I don’t review very many books these days. There are a few different reasons for that. Honestly, I don’t have much time lately to do read a whole lot, recreational or otherwise. On top of that, I’ve gotten to know so many authors and instructors in the last several years that I fear a good review will just be seen as nepotism and a bad review seen as me trying to bad mouth a competitor. Neither are ever the case, whether we’re talking about books or gear. I like what I like and I dislike what doesn’t work for me, simple as that.
Extreme Wilderness Survival by Craig Caudill works. It works really, really well.
Here’s what I can tell you about Craig. He’s been there and done that. He knows what works and what doesn’t, having learned from practical experience. He is the founder of Nature Reliance School as well as its chief instructor. Craig has taught survival and tracking to members of the military as well as law enforcement officers from federal, state, and local agencies. On top of all that, he’s a damn fine human being. Simply put, he’ll do to ride the river with.
One thing I really appreciate about Craig is his intelligence and that really comes through in this book. He is able to take very complex subjects and break them down in a way that is easy to comprehend, which is a sign of a truly gifted instructor.
The title, Extreme Wilderness Survival, is actually sort of misleading. Don’t get me wrong, there is a ton of wilderness survival information here. But, there’s far more here than just how to build a fire and keep warm.
The book really gets started at page 11, with the previous pages being used for the Table of Contents and such. From page 11 through page 43 is absolutely essential reading on the survival mindset. Seriously folks, those 32 pages alone are worth the price of admission. This is an area that is often either glossed over or missed entirely in many survival manuals.
In this part of the book, Craig discusses a few training aids to help with situational awareness, memory, and observation skills, all of which are important for survival. Personally, I love the “Sit Spot” exercise and highly recommend it. Basically, this involves choosing a location out in the field and visiting it as often as possible over the course of a month or so. Just sit and observe the world around you. Write down things you notice and make sketches. The drawings don’t need to be art studio quality. The idea is that sketching will help you remember details better. Over time, you’ll start to learn patterns to things, such as when certain critters are most active. Plus, there is something peaceful and centering about just sitting out in nature for a while.
From there, he goes into personal safety. In this section, Craig covers everything from basic first aid to map reading to self-defense. While these topics are obviously very complex, he breaks them down into manageable chunks. Naturally, this single volume isn’t going to cover everything you’d ever need to know on any of those subjects but there is quite a bit of practical, actionable information shared in just a few pages.
Craig then uses the next several chapters to go into detail on the survival basics – shelter, fire, water, and food. In each chapter, he goes into detail on what works and what doesn’t. Again, practicality reigns throughout. Craig will show you how to make and use a bow drill but he’s also the first to tell you that if Daniel Boone could have carried a lighter with him, he’d have done so.
In the chapter on shelter, Craig goes into great detail on how to maintain your core temperature, sharing excellent information on layering, building shelters, and using tarps. Again, he goes a step beyond the standard survival manuals by suggesting you actually get outside and test out your skills by doing an overnight.
For food and water, he explains different methods for locating and procuring what you need. I love the table he includes in the water chapter, showing the effectiveness of various water filtration methods compared to one another. Very valuable information to have when deciding what to invest in when you’re putting together your own survival gear.
In the food chapter, Craig mentions another little tidbit that is often overlooked. The mere process of eating and digesting food will burn calories. Many people don’t realize that it takes far more calories to consume meat than it does to consume plants. When you are running a calorie deficit, this is important information to know.
The third section of the book is focused on tactics. This is a broad section that includes topics such as forming a group, deciding to hunker down or bug out, patrolling and movement with weapons, and tracking. That last one is probably my favorite chapter in the book. See, among Craig’s varied talents and skills is that he is an extremely capable tracker. This is an area I hope to learn much more soon and this chapter is an excellent primer on the subject.
The last section is on gear. It covers selection, methods of carry, weapons, and concludes with a reality check. Again, that last is something frequently missing from most survival manuals. As with the rest of the book, there is little to no fluff here. Just practical information on each and every page.
There are a ton of survival manuals on the market today. I can and do recommend Extreme Wilderness Survival without reservation. Find it here on Amazon. The book is scheduled for release on March 21, 2017.