Thursday, August 23, 2012
Book Review - The Ultimate Survival Manual
The Ultimate Survival Manual: 333 skills that will get you out alive
by Rich Johnson and the editors of Outdoor Life
Published by Weldon Owen, May 2012
Bright, glossy and appealingly laid out in "soundbite" format for each topic, this book is extremely attractive and makes for fascinating and indeed quite compelling reading.
It covers the basics of dealing with just about every situation in which someone could conceivably find themselves. The skills contained would be useful to know even if you don't ever plan on travelling to remote areas, as many of them are easily transferable to a huge number of situations and scenarios in urban settings in an emergency.
Just imagine, if your car breaks down miles from anywhere in an area with no cell phone signal, and you have to walk to get help, knowing how to determine which direction you are going is important. Measuring the amount of remaining daylight by using one's fingers is a brilliant skill which could easily save your life by allowing you to effectively plan how much time to allot to finding and setting up a temporary camp before darkness sets in.
As this is an American book, some things such as predicting the weather using plants may not work in other countries where the flora differs, but at least 80% of the book would be applicable to individuals and families living almost anywhere in the developed world and it covers topics such as catching and preparing food, making safe shelters, surviving attacks by animal predators and staying safe in hostile and dangerous environments. The self defence section is very detailed, but readers outside the USA should bear in mind that it may not be legal to carry or even possess some of these items such as firearms or pepper spray.
The first aid section is very informative, but I have to say that although I am a qualified health professional, I would sincerely hope never to be in a situation where I would need to set a broken bone unaided. It may look relatively straightforward but the risks of causing irreparable damage are always present and I would have no real confidence in my ability to accurately classify what sort of fracture it might be by touch alone.
It may well be useful to know how to put on a gas mask properly, but how many of us even have a gas mask, or will have access to one in an emergency setting ? This is one skill that could perhaps have been omitted.
I love the sections about protecting one's home from hazards such as lightning strike etc. There is truly valuable information for just about everyone in this book. It is packed with great humour and features some fantastic cartoon strip stories as well as clear diagrams and immense photography.
Although such a short book can only really skim the surface of what is actually an enormously deep subject, it is an excellent primer and it is one of the most accessible and practical books I have read on the subject. The authors are to be thoroughly congratulated.