2020-07-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Survival Handbook: An Essential Companion to the Great Outdoors

Starting earlier is a great way to instill a love and knowledge of nature into a child for a lifetime. Sadly, so many child-appropriate books are also condescending and devoid of substance. This handbook by Marc Sumerak is not specifically marketed at children, but the illustrations and simple ground-level explanations make it clear that he had younger readers in mind.

While this book won’t help you with the most nuanced aspects of hard-core survival, it presents the basic information in a clear and easy-to-digest fashion. Many of my friends have given this book to their young children to great effect. In fact, my main complaint is the lack of a sequel for children that yearn to learn more.

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Survival Handbook: An Essential Companion to the Great Outdoors
  • Sumerak, Marc (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 140 Pages - 02/26/2019 (Publication Date) - becker&mayer! kids (Publisher)

Last update on 2020-07-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Advanced Bushcraft: An Expert Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival

After the success of his original “Bushcraft 101” guide, there was a lot of anticipation for David Canterbury’s sequel. Unfortunately, I have found this followup to be somewhat of a mixed bag. In the realm of survival guides, there will always be more information to cover. Another way to light a fire, another type of berry to avoid, or another way to navigate up a stream. Thus, a proper guide is an exercise in knowing what to prioritize. 

While Bushcraft 101 was fairly lean and straight-forward, Advanced Bushcraft often feels like it was assembled from the scraps of the original. In many cases, the information does not fit into a novel category. Rather, the lists simply got longer. If there was specific information that you craved elaboration on from the first book, then this may be a helpful supplement. Yet, as a stand-alone sequel, it often lacks concrete information.

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Advanced Bushcraft: An Expert Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival
  • Advanced Bushcraft An Expert Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival
  • Canterbury, Dave (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages - 08/01/2015 (Publication Date) - Adams Media (Publisher)

Last update on 2020-07-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Ultimate Bushcraft Survival Manual

I generally find that people fall into one of two categories when it comes to their aesthetic preferences with books. Some prefer a no-nonsense black and white manual with just the facts and illustrations only where necessary. Others prefer a colorful cornucopia of photos, graphics, and charts. If you fall into the latter category, this book is for you. Given the wealth of glossy photos on every page, I’m frankly surprised they could print this book for its sales price. 

The information here is good, and many of the illustrations are helpful. However, I found the layout distracting and hard to follow. Often, I felt that they added an additional photo simply because they could. I don’t balk at graphics if they help illustrate a point, but that often was not the case here. That said, I cannot argue that the information provided is solid. If you prefer your survival guides in coffee table form, this may be a winner for you.

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The Ultimate Bushcraft Survival Manual
  • MacWelch, Tim (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages - 10/10/2017 (Publication Date) - Weldon Owen (Publisher)

Last update on 2020-07-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Hunting & Gathering Survival Manual: 221 Primitive & Wilderness Survival Skills

I’ll admit to being somewhat of a grumpy cynic when it comes to survival guides. As I mentioned above, I tend to flock towards simply decorated and efficient manuals. I never want to have to dig for information. To that end, I’ll admit that I am not the target audience for this book. This guide by Tim MacWelch is admittedly pretty, but the abundance of graphics and photos often distracted from the content at hand. Sometimes this was to no ill effect, and sometimes it felt like simply filler being added. 

The information provided isn’t necessarily incorrect, but it often verged on being trivia instead of survival protocol. Do I really need to know the exact amount of calories in 5 oz of elk, or do I just need to know how to kill one and eat enough to survive? As a general guide to learn the basics of survivalist techniques, this is not a bad read. Further, the illustrations make it a great book to read with younger children. Just don’t expect efficiency.

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The Hunting & Gathering Survival Manual: 221 Primitive & Wilderness Survival Skills
  • Weldon Owen
  • MacWelch, Tim (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages - 11/04/2014 (Publication Date) - Weldon Owen (Publisher)

Last update on 2020-07-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Ultimate Survival Hacks: Over 500 Amazing Tricks That Just Might Save Your Life

This is another guide by Tim MacWelch and one that seems to have come much more naturally to him. Rather than attempting to be an out-and-out survival manual, this book of “hacks” makes no qualms about being focused on providing fun information and trivia. The information provided is extremely varied, ranging from “how to blow a whistle” to “how to build a still to make liquor.” Each snippet is little more than a highlight, but it isn’t a bad means of getting your inspiration flowing. 

Compared to his Hunting and Gathering manual, the layout of this guide is greatly improved. The formatting and illustrations are much more consistent, and the book feels like a much more linear and cohesive whole. If you are looking for a dense guide to stash into your backpack, this is not the best choice. But if you’re looking for a fun book of ideas to thumb through on a lazy afternoon, this is a fun read.

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Ultimate Survival Hacks: Over 500 Amazing Tricks That Just Might Save Your Life
  • MacWelch, Tim (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages - 11/27/2018 (Publication Date) - Weldon Owen (Publisher)

Last update on 2020-07-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Prepper’s Guide to Surviving the End of the World, as We Know It: Gear, Skills, and Related Know-How

This was a fun read, provided you don’t take it too seriously. There are broadly two types of “survival” methods. The first is a bare-bones methodology that asks “how can I get out of this situation as quickly and safely as possible.” In contrast, there is a branch of survival techniques that boil down to “I’m doing this because I can.” In the contexts of prepping or survival, will you ever actually need to build a water wheel? 

Will assembling a fifteen-foot wide woven grass hut ever be the difference between life and death? Probably not. It’s fun to plan, though! And that’s the joy of this book. It provides a myriad of fun and quirky off-grid ideas that end up being more quirky than practical. This is not a stripped-down guide for living off-grid, but it’s a fun look at the ways you could.

The Prepper's Guide to Surviving the End of the World, as We Know It: Gear, Skills, and Related Know-How
  • Creekmore, M.D. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 176 Pages - 01/01/2016 (Publication Date) - CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (Publisher)

Last update on 2020-07-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Ultimate Survival Manual: Modern Day Survival

This is a tough book to review because my opinion seems to depend on the moment. The adage of not judging a book by its cover is in full effect here. The issue I have is that this book presents itself as somewhat of an emergency guide. It claims to be a handbook for getting out of dangerous situations. And it isn’t. But that does not mean the information is bad.

There is a wealth of helpful or interesting pieces of advice among the pages, like how to start a fire with a 9V battery or when is the proper time to seek shelter in a cave. Yet, buying this book as a source of quick-access information in an emergency will lead to disappointment.

The Ultimate Survival Manual (Paperback Edition): Modern Day Survival | Avoid Diseases | Quarantine Tips (Outdoor Life)
  • Johnson, Rich (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages - 08/08/2017 (Publication Date) - Weldon Owen (Publisher)

Last update on 2020-07-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Bushcraft Illustrated: A Visual Guide

As we’ve discussed, some survival guides are aimed at communicating vital information, while some are meant to be fun. Ultimately, I think the point of Bushcraft Illustrated, David Canterbury’s latest offering, is simply to be pretty. As survival books go, it is a slightly odd concept. It is composed almost entirely of diagrams with almost no further details provided. The illustrations are attractive and well-executed, but their usefulness is questionable.

How often will you need to reference the differing shapes of a rucksack versus a yucca pack? While it may not be the most practical method of communicating information, it nonetheless represents a good value and a fun book to thumb through. As an attractive hardcover book to grace your office shelves, you could do a lot worse.

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Bushcraft Illustrated: A Visual Guide
  • Hardcover Book
  • Canterbury, Dave (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 252 Pages - 05/07/2019 (Publication Date) - Adams Media (Publisher)

Last update on 2020-07-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Conclusion

Picking a winner from this roundup of wilderness survival books poses a challenge because each of these books fills a specific niche and purpose. To that end, a direct comparison is perhaps not the fairest approach.

However, if I had to choose one book to toss into my survival pack, it would need to be a survival text that is thorough, intuitive, and quick to reference.

With those qualifications in mind, David Canterbury’s Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival would be my go-to reference. While not without its imperfections, it provides helpful and practical information in a beautiful format and is among the best survival books I have encountered.

Sale
Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival
  • Bushcraft 101 A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival
  • Canterbury, Dave (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages - 09/01/2014 (Publication Date) - Adams Media (Publisher)

Last update on 2020-07-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Jared Russo
Hey, my name is Jared, a self-reliant expert and action taker. I hope you've enjoyed this article and found it informative. If you have please feel free to leave a comment below and share it with your friends and family, it would make my day!

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