The 10 Best Survival Books

Updated May 22, 2018 by Chase Brush

10 Best Survival Books
The Survival Medicine Handbook
Bush Craft: Outdoor Skills and Wilderness Survival
The Boys' Book Of Survival
We spent 46 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top options for this wiki. Whether you're a doomsday prepper or just like to be ready in the event of a disaster, emergency or getting lost while camping or hiking, one of these educational survival books, will give you the knowledge to build a shelter, treat an injury and find your way home. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best survival book on Amazon.

10. The Classic Guide to Building Wilderness Shelters

It's impossible to survive harsh weather conditions without something to protect you from them, which serves as the basis of The Classic Guide to Building Wilderness Shelters. Written by a founder of the Boy Scouts in 1920, it's still an authority on its subject matter.
  • covers stone huts to teepees
  • hands-on instructions
  • some pictures aren't very detailed
Publisher Dover Publications
Model n/a
Weight 10.6 ounces
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

9. The Survival Medicine Handbook

When injury or illness strikes in the wild, there's no calling 911, so knowing the techniques included in The Survival Medicine Handbook might literally mean the difference between life and death. The authors are a professional surgeon and a nurse, so you can trust them.
  • includes photos for comparison
  • revised and expanded edition
  • must-read for camp medics
Publisher Mosby
Model n/a
Weight 2.1 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

8. The Boys' Book Of Survival

If you've got youngsters who love the outdoors, The Boys' Book Of Survival is a fine way to introduce them to the fundamentals of roughing it in the wilderness. The book is fun and informative, though it's a bit sexist in that it's geared primarily towards, well, boys.
  • guide to insects and animals
  • makes a great birthday gift
  • not a very serious resource
Publisher Scholastic Nonfiction
Model n/a
Weight 9.6 ounces
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

7. Prepper's Long-Term Survival Guide

If you're looking to get off the grid for good, let us wish you luck -- and also recommend the Prepper's Long-Term Survival Guide. It focuses on the best practices for living in perpetuity without the help of social institutions, though it won't be relevant for everyone.
  • also comes in kindle ebook
  • includes community building tips
  • may not satisfy serious preppers
Publisher Ulysses Press
Model n/a
Weight 8 ounces
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

6. The Ultimate Survival Manual

The Ultimate Survival Manual is definitely one of the most comprehensive guides out there, covering everything from wilderness living to natural disasters to urban self-defense. Some of the writing is a little goofy, but much of the knowledge it contains is invaluable.
  • recently updated version
  • available in deluxe hardcover
  • very long at over 200 pages
Publisher Weldon Owen
Model n/a
Weight 2.3 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

5. SAS Survival Guide

Whether you're a camper, hiker, or boater, you're sure to benefit from reading the SAS Survival Guide. Most of the information contained is taken from the author's 26 years with the Special Air Services, including teachings on basic first aid, camp craft and navigation.
  • supported by real case studies
  • pairs with accompanying iphone app
  • covers some unnecessary topics
Publisher imusti
Model n/a
Weight 2 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

4. Bush Craft: Outdoor Skills and Wilderness Survival

Chock full of informative and easy to understand graphics, Bush Craft: Outdoor Skills and Wilderness Survival offers basic but indispensable knowledge about its topic. It avoids overly technical language, which makes it a more enjoyable read than some other guides.
  • written by a renowned naturalist
  • good for both beginners and experts
  • some information is a little dated
Publisher Lone Pine
Model n/a
Weight 15.5 ounces
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

3. 100 Deadly Skills: Survival Edition

Who better to learn how to survive from than the people who do it for a living? This 100 Deadly Skills: Survival Edition takes its cues from the experiences of a former US Navy Seal, and offers an effective manual for staying alive in any hostile environment or disaster.
  • educational but also humorous
  • full of very original information
  • lightweight and portable paperback
Publisher Touchstone
Model n/a
Weight 13.4 ounces
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

2. Bushcraft 101

A New York Times bestseller in Sport and Travel, Bushcraft 101 has earned a reputation as one of the definitive sources on what it calls "the art" of wilderness survival. It's not overly broad in scope, but still manages to provide tons of detail on what it does cover.
  • author is a pro survival expert
  • blends old wisdom with modern tech
  • first in a series of guides
Publisher Adams Media
Model n/a
Weight 10.4 ounces
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

1. How to Stay Alive in the Woods

Whether it's for yourself or a gift for a loved one, you won't regret having bought How to Stay Alive in the Woods. It's everything you'd want in a practical survival guide, and is also highly portable, featuring a hardcover that protects its valuable contents from wear.
  • broken into clear readable sections
  • includes detailed illustrations
  • high quality paper and binding
Publisher Workman Publishing
Model n/a
Weight 1.9 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

The Power Behind A Survival Book

Sleeping inside dead camels to escape the elements, or eating giant spiders for sustenance does not always merit your own TV show, like Bear Grylls, but you can learn similar skills and apply them in the real world to better prosper in the wild, and lessen the likelihood of becoming a SAR (Search and Rescue) statistic.

Studying survival skills with a top-grade manual can end up saving your life if ever faced with a dire circumstance in a secluded area. You never know when that spontaneous moment might strike, but when it does, you sure will be prepared.

That's not to say that survival books strictly lean towards the life or death scenario spectrum; these books in general are geared towards educating people on what to expect in nature, and how to use nature as a resource. When you're unsure of where or how to setup your campsite, or need to locate an edible root, or need to produce a compass using the accessories on you, survival books will typically have the answers for you, or if anything, guide you to find a suitable solution.

While not everyone will find themselves in an actual survival-based setting, having the knowledge to camp with little resources, and survive, becomes a reward of independence. Survivalist skills teach you determination and resourcefulness that help you succeed in everyday situations, because as they say, "the more prepared you are, the less scared you are."

Are All Survival Books The Same?

Not all survival books are created equally. Some are more area specific rather than composing of just tips and guides. These may include books pertaining to strictly building shelters, or how to locate and facilitate medicinal plants. On which book to chose relies solely on your wants and needs, and maybe even your learning style.

You can expect to find some form of illustrations in your survival book. Many are colored for easily identifying wilderness plants and animals you're likely to come across. Illustrations in color also help to avoid miscommunication when you are designing a trap that could lead to a failed attempt or injury, for example. If you are beginner survivalist, you also want a book that has been written in layman's terms for easy understanding.

And if the book has been written by an actual survivalist specialist, the better. Generally these people have dedicated a large portion of their life studying nature and learning to live off the land. Their first hand accounts can help prepare you for the unexpected which can in the end help you meet your survival goals.

A Compressed History on the Survival Book

Long before Bear Grylls reached every household, and prior to publications of survival books, key survival ideas were passed via word of mouth, mostly exaggerated, about men living in the wild. Perhaps you've heard of a few household names, including the unsung western hero Kit Carson, the Appalachian frontiersman Daniel Boone, and the California bear tamer himself, John "Grizzly" Adams.

Though these men surveyed America during the 1800s western expansion, there was no real survivalist movement until the 1930s, when the threat of nuclear war first became a reality.

Even then, the first real survivalist books didn't hit shelves until thirty years later, in the late 1960s, when the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union seemed palpable. But, even then again, these survival books were heavily influenced by the possibility of a complete break down of society, rather than the leisure of enjoying nature.

Such examples are seen with Harry Browne, who first started giving seminars on how people could survive a monetary collapse in 1967. After that, Don Stephens, regarded as a founding father of modern survivalism, wrote many books pertaining to learning to cope and live in the world if disaster would strike.

During the 1970s, the survivalism movement took on a new flavor where it focused on the oil crisis of 1973. A lot of the survivalist reading material of this time focused on food storage. The 1980s saw a revival of the rivalry between the US and Russia over the nuclear arms race, and as a result, Ragnar Benson suggested living off the land in rural areas in 1982 with his popular book "Live off the Land in the City and Country."

In the present day, many TV shows have capitalized on the survivalist beliefs at the expense of reality stars, which in turn fuels the popularity of survivalist books. If there's an end to the fade, it's not in sight just yet.

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Last updated on May 22, 2018 by Chase Brush

Chase is a freelance journalist with experience working in the areas of politics and public policy. Currently based in Brooklyn, NY, he is also a hopeless itinerant continually awaiting his next Great Escape.

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