Survival is one of those topics in which people drastically overestimate their abilities. Oh, you’ve been on a weekend camping trip? You and your buds made a crock of campfire chili and nobody died? That’s cute. But what about when a weekend turns into a week? Or maybe a couple of months? What would happen if, for whatever reason, you had to survive out in the wilderness and the elements for more than just a weekend? What happens when you realize that crock of campfire chili is actually just a crock of shit? Yeah. Here are the six of the best survival manuals ever written. You’d better get reading. Photo: Getty Images/Solovyova
1. Primitive Wilderness Living & Survival Skills: Naked into the Wilderness: This one is considered by many outdoorsmen to be the definitive guide to outdoor survival. Stylistically speaking, this book is very easy to digest and even entertaining. However, as the author notes, it’s not about reading “for fun.” The book has received a ton of praise for continuing on where other manuals fall short, giving all the additional tips and tricks one actually needs to complete the task or projects in the book. It’s written specifically so that people who have no idea what they’re doing can pick up on what’s happening, and it’s also accompanied by black and white illustrations to help readers along through the processes. In short, it’s brilliant.
2. How to Stay Alive in the Woods: A Complete Guide to Food, Shelfter and Self-Preservation: When it comes to staying alive outside, we like to be less dependent on our gear and more dependent on our surroundings. The reason is simple: If you’re outside long enough, your gear has a 100 percent fail rate. But nature and your environment were here for billions of years before you were, and it’ll be here for another billion after you’re gone. If you learn how to utilize it properly, you’ll never go without. That said, this selection is kind of cheating, because it’s only one book in a series of “How to Stay Alive in the Woods” books. It’s incredibly detailed and easy to follow, and the hardcover version—which we recommend—comes with detailed color illustrations to help you see exactly what you need to do, and how you need to do it. Of course, this version only covers food, shelter and self-preservation. If you want supplemental reading, check out the other book in the series, How to Eat in the Woods: A Complete Guide to Foraging, Trapping, Fishing and Finding Sustenance in the Wild. It’s just as excellent.
3. The Outdoor Survival Handbook: What makes this legendary survival book so useful is that it’s actually split into the four seasons—summer, spring, fall and winter—and demonstrates the critical skills and survival information you need to survive in every kind of condition. Raymond Mears is an absolute genius, and this book is well-received by everyone from complete novices to real outdoorsmen. You’ll learn things like how to construct a warm, waterproof shelter regardless of the weather outside; build a solid fire; gather, prepare and cook wild foods; identify medicinal herbs and plants; track and identify animals; purify water; and navigate—among many, many other things.
4. SAS Survival Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Anywhere: If you were to Google “Best Survival Manuals,” it’s very likely the SAS Survival Handbook would be number one or two on the list. And, even though it’s a fairly new book, (the third edition was released in 2014), it really is worth its weight in gold. More than just an outdoorsman’s survival guide, this book, written by John Wiseman (former survival instructor for Britain’s elite Special Air Service, comparable to U.S. Navy Seals), is about surviving any kind of disaster scenario of which you can think. People have literally referred to it as “The Survival Bible,” and it’s pretty obvious why.
5. Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival: “Bushcraft: Bush·craft. Noun. Skill at living in the bush.” That’s the literal fucking definition of the word “bushcraft” and that’s exactly what Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival is. This brilliant and now-legendary guide (and New York Times Bestseller) covers every single thing you can think of, including how to build your own tools, collecting and cooking food, what to pack in your kit, finding and building shelter, etc. What I love most about the book is that there’s no fancy new-age bullshit in it—no gimmicks or fluff. It’s all about primitive living and how to stay alive doing the stuff man has done for tens of thousands of years.
6. Wilderness Survival: Wilderness Survival is another famous survival manual known specifically for its simplistic, easily digestible writing and its awesome and detailed illustrations. Explanations are concise and easy to follow, and the Gregory Davenport’s approach is pragmatic and methodical—which probably comes from his time spent as a U.S. Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Specialist. He covers the five basic elements of surviving: personal protection, finding food and water, health, travel and signaling. All told, the book covers exactly what you need to know and leaves out everything you don’t. The other cool thing about the book is that Davenport doesn’t mind reverting back to nature. He offers readers modern solutions to classic problems, but will also offer solutions that’ll force us to use our environment to adapt and overcome. It’s an excellent and indispensable resource for any great survivalist and outdoorsman.