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Book Review: Ray Mears Essential Bushcraft

Ray Mears Essential Bushcraft - A Handbook of Survival Skills from around the World
Ray Mears Essential Bushcraft – A Handbook of Survival Skills from around the World

You’ll probably never use most of the stuff in Ray Mears Essential Bushcraft: A Handbook of Survival Skills from Around the World, but it is fascinating to see the ingenuity of people from around the world and they utilize nature to increase their self-reliance skills. Bushcraft, as Mears notes provides us with a way to connect more deeply with the natural world, pulling together knowledge of botany, zoology, craft work and outdoor leadership skills.

While you may never have the need to use a friction drill to start a fire, create rope from natural fibers, build a leaf hut, or melt snow with a Finnish marshmallow, simply learning about these acts of human ingenuity can help you become a better problem solver if you need to rely on natural materials and processes in a survival situation.

The great thing about Ray Mears is his modesty. While he is famous for his bushcraft skills and TV shows, especially in Europe, he’s not a sensationalist. This is a guy who walks the walk, rolls up his sleeves, gets down and dirty, and has traveled the world learning these skills. He’s also a teacher who genuinely interested in teaching you how to teach yourself, which is at the core of all bushcraft-style skills and disciplines.

While reading about survival skills is great fun, Mear’s presentation is so engaging that you’ll want to go out into he woods or your backyard and give some of the bushcraft techniques he explains and illustrates a go. This can be as simple a buying yourself an inexpensive Mora bushcraft knife and practicing some of the cutting and knife handling skills shown in his book on a few tree branches from your backyard or a nearby park.

Covering basic wilderness/backpacking gear, cutting tools, water, fire, shelter, cordage, food and wilderness travel, Ray Mears Essential Bushcraft is a book that you are likely to refer to for years to come. It’s an excellent compendium of essential wilderness survival skills for all environments and seasons and an inspiring book that can stimulate a greater appreciation of the wilderness and our connection to it. Highly recommended!

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  1. a great summary in a concise writing style, resulting in an email subscription, and anticipation of more to come. The concrete benefits of reading stuff like Ray Mears is that it stretches our understanding of what is possible.

  2. Amen. Bushcraft seems to encourage humility in those receptive to nature’s lessons. I would take Mesrs over any other “TV survivalist”–he is a student and an educator passionate about the world and the ways humans have ingeniously adapted to it. A truly great read!

  3. Great review of a great read!

    Everyone who spends time in the outdoors should own a copy of this book. My great uncle gave me his beaten up copy when I first started venturing into the hills and it’s been a fantastic reference ever since.

    I believe that bushcraft is a highly undervalued skill nowadays, with people becoming more and more reliant on fancy new gear. A recent gear failure made me remember that gear is no substitute for knowledge, and I’ll definitely be brushing up on my bushcraft skills next time I’m outside!

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