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I've studied, practiced, and taught wilderness survival on and off for around ten years, now. I've read an enormous amount of material on the subject of survival; some of it is quite good (Brown Jr., Wiseman, Davenport, among others), some of it is at best mediocre (e.g., FM 21-76).
However, this work by the McPhersons is in a class all by itself; it's simply outstanding. Unlike the majority of other books on survival, this book is filled with actual photographs, rather than drawings and illustrations. For instance, John Wiseman's "SAS Survival Handbook" is filled with an extraordinary amount of good information, but without actual photographs, the reader is never really "connected" to the skills being communicated. Of course, one must actually have real, hands-on experience in order to *truly* connect to the skills and practices being communicated, but the fact remains that good photographs are vastly superior to the average drawings found in survival handbooks, and as such will better prepare the reader for the actual event.
Although the information is not as far reaching in the same sense as something like Wiseman's Survival Handbook, it is far superior in the way it covers the limited amount of subjects that it does tackle. And those subjects are absolutely essential - thus they deserve the high degree of focus they receive to the exclusion of other lesser important skills. This book shows you the basic skills necessary to survive and to thrive - and it shows those skills with remarkable clarity. Sure, the grammar in this book is terrible, and the McPhersons are obviously not cultured in the traditional sense, but they know *this* subject, and that's what's important here.
I might complain at this point about a previous reviewer. J. Fusco's April 8th (single star) review is quite off base. He writes: "If this is your first survival book and you are looking to learn the basics of survival then I feel this is not the book."
I beg to differ. If I knew that the dearest person to me in all the world was about to get dropped into the middle of a North American wilderness, this is the FIRST book I would give to her. I've never seen its equal as far as explaining the basics of survival.
There are a few things I would have liked to see in this book that were not covered, yet are quite important. For instance, collection and treatment of water is a very important skill (think giardiasis), yet it received no attention here. In all fairness, though, this is by no means an insurmountable exclusion to anyone with half a brain. Almost everyone knows that boiling water renders it safe for drinking, so if one merely applies the skills learned from the sections on fire-making and various containers, the problem becomes a virtual non-issue (with a few rare exceptions, granted).
Also, the section on shelters, while good as far as it goes, leaves something to be desired. I would have liked to see a simpler, cold-weather type shelter that could be put up in a very short amount of time while still providing maximum protection from the elements. For example, Tom Brown Jr.'s "Debris Hut" (Tom Brown's Field Guide to Wilderness Survival, p. 30ff.) is excellent in this regard. I have personally survived sub-freezing temperatures in such a shelter with very little insulation except that provided in nature. The McPherson's book would have benefited greatly by including a shelter like the debris hut.
All in all, the small scruples I have with this book in no way detract from my estimation of its greatness, and my five-star rating is given without hesitation. Highly Recommended.