The Survival Handbook: Essential Skills for Outdoor Adventure

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 (Survival, Evasion, Resistance & Extraction) 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.

  • 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 don’t have 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!

The Survival Handbook: Essential Skills for Outdoor Adventure by Colin Towell

Also read “8 Common Mistakes of Wilderness Survival”

Written by Josh

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. Read more of Josh's articles.

21 thoughts on “The Survival Handbook: Essential Skills for Outdoor Adventure”

  1. Nice balanced review!
    I think this would really be helpful not just for the guys interested in survival but also for the starters in trekking and mountaineers.

  2. most of my friends have this book in their library but i also have it on my lap top for those times when i want somthing to do and internet is not working lol. I thought that the book was a nice source of information for even the most novice woods men. Great reveiw man it is helpful.

  3. Fantastic book though I will say my main complaints about it stem from the size/weight of it. It's a heavier book and it's quite large – making it difficult to fit into a pack. Of course, it takes up zero pack space when committed to memory.

  4. knowage before equipment and of equipment wil be a winner in any situation. it is nice to have all the equipment . but if you cannot use it what good is it. a tank without fuel is a stationary target. when spam hits the fan if you are not there you will not get there.rat

  5. Native American books on medicines might be of help also. To make acorns more palatable, you can put them in a cool, dark, and damp area and the mold that grows on them helps pull the bitterness out of the flavor, but the mold is thus a decent anti biotic. Barnes and Noble (I figure most decent bookstores) also have small foldable "field pamphlets" that are lamenated and have subjects like animal tracks, trees, edible plants, birds, muchrooms, etc. These would be easily packed and carried for quick reference. Along with the Audobon Society, Peterson has some good field guides as well.

  6. The survival handbook has a mistake in getting your bearings.
    The compass pictured on pages 68 and 69 shows a compass with 400 degrees!

  7. I liked this book also but if I had my choice as a ref medical book to have in my gobag, I would highly recommend getting the current version of "Special Operations forces medical handbook on for $11.83. Over 400 pages of useful medical information created for Special Forces medics and soldiers. The newest edition of the Special Operations Forces Medical Handbook is perfect and practical for both soldiers and civilians. Nearly 140 comprehensive illustrations show the proper techniques for medical care, from basic first-aid and orthopedics to instructions for emergency war surgery and even veterinary medicine. Questions are listed so that the medic can obtain an accurate patient history and perform a complete physical examination. Diagnoses are made easier with information on the distinctive features of each illness. This straightforward manual is sure to assist any reader faced with a medical issue or emergency. 139 black-and-white illustrations. I highly recommend this one as well as the aforementioned one. I look for reference manuals that if out in the middle of now where and not near a working hospital, you can still have medical help that is easy to understand yet extremely in depth on anything you come across.

    • sorry folks. In my first sentence I meant to say I would like to "add" this as a medical reference book along with this book he describes. they would both be excellent together. Sorry for the confusion if there was any.

  8. I love this book! its sitting on the desk right next to me right now and has given me lots of ideas on how to train some of the new kids in my troop!( Star rank and troop instructor) the book definitely has some subliminal messaging p102 car is obviously a land rover and on p 61 the multitool shown is obviously a leatherman but… who cares its still a great book!

  9. I am glad I do not need too many books they are heavy I would have the knowledge and carry food ammo tools and
    a honkin' first aid kit.

    I have and read or have read plenty of similar books and manuals but the ones I will take :
    The Complete Book of Butchering, Smoking, Curing, and Sausage Making: How to Harvest Your Livestock & Wild Game.
    A Guide to Canning, Freezing, Curing & Smoking Meat, Fish & Game.

    I would carry if I was not well versed a good trapping book for hand making traps and techniques
    some other good books / pamphlets suppose to be water proof are:
    Pathfinder Outdoor Survival Guide Series trapping hunting navigation and many more subjects.

    Trapping is unlimited there are hundreds of ways to catch & trap mammals birds fish and insects.
    problem with traps is that others can raid them both 4 and 2 legged.
    coon tracks near water put a piece of aluminum foil on the trigger plate and if the moon shines on it
    a coon will grab it out of curiosity.


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