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As prepared and responsible individuals we know that self-reliance comes in many forms. Bushcraft refers to the skills needed to survive and thrive in the bush. Over time the term has come to represent someone who can go into the wild and apply skills that help them survive longer and with relative comfort. Often bushcraft is directly related to primitive or wilderness skills, such as friction fires, trapping, and woodcraft. This artistry in survival from humans of yesteryear holds a place with modern survivalists who can see a future where the common life luxuries are no longer available.
Bushcraft is not necessarily difficult to pick up. At the core, most skills revolve around making fire and cutting things. A quality knife and ferrocerium rod are enough to get an interested party initiated. As with any new venture, doing your homework first can alleviate headaches and keep bad habits at bay. Bushcraft skills can lead an individual down several paths of preparedness. Your interests and environment may steer you toward wood crafting, plant identification and uses, or primitive hunting and trapping, to name a few.
Most of these books can be found used on eBay or similar sites if you're looking to save money, but even new, they're not overly expensive. The information they hold can be priceless, however. Whether your locale is the Rocky Mountains or the Florida swamps, the following four books can help you be more prepared for your next adventure — voluntary or otherwise.
Nessmuk, the pen name of George Washington Sears, was a legendary bushcrafter and outdoorsman. His book, originally published in 1884, is both a technical manual and a personal story of his equipment and adventures in the wilderness. The first chapter covers why the “modern” person feels the need to be in the wild and the connectiveness of humans to the natural world. Nessmuk’s words still reverberate to this day almost 100 years later for anyone that spends time outdoors.
Since this book has entered into the public domain, its contents are available in their entirety online at Project Gutenberg. Inexpensive physical copies are also available through various retailers.
What we like: Timeless core principles are established for success in the wild.
What we didn’t like: Considering the fact that this book is almost 100 years old, we cut him some slack for the lack of diagrams and illustrations.
This book, originally published in 1963, was written by a Dane who immigrated to the states and saved a Chippewa boy with a broken leg while trapping in Minnesota. As a result of this compassionate act, he was inducted into the tribe as a full blood brother and so began his interest in Native American technology. This is one of the books Hofsinde has written on the way American Indians of that time period lived and thrived. The primary focus is primitive fishing techniques that include net making, hook making, bait, and spears/harpoons.
What we liked: Hofsinde was a school-trained artist from the Royal Art Academy of Copenhagen, so we were pleased to find that his illustrations in this book are easy to follow and give just enough detail to be very useful.
What we didn’t like: Some of the specifics for tool making aren’t immediately clear and the author almost makes them seem too easy.
This is the newest book on our list and it has been included because of its emphasis on more advanced bushcraft topics. Canterbury is no stranger to the primitive skills community and has been successful with his forms of communication to the masses on all things Bushcraft. This book is well-organized and does serve as a companion to his Bushcraft 101 book. Even if you haven’t already read the 101 book, Advanced Bushcraft is informative and well organized.
What we liked: Chapter 2 covers natural resources and gives excellent insight into common wood types and their many uses.
What we didn’t like: We found that this book sacrifices valuable detail in order to cover a wide range of topics. This is unsurprising, since we arrived at similar conclusions when we reviewed Canterbury's other works, Bushcraft Field Guide to Trapping, Gathering, & Cooking in the Wild and Bushcraft First Aid.
Ellsworth Jaeger is a highly-regarded author and was the authority on American Indian lore and camping. This book, written by Jaeger in 1945, contains over 400 illustrations covering practically every aspect of life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The opening line of Jaeger’s book hits hard — “the myriad of jingle-jangle gadgets of some of our modern outdoorsmen would make our ancestral buckskin men turn in their graves”. This is insight into his view of the “modern gadgets” of 1945. We can hardly imagine what he would think of our present-day society’s reliance on technology.
What we liked: This book has a little bit of everything, making it an excellent reference for how to accomplish practically any task in the outdoors.
What we didn’t like: Nothing sticks out as overly negative about this book.
These four bushcraft books cover an immense amount of outdoor information, making them helpful additions to for your SHTF library. Even if you aren’t one to venture into the remote wilderness on a regular basis, many of these skills can be practiced in your own backyard and can set the stage for exceptional baseline knowledge. As they say, knowing is half the battle.
If you're interested in learning about another bushcraft book, keep an eye out for our upcoming review of the classic Bushcraft: Outdoor Skills and Wilderness Survival by Mors Kochanski. It will be published in our “The Last Page” column in an upcoming issue of the RECOIL OFFGRID print magazine.
Alexander Crown served as an Infantryman with the Scout/Sniper Platoon of the 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment in Ft. Richardson, Alaska, where he specialized in radio communications and reconnaissance. Since separating, Alexander spends his time as an avid outdoorsman and hunter with an appreciation for self-sufficiency in the form of gardening. He also enjoys woodworking, firearms, and reloading. You can follow him on Instagram @acrown509.