Survival Library: Chapter 2, Bushcraft 101

Continuing my suggestions for a survival library.
Today I will look at a title that is relatively new to me. Some other reviewers consider it a “must have”.
The book is “Bushcraft 101” by Dave Canterbury.
Cover of Bushcraft 101
I quite liked this book.
The early section on safe and effective ways to use your knife and other tools is particularly good, and possibly worth the price alone.
It is a good book for rending topics down to a simply grasped form.
An interesting aide memoire Canterbury uses is “the Five Cs”: Cutting, Cover, Combustion, Containers and Cordage. Personally, I would advise adding “Consumables” and “Compass” to that list.
Another useful aide memoire is the “Four Ws”, used for selecting a good campsite: Wood, Water, Wind and Widowmakers.
To the advice given in the book, I will remind the reader that water sources often come with biting insects, so a camp should not be too near. Under the same category, one should consider watercourses. If you camp in a dried river bed or runoff, a storm miles away may result in your camp literally being washed away.
A third handy memory aid is “LURD”, used to determine the direction viewed by star movement. I recommend memorizing it as “LURD:NESW”. If a star is moving upward, you are looking east, and so on.
Determine direction of facking by star movement
The section on maps and compass is much more straight forward than in some publications:
“The most important reason to carry a compass is so that we can walk a straight line over distance.”
• Here I will insert a useful tip not given in this book. To walk in a straight line, align three objects. Tree trunks in a forest are ideal.
As you reach the first object, align the next two objects with a fourth, and keep repeating this process as necessary.
While applying a calculation to compensated for difference between magnetic and grid north is mentioned in Bushcraft 101, the actual method (LARS) is not detailed.
Perhaps it was felt that in a survival situation the difference is not significant, only a general orientation of the map being adequate. A similar approach is taken in the SAS Survival Handbook.
In some parts of the world, or for more general navigation, magnetic declination may be significant.
I would recommend regarding the navigation section of Bushcraft 101 as a useful primer and follow it with some more detailed reading on the topic.
The above brings me to one of the shortcomings of Bushcraft 101.
The book is very much written for a North American audience, and mainly geared for travel or emergencies in woodland.
If you frequent the prairies or deserts, you may wish the book had mentioned some tent poles to rig the suggested tarp. Similarly, some of the advice given may not be so valid for other parts of the world.
That said, my impressions of this book are very positive.
Once you have the suggested titles by Kephart, Greenbank and Wiseman (and my own books, of course!), Bushcraft 101 is worth considering as a useful addition. 



Build Your Survival Library: Chapter One

My girlfriend was telling me how her sister in Brazil had managed to acquire a piece of land. Living on her own land is something that my girlfriend has often said that she would like to do.
“You will have to teach me survival”, she added.
I admit I was a little surprised by that request. She is an incredibly practical person.
When she was a little girl, she would escape her toxic home environment and live on the beach, catching fish. I suspect there is quite a bit she could teach me.
However, she is a very wise lady, and part of wisdom is knowing what you do not know!
What should I put on her reading list, I pondered?

Camping and Woodcraft (Kephart)

My first thought was “Camping and Woodcraft” by Horace Kephart. Photo of Hoeace Kephart
Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised to know this is one of my favourite books. I prize my old 1927 reprint of the 1921 edition. Around 884 pages, yet fits in an M65 jacket pocket.
This book is definitely something I will save, come the apocalypse.
It is rightly called a classic and a title that every outdoorsman should read.
The book is out of copyright, so I have a number of alternate editions in PDF, found for free on-line.
Camping and Woodcraft may have been written over a century ago (1906/1916), but is still a wealth of useful knowledge. It is no bad thing to know how things may be done without Gore-tex and GPS.

The Survival Handbook (Greenbank)

Cover of The Survival Handbook, Greenbank
The first book I actually sent my girlfriend was “The Survival Handbook” by Anthony Greenbank. This may also be encountered with the alternate title of “The Book of Survival”.
Greenbank's book seldom appears in recommendations for survival libraries. It seems to be relatively unknown.
It is an excellent book and is a must-have in my opinion.
The Survival Handbook is a great book since it includes many possible emergency situations that other manuals neglect.
Packed with useful information and easy to read and navigate. Even readers “not into survival” will find something of worth within its pages.
This book was first published back in 1967, long before the “survival craze” when many manuals were produced. Consequently, there are a few minor points that need updating.
For example: current advice is to remove ticks by gently pulling them with tweezers, rather than the older approaches in this and many other books. Fisherman's Knot
I would also stress that you should not join different ropes with a reef knot, even with a couple of half-hitches added. Always use the fisherman's knot, as is later recommended by Greenbank. A fisherman's knot is a pair of overhands, so is probably easier to learn and remember than a reinforced reef.
Scorpion claws are not poisonous. Claw size is generally inversely proportional to potency of sting.
I am also dubious as to whether any coat worthy of the name would make a good signalling kite. It seems more prudent to keep your coat on and use your shirt for a use where a garment may be potentially lost.
Of course, no book is perfect and remains perpetuatlly up to date. This is why we should read more than one book on any topic. The more angles you look at something from, the better you will know it.
These very minor points aside, I would wholeheartedly recommend a copy of Greenbanks's Survival Handbook for any survival library.
Usefully, the Survival Handbook is a standard sized paperback, so there is no reason that one could not put it in a ziploc bag and carry it with you in a rucksack pocket.

The SAS Survival Handbook (Wiseman)

Cover of The SAS Survival Handbook, Wiseman
For a more “conventional” bushcraft/survival manual, Greenbank's book is nicely complimented by “The SAS Survival Handbook” by John “Lofty” Wiseman. Also available with the alternate title of “The SAS Survival Guide” or “SAS Survival Guide”.
A revised edition was published in 2009.
Probably the only thing wrong with this book is the title. Even way back in 1986 when this book was published, it was already a cliché that nearly every other survival-orientated item was claimed to be either SAS, Special Forces or Green Beret. I will stress that John Wiseman is a verified genuine former member of the SAS, however.
The SAS Survival Handbook is an excellent choice for any survival library. It is easy to read, yet very detailed. Copies may be found at very reasonable prices.
The original book was nearly a foot square (228 x 238 x 22mm). I remember looking at my copy and wishing for an edited-down smaller version more suited to carrying in the field. Someone else obviously felt the same, because a few years later a Collins Gem edition was released. Amazingly, this was pocket-sized yet preserved all of the original content!Collins Gem edition of SA Survival Guide, Wiseman
My Gem edition has spent several decades in a ziploc bag in a side pocket of my rucksack. It has travelled from Hong Kong to Brazil and up to Iceland. If nothing else, it has served as an educational way to spend my time while waiting for a bus.
Both sizes of SAS Survival Guide include a coloured section illustrating various edible plants. Other Collins Gem titles may also be of interest, such as “Food for Free”.
The SAS Survival Guide/Handbook is another “must-have” for any survival library. In fact, get the large version for your bookshelf and the Gem for your pack.
Between Kephart, Greenbank and Wiseman you now have a pretty sound foundation for your survival library. It does not hurt that your survival library happens to be relatively compact and lightweight.
If you brought the Gem edition of the SAS Guide, all three books should fit in your bug-out bag.
If you buy the titles recommended above, you have acquired a lot of useful information for a relatively modest outlay.
I suggest that at least some of your library is hardcopy, for when the power is out.
How about some free books to supplement these?

US Field Manuals

Many readers will be familiar with “FM 21-76”, the US military survival manual.Cover of FM 21-76
On-line copies are freely available from a number of sites, there being no copyright on US field manuals. Many on-line copies lack the appendixes, such as the extensive illustrated appendix of edible plants, for example.
FM 21-76-1 was a related publication about SERE.
The current version of FM 21-76 has been redesignated FM 3-05.70.
Many of the sites you can download FM21-76/FM 3-05.70 from will have other field manuals on topics of interests such as navigation, hygiene and first aid.
If you want a printed copy of a field manual, these are available from a number of publishers. Price, cover and sometimes title will vary.
While these survival manuals are now described as “all services”, they were originally written as advice for downed aircrews, and this should be remembered when reading certain sections.
US field manuals tend to be clearly written but are not necessarily concise: FM 3-05.70 is 676 pages long.
There is also sometimes a tendency in field manuals for information to become institutionalized. New content may get in, but older, possibly no longer accurate content is slow to be removed.Air Force Handbook 10-644
Also worth a look are the Air Force manuals AFM 64-3, AFR 64-4 or AFH 64-5. Latest version is AFH 10-644. These are a little harder to locate on-line.
The manuals are not as “easily digestible” as Kephart, Greenbanks or Wiseman. They are, however, “information dense” and provide excellent background and context for the other books, at a price that cannot be beat, free!
The above recommendations will have given you a pretty comprehensive survival/bushcraft library.
In later blogs I will review other titles, including those that are more specialized in their field.
You will also need some books on self-defence. For these, scroll down and follow the links.
I am very short of money at the moment, so you custom or donations will be very much appreciated!



Crash Combat Third Edition Out Now!

I am pleased to announce that the Third Edition of Crash Combat has now become available.
This version has been extensively expanded, being about 30% longer. More content, extra illustrations, more techniques, new techniques and generally much more book for your money. In addition, much of the book has been rewritten and restructured so information is more easily assimilated and learnt.
While Crash Combat was originally written for a military context, it remains relevant to any individual wishing to learn to protect themselves in this dangerous and uncertain world.
Visit the Author Spotlight for my other books.
May be purchased direct from in either print or epub format. It will take a few more days or more for this version to appear with other retailers. Buying from Lulu costs you less and more of the money goes to the author.


I have just received and approved the proof copy of the print version. Very pleased with how it looks and reads. Treat yourself!

Under a Waning Star

Recently I came across some information that the star rating on Amazon was based on sales, and how recent they were. How does that benefit the customer? It certainly does not benefit an author! Most people seeing a low rating will assume it means the book is no good, and move on. So I have a low star rating because I have made few sales, and I am unlikely to make more sales because I have a low star rating? How could anyone think that was a good system for a business? I am at a loss on a solution. What is the point of me writing? Sometimes it seems the only way to win is not to play.
It seems unlikely my novella will ever see many readers. If you are interested, click on the link below and judge for yourself. The ebook version costs less than a good beer.

Slash and Thrust by John Sanchez

When I first started this blog, I expected that I would be writing more book reviews than I have done. The problem is, many martial arts books are somewhat lacking in content.
The reason I wrote my first book was to address many of the points that I did not feel were adequately covered. Hence it is very hard to review a book such as “Slash and Thrust” without making the point that my own work does a better job at covering the techniques of defensive knife use or throwing objects in self-defence.

Back in the days when I was a regular on a knife throwing forum, John Sanchez’s book “Slash and Thrust” would sometimes be mentioned.
These mentions were usually due to the short section on throwing weapons in the book, and in particular a weapon Sanchez called the “Irish Dart”.
Years ago, I flipped through a friend’s copy of the book, but I admit we were mainly interested in the throwing section at the end.
Recently another friend commented that he intended to brush up on his knife techniques by rereading his copy of Slash and Thrust.
I decided to finally treat myself to a cheap second hand copy.
According to the blurb: “Until Slash and Thrust, no book ever presented a complete, practical knife fighter’s training program. This classic covers choosing the martial knife, quick-kill strikes, footwork, deceptive movements and using such exotic weapons as the shuriken, shaken, Irish dart, chakram and Chinese cloth dart.”
Quite a big claim for a small book of only 68-72 pages!
Having now read the book properly, my impression is of an inflatable structure that tries to look substantial but has very little content.
For example, Sanchez notes that there are a number of different footwork techniques used in various martial arts and then states he favours “natural footwork”. That sounds very logical, wise and sensible, but once you examine the statement, you realize it has very little actual meaning or content.
The footwork he goes on to describe involves moving with the knees bent. While this is a good technique, it is not what I would describe as natural.
The book has a number of statements or references that seem to be placed there mainly for the effect of making it seem more learned or insightful than it actually is.
In its handful of pages Sanchez uses the phrase “common sense” at least four times. Readers will be aware that this is a fiction, and any time someone uses this phrase instead of providing detail or justification, any information should be treated with skepticism and suspicion.
Sanchez also describes thrusting with a kukri as “at best, awkward”, which makes me seriously doubt that he has ever handled one.
There is a section on carrying techniques where Sanchez advocates carrying a belt knife inclined with the edge up.
He makes an argument that because the hand is inverted and turned palm out to draw from, this position it is better defended.
In fact, this would expose the more vulnerable area of the inner forearm with its nerves, blood vessels and tendons.
It also ignores that if the enemy is within attacking range you should be defending rather than attempting to draw a weapon.
The book does have some points of interest, but it was easy to overlook these among the padding.
You may pick up a tip or two, and one or two good points are made, but there is no way that this should be used as your main source of instruction. It gives little glimpses rather than a comprehensive view.
Occasionally he refers back to some ideas “already described” but these were in fact detailed very briefly.
Areas such as the guard posture could have been described better and would have benefited from an illustration.
There is an illustration of useful target areas, but important information such as that there is a high probability that attacking through the ribs can cause a blade to jam or be lost is not mentioned.
Sanchez suggests a number of books to consult for further study.
Paradoxes of Defence” by George Silver is mentioned a number of times. I have mentioned Silver’s works on these pages, and in my books too.
Silver is worth a read but his comments on knife fighting techniques are only a few paragraphs long.
Also, Sanchez fails to mention that Silver’s discussion of actual techniques are in his related work “Brief Instructions upon my Paradoxes of Defence”.
Musashi’sBook of Five Rings” is also suggested for reading. Referencing this book was quite common in the 80s. The Book of Five Rings contains some techniques for sword use. I don’t recall any knife relevant stuff in the book, but it has been a while since I read it, so will give Sanchez the benefit of the doubt there.
“Cold Steel” by John Styers is another suggestion. This is an interesting book providing you understand it was built on the ideas of Drexel-Biddle, whose knife fighting ideas were heavily influenced by sword-fighting techniques.
The last suggestion was Cassidy’s “Complete Book of Knife Fighting” See here for my review on that book. It is an interesting read, but I would be very cautious on trying its techniques in a real encounter!
As I have mentioned, there is a brief section on a variety of throwing weapons.
Sanchez admits that there may be situations when there is no other option but to throw a weapon, and briefly describes a number of historical examples of hand thrown weapons.
His explanation of how to throw knives and shuriken is reasonable if a little inaccurate on a few points.
Contrary to the claims of some reviews, the section on throwing weapons does not take up a third of the book. It is just a handful of pages.
For alternate information on self-defence, see my books.