Wilderness Survival: Living Off the Land with the Clothes on Your Back and the Knife on Your Belt

Product Description
Do you have what it takes? You’re alone in the wilderness with nothing but a knife and the clothes on your back. Will you survive? Do you have the skills to feed, clothe, and protect yourself? Mark Elbroch, a master tracker, and Mike Pewtherer, a woodland skills educator, put those questions to the test when they embarked on a 46-day, unprovisioned, unequipped journey into the dense wilderness of the northeastern United States. Wilderness Survival is… More >>

Wilderness Survival: Living Off the Land with the Clothes on Your Back and the Knife on Your Belt

5 Comments on "Wilderness Survival: Living Off the Land with the Clothes on Your Back and the Knife on Your Belt"

  1. As a person who has been camping outside since he was eight in all types of weather, I found this book strange and interesting. Interesting in the intellectual sense of the term — here are two city slickers in middle life getting the wilderness religion. Strange in the sense that almost all of that they do, could not be classified as survival. If you are looking at this book as an interesting way to go “wild in an semi–rural area” and learn a few interesting tricks. Most of them better practised in your garage (since you would be dead from starvation and most certainly hypothermia by the time you got to use them). Then this is an interesting book. It should be titled differently — perhaps “Weekend Wilderness for the Urban Man” of “50 Projects for You to Make by Hand on a Desert Isle Assuming You have Unlimited Food, Good Shelter and Water” — do not get me wrong… there are a lot of great ideas here, and the book is very worthy… but it’s not Survival.

    This book should be read more for its musings on man’s place in modern society and his relationship to the land. In this sense the first-person accounts are very good and unique to this style of writing — one does wonder what it would be like to run about the leafy (from what I can tell largely close urban) wilderness and try to “survive.”

    There authors took minimum tools and clothes and minimalist attitudes in this backyard, road-crossed “wilderness” and tried to live. Many of the things they did, the experiences they gained are worthy ideals and even more interesting for anyone contemplating such an adventure experience.

    The problem with the book is simply this: If you were actually in a survival situation there is little that this book can teach you on immediate survival such as thwarting hypothermia, finding your way out and attracting attention. The latter two endevours the authors tried to avoid as part of their experiences — which is completely fine. But the danger is of course that someone (largely some urban refugee with little practical experience, deludes themselves into thinking that this book actually “teaches” survival. It is does not… it teaches a person how to have a sorth of new-age wilderness experience.

    If you were to use this book as the basis of survival in a wet and cold environment you would be dead in hours! Period. In fairness to the authors, that is not the purpose of this book, but with a title such as “Wilderness Survival” it is very likely the purpose of its readers.

    The most glaring example is the oft-cited debris hut. To anyone that has ever built one we all know that these only work in environments that are largely dry and above freezing. Try building a debris hut on the Olympic Pennisula in the middle of November and you will quickly realise that these shelters get wet in hours and remain waterlogged for days and weeks. Inside the book our heroes actually have to take shelter in an older building when they are drowned out of their debris huts. Other survival huts are not mentioned. Nor is any cold-weather survival at all. As any person can tell you, survival outside of the desert (and even in a desert) IS cold-weather survival. ( I should note that I have been building a variety of shelters since about eight. I actually abandoned a debris hut when lost overnight — it as leaking very badly, when I was 13 and managed to find that most rare of things on the Canadian Pacific Coast — a dry spot under a tree).

    Although the instructions on building tools and clothes are good, these are secondary to surviving, and should be noted as such. As for stalking the animals mentioned in this book. I can believe large parts of it… other parts smack of fanciful invention — like following the black bears into the forest… Maybe I just did not live in the forest long enough to acquire a stench of forest normality that calmed the aninmals… but I have never seen nor heard of animals behaving in some of the ways they are described in this book.

    Be all that as it may I enjoyed this book through numerous bathroom reads and also it gave me ideas of my own… but I will leave the debris hut behind. It is a book to be used in conjunction with more practical survival guides — best of course being that of the world’s most proficient special forces in the world — “The SAS Survival Manual.”

    Rating: 3 / 5

  2. I highly reccomend this book. Some have said the title is misleading and that the book isn’t about survival, but what is the most important part of survival? Attitude! And this book helps you to think about that attitude and what it means. The skills talked about are both survival and wilderness living skills, both of which are needed in survival situations. If you only learn how to read a compass and use a signal mirror, you MIGHT survive if you get lost in the wilderness, but you will need to know much more than that, and this book shows you how you can learn without having to be in a wilderness. The things they write about are real experiences.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  3. First let me say that I liked the book. For entertainment value I would give it 5 stars. I read it very quickly – it was easy to read and the story kept me interested. Also the layout was nice, with little vignettes about survival or pioneering skills interspersed with the underlying story.

    As you will know by now, it is the journal of a young man who intentionally attempts to “survive” in the wilderness for a long period of time. He and 2 friends are trained in wilderness survival skills and want to “put them to the test.” The main theme of the book is to recount that experience, with a secondary purpose being to pass along some of their tried and tested woodsman skills.

    My biggest objection is the misleading title. It is neither a story about wilderness nor a story about survival. They are so close to civilization that they have almost daily encounters with the people from the surrounding area. Assistance in the case of a real emergency was only a shout away.

    As for survival, well, as the other critics have pointed out, they picked the time and place for their experience so that natural resources would be most abundant and the environment would be most hospitable. They “cheated” – some more than others – with trips back to civilization for food, shelter, and “comfort.” Much of their time was spent observing nature and doing “crafts” that are useful for pioneering, but not essential for survival. They did harvest lots of game and fish for sustenance, and these stories are illustrative to a point.

    They share their ideas, experiences, philosophies and thoughts. All of this is very entertaining. I think some of the ethical discussions are the most powerful parts of the story. I applaud them for doing something that many outdoor-oriented people have considered at one time or another. I am reminded of a childhood favorite: “My Side of the Mountain (Puffin Modern Classics)” by Jean Craighead George.

    Unfortunately, with the title, it is possible that some prospective buyers will take this as a guide for how to survive in the wilderness; or that the writers had had an actual wilderness survival experience. That buyer would be sadly disappointed on both counts. Rename it Woodland Experience or Pioneering Experience, and you will get my 5 stars.
    Rating: 2 / 5

  4. If you’re interested in wilderness and/or primitive survival, chances are you’ll love this book. It’s written mainly as a first person account of the experiences of some survival instructors who decided to go into the woods and experience truly primitive living, using their survival skills and experience. I beleive the only modern tools they brought were a metal cup and single knife.

    This is definitely not written as a survival manual, but every chapter was sprinkled with a short section on usefull skills, and you probably will learn something new.

    As someone who has read and studied this topic extensively, and practiced some of the skills, it was refreshing and exciting to read about people that I can relate to, who actually experienced living off the land with these skills for an extended period of time.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  5. This book is the perfect supplement to typical survival reading. The combination of actual experience with creative ideas on tools, techniques, and tricks keeps the book interesting. This is great for those of you who are either starting out in your search for survival knowledge or have holes in your existing knowledge. On several occasions the author mentions practices that are so astute and are not mentioned in manuals like the army survival manual. The book is obviously not for everyone…like those who think they know everything. Highly recommended for open minded people who wish to learn while enjoying a good story.
    Rating: 5 / 5

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