Our ancestors were adept at living off the land and surviving even the harshest conditions. When humans were largely hunter-gatherers (and even thousands of years after that), we had to learn to manage mother nature much more than we do today.
The best survival books are more than education about how to take care of ourselves and loved ones in a natural or man-made disaster. Survival knowledge is peace of mind. It allows us to be comfortable in our environment, it allows us to answer the question “what if”, and it provides us a sense of protection for the people that we love.
In the following best survival books, you will find all of the skills that you need in order to survive… not just catastrophe, but everyday life.
Best Survival Books for Wilderness
Nature is nice… until you have to live in it. As beautiful as nature can be, there are plenty of things about the natural world that are dangerous for humans. Rather than “conquering” our environment, we can learn how to survive alongside it.
This list of best survival books will focus specifically on tackling challenges in the wilderness no matter what environment you are in.
#1. Wilderness Survival 2nd edition
Author: Gregory J Davenport
Those with military experience usually have a leg up when it comes to survival skills. Gregory Davenport is a former US Air Force survival instructor who has been featured on NBC, CBS, and BBC to share his survival knowledge. This book specifically focuses on five basic survival elements:
- Finding food and water
- Personal protection
#2.Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival
Author: Dave Canterbury
This is one of the best survival books on the market and all for around 250 pages. The author, Dave Canterbury, is the co-owner and instructor at Pathfinder School, which is rated as one of the top survival schools in the United States.
This book became a New York Times bestseller and is densely packed with survival material. In fact, it was so popular it spawned a whole series from Canterbury (more on that below).
#3. Wildwood Wisdom
Author: Ellsworth Jaeger
Traditional resources are some of the best and Wildwood Wisdom was written on 1800’s survival. This book is quite large and packed with traditional survival skills that have stood the test of time. Even though we have advanced a lot in our technology in recent years, sometimes going back to primitive texts has advantages.
Best Survival Books for Hunting
At Conscious Hunter we are obviously interested in how to harvest our meat. From big game like elk hunting to waterfowl like duck hunting, knowing how to bring sustainable food from your environment is a must in any survival situation.
#1. The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game: Volume 1: Big Game
Author: Steven Rinella
Pages: 400 +
Steven Rinella is one of the foremost experts on hunting in the United States. In fact, through his TV show MeatEater and his appearances on the Joe Rogan podcast  he has reached millions of people worldwide and educated them not only on the act of hunting, but the ethos of a hunter.
This book is one of the most dense resources on hunting and with tons of visual diagrams and maps, it is virtually impossible to find a better source.
#2. The Trapper’s Bible: The Most Complete Guide on Trapping and Hunting Tips Ever
Author: Eustace Hazard Livingston
There are many books on the subject of shooting and killing animals, but what if you don’t have hunting rifles in a survival situation? What if you don’t have ammunition? In a long-term survival situation, the only sustainable food source is trapping smaller animals.
When we calculate how many calories it takes to go hunting in the wilderness and how often we actually get meat, trapping makes a lot more sense. The chances of getting animals is much higher without all the work. They might be smaller animals oftentimes, but they’ll do the trick for survival.
#3. Miscellaneous Local Books
In most regions of the United States (and many other of the world), there are books about the local game and food sources. In Texas, I’ve picked up Subsistence… Hunting Trapping, Fishing & Foraging For a Living in Central Texas. I’ve seen numerous others for Colorado and Montana.
The best survival books are going to be the ones that prepare you for the region where you currently live. You don’t want to learn how to turkey hunt if there are no turkeys near you. The same goes for whitetail deer hunting. Find something that helps you to survive.
Best Survival Books for First-Aid
#1. Bushcraft First Aid: A Field Guide to Wilderness Emergency Care
Author: Dave Canterbury and Jason Hunt, PhD
After the success of Bushcraft 101, Dave Canterbury enlisted the support of Jason Hunt to put together a densely packed first-aid crash course. The outdoors are beautiful and can also be dangerous. A freak accident or even a small cut could spell death in a wilderness situation.
#2. The Survival Medicine Handbook: The Essential Guide for When Medical Help is Not On the Way
Author: Joseph Alton, MD and Amy Alton, ARNP
Published: 2016 (3rd edition)
If you are looking for comprehensive first-aid support in a survival situation, this is it. With over 175 illustrations, it’s very easy to see how to do things in addition to learning why. Joseph Alton is a medical doctor and the book breaks down what changes from a medical perspective when in a survival situation. He’s also the founder of one of the most popular survival websites in the world.
How to Use the Best Survival Books
The mistake many people make is to buy all the best survival books, give them a read, and then put them on the bookshelf. The truth is, this may be interesting and even help in a few situations, but it is not going to prepare you for the real deal.
Many of the skills you can learn in these survival books need to be practiced (like anything) over and over again. When it comes to wilderness skills, go backpacking and hiking with friends and family. Try to remember the skills that you need and actually use them on a regular basis. Bring your book if you have the space in your pack to do so.
The same is true for learning how to hunt. Anyone who has been out hunting will tell you, it’s not as easy as it seems. Practice makes perfect and the more you can work on your skills when times are good, the better off you will be if things ever go south.