Whether you are an avid outdoorsman, who likes to carry as little gear as possible or a beginner looking for some fun in the wilderness, having basic survival and bushcraft skills is a great asset. So how can you build these skills for self-preservation? After all, not everyone is trained to be a navy seal.
In this article, we look at some of the best books for wilderness survival and bushcraft. We will primarily look at the latest books available in the market. We will also list out some additional resources and YouTube channels to check out to learn basic and advanced survival skills. So buckle up, and read on!
Also, check out our earlier article to get in-depth information on the advanced camping and backpacking books and guides.
Best survival and bushcraft guides listSome of the best books for survival and bushcraft are listed below:
|SAS Survival Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Anywhere
|- Undoubtedly the most popular survival book authored by author John 'Lofty' Wiseman.
- The Current Third Edition has been considerably enhanced with additional information and tips.
- In 670 detailed pages, the book covers survival techniques for not only the wilderness but also urban and disaster situations.
- The current edition was published in Nov, 2014.
|Bushcraft: Outdoor Skills and Wilderness Survival
|- This reference guide on bushcrafting is authored by Mors Kochanski, the grandmaster of wilderness survival and primitive skills.
- In about 300 pages, the author covers essential backcountry skills through easy-to-follow explanations and useful illustrations.
- The latest edition was published in Feb, 2016
|Survive!: Essential Skills and Tactics
|- This compendium of survival information is authored by Survivorman series creator, host and director Les Stroud and Michael Vlessides.
- In 350+ pages, the author covers the essentials as well as advanced skills to learn to survive anywhere in the world.
- The book has a lot of illustrations and some excellent photographs.
- The current first-edition was published in Nov, 2008.
|Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide
|- This beginner bestseller is authored by NY Times bestselling author Dave Canterbury.
- In 250 pages, the book covers the basics of wilderness survival
- The second book in the series - Advanced Bushcraft covers more advance concepts in backcountry survival with little or no equipment.
- The current edition was published in Sept, 2014.
- The author also has another popular book - The Bushcraft Field Guide to Trapping, Gathering, and Cooking in the Wild on hunting and gathering in the wild.
|98.6 Degrees: The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive
|- This book is authored by Cory Lundin and focuses specifically on short-term survival (the first 72 hours).
- In short 200 odd pages, the book covers simple common-sense driven survival skills for backcountry and other solo situations. All the information is tailored around maintaining the core body temperature at the standard 98.6 degrees.
- The current edition was published in June, 2003.
|The Survival Handbook: Essential Skills for Outdoor Adventure
|- This detailed survival handbook is authored by Colin Towell, a renowned SAS and US Navy instructor and published by DK Publishing.
- Divided in seven-sections, the book covers all aspects of wilderness survival from making shelters, finding food and water to handling emergency situations in 310 pages.
- The book is filled with excellent graphical illustrations.
- The current, second edition of this book was published in Feb, 2012.
|Ultimate Guide to Wilderness Living
|- This popular guide on advanced wilderness survival and primitive bushcraft skills is authored by renowned survival-trainers Geri and John McPherson.
- In 370 odd pages, the book covers step-by-step instructions to follow to survive in the outback with little or no gear. The instructions are well-backed by illustrations and photos.
- The current 17th edition was published in May 2008.
|Foraging (Idiot's Guides)
|- This beginner guide on wilderness foraging is authored by Mark "Merriwether" Vorderbruggen of www.foragingtexas.com fame.
- In 220 odd pages, the book covers tips, tricks and information on identifying and foraging common edible plants across North American wilderness.
- The book also includes maps and charts that list plants by habitat and season. The book also contains 30 easy-to-follow recipes to try out.
- The current edition was published in April, 2016.
|Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide
|- This field guide on foraging is authored by Thomas Elias and Peter Dykeman.
- In 280 odd pages, the book provides a comprehensive information on over 200 wild edibles across North America, supported by illustrations and identification properties.
- The current tenth edition was published in April, 2009.
|The Forager's Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants
|- This detail-oriented beginner guide on foraging is authored by Samuel Thayer, a world-renowned authority on edible wild plants.
- In 360 pages, the book covers very detailed information on identifying 32 most common edible wild plants with the primary focus on Eastern US plants.
- Also covers some aspects of conservation and cultural history of wild edible plants.
- The current edition was published in May, 2006.
|The Hunting & Gathering Survival Manual
|- This modern-day hunter and gatherer survival guide is authored by popular survival skill trainer Tim MacWelch with support from the Editors of the Outdoor Life magazine.
- In more than 200 pages, the book covers all aspects of hunting and gathering food in the wild with or without the weaponry and gear.
- The book also contains useful information on wilderness survival and herbs & medicines.
- The current edition was published in November, 2014.
How to pick the best guides for survival and bushcraft?
Picking the most suitable camping is not a very different from picking any other skill-oriented book. Still, for the sake of completion let us quickly summarize some of the factors to consider while picking the best guides for your need:
- Level/Type of content: The theme and type of content are an important consideration. After all, you want a book that gives a lot of practical information along with smart illustrations that help you master them. You can also check out the “Look Inside” feature of Amazon or excerpts from the Google books section to determine the format of the book and see if it fits your needs.
- Portability of the book: If you are looking to carry a book around on your next backpacking or hiking trip, then consider getting one which is easier to carry around. Avoid hardcovers. And if you are brave enough to carry a Kindle, a book with a Kindle edition would be a great choice.
- Popularity, reviews and ratings: The popularity of the author, publisher and book is often a great indicator of how the book would turn out to be. You should look at the reviews, especially by other experts and authors in the field. A simple search can often reveal a lot about the popularity of the book.
- Publication year of the edition: Even though the basic survival skills needed have not changed over the years, you are always better off getting a book which is not too old, as there have been a lot of advancements in gear over the past couple of decades.
Which are the best books for Survival and bushcraft and what our top picks are?
Irrespective of whether you are a novice or an expert survivalist, you have to have the SAS Survival Handbook in your collection. This book is authored by John ‘Lofty’ Wiseman, a retired 26-year veteran of the British Elite Special Air Services(SAS) Unit.
The book is 670 pages long and divided into eight well-defined sections that cover all aspects of wilderness survival, ranging from how to make a survival kit, how to make a shelter with little or nothing, hunt for food and water and handle medical emergencies.
And that is not all! The Third edition has been considerably enhanced with new information on urban survival and has expanded sections on urban disaster survival, self-defense and terrain and climate specific survival skills.
Each description, tip or skill explanation is supported by colorful illustrations, schematic diagrams, and detailed how-tos.
This is what some Editorial Reviews say about this book:
- A classic outdoor manual [that] addresses every conceivable disaster scenario. Don’t leave home without it – Outside magazine
- This step-by-step survival bible has… prepared [me] for anything. … This edition’s most valuable lessons arrive in its new ‘Urban Survival’ section, which features tactics for countering espionage and dealing with urban animal attacks. – Washington Post
If you want to learn or hone your primitive survival or bushcraft skills, then what better way to do it then guided by one of the proponents of the term – Mors Kochanski. Mors is considered the grandmaster of wilderness survival and credited with coining the popular phrase “the more you know, the less you carry”.
The first edition of the book was published way back in 1998. The current edition of Bushcraft: Outdoor Skills and Wilderness Survival was released in Feb 2016. In 300 odd pages, the book covers all aspects of primitive survival skills – fire craft, ax craft, shelter craft and knife craft among other things such as foraging.
Each chapter follows clear instructions and is supplemented by related schematic diagrams and graphics. And you also have a healthy number of color photographs to better understand the information. It is an all-around excellent ready reckoner for beginners and experts both.
This is what some experts say about this book:
- Mors Kochanski’s Bushcraft is chock full of useful techniques like this and a gold mine for anyone interested in acquiring more backcountry skills. I’ve already reread my copy several times and plan to reference it for years to come. – Philip Werner a.k.a. SectionHiker
Having a good understanding of edible plants and mushrooms in the wilderness is a necessary skill to have for an expert survivalist. While most survival books touch upon the subject of how to identify wild edibles, if you are looking for a beginner source for learning about foraging, then check out the Foraging (Idiot’s Guides) book by Mark “Merriwether” Vorderbruggen.
Mark is an organic chemist by profession, but he is well-known in the Outdoors circle for his foraging website foragingtexas.com. This book compiles all the best information collected and published by him over the years.
Written in true Idiot’s Guides format and published in April 2016, this book covers excellent information on identifying and foraging common plants across North America. The book also lists out common poisonous plants which look like these edibles and has clear instructions on how to avoid them. Moreover, the book also includes over 30 easy-to-follow recipes to try out using wild plants such as Cleaver, Dandelion, and Peppergrass.
In addition to this, the book also has range maps and charts that list plants by habitat and season. And needless to say, all the information is well-supplemented by multiple, full-color photographs of each plant.
In addition to the excellent instructional guides listed above, there are quite a few YouTube channels that provide a lot of tips, tricks and information. Some of the channels that we love are listed below:
Moreover, if you are looking for some traditional know-how on survival, you can check out the following free books:
- Woodcraft by George W. Sears (Nessmuk), First Edition
- U.S. Army Field Manual
- For more classics, check out the following article.
Final thoughts on the best resources for survival and bushcraft
Bushcraft and survival skills are extremely useful to handle difficult situations in the wilderness. Unless you are formally trained in survival, the best way to learn these skills is to consult a good resource and practice what you have learned on your next excursion.
In this article, we looked at some of the best books available in the market for wilderness survival, bushcraft and foraging. Some of these books are useful in urban emergency and disaster situations. We also shared our top picks – books which have been most recommended by experts. Finally, we listed out some additional YouTube channels and free resources to check out.
Do let us know how you found this article and if you would want us to consider anything else by providing your valuable comment below. Until next time, best wishes for your next wilderness exploration!!