The Survival Handbook: Essential Skills for Outdoor Adventure

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By Josh •  3 min read

Would you know what to do if you met a bear in the woods? How exactly do you light a fire in the rain? What should you do if stranded in shark infested waters? Get the answers to these and many more questions in this no nonsense guide to survival training.

Book Basics

The Survival Handbook: Essential Skills for Outdoor Adventure by Colin Towel was published in April of 2009. It has 319 pages and is full of high quality graphics and illustrations. This elementary manual is made up of seven sections and is an excellent comprehensive book of survival basics.

About the Author

Colin TowellAfter joining the Royal Navy in 1977, Colin Powell qualified as a Combat Survival Instructor with 22 Regiment of the SAS, and has spent over 30 years teaching Land, Sea, Desert, Jungle, and Cold-Weather survival skills – as well as Survival and Conduct in Captivity – to UK and USA Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force personnel.

He was the Royal Navy’s Chief Survival Instructor and also served three years as Chief Instructor at the US Navy SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) School in Brunswick Maine.

Colin has seen service in the Falklands, Germany, USA,  Bosnia and Northern Ireland in addition to serving a tour with the Army Intelligence Corps.  He still serves as a Royal Navy Reserve Chief Instructor with the UK Defense SERE Training Organization, providing survival training for both instructors and students.

Survival Applications

The Survival Handbook is the most comprehensive, and easiest to understand book on survival I have come across. For this reason this book has replaced the U.S. Army Survival Manual in my Bugout Bag. I would love to have multiple copies of this book to keep in various vehicles and bags.

Below is a breakdown of what you find in the book.

Part One

Before You Go is about preparing yourself physically and mentally for venturing into the wilderness, recognizing and dealing with different environments, and getting the right gear including building a survival kit.

Part Two

On The Trail is all about navigation and traveling in different terrains.

Part Three

Camp Craft covers camp essentials such as knots and cordage, cutting tools, and making fire.

Part Four

Taking Shelter is about just that, taking shelter in any environment and any condition, with any materials.

Part Five

Water And Food is about how to find and treat water, and find, trap, hunt, snare and prepare food.

Part Six

In An Emergency is about assessing your situation, attracting rescuers, environmental hazards, and surviving at sea.

Part Seven

First Aid is the most comprehensive first aid guide I have found in a book of this type. It far surpasses what is taught in the BSA Hand Book and most “first aid” pamphlets that come with small kits.

The appendix includes a guide to poisonous and edible plants and animals.


I personally did not find anything wrong with this book. The only thing that could have made it better would be more illustrations in the wild edibles department, but other than that no complaints.

Favorite Part

I loved the graphics throughout the book, in fact I think that the clear, easy to understand graphics makes this the most useful book I have read. I especially liked the part on fire (I am a little pyro). The author offers some really neat, original fire-starter ideas.

The Survival Handbook - Colin TowellOverall

I would highly recommend this book to anyone at all interested in survival. Five stars and two thumbs up!

Also read “8 Common Mistakes of Wilderness Survival”


Josh is a Boy Scout and an avid outdoorsman. He specializes in knives (and other such tools), various knots & lashings, traditional skills such as blacksmithing & woodworking, bushcraft and fire starting. Read his full interview here.