Book Review: National Geographic’s Complete Survival Manual


When I started to write this review, I debated on how to open it. I wrote several paragraphs, deleting them all and starting over. Finally, I settled on this: If you’re only going to buy one outdoor survival guide, make sure it is the Complete Survival Manual from National Geographic. It’s a bit cliched sure, but it also gets directly to the point, and says exactly what I feel.

The Complete Survival Manual is impressive in its scope, covering everything you would ever want to know to survive in the backcountry, and then some. The book, which comes with a water proof cover and durable, tear resistant pages, truly is a comprehensive resource for anyone who ventures into the wilds of the world, offering up tips on everything from how to survive in polar conditions to weathering a sandstorm in the desert, while covering just about everything in between.

The book begins with some survival basics, taking a look at such things as the importance of having an adequate water supply and dealing with basic first aid. From there it moves into sections focusing on different types of environments. You’ll find temperate forests, swamps and rain forests, high mountains, the desert, and polar regions all extensively covered. There are even chapters dedicated to survival on open water and at home as well.

Each chapter is full of helpful diagrams, informative side bars, and useful charts. The pages are in full color, and often photos accompany the stories to help better demonstrate the techniques being discussed. Sprinkled throughout the book there are also a number of survival stories told by experts in the field who have dealt with many emergencies, great and small, over the years.

When examining the various environments, the chapters are further broken down into subsections with specific advice that applies to that environment. These subsections tell you how to prepare before setting out, and how to deal with such things as building a fire or a shelter, which can vary dramatically depending on where you are at. The environmental sections also look at how to find drinkable water, deal with specific hazards, and even navigate in a variety of conditions.

Some of the tips will seem like common sense, while others will leave you wondering why you hadn’t thought of them before. There is a little of everything in this survival manual, and that is part of what makes it a great resource. There are few books that will tell you how to deal with altitude sickness, survive a hurricane, and get a good night sleep at the North Pole all in one guide. This is one such book, and no matter what I say, I can’t convey the impressive amount of information that it contains.

In case you couldn’t tell, I am thoroughly impressed with the Complete Survival Manual. It is one of those books that you can pick up, and leaf through at any time, and learn something new, and when you head out to the backcountry, it’ll prove an invaluable resource for planning, as well as knowing what to do should trouble arise. The durable book is designed to be tossed into your backpack and carried along, although it may be a bit too heavy for that, particularly with the ultralight crowd.

National Geographic has another winner on their hands with this book. Add it to your collection, and it’ll prove to be a great resource for many adventures to come, whether you’re a climber, hiker, adventurer, or world traveler. It is a definite must have in your library.

5 thoughts on “Book Review: <i>National Geographic’s Complete Survival Manual</i>”

  1. It sounds like a great book, but sometimes I wonder… Do some people trust their “book knowledge” of the outdoors too much and get too careless? Do those books actually help or just give people false sense of security. Usually, the real life situations are not exactly like those in the books…

  2. Great book as a reference. It should never replace experience and good common sense, but a great basis for learning a lot of things.

  3. This one will be in my library very soon, but as with any book skills they are only as good as the person going out and trying them, BEFORE they get in trouble.

    All these books should say!
    “Please, Try this at home”

  4. You’ll dig the book bro. Lots of good info inside, and a nice reference. You might pick up a tip or two to incorporate into your stuff as well.

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