Book Review: Bushcraft 101 by Dave Canterbury

Reviewed by Jim Cobb

Dave Canterbury is one of the most well-known survival instructors in the United States. His Pathfinder School has taught thousands how to survive in the bush. Dave has also been featured on television, as the co-host of Dual Survival for a couple of seasons. He’s been there, done that, and truly knows his stuff.

Bushcraft 101

Bushcraft 101 isn’t the first book Dave has written but it might just be his best, at least so far. We’ve all likely heard the term “roughing it” when talking about camping, hiking, and such, right? Dave’s approach is what he calls,”smoothing it.” Rather than making things hard for yourself, Dave wants to show you how to make your time spent in the woods as enjoyable as possible.

The book is divided into two sections. In the first, Gearing Up, Dave outlines his 5 Cs of Survival. These are:

Cutting tool
Cordage
Container
Cover
Combustion

With each of these categories, Dave gives his recommendations for what he likes, but is careful to point out that what works best for him might not be the best for you. He also talks about why each of the categories is critical to survival.

The second section is In the Bush. This is where we get into the nitty gritty of bushcraft. From choosing a campsite to different types of fire lays, trapping to wild edibles, Dave covers it all. It is important to note, though, that we’re talking bushcraft here. This is not the same as bugging out, despite the apparent similarities. While there is a fair amount of crossover between the topics, they are more like kissing cousins rather than true siblings.

There are several appendices at the end of the book. The Pathfinder Concept details Dave’s thoughts and perspectives on the conservation of resources when engaging in bushcraft. This was the first time I’d read about this concept and I really, truly appreciate the sentiment here.

There are no photos in Bushcraft 101 but there are numerous very detailed line drawings. I’ve found that sometimes these drawings can make things clearer than photos, so I had no issues with the lack of photos.

All in all, I found Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival to be an excellent primer on the subject and highly recommend it.

Water Purification Options When Bugging Out

Water, more specifically clean water, is essential to survival. Common thought is that one can live perhaps three days without hydration. As a practical matter, the latter day or two of that time frame will be spent in delirium and agony. Suffice to say, you need water to live.

Purifying Water when Bugging Out

You can only carry a finite amount of water. It is heavy and takes up a lot of space. Therefore, a wise prepper will not only carry water but also invest in the supplies necessary to treat additional water to make it potable. Fortunately, there are several options available.

Boiling

Bloing Water in a Metal Container for PurificationBringing water to a boil is about the surest way to kill any pathogens or other critters floating in it. It is best to filter the water first by running it through a coffee filter or something so as to remove any sediment and debris that might be present. Then, use a clean pot to bring the water to a rolling boil. Technically, just bringing it to a boil is enough to kill anything in the water. But, many people like to err on the side of caution and let it boil for a few minutes. Realistically, you aren’t using that much extra fuel in doing so, if that’s your preference. However, it can be difficult to provide enough water for an entire family or group using this method. Of course, this method also requires you to carry a metal container you can use for boiling the water.

Purification Tablets

Water Purification TabletsA mainstay in many survival kits, water purification tablets work very well. The tablets add a chemical (typically either an iodine compound or chlorine dioxide) that will kill off the bad stuff in the water. Generally speaking, you’ll add the tablets to your water, shake vigorously, then seal tightly and wait 30 minutes or so. Follow the directions on the package exactly to ensure the best results, of course. Personally, I’ve found the chlorine dioxide based tablets leave the water tasting better than the iodine based tablets. Your mileage may vary. What I suggest is that you carry two water bottles. One with water ready to drink at all times and the other being treated as you travel.

Filter Straws

Straw Filter for DrinkingA third option is to purchase a filter straw. What is nice about this option is there is no work or waiting involved. The device consists of a straw with a built in filter. You simply put one end of the straw into the water and suck through the straw, just as you would if it were a can of soda rather than a stream or river. The water is filtered as it goes through the straw and is potable by the time it reaches your mouth. This can be a great option for those who are looking to truly travel light.

My suggestion is you double or triple up on your water purification methods for your bug out bag. Remember – two is one and one is none!

Choosing a Food Storage Plan

We are very fortunate to be living in what we might call a renaissance when it comes to disaster readiness. At no other time in history have we had such a wide array of products available to us. Of course, that also means it can be rather overwhelming when you’re trying to make a decision on which product or type of products will work best for you.

Food storage is no exception. There many different options available to you as you plan for long-term food needs. Let’s talk a bit about each of the major categories of food storage.

Canned and dry goods

These are the things you likely buy every day at the grocery store. Canned vegetables and fruits, dry pasta, rice, and beans. If it comes in a can or a box, it probably falls into this category. The benefits to using these items is you are accustomed to eating them already, you know what you like and what you don’t. Preparing these foods is simple and easy, for the most part.

Canned Foods

The downside, though, is canned and boxed foods are often loaded with preservatives and other chemicals. They just aren’t the healthiest foods on the planet, y’know? On top of that, I can all but guarantee that once you’ve eaten fresh produce, like green beans and peas right off the farm, the ones that come in a can will probably turn your stomach.

Home preserved foods

There are a few different ways to preserve food at home, such as home canning (pressure or water bath) and dehydration. Foods preserved in these ways tend to be healthier, as you are in control as to what ingredients are added. There is also a strong sense of accomplishment in knowing you are providing for your own needs. However, there is a fair amount of work involved, not to mention the investment in a pressure canner, dehydrator, and other supplies.

Freeze-dried or dehydrated foods

Wise Company Food StorageSome of the more well known brand names in this category include Wise and Mountain House. These foods are specially packaged and preserved to last many years. Typically, all you need to do is add hot water and wait for the food to rehydrate. The nice thing about these products is there is little prep involved. If you can heat water, you can make dinner. Plus, these pouches and buckets are designed to last decades.

There are a couple of potential downsides, though. First, these products tend to be more expensive than other options. Second, some folks have reported digestive upsets and such. What I suggest is, if you want to explore this option further, buy a few sample meals and try them out. See if you like the taste and make sure the food agrees with you.

MREs (Meals Ready to Eat)

A common staple among preppers, MREs are either actual military surplus or are manufactured to the same guidelines and sold to the general public. Typically, one pouch will consist of a main dish, a side dish, a dessert item, crackers or bread, peanut butter or jelly, powdered beverage mix, a utensil, condiments, and a flameless heater. Basically, everything you’d need for a complete meal, all in one handy pouch. Because of this all-in-one nature, they can be nice to have on hand. Plus, the food merely needs to be heated, though it could be eaten cold in many cases. You don’t need to add water to rehydrate the food, just heat and eat.

MRE Components

MREs tend to be very expensive, though, when compared to the other options on this list. They are also rather bulky, taking up far more space than an equivalent number of canned goods or dehydrated food pouches.

What I recommend is diversifying your food storage plans. Start with the canned and boxed goods you normally eat on a regular basis, then add in a box or three of freeze-dried foods and perhaps a case or two of MREs. Ideally, you should learn how to preserve your own food at home as well.

Civil Unrest Preparedness

It has become increasingly common to see and hear news reports of riots, looting, and other forms of civil unrest in our cities. The causes are varied but the fact is, if you live or work in an urban area, you are at risk of getting caught in the middle of a potentially violent situation.

Preparing for Civil Unrest

Civil Unrest

Obviously, the first thing you’ll want to do if you find yourself in a bad spot is to get out of the area as quickly as possible. If you are on foot, don’t try to go “upstream” through the moving crowd but instead move perpendicular to the forward motion, pushing to one side of the crowd. Once you are out of the thick of things, keep moving away from the area, cutting down side streets if possible. Link hands with those who are with you so no one gets left behind.

If you are in a vehicle, you may find it a bit tougher to keep moving. Keep your windows rolled up and your doors locked. Do the best you can to keep going forward until you can turn down a side street. However, if you’re not familiar with the area, watch for signs that indicate the side street is a dead end so you don’t trap yourself.

For those who live in urban areas, civil unrest can be a two-fold dilemma. Not only might you get caught up in the thick of things when you’re out and about, the riots and looting could make it unsafe to even leave your home.

This is one of the many reasons why I encourage people to have enough food, water, and other necessities in their homes, sufficient to last at least a couple of weeks. That said, impending rioting and looting in your immediate area would be one of the rare occasions where I’d suggest you give serious thought to bugging out to a safer location until things settle down.

There is a documented psychological effect at work in large groups. Often, it is called mob mentality. It is actually pretty scary when it happens to you. Without any real thought, you’ll find yourself mimicking the actions of those around you.

Their emotion becomes your emotion. The issue at hand might have originally had absolutely no bearing on your life but suddenly it has become your passion. You’re angry, you’re upset, and you want to do some decidedly nasty things.

Later, you’ll be at a loss if asked to explain what happened. It’ll all just seem to be a blur. If you find yourself getting caught up in the moment, try to remember to take a step back and breathe for a moment or two. Clear your head, calm yourself down, and give just a second or two of thought to the situation. Doing so might help keep you from doing something you’ll regret later.