on September 10, 2014
Just finished reading Bushcraft 101 cover-to-cover and overall I am impressed. Dave covers a wide range of woodcraft related subjects, from tool and gear selection, to setting up camp, to harvesting food.
In Part 1 he covers the "5 C's" (Cutting, Container, Cordage, Cover, Combustion) in-depth. These are the items that will most directly affect your survival and ability to maintain your core temperature outdoors. They are also the hardest to reproduce in the wild from natural materials.
* He lists many different options for each category, historic and modern, and lists some pro's and con's for most of them. He gives his personal preferences for each, which usually favor durability and longevity over weight and price. Getting the best bang for your buck, as it were.
* He covers gear maintenance and repair which is nice.
* The knots section is well done, with clear illustrations. There are not a ton of knots here, but the ones listed are multifunctional, and useful in many different scenarios.
If looking for an ultra-light hiking guide you may want to look elsewhere, Dave does tend to go a bit tool heavy. But if you want solid choices that will last for many years and serve you well, his recommendations are a great guideline. Also remember that they are just that, recommendations. If weight is a higher priority for you, and you want to choose a Sil-Ny tarp over Oilskin, go for it. If you want Titanium instead of Stainless (and can afford it), go for it. Your experience in the woods belongs to you, go with what will make the time more enjoyable for you.
In Part 2 he gets more into the camping side of woodcraft. He covers topics ranging from how to set up your camp, navigating terrain, and trapping.
* The setting up camp section is well done, with a lot of tips on how to get the most enjoyment out of your time in the woods, and can help avoid many of the pitfalls that could lead to a negative experience.
* The navigation section covers Map and Compass use in-depth. He also gives suggestions on how to create your own maps of your local area.
* The trapping section is excellent. He covers several types of traps, modern and primitive, and gives recommendations on placement and baiting to help you achieve the most success. This is a bit of an advanced topic to be in a '101' book though.
Some things that could be better:
* As others (including Dave) have said, the book could use more illustrations and/or pictures. There are a lot of illustrations in the book, but some of the sections like Trees and Plants would have been a much greater benefit with some pictures. Words alone can only go so far, and a picture is worth 1000 of them. :)
* Some sections could be expanded on a bit more. They felt a bit 'rushed', and not covered as deeply as they could be. For example Fishing is mentioned a couple times, but not really covered in depth. In many cases (if near appropriate water) fishing can be a much more reliable method for catching food than trapping.
* I wouldn't really label this as a 'survival' manual. While many of the topics covered could help in a survival situation, they are presented from the perspective of Wood/Bushcraft, camping, and just generally being comfortable and having fun in the outdoors.
One thing to keep in mind here though is that this is a "101" book. It is an introduction, a primer to get you interested and get you out and enjoying the outdoors yourself.
Overall I like the book. For my experience I've been an outdoorsman my entire life. My parents had me out camping when I was only a week old more than 35 years ago. :) And I've been camping/hunting/fishing every chance I get since. I have also watched all of Dave's Youtube videos and I watch/read many others from the Bushcraft/Survival field as well. I have a real passion for this stuff. Even with all that I still picked up some new knowledge from this book. It's good to get a different perspective on things to help in evaluating your own choices. I think this book deserves a place in any outdoorsman's collection.
on November 9, 2014
Not All That Great
Like another reviewer, I am also more experienced in the Bush and after reading this book, I thought long and hard about giving it either two or three stars. I gave it two because of the fact that this book attempts to do something that Dave Canterbury himself suggested NOT to do, that is confuse Survival with Bushcraft. They are not one in the same.
I've read every review of this book, and have to conclude that the overwhelming majority of individuals are reviewing the personality of the author rather than the book itself.
While the discussion of what is survival and what is bushcraft is murky, I think Canterbury in one of his excellent YouTube videos stated it nicely:(paraphrasing) Survival is an emergency situation of a life threatening nature in which your primary objective is to deal with immediate conditions in order for either a self rescue or having emergency personnel rescue you.
Bushcraft on the other hand is essentially learning how to handle yourself and live comfortably in the woods.
While this book claims that it is a "field guide to wilderness survival," It really is not.
If we were talking ONLY of Bushcraft, I would give this book three stars, but since this book attempts to include some "wilderness survival" I'd have to give it two stars.
And here in lies the problem: The book doesn't really do an adequate job of either one. It is essentially a mish mash of both. And to add even further insult to injury, it even includes trapping with traps which is completely inappropriate nor particularly helpful to the beginning bushcrafter.
Trapping is an advanced skill that requires an enormous amount of dirt time. You have to know the animals that you are attempting to trap, their habits, what they eat, and you have to be able to learn to read "sign" (which are indicators of animals other than actual tracks). I certainly would not consider this to be part of a beginning bushcrafter's skill sets and I don't know of anyone, including Canterbury himself that would think so.
The other problem I have with the book is its lack of focus. Again, Canterbury mixes different skill sets in an attempt to be all things to all people.
For example, Canterbury's background and interests lies in the area of the Longhunter era. This is the period between the founding of the USA to just before the Mountain Man Era. Canterbury has spent years in reenactments, and study and does a wonderful job of it. However, it becomes rather difficult for the average metrosexual bushcrafter to be able to relate to this style of primitive camping and to my mind certainly has no place in the initial discussion of survival, but it is appropriate when discussing bushcrafting and how it was done in the old days with the tools they had available.
I also have a problem with the author's focus of the book. The book is divided into two parts: 1) Gearing up which includes putting all the gear necessary to get ready for a camping/bushcrafting experience, which includes putting the pack together, the tools (knife, axe etc), Cordage, Containers, Coverage (wool blankets), and Fire. 2) The Field experience which includes
setting up camp, Navigation, Trees, and the Trapping and Processing of Game.
Clearly, there is way too much coverage and not enough pages to deal adequately with the subjects depicted.
And this lack of focus and discipline is also reflected in some of the subjects of the book, for example, in the area of sleeping arrangements, Canterbury is a devotee of wool blankets, but doesn't really mention that wool blankets are only appropriate for summer travel AND having a pretty good fire going in the fall and winter, otherwise you stand an excellent chance of freezing to death.
Interestingly enough, at no place in the entire book is there a discussion of personal clothing which is just as important as a tent, tarp or blanket. Footwear is also not discussed, though I think that would be very important in a Bushcraft 101 book given the fact that Canterbury decided to include medicinal plants, trees and trapping as part of the discussion.
My point is that what you are wearing is just as important as the gear you take because your clothing is the first line of defense in a survival situation, and Canterbury himself in his videos states this. So if you are going to include trapping, you should at least give a cursory mention to one's clothing and footwear. And I personally would leave out trapping and devote it to clothing and footwear, though and logical and valid case could be made that technically, clothing has nothing to do with Bushcrafting. And I would agree, though I would say the same about trapping and medicinal plants (at least in a Bushcrafting 101 book).
Oddly enough, Canterbury also discusses the felling and limbing of trees, and even recommends carrying "wedges," to process the felled trees--really? In a beginner's book on bushcrafting? I've never heard of anyone in bushcrafting actually felling green trees, most of us are using dead wood, and in some areas of the USA, cutting down trees is actually a criminal offense.
To my mind, such subjects should have been left out completely to more adequately cover much more important subjects and to flesh out more details in areas more important to beginners.
He also makes some statements that are either inaccurate, or dubious and questionable at best. For example, on the discussion of Tomahawks, Canterbury states that the difference between a tomahawk is primarily the fact that the handle of the hawk comes off the head which allows the head to be used as a wedge. Is that true? I don't know, but it isn't true for me.
The prime difference to me is that the tomahawk is a weapon, whereas its sister tool, the Belt axe or Hatchet is a tool for the processing of wood. And this fact is easily demonstrated by looking at the cheeks of a hawk and that of a belt axe. The hawk makes a horrible splitter because the cheeks are too narrow to facilitate the splitting of wood. The belt axe on the other hand is designed to split wood. Of course some belt axes do this much better than others.
He also makes the statement that the best axe size is around 18 inches. I think this true if you are talking about a belt axe, but in this case, Canterbury is talking about axe sizes in general, though he himself in his videos states that as an emergency tool, a cruiser style axe (about 26-28 inches in length) is the best tool to keep in your car in the case of an emergency (and while I tend to agree with him I myself carry a full sized axe in my vehicle).
In the area of navigation, Canterbury is also remiss, as he only mentions declination, never even bothering to discuss what it actually means. And this is a serious problem, because if you don't know how to factor declination into your navigating skills, you are in serious trouble.
Having said the above, let me compliment Canterbury for the fine job he did in explaining non compass navigating skills such as noting "Five Navigating Methods Every Woodsman Should Know." Here, Canterbury talks about the old ways of navigating by Indians and Longhunters before the common use of a compass: Handrails, Backstops, Baselines, etc. These techniques are invaluable to the beginning Bushcrafter and Survivalist as well. And here, Canterbury's study and experience with the Longhunter tradition really shines. You will rarely find this information in a traditional modern navigation guide but it is so important nevertheless.
So in conclusion, should you purchase this book? That depends on what your objectives are: Are you into Survival or Bushcrafting. If you say survival, then I would suggest that if you are an experienced survivalist with a good supply of survival books, then yes, purchase it. But if you are a beginning survivalist, there are much better books out there to purchase initially.
On the other hand, if you are a bushcrafter with zero experience, I would start somewhere else, and work your way to this book as perhaps a second and third addition.
At this point, given the other reviews, the question is always asked "like WHICH books?" I think the best survival book and cult survival classic is "Six Ways In and Twelve Ways Out." This is an in house publication by the US Army Rescue and Special Operations Group also known as SOCOM. The next outstanding survival book is Lofty Weisman's British work, the SAS Survival Manual. And of course, the Air Force and the Army's Survival Manuals are also good starts.
If you're talking about increasing your bushcrafting skills, there really isn't a better place than going to YouTube and watching Canterbury's videos and also the work of many of the Canadian and British Bushcrafters. For a hard copy, the best book on individual campcraft would be Wildwood Wisdom by Ellswood Jaeger, and the Mors Kochanski works. An old early vintage Boy Scout Manual is also excellent.
Oddly enough, the most touted books on bushcrafting, the Nessmuk and Kephart books I find both inadequate and difficult to read and digest. The other mentioned are much more efficacious.
Adding this Canterbury title is something every bushcrafting student should add, but the issue is when.
on August 29, 2014
I'm about halfway through it, and so far here are my observations.
1. Anyone who knows bushcraft/woodcraft isn't really going to learn much from the book. It is basics.
2. It could use more illustrations, for sure. I understand what Dave is trying to say with various things, but someone who is a beginner is going to be like "what?" Some techniques just need to be illustrated rather than tried to explain in words alone. Probably these are some of the pictures the editor cut out.
3. The book is remarkably well laid out and organized. I mean really well. It is systematic. Hard to explain, but this is a great book for a sort of Boy Scout field guide, or that type of thing.
4. The book, in the gear section, has a gear list which is not only huge and heavy, but names brands like Wetterling and GB, which in my view is not something you should do for a "101" book ostensibly for beginners. I could see someone looking up a GB as a beginner and getting shell shocked by the price. On the flip side, he does explain the qualities you want in the tools such as your knives and axes, and backpacks very well, so if you are a beginner and can't afford a GB (who can? Not me), you still have guidelines on the length and properties of what you want in your tools.
Better would have been to take a more "ideally, you want a GB, but you can get good tools with these properties, and here are some manufacturers that make quality tools at affordable prices".
Overall, I think it is a very quality and handy book. I think it is more orderly, and therefore a better "textbook for learning", than some other classic books of bushcraft and survival. I think this book is a GREAT teaching tool, the sort of thing a dad and son can bring into the field, and dad use the book to teach his son. I would call it a 10/10 in this category.
As a book to become an expert woodsman, or for a total greenhorn to read and learn, not so much. Maybe a 7/10 for a greenhorn....due to lack of illustrations to show some basic woodsman techniques. On this point, I don't think that was in Dave's control, as he lamented all the illustrations the editor cut out.