Sitting on a log, by the campfire
Every outdoor enthusiast that I know, and that I have spent time with, is often telling me about the latest and greatest essential survival skill that he’s recently had to use or improve upon.
One of my closest outdoor buddies, Leo, is a such a guy. He is forever reading about the outdoors. One of his many favorite reads are wilderness survival books and magazines.
We do at least 2 or 3 trips in the bush, together, every year. It is always a fun trip, full of tales and techniques on how to survive and appreciate the wild spaces. As we grow older we share less BS, and focus more on enjoying our few days away from civilization.
We usually go hiking, camping, hunting, or fishing. It’s like a playdate for grownups, at least, that’s what we tell our wives. We’ve convinced them of our need to do this, and they’re happy and accepting about it, because, as they put it, later it may help us better understand their women “stuff”. This concept has worked well for all concerned.
We didn’t real plan this to become a regular event but somehow, it just happened. After our long days of hiking, fishing, or exploring, we end up around the campfire, grilling our favorite meats and enjoying a good beverage. These outdoor activities are always strenuous, so we respect the science on staying hydrating, and take measures toward that goal.
Conversational topics are varied, but we mostly focus on the beauty and the bounty of our surroundings. On our last trip, Leo asked me, “What are some of the Best Wilderness Survival Books”. We have been doing this outdoor gig for a long time, and we are both familiar with, the SAS Survival Handbook by John “Lofty” Wiseman, and Dave Canterbury’s, Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival.
These are some of the titles that were mentioned.
There are hundreds of “best wilderness survival books” available in today’s marketplace. Some of the best ones are described below. Read them with an open mind, and leave your ego at the door. Some of the best bushmen that I’ve met couldn’t read or write, but if the SHTF, they would be my go partners, anyday.
It’s never a bad idea to respect the ones that came before us!
1. SAS Survival Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Anywhere by John “Lofty” Wiseman
This is the first book on wilderness survival that I read, the first edition. It is one of the classics.
Lofty Wiseman has sold millions of copies of this book. Now in its 3rd Edition, The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Anywhere is an “all inclusive” book, as opposed to the many others that focus mainly on specific environments such as forest, desert, or snow and ice. 672 pages of useful and practical SAS skills that can be used all around the world.
2. Survival in the Wilderness by Alan Fry
My second read. Being Canadian, and living in the great white north, I was interested in this book because of its practical ideas about winter survival and spending time in the land of cold and snow.
A lot of books have a lot of great ideas, but when the SHTF I want things that work, … do not hand me a suvival kit in a sardine can, because I just might throw it back you, even if you’re a big guy.
Another one of my first reads, and excellent if you venture into the land of ice and snow.
Selecting the proper clothing and footwear, building and managing a fire, building an emergency shelter, first aid, finding food and water, signalling for help, and remaining calm, under stress, are the principle themes of this book.
This is one of the few survival manuals to include guns as a useful tool for survival.
A gun in the bush will shift the odds in your favor quickly, that is of course, if you know how to use it properly
304 pages, ISBN-10: 0312147635 and ISBN-13: 978-0312147632
3. Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival by Dave Canterbury
Dave Canterbury gets you ready for your next trip into the backcountry.
His survival philosophy centers around the 5 Cs of Survivability, … 1 cutting tools, 2 combustion, 3 cover, 4container, and 5 cordage. With the proper tools and skills, your chances of survival get that much better. 256 pages.
What I find the most useful about this book and Dave Canterbury’s approach to surviving in the bush is how he has simplified the tools and techniques needed to get this done with his 5 Cs.
- Cover, … this is the shelter you provide over yourself. Simple reminders are very practical for remembering how to prepare for a trip and chunking-up the essentials of a skill or system is a very smart idea.
- Combustion, … again, well done. Instead of identifying it as “matches or lighter”, Dave Canterbury includes ferrocerium rods, magnifying glasses, friction fire, and charring tins. He is also a believer in always having a back-up, makes this an easy method to be well prepared.
- Cutting Tools, … the knife is the most useful tool for wilderness survival. I share this opinion with the author. In the extreme, the metal knife is almost impossible to manufacture in the wild. Included here as well are axes and saws, how to use them and how to keep them sharp. The ax is the most dangerous tool of all, in my opinion.
- Container, … a container refers to a tool and method for carrying water, and being able to boil it as well. A hot drink by an open fire multiplies your ability to survive.
- Cordage, … cordage is rope. Rope and string have so many uses that I am always surprised when I see them not included in a basic kit.
Any trained person with these 5 tools, and the skills to use them to best advantage is, IMHO, very well prepared to survive in the wild.
Simple to remember and complete.
Dave Canterbury’s 5 Cs of survivability are an easy and practical method to cover all the bases, when building your wilderness survival kit.
4. Bushcraft: Outdoor Skills and Wilderness Survival by Mors Kochanski
Easy to follow instructions, lots of diagrams with a full color photo supplement detailing the skills and knowledge required to survive and enjoy the wilderness.
Old school skills that will survive the test of time.
How to light and maintain a fire, chop wood, fell trees, and build a warm shelter using knives and axes safely.
How to find plants and animals for food, how to cook on an open fire, and manufacturing tools, baskets, and rope natural materials. 304 pages.
5. Survive!: Essential Skills and Tactics to Get You Out of Anywhere–Alive! by Les Stroud
I share many of Les Stroud’s philosophies, especially the one about shelter.
Daytime temperatures can be nice or at least tolerable, but it gets very chilly when you stop moving. In the North, where I play, … no shelter, … no fire, … you might not survive, … period!
The Survivorman was a TV series where he was dropped for 7 days in some remote location, and left to survive on his skills and wit.
Shelter, fire, physical and mental preparation, finding food and water, and the basic survival kit, are all covered. 384 pages.
The Content of this Book contains the following chapters:
- Trip Planning and Preparation
- Survival Kits
- Psychological Aspects of Survival
- Survival Travel and Navigation
- Dangers and Hazards
- Survival First Aid
- Essential Survival Skills
- When Disaster Strikes Close to Home
As you see by his chapter titles, is a very complete list, covering all the bases.
If you want to learn more about Les Stroud and his methods, check him out on your TV screen. Experienced and Professional.
6. How to Stay Alive in the Woods by Bradford Angier
First published in 1956. 26 chapters of clearly written survival tips to save time, energy, and even your life in the wild.
Sustenance, warmth, orientation, and safety. Catching game without a gun, how to build a shelter, edible plants, making clothing, how to protect yourself, and how to signal for help. 320 pages.
Bradford Angier (1910-1997) was a wilderness survivalist, and the author of many best-selling books on Nature, survival and living off the land.
7. 98.6 Degrees: The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive by Cody Lundin
Deserts present their own dangers.
Controversial and in your face, Cody Lundin can be hard to listen to, but his message on survivability is well researched and effective.
Knows what he is talking about, just a little rough around the edges.
Having said that, I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in wilderness survival. The title says it all. Unless you can maintain proper core body temperature of very close to 98.6 degrees F., your chances are slim to none.
98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, is a story about how to maintain the proper core temperature, find water, and identify useful plants. 216 pages.
8. U.S. Army Survival Manual: FM 21-76 (1957 Historic Edition)
Prove and tested military techniques, documented by the U.S. military and used for official training. Step by step instruction, with illustrations, on outdoor survival. Must know survival for soldiers, hikers, hunters, and everyone else, that frequents the great outdoors. 309 pages.
9. Primitive Wilderness Living and Survival Skills: Naked Into the Wilderness by John and Geri McPherson.
This book is a compilation of 10 booklets written over a period of seven years, each chapter a concise “how-to” in itself. 700 hundred illustrations and 400 pages, this is a massive work of tried and true methods of primitive wilderness living and survival skills.
10. 100 Deadly Skills: Survival Edition: The SEAL Operative’s Guide to Surviving in the Wild and Being Prepared for Any Disaster by Clint Emerson
Retired Navy SEAL. These 100 skills, adapted for civilians, offer a complete hands-on guide to help you survive in the wild, no matter the terrain or crisis.
Lots of illustrations. 272 pages.
11. Ray Mears, Essential Bushcraft
Well known international tv personality, Ray Mears is easy to listen to. Well versed in survival skills and wisdom from around the world. 240 pages.
At the End of the Day
With the arrival of the Internet, books and reading have undergone a major change. In the old days, I had to spend hours and days, in libraries and bookstores, to come a good wilderness survival book that I felt was worth the money.
There’s a lot of BS out there about survival skills that are written by people who don’t appear to have spent much time in the bush.
Survival is our most important instinct. Needless to say, that sometimes the egos are just as big as the wilds of Nature. 100s of books have been written on wilderness survival and these are some of the best ones. Every survivalist has his own take on the subject. I recommend reading as many as you can.
From there you will learn the basics. Learn the skills you’ll need for surviving the weather and terrain you play in. Spending time in the desert is not the same as time spent in the frozen North. Deserts make it hard to find water, my problem is almost always trying to stay warm and dry.
12 thoughts on “Best Wilderness Survival Books”
Excellent list of survival books, I loved the reading!
I live with my family near the wood, and we often go camping there with friends. My kids now plan to go camping with their friends, so it would be great for them to have a useful wilderness survival book. Which of these books would be best for 17 years old teenager?
The Wilderness survival book by Alan Fry seems to be excellent. I’ll check this further, but first I would like to have your opinion.
Thank you for this great post!
Thanks for the kind words.
They are all excellent books. Depending on his skills, the environment he will be in, and his level of engagement, it is hard for me to choose the exact best book, that he would read and cherish.
My best suggestion for him is number 3, “Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival by Dave Canterbury”. The reason I suggest this one is because of his 5 Cs. He later expands this to 10 Cs, to complete his survival kit.
The“10 Essentials for Wilderness Survival”, are pretty much the same for all parts of the world.
The 5 Cs are … Cover, Combustion, Cutting Tools, Container, and Cordage. Later, he expands the 5 to 10, and adds, Compass, Candle, Cargo Tape, Cargo Needle, and Cotton Bandana.
Such an easy way to remember the essentials, but in truth they are ALL good.
If you have Kindle, I would give them all a try.
I’ve recently taken an interest in the outdoors and all it entails. I scoured the internet and up until recently I couldn’t find any solid books that gave me the information that I needed to survive in any situation. I am glad i came across your list of best wilderness survival guides.
From the books on your list I feel that if I purchase anyone of these that I will be able to survive any scenario thrown my way. Has there ever been a situation you’ve been in where you had to make your own shelter? If so, did you get the idea from one of the guides or was it something you were taught?
Hi Ye’ Keiseaya,
I spend many days and nights in the wilderness every year.
I grew up camping,fishing, hiking, and hunting.
Most of the time, I make my own shelters, depending on where I go or how long I’ll be spending there. I grew up learning this stuff as a young kid.
Making an overnight shelter is no big deal for me now, but I value the skills I learned from my parents.
Most of these skills I learned from my father and family, but it was my mother who first taught me how to build a fire.
I have a couple of these books on my shelve; I’m not glad to confess they are all about a dream of becoming a real outdoor-man. The reality is really different, there always are always too many row-block to overcome (my mother and my wife seem to be plastic made).
In any case, I really appreciate your recommendations as a scape from my reality. xD
I’m not a fan of gun usage of any type neither under any circumstances. Bushcraft 101 is the one among your list that calls my attention the most.
Thanks for your great reviews and enjoy my envy and admiration!
Thanks Juan, for the kind words.
You can do all these things alone, but I do not recommend it for beginners.
Try taking your family on short hikes at the local park on on a Spring day, or take photos of your trips at the park. This is a surefire way to get them interested.
Thanks very much for this great post about best wilderness survival books. For really I have enjoyed this article from it’s beginning to it’s end since I love travelling very much ,by this information about the different survival books you have provided will help me during my out door trips . Thanks very much for this information in advance.
I’m happy to hear of your love for travel, Mugalu.
Being prepared is always a good thing.
Happy trails, Paul.
Thanks so much for sharing the Best Wilderness survival Books to read just in case, as we live in Canada and we love to go for a walk often, read at least one book from your list will be a must for me.
I know my husband knows about how to survive in the wild but I’m not good at it, and I will love to know what to do and what not to do.
As I have the visit of young kids often, as I used to work as a nanny for 3 young boys, who’s parent own a big farm, they often make some questions about this topic. And I think it’s a good idea they also learn something about this topic. As the boys are 10 years old, what do you think would be the best books to get for them to read?
Good Day, Alejandra.
There are many such books written exclusively for young boys.
“Survivor Kid” is one such book.
Books are great teachers, and you may have found the magic key for teaching young boys how to get in the habit of reading.
This is perfect, my wife is a country girl and makes fun of me all the time for being a city boy. I promised to take her and the kids camping for spring break, which book(s) do you think would be best for basic fishing/camping stuff? I am thinking the Outdoors Skills and Wilderness Survival by Mors Kochanski. Thank you for the help!
All these books are focused on survival skills. They are all excellent, however, sometimes it’s nice to read about how people get addicted to the great outdoors.
Looking Back: Stories of Hunting, Fishing, Family, and Faith