Book Review: Advanced Bush Craft

Advanced Bush Craft: An Expert Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival by Dave Canterbury, published by Adams Media.

Maybe you grew up in a household of people who hunted and fished, owned a variety of weapons and prepped for disasters. Maybe you were in the military and learned how to survive on limited resources. If neither of these things is true for you, like it was for me, it’s likely that everything you learned about survival came from watching videos and reading books.

There are a lot of resources out there for survival, and this book, written by Dave Canterbury, is one to consider if you’re ready to learn more about making do when you either can’t or don’t want to rely on store-bought stuff. Canterbury also wrote the book “Bushcraft 101” which was on the New York Times Bestselling list.

The first part of the book is about building your kit. Canterbury walks through the categories of things you need and thinking about when you might need them. For instance, naturally you will take more things if you are going out on a long trip, but the short day trips are good times to practice doing things like carving a throwing stick. Canterbury relied on a lot of tools in “Bushcraft 101,” but this new book focuses on the few tools you really need to make other things you will need along the way.

A lot of attention is paid to fire making, particularly the bow and drill method. After reading this section, anyone should be able to gather the materials to start a fire, and if you can’t, there’s always the option of just packing along a magnifying glass if it’s sunny.

Canterbury is from Ohio, and many of his resources are focused on the East Coast. For instance, did you know that eastern pine needles have more vitamin C than a fresh orange? They’re also good for vitamin A, so these would make a nutritious tea. But as a person who lives on the West Coast, that doesn’t help me, and Canterbury doesn’t list western species that may be similar.

The chapter on knot making leads into basketry and weaving. He provides instructions for making a “woodland loom” using a sapling, lashings and crossbars. This set-up lets you make large-scale items like sleeping mats or shelter coverings. He devotes several pages to different weaving techniques. This isn’t likely a skill that people are particularly concerned about if they’re just going out for the weekend, but as Canterbury says in the introduction of the book, this book is designed for what you will need to know to be prepared for a lengthy stay in the wilderness.

I particularly enjoyed the sections about sheltering and trapping, but in both I found evidence that perhaps this book is not quite as “advanced” as some readers might be expecting. For instance, in the sheltering section a half-page diagram is included on driving tent stakes in at an angle rather than straight down. The trapping section starts out with statements that understanding animal behavior including what they eat, where they live and where they travel is key to successfully being able to hunt animals. Those two things seem like common sense, so as long as readers go into this book understanding they are not getting 100% advanced, previously unrevealed knowledge and take these tidbits as gentle reminders, they’re likely to enjoy this book.

I found the book to be a somewhat frustrating combination of useful knowledge along with things that seemed like they took up unnecessary space. For instance, almost a whole page diagramming the shapes of different axe heads and a chart on when to look for berries to eat. Again, the wild foods and trees are focused on what is in the Eastern woodlands, like blueberries, which don’t grow wild on the West Coast. And I think most people know that strawberries ripen in summertime. What would help me most is some drawings showing some other edible wild foods that can be found everywhere and how to shape a stone into a useful cutting edge. I don’t really care if it is a Kentucky axe or a Southern Kentucky axe, or a Virginia axe or a regular Wisconsin as long as I can make a useful cutting edge from what materials I have around me.

Given the amount of space he took up with firestarting, I would have liked a few more diagrams and information about making arrows. As I read the book I began to get more frustrated that there wasn’t more of what I wanted to know about while so much space was taken up by things that seemed like they belonged in a reference book. The chapters on metalsmithing and boat building felt more complete. There’s even a recipe for squirrel stew, so once you make your throwing stick from chapter 3 and your fire from chapter four, you’re all set to focus on building the log cabin from chapter 5 with a recipe in hand for the first meal you’ll make in your new hand-constructed shelter. I truly enjoyed the chapter of appendices providing information on things like navigating using shadows and star positioning and with some practice using the star positioning system he explains, I know I’ll be able to tell what direction I’m heading in as long as I can see the sky.

Overall, the book is about survival in the sense that you are getting deeper skills than what you might normally get into, like preserving acorns for flour. It’s not a book about meeting immediate needs so much as it is about planning, gathering materials and crafting tools for long-term use if you truly can’t purchase things from a store. Even though it’s not all what I consider advanced knowledge, you will definitely learn something from this book. Purchase “Advanced Bush Craft: An Expert Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival” by Dave Canterbury from Amazon.