2 Comments on "Practical Outdoor Survival, New and Revised: A Modern Approach to Staying Alive in the Wilderness"

  1. While I don’t doubt that Mr. McDougall is a capable tracker and outdoorsman, I find myself uncertain as to his journalistic credibility, if he did indeed claim in an interview that a missing person from Paradise, Michigan had suffered an “unnecessary death.” (“Why I rarely post,” interviewer Chris Young, December 2006)

    From my perspectives as a nonfiction writer and editor, former assistant to a nonfiction writer of the same genre as McDougall, and having worked for three years in academic libraries, I am concerned he may have fact-checking issues.

    If you want to know how to live or die out there, read Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales.
    Rating: 2 / 5

  2. Len McDougall doesn’t try to teach us how to parachute into the woods with only a pocketknife to survive. Nor does he offer us a handbook to pull out for the first time after crashing a small plane in the middle of nowhere. Rather, McDougall focuses on being prepared before entering the wild and taking advantage of the technology and equipment that are available. (The book’s subtitle is, appropriately, “A Modern Approach to Staying Alive in the Wilderness”) Perhaps due to his long experience as an outdoorsman in the woods of Michigan, the book best reflects the hazards and opportunities of those environs (snow, hypothermia, insects, trees, streams, fish, and squirrels, for example). Conversely, it’s not a book about surviving in the deserts of the Southwest, though some of the advice would still be applicable.

    There are many good books on survival written from a number of very different philosophies. This one seems most appropriate and helpful to those who head into the woods intentionally. The advice on building survival kits appropriate for short walks, day hikes, and longer trips into the wild was helpful and straightforward. His section on selecting first aid supplies was also quite solid, focusing on practicality rather than the frantic tone of some books. He doesn’t provide in-depth medical advice for catastrophic accidents, but he talks about how to deal with common problems like cuts, abrasions, and he discusses the trade-offs between specific painkillers (aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxin sodium). The instruction on shelters, locating food, and water is (as the book title implies)… practical. The best quote to capture the “be prepared” flavor of the book comes after McDougall describes where to find natural tinder in the woods. He writes, “The best and most fail-safe tinder materials should always come from your own pocket.” He then notes some good commercial products and homemade items that will start a fire under even difficult conditions. The lesson? The woods are a great place, but do some thinking beforehand and go in prepared.

    If you want to read only about ancient aboriginal skills or about esoteric psychologies of survival, look elsewhere. If you spend time in the woods and want to think through how to be better prepared before you leave, what types of things you could bring along to deal with unexpected setbacks, and how to make shelter that can mitigate the effects of the elements, this is a solid, straightforward book by an experienced outdoorsman.
    Rating: 4 / 5

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