"101 Skills You Need to Survive in the Woods" by Kevin Estela is...
The Premise: As the name implies, 100 Deadly Skills is a primer written by former Navy SEAL Clint Emerson. There are, in fact, 100 separate tips, tricks, and survival hacks to help the reader prepare for any number of possible worst-case scenarios from natural disaster to criminal abduction. Each of these skills is based on the training or operational experience of a former Special Warfare Operator who also spent time working, in some capacity, with the National Security Agency.
The 411: The skills in the book are broken down into two-page panels. One side is a storyboard-like illustration, often with step-by-step comic book panels showing how the skill is to be executed. The opposite page gives written instructions, sometimes with background or operational context that gives relevance to the skill being taught. The skills are broken down into larger parts loosely based on a military Operations Order — Part I being Mission Prep and Part IX being Exfiltration and Escape. There’s also a foreword and final conclusion by the author, as well as the obligatory “don’t try this at home” warning, emphasizing the potential risks involved in attempting any of these tricks in real life.
The Verdict: The format of this book is an excellent way to present survival-style skills. Graphic illustrations are always helpful since many of us are primarily visual learners to begin with. Having both illustrations with captions and written instructions paired together aims to reduce the trial-and-error curve, and cut back the ever-frustrating “am I doing this right?” results that land somewhere between flawless success and total failure. For somebody new to these kinds of skills or unsure how much time and effort they’re ready to commit, 100 Deadly Skills gives a lot of just-enough overviews that’ll quickly prompt the more avid preppers and independence-minded among us to do further in-depth research. Both the larger parts and individual skill pages keep the information well organized and highly manageable for reading in bits and pieces over weeks or even months. This book is a great way to get your brain percolating about things that could save your life with about the same level of effort that you’d spend on anything else while sitting in the bathroom or on an airplane.
Having said that, the actual practicality of 100 Deadly Skills is somewhat suspect. Some of the skill panels make brief yet meaningful intro-level presentations for the completely uninitiated, like skills 002 and 003, Create an EDC Kit and Create a Vehicle Bolt Bag, respectively. But many of the skills are grossly oversimplified and, in some cases, border on an injustice to the amount of effort and training required to become proficient — as in skill 044, Pick a Lock, or skill 063, Win a Knife Fight. Others still are rather sensational in nature and will likely prove absolutely useless, even in a total-grid collapse. Our favorite examples of this particular folly are skill 026, Steal a Plane, and the aptly placed skill 007, Construct a Rectal Concealment.
Speaking of sensational in nature, 100 Deadly Skills feels heavily seeded with buzzwords and shock-value language. While it may be entertaining taken at face value, anybody serious about prepping, personal security, or simply training to be more self-sufficient might be as turned off by it as we were. The introduction refers to Special Operations veterans as “action heroes for modern times, one-part James Bond, the other Rambo.” The alumni of those units who we know, have worked with, and who contribute to our magazines would likely shy away from such a cavalier and self-approving description. But to give credence where it’s due, this is a stereotype that’s well-ingrained into mainstream media and pop-culture portrayals. So maybe it’s an effective attention-grabber to get this book into people’s hands and get them thinking. Emerson goes on further to refer to these same operators as Violent Nomads — “a nod,” he says, “to their disregard for international borders and their bias for swift, brutal action.” The Violent Nomad reference in particular is carried on and off throughout the book.
At the end of the day, 100 Deadly Skills is a mixed bag. There’s no denying that there are useful tidbits presented in a very accessible way that may inspire readers to dig deeper into an education on potentially life-saving skills, like 018, Hotel Safety And Security Awareness. But the inclusion of skills like 032, Make a Newspaper Nail Bat, and 085, Dispose of a Body, ensure that this book keeps one foot firmly planted in the survivalist novelty aisle.
Novel & Author
100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL Operative’s Guide to Eluding Pursuers, Evading Capture, and Surviving Any Dangerous Situation by Clint Emerson