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Advanced Bushcraft: An Expert Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival Paperback – August 1, 2015
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"The book is about survival in the sense that you are getting deeper skills than what you might normally get into, like preserving acorns for flour.... You will definitely learn something from this book." --ShadowFox
About the Author
Dave Canterbury is the co-owner and supervising instructor at the Pathfinder School, which USA TODAY named one of the Top 12 Survival Schools in the United States. He has been published in Self Reliance Illustrated, New Pioneer, American Frontiersman, and Trapper’s World. Dave is the New York Times bestselling author of Bushcraft 101, Advanced Bushcraft, and The Bushcraft Guide to Trapping, Gathering, and Cooking in the Wild.
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I also have some tech writing skills under my belt, and this guide needs help. My humble opinion: If Bushcraft 101 suffers from the same lack of proper illustration, lack of process, and has the excess fluff that this book has, then neither book will help you as much as other survival books might.
Before everyone goes nuts, I admit there is some useful information that can be gleaned - provided you already have the basics in the bag and are ready to use your imagination to figure out how to perform the advanced skills Dave tries to describe here.
This book was a roller coaster ride, a real back-and-forth between getting useful information and then getting left hanging with only half the information (or illustration) needed to make it useful... and then sifting through the proverbial fluff to reach the next useful (or useless) chapter. Sorry fans. I really wanted this to be a great advanced bushcraft reference book, but it did not meet expectations.
I was highly disappointed by the low value illustrations inserted while more useful illustrations were omitted. For example: the pine needles illustration on page 31. I think we all know what pine needles look like, or at least we can imagine a needle-like shape based on the name 'pine needles,' but we may not know what elderberry leaves look like when seeking non-poisonous berries. Berry bush illustrations were not included. May be they can be found in the preceding Bushcraft 101 basics book? If so, then why is he even mentioning berry bushes again in the advanced book? See what I mean? The chapters either lack proper illustration and process, or the chapters are fluff carried over from Bushcraft 101.
Another example of useless information: Dave includes a full page illustration of axe heads he does NOT discuss. You get to have fun trying to find the couple of axe heads he actually does discuss. Why?
Another example of omitted information: Dave offers some good interpretations of what clouds can tell you; then he doesn't provide any illustration of the clouds, not even the important ones. Not everyone can tell the difference between a cumulonimbus and an altostratus, only one of which he suggests will bring lightning. Wouldn't it be nice to know what that particular cloud looks like?
Also omitted: you won't find any illustrations of parts of the hunting bow he tells you how to make. You won't find illustration of testing the bow tiller, which is an important part of the process that you really need to see. We get to see pine needles, but not tiller testing. Why?
After leaving so much out, Dave took the time and space to provide a lengthy reclaimed metal chart with number/letter designations, but he fails to offer explanation for non-metal workers as to what the numbers mean, why these numbers were important, or even what hardness or carbon content the numbers represent. Without explanation it is not advanced information; it's useless fluff to most non-metal workers.
Dave also discussed blacksmithing a knife and axe. I got excited about learning the skill, but then he didn't offer a step by step process to blacksmith these items. He did a great job providing valuable definitions for heating processes and a list of forging colors, but he didn't use this valuable information to lay out the step by step process for hammering out a cool knife or axe. This is the rollercoaster I'm talking about... good information followed by a lack of information, or vice versa. This is the prevalent writing style throughout the entire guide.
I expected an advanced guide building off basic skills. Dave shouldn't have to tell us how to build a fire in this advanced guide, unless he forgot to cover it in Bushcraft 101. But he does. This 'advanced' book has Chapter 4: Advanced Firecraft... and it starts out with 'primitive' skills like using the bow drill (kudos for good bow drill illustration here) and using flint and steel. Why? Weren't basic primitive skills covered in Bushcraft 101? Or is this just fluff?
Did I learn anything from reading Advanced Bushcraft? Yes, I learned a little.
Does Bushcraft 101 provide a solid base for understanding the advanced information provided in Advanced Bushcraft? I didn't read it, but I would guess the answer is NO. When basic skills came into play, Dave provides them in Advanced Bushcraft (in various levels of detail) while leaving you guessing how to perform some of the advanced tasks, which were supposed to be the purpose of this book.
Very little step by step here, folks. It's an interesting book, and you may even glean some good tidbits from it, but you won't find enough information to perform all the advanced skills the guide claims to offer. Per the introduction, this guide does not "...take these skills to the next level and prepare you for a lengthy stay in the wilderness."
Written by Dave Canterbury, known to many people as one of the original two survivalists on the TV show “Dual Survival,” where he was teamed with Cody Lundin (Dave was the one that wore shoes), the book focuses on Dave’s view of bushcraft; a view that means taking advantage of what nature makes available to you and using a minimum of gear to survive and thrive in the natural world, carrying “the knowledge and skills needed to create items straight from the landscape”.
The main way that Dave’s book differs from the first two books on our favorites list is due to his focus on the skills necessary to thrive in the woods – not just the skills essential to surviving in the wild in an emergency. Because of this much of the book is based on Canterbury’s “Five Cs of Survivability” – items chosen since they are extremely hard to make in the wild and directly impact controlling your body’s core temperature. Dave’s Five Cs are:
1) Cutting Tools – to manufacture needed items and process food
2) Covering Elements – to create a microclimate of protection from the elements
3) Combustion Devices – for creating the fires needed not only to preserve and cook food, but also to make medicines and provide needed warmth
4) Containers – to carry water over distances or to protect collected food sources
5) Cordages – for bindings and lashings
The book also shows how Dave has a “systems” mindset (e.g. never carry anything unless it can perform multiple functions).
The book has sections on:
Rope, Cordage, Webbings, and Knots
Containers and Cooking Tools
In The Bush
Setting Up Camp
Trees: the Four-Season Resource
Trapping and Processing Game
Conserving and Utilizing resources
Wild Edibles and Medicinal Plants
Dave’s detailed section on Tools is especially helpful for people new to camping. We also like Dave’s “Four Ws” relating to setting up a camp – Wood, Water, Wind and Widowmakers. Having 256 pages, measuring 5½ x ¾ x 8½ inches and weighing ~10 ounces this is probably a book that you learn from but do not take on the trail with you. Although shorter than all of our other recommended books, Bushcraft 101 is not intended to be all encompassing – since it is only intended to cover the “20 percent of bushcraft that is of the most value”.