Three best survival books

Peter McPherson

A survival book can detail a range of topics, from off-the-grid living to disaster preparation to long-term survival tips.

A survival book can be a lifesaving tool, whether you are in the middle of a disaster or camping on a mountaintop. Some guides provide you with the basics, such as how to start a fire or build a shelter. Others teach you more advanced skills, such as finding fresh water or foraging for food.

The most extreme survival books prepare you for natural disasters like floods, forest fires, or hurricanes. You should choose a book that suits your needs and is appropriate for your climate and conditions. Survival books can vary in content, presentation, and size. A hardcover book may be more durable, but paperbacks are more portable. Our top choice is the SAS Survival Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Anywhere for its wide-ranging advice on basic survival tips and extreme conditions.

Considerations when choosing survival books

Survival books range from basic guides to disaster scenario aids to long-term survival guides. Basic guides are good for camping and provide tips on things like which plants to avoid and how to protect your food from wild animals. A mid-range guide may have tips that appeal to hobby survivalists, like methods for constructing shelters or foraging. The most extreme guides typically cover disaster scenarios or give advice on living off-the-grid or surviving in the wilderness for long periods.


Hardcover survival books are less likely to become damaged in a backpack, but they can also weigh you down. Paperbacks are far lighter and smaller, but they are also more susceptible to damage. However, some may have laminated covers that add a small amount of protection. You should also consider how important visual aids are to you. Some books are text-heavy and include primarily instructional passages while others rely on graphics and photos to convey information.


Inexpensive survival books fall between $7 and $12 and are usually paperbacks with basic information on anything from camping tips to disaster scenarios. More expensive options ranging from $12 to $20 are often hardcover and may include more content or focus on a specific type of survival.


Q. Should I bring my survival book with me when in the wilderness or read it beforehand?

A. This is up to you. Reading a survival book cover-to-cover can be helpful, but your best bet may be focusing on chapters that pertain more specifically to your scenario. As to having the book on hand, this can be useful in case you run into an unexpected obstacle or scenario.

Q. How do I know how reliable a survival book is?

A. Beyond reading customer reviews, you can look into the personal experiences of the author and whether they have put their theories to the test.

Survival books we recommend

Best of the best: SAS Survival Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Anywhere by John "Lofty" Wiseman

Our take: This book covers just about every topic and is easy to read. The organization of topics makes it easy to find what you are looking for.

What we like: The broad array of scenarios and subjects of this book make it one of the most versatile survival guides available. While you probably won't encounter most of the situations described here, you will be able to find information on handling just about any disaster.

What we dislike: The small type can be challenging to read.

Best bang for your buck: Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival by Dave Canterbury

Our take: This practical survival guide provides advice for a range of camping and survival situations and includes recommended products to prepare yourself for anything.

What we like: The author pairs straightforward writing with helpful instruction to make a survival guide that is easy to follow and can be easily applied to a range of scenarios. This is a book for the serious camper who wants to be prepared for common obstacles and problems encountered while in the wild.

What we dislike: There are few pictures and diagrams to supplement instructions and plant descriptions.

Choice 3: When the Grid Goes Down: Disaster Preparations and Survival Gear for Making Your Home Self-Reliant by Tony Nester

Our take: This guide on off-the-grid survival techniques is as enjoyable as it is informative. At 78 pages, it can be read quickly, and finding information on specific topics is easy.

What we like: For the survivalist who plans for the worst, this humorous guide contains basic information on everything you could need to know, from creating a water map to making a medical kit.

What we dislike: Some customers found the offerings of this book too simplistic.

Peter McPherson is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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