I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I would handle a traumatic situation. I interviewed Tom Kaleta of Blue Force Gear last week about the company’s Micro Trauma Kit NOW! and why he thinks it’s so important to have these tools on hand to deal with the three most common battlefield injuries: airway injuries, lungs that won’t inflate, and massive bleeding. I’ve always carried a few Band-Aids and a basic first-aid kit in my car, but the need to be prepared for injuries goes well beyond that and I more fully understand that now.

While I’m pondering all this, the publication of Dave Canterbury’s new book, written with the help of Jason A. Hunt, “Bushcraft First Aid: A Field Guide to Wilderness Emergency Care,” is announced. I’ve reviewed Dave’s past two books for this site and I highly recommend them, with some reservations. They are focused on resources on the East Coast, and I’m on the West Coast, so some of the edible foods and tree species he mentions, for instance, are not common here. But beyond that, highly recommended. Read the reviews here:

“Bushcraft Field Guide to Trapping, Gathering & Cooking in the Wild”

“Advanced Bushcraft”

The new book is just what I needed to learn how to take the crucial first steps to being able to help my family or someone I come across who is in distress. Like Tom said in the interview, being able to be a “hero” by stopping someone with a gun who is shooting up a crowd is unlikely, but stumbling across a hiker with a broken leg or a car accident victim is much more likely, and I might actually be able to help them if I had any idea what to do, and the tools to do it with.

If you can, call for first-aid from medical professionals as soon as possible. But if you can’t, follow the procedures in the book using the items you will likely have in a well-planned wilderness bag or advanced first-aid kit. As usual, Dave covers the basics very well, such as remaining calm and being prepared in the first place with the right kind of gear (which he covers). He covers basic powers of observation that you’ll need if you come across an injury scene: see if you can figure out what happened based on situational clues, and making your assessment of the victim. He covers how to safely move a victim, and how to signal for help if you are in a remote area.

Moving into the treatment chapters, Dave covers how to stop bleeding, and how to close a wound using Gorilla Tape. If you don’t have a tourniquet, you can use a piece of rope or paracord and a stick. Gunshot wounds to various body parts and knife and axe wounds are all addressed. Blisters and burns (and trenchfoot) and broken bones are covered in two separate chapters. This isn’t a medical textbook, so Dave doesn’t cover how to set a broken bone. He assumes that you will be providing treatment and then evacuating the patient to get professional medical care as quickly as possible. But I definitely feel that I now have a better understanding of how to deal with broken bones, even a broken thigh bone, by making a traction splint from a walking stick.

Further chapters deal with bleeding and shock, including internal bleeding and heart attack. Chest injuries and breathing (and choking) are covered. He addresses seizures and stroke, and headaches (if you can find willow bark or mint, that can be used to help). Like I said, Dave does a great job of covering the basics. You might not think you need to learn how to do anything to treat a headache, but what about a skull fracture? Dave doesn’t recommend treating many abdominal injuries without professional help as things like open wounds where the intestines are falling out or hernias can be too severe. But Dave does give basic advice that helps you to figure out what to do, such as signs to look for that things are becoming so severe that you need expert help.

After reading this book, you’ll know how to help with allergies or anaphylactic shock. If the issue is too severe to be helped with a basic kit, as with insulin shock (related to diabetes) he will tell you to evacuate immediately. Some of you will want more detailed information about what you CAN do if you CAN’T evacuate, or if you’re dealing with a SHTF situation and there is no 911 to call. In those cases, or if you know you have someone near you with a life-threatening chronic illness such as diabetes, you will have to earn more on your own.

One of the things I really appreciated is that Dave includes medicinal plants along with eight pages of photos. The book ends with a rather lengthy section on plant medicine, which is something I highly recommend everyone learn more about. In particular, learn what plants are in your state, your town, and even in your own backyard. Once you start really observing plants, you will discover that many plants you pass by every day have edible and medicinal uses.

Dave covers things that you might think you already know about, like frostbite or altitude sickness and animal bites (ticks, snakes, spiders). His “real life scenarios” vignettes help you think through what you might do in a real life situation. And what’s great is that many of his observations help you understand a situation more deeply, even if it is something you think you are already familiar with. For instance, did you know that a cucumber smell in the wild means that a snake might be nearby? I didn’t know that before reading this book. Still, pretty much every scenario in the book ends with knowing when to evacuate, or just evacuating at the first possibility. This is not a book for end-of-the-world scenarios where there is no help and you are the medical professional. This is a what to do until you can get to help book.

While it would be helpful to read this book through from cover to cover, an ideal way to use this book would be to keep it in your boat, your hunting cabin, your home bookshelf, in the trunk of your car, and in your bug out bag (or at least photocopies or notes of important sections), so that wherever you are you’ll be able to reference this information.

I particularly find the section on creating my own first-aid kit to be valuable. It lists bandages and dressings, ointments and medications, and tools in a checklist format that can help you be prepared for many of the scenarios in this book. And following Dave’s 10 most important ‘C’s that you need to have will help a lot too:

  1. Cutting tool
  2. Combustion device (fire tools)
  3. Container
  4. Cordage
  5. Cover (blanket)
  6. Cotton material
  7. Candling device (light)
  8. Compass
  9. Cargo tape (duct tape)
  10. Combination tool (multi-tool like a Gerber)

Bushcraft First Aid: A Field Guide to Wilderness Emergency Care, by wilderness experts Dave Canterbury and Jason A. Hunt, publishes June 13, 2017 by Adams Media, a division of Simon & Schuster). I highly recommend this book as a go-to first-aid resource for anyone headed out into nature. Learn more about the book or pre-order it from Simon and Schuster for $17. The book is available in Trade paperback format ($17) or as an ebook for (12). It is 256 pages long.

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.