Survivalist Bookshelf: Field Guides & True Stories
There are plenty of great books that can help you sharpen your skills, become a more prepared hiker and recreate safely in the outdoors. Here are four books focused on survival that we enjoyed—and our favorite tips to get you started.
When it comes to recreating safely in the outdoors, you don’t need to learn everything by trial and error. There are plenty of great books that can help you sharpen your outdoor skills and become a more prepared hiker. Here are four that we recommend—and our favorite tips to get you started.
By Ronald Glaus
Best for: intellectual read
Want to get brainy about the psychology of search and rescue? This book will teach you all sorts of fascinating stuff about the behaviors of lost and missing people—and the rescuers who help them.
- People who have put themselves in dangerous situations knowingly (by bypassing caution signs, etc.) and then need to be rescued tend to feel guiltier than those whose rescue is the effect of purely external circumstances. Because of that guilt, they are less likely to call for help. (But trust us—it’s worth any potential embarrassment. Make the call.)
- Understanding how people deal with adversity in everyday life (fight, flight, faint or freeze) can help us understand how they might react in a rescue situation—and increase the probability of a successful rescue.
- It’s just as important to understand the psychological effect of emergency situations on rescuers. By being aware of the stress they face, we can keep them safer—physically, mentally and emotionally—during missions.
Best for: survival skills
Get ready for whatever nature could throw your way with this guide on bushcraft, (the art of surviving in the woods with as little modern gear as possible). Detailed lessons include firemaking, manufacturing your own tools and gear, foraging, and trapping and processing game.
- Stones used for cooking or placed directly in a fire should never come from a creek bed or river. Even if they appear dry, they may still hold moisture that could fracture the stone when heated—and explode.
- When using your tarp for sheltering on the ground in cold weather, use debris or snow to help insulate around the edges and reduce any breeze from entering.
- Never use your knife unless you have to. Break sticks whenever possible and strip bark by hand or with sharp rocks.
Best for: survival skills
Move over boring skill books. Here is a guide that’s loaded with colorful and helpful graphics, from checklists to step-by-step illustrations to comics, that make learning how to survive anything—from the apocalypse to getting stuck on your way to the trailhead—a breeze.
- Vodka can be your best friend on trail—and not for its obvious use. It also works well when applied to the skin to sooth discomfort from poison ivy and help blisters heal, and it can be spritzed on for a natural mosquito repellent.
- Duct tape is a great fix for pierced hydration bladders. Just make sure to dry the surface of the bladder before you affix the duct tape, as most tape won’t adhere to wet surfaces.
- A lot of the “must have” clothing for survival is wool. That’s because it’s breathable, dries quickly, keeps you warm even when wet, is resistant to fires and offers some good UV protection.
By Warren Macdonald
Best for: armchair adventure
If you’re looking for an inspiring tale for the offseason, look no further than this true story of an experienced mountaineer who was trapped under a giant rock for two days and two nights while his buddy went for help. Just don’t count on this read to be a downer—you’ll love its uplifting message.
- It’s usually safer to hike with another person.
- One of the best skills you can perfect is the ability to keep yourself together, to not panic when things go wrong on trail (or in life).
- You’re stronger and more capable of surviving than you think.
Want to read even more about search and rescue? Check out The Hiker's Guide to Search and Rescue, where you can learn about who volunteers with the elite group, what a rescue looks like, how to help them help you and how to support them in their amazing work.
This article originally appeared in the March+April 2015 issue of Washington Trails magazine. Join WTA to get your one-year subscription.