An Illustrated Guide to…Well, Everything in the Backcountry

Dave Canterbury is, plain and simple, a survival expert. At least, he knows his stuff. Unclear whether he’s ever had to actually draw from his treasure trove of bushcraft survival knowledge to live through a harrowing life or death moment in the wild, but he certainly seems like he’d be able to. A former soldier, he runs his own survival school and is the author of the bestselling Bushcraft 101.

He’s just recently released a new, illustrated version called Bushcraft Illustrated. I can’t put it down. It’s the best kind of reference guide, the kind you want to sit and read no matter if you’re planning a hairball backcountry excursion or not. The book covers everything from making cordage of plants, a thorough breakdown on fashioning your own backpack, how to trap and clean game, what plants can be safely eaten, first aid, routefinding, to firestarting, among many other very useful topics.

There are hundreds of illustrations, most of them pretty easy to follow, and while I won’t need to use 90 percent of the tips in this book, I’ve loved every moment of reading about them.

An excerpt is published below.


BUSHCRAFT COMES FROM a desire to reconnect with nature. It’s the skills you need to be able to use what you have in the outdoors to help you survive. This book is an illustrated guide to help you acquire that knowledge, showing you exactly how these tools and skills can be used.

It is important in bushcraft to be fully aware of the natural world around you. I often tell my students to become a naturalist first and a bushcrafter second. That’s because so much of what you need to survive in the wilderness is provided by the wilderness itself. Naturalists and authors like Richard Graves and Mors Kochanski who helped develop the practice meant for bushcraft to be a set of skills that allowed you to effectively create what you need from what you’re able to find.

Carrying a simple survival kit is always the best plan. You’ll be able to bring these items with you in order to work with the materials you find. is book catalogs the most beneficial items you’ll want to carry into the woods as they’re more di cult to reproduce from natural materials.

You will then use what you packed to create what you need. You will focus on crafting a myriad of necessities—from traps to shelter to other useful campsite items. Making traps and other food-gathering devices helps to supplement and cut down on the food you need to pack. Building shelter out of natural materials helps you reconnect with nature since you won’t have to sleep in tents made of synthetic fabrics. Crafting campsite items makes things more convenient, cutting down on the gear you need to carry and allowing you to replace any damaged gear.

While I have no aversion to the latest and best in modern technology, I find that many times it takes away from the experience of being in the wild. rough the illustrations and instructions included in this book, you should learn about the basic gear and skills you will need to enjoy the wilderness as it is intended. To truly connect with nature requires us to be close to it. While these skills can be used in a bushcraft trip into the woods, you can also use and perfect them in your own back- yard or park while camping, canoeing, hunting, fishing, or even homesteading.

WHEN IT COMES to bushcraft I believe navigation is one of the most under-studied and under-utilized of all skills. If you are trying to connect with the natural world, you need to try to use the tools it provides for you in navigation as well. In this chapter you’ll learn how to use the natural world to find your way.

There are many different forms of natural navigation tools as well as many ways to utilize them. One of the things you need to understand is that, while the primitive navigation tools found in this section many never be as accurate for use on the fly as a magnetic compass, they’re still very useful. With some simple understanding they can be very accurate for moving in a chosen direction and many are very repeatable over distance as well.

One thing that’s important to keep in mind is that the sun rises in the east, sets in the west, and travels in a southern arc across the sky. So it is easy enough to understand cardinal directions in the morning and evening and we will be fairly accurate, again on the fly. Anytime you are facing the sun during the day you are facing a southern direction and the closer to noon the closer to south. But just as you do not want to rely on a compass for this you also do not want to rely on a watch. In this section, you’ll learn how to figure out time and direction without modern pieces in the field.

Plants tend to always grow toward the most light due to auxin. Auxin is a plant hormone that causes elongation of the plant cells to help them grow toward sunlight. For example, many times trees will have the heaviest foliage and branches on the southeastern side of the tree. Most plants will tend to lean toward the southeast in the northern hemisphere; however, there are exceptions like in clearings and one should always use multiple sources when using primitive methods to verify findings. See FIGURE 7.1 for an example of how plants bend toward the sun.

Prevailing winds can force plants and trees to bend over time but may also show direction by making the prevailing wind side of a tree wet in a driving rain while the opposite side is dry. Growth rings can also help tell the side of the tree that has gotten the most sunlight, which reveals a south- ern direction as well. FIGURE 7.2 shows an example of how a misshapen tree trunk can indicate direction.

Excerpted from Bushcraft Illustrated by Dave Canterbury. Copyright © 2019 Simon & Schuster, Inc. Used by permission of the publisher, Adams Media, a division of Simon and Schuster. All rights reserved.



Four issues, free shipping, evergreen content…