Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Book Review: How To Survive Anything, Anywhere

I think I have found the perfect "catch all" type survival book for beginners. The book is called How to Survive Anything, Anywhere. I especially like the text in the yellow balloon on the cover...snicker. The book was written by Dr. Chris McNab who is the author of "Endurance Techniques (SAS Training Manual)", "Elite Forces Survival Guide", "Living Off the Land", "Martial Arts for Special Forces" and "Urban Survival.

The book is organized in the manner a reference book would be. Each chapter explains concepts and gives examples, along with copious amount of illustrations. The nook reminds me a bit of the way a military manual would be done or the "SAS Survival Guide" by John Wiseman. The information is broken down into an easily digestible form which is why I think this would be a great beginner's book.

I was perusing around in Barnes and Noble one day and I can across this gem in the outdoor section. I took it over to the cafe and gave it the once through. I decided after skimming the book while sipping on some coffee that I would purchase the book and do a review for the blog on it. Well the book me quite awhile to read just because of the nature of this beast. There are a lot of illustrations and diagrams but the text is rather small and the book has 315 pages!

Chapter 1 Survival Psychology - Chapter cover the basics of survival psychology and why some survive and some don't. Relaxation, stress control, motivation, controlling fear are all covered among other things

Chapter 2 Survival Clothing - Discusses how to dress properly based on your environment. Layering, improvising, footwear and fabrics are all covered in some detail. Remember dressing wrong is akin to bringing a knife to a gunfight...you won't have a chance.

Chapter 3 Survival Kit - Building a survival kit is a skill that can save your life. The different types and components of survival kits are discussed. There is very good information in this chapter. The information in this chapter is broken down well and the author makes sure you have the basics covered in all areas.

Chapter 4 Planning and Preparation - This chapter covers what you would expect. Most likely you will end up in a survival situation away from your comfort zone. The author suggests always doing research on the area you will be traveling to and understanding the resources and environment you will be in. Research, planning and even possible acclimatization are covered in this chapter. There is even information on using an embassy if you are abroad and find yourself in a difficult situation.

Chapter 5 Fit to Survive - Many survival books overlook this area. The author lays out how physical fitness is paramount when it comes to survival. The author emphasizes stretching prior to any physical activity and gives great examples of cardiovascular and weight training exercises and routines that the reader can try.

Chapter 6 Finding Water - This is a very important chapter as you can live much more than three days without water. All of the basics are covered here including water purification. The techniques for reading landscapes to find subterrainian water as well as methods to create water using distillation and transpiration. There are instructions on how to purify water using a filter made exclusively from natural materials; using layers of sand and stones in addition to charcoal from your fire. Very nicely done.

Chapter 7 Plant Food and Survival Nutrition - Covers foraging for food including some basic natural edibles. This is cursory information and can depend on your geographic location. This is a good starting point for some additional research on the reader's part if they are interested in the topic.

Chapter 8 Hunting, Trapping and Fishing - This chapter is a good one, it describes basic tools that can be used to hunt with. It covers basic trapping including deadfalls, fish traps, figure fours and much more. The author goes into basic game dressing as well in this section.

Chapter 9 Survival Cooking and Preserving Foods - There really is no way to do this topic justice in just one chapter. The basics are covered and you will need to do some additional research on the topics that are covered in this chapter. You just can't do drying and smoking in a chapter, when entire books have been written on the subject. There are some great tips on making earth ovens and trench fires which are both great for cooking in a pinch.

Chapter 10 Making Shelters - Nothing can save your ass faster than having shelter when the weather turns bad. Wind, cold and rain can kill you faster than you would think. This chapter left me wanting more...only the very basic are covered like A-frames and snow shelters. I would have liked to seen a few more thrown in. Shelter is one of the basics of survival and I felt gyped with this chapter.

Chapter 11 Making Fire - I think you can imagine what is covered here. All methods of making fire are covered utilizing tools both manufactured and natural. How to build a proper fire, what type of fire to build and how to keep it burning are described in great detail. This would be one of the chapters that I would suggest folks pay attention to.

Chapter 12 Tools, Rope and Knots - This chapter covers knots and lashings. Lashing is somewhat of a lost art...being able to securely fasten a knife to the end of a spear or lash supports together to build a shelter can really be a life saver. Personally I always carry two knives and would never lash my main blade to anything so I don't lose it in some act of stupidity. Once again this chapter does a nice job on the basics. I am actually in process of reading a book that is all about knots and lashings - look for a review in a week or so.

Chapter 13 First Aid - What can I say; some basic first aid procedures are covered here as well as the importance of a good, well stocked first aid kit.

Chapter 14 Surviving Natural Disasters - I cannot stress enough how good this chapter is...floods, tornados and earthquakes are covered among other things. The advice given here is all sound and I actually felt fantastic when I saw many of the things I continually recommend to do in these disasters are in this book.

Chapter 15 Rescue Procedures This chapter could have easily been called communications because that is what it covers. Morse code, ground-to-air signals, smoke signals, radio communications, signaling and flare usage are all presented in this chapter.

Chapter 16 Survival Navigation - Map and compass are invaluable tools to learn how to use. This chapter also covers navigating and telling the time using what nature provides. A very good primer on survival navigation, again entire books have been written on the subject.

Chapter 17 Predicting the Weather - Red sky at night, sailors delight...Red sky at morning, sailors take warning....sound familiar? This chapter places emphasis on things like reading the clouds to help give you an idea of what weather is approaching.

Chapter 18 Polar Climates - This chapter covers surviving is cold environments. Building shelter specific to snowy environments, foraging for food, descriptions of typical flora and fauna and finding water are all covered. The importance of layering clothing cannot be understated when trying to survive in colder climates.

Chapter 19 Mountain Survival - A very brief introduction to mountaineering skills. Things like equipment, avalanches, using your ice axe as a brake if you fall, "the herringbone step" and much more are covered.

Chapter 20 Tropical Survival - Covers clothing, shelters, flora and fauna and specific skills related to survival in a tropical environment.

Chapter 21 Survival in the Desert - Covers clothing, shelters, flora and fauna and specific skills related to survival in a desert environment.

Chapter 22 Survival at Sea - A nice discussion of things like rafts, survival kits, abandoning ship, swimming techniques and the flora and fauna you will encounter out on open waters are all presented in this chapter.

Chapter 23 Defending Yourself - A little disappointed in this chapter. No weaponry of any kind is discussed other then the fist and kick. There are some really good hand-to-hand techniques described with plenty of illustration but this chapter is incomplete as far as I am concerned without a mention of firearms or knives.

Chapter 24 Safety on the Roads - This covers the basics of road safety. Vehicle maintenance, anti-theft devices, accidents and avoiding confrontations with aggressive drivers are all covered in this chapter.

Chapter 25 Safety on Public Transportation - Well if you are ever in an emergency situation on a plane, bus or train this chapter is for you.

Chapter 26 Surviving in the Home Environment - This chapter is pretty much common sense for most of us. Fire prevention, security and preparation are all covered. Lock up guns if you have kids, put quality locks on your doors, have smoke detectors and fire extinguishers in your home (tested and ready), like I said mostly common sense.

Chapter 27 Surviving Terrorism - This chapter is a little light on useful information for the average folks. It covers how terrorist operate and the techniques they use. I would guess the author is trying to educate the reader so they are more aware in the day and age where anything can happen.

All in all I found this a worthy read. The information is broken down and organized quite well. It covers A LOT of information as I have stated and can be used as a reference once you have gone through it from cover to cover. I have no problems recommending this book to my readers, it certainly isn't a Saturday afternoon read as it will require some processing on your part; it is a very good book nonetheless.

...that is all.

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  1. The author suggests always doing research on the area you will be traveling to and understanding the resources and environment you will be in. Research, planning and even possible acclimatization are covered in this book.

  2. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I think I will leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.