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Reviews > Books > Field Guides > PGP - Outdoor Survival Pocket Guide > Test Report by Andre Corterier

Pocket Guides Publishing: Pocket Guide to Outdoor Survival

Field Report by André Corterier
Date: June 2006
Pocket Guides Publishing: Pocket Guide to Outdoor Survival

Personal Biographical Information:
Name: André Corterier
Gender: M
Age: 35
Height: 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)
Weight: 80 kg (175 lb)
Myopia: lenses at -2.75 diopters
Email: andreDOTcorterierATfreenetDOTde
Home: Bonn, Germany

Backpacking Background:
I have started out with backpacking slowly – single-day 24 km (15 mi) jaunts by myself or even shorter hikes in the company of my little daughter. I am getting started on longer hikes, as a lightweight packer and hammock-camper. I’ve begun upgrading my old gear and am now carrying a dry FSO weight (everything carried From the Skin Out except food, fuel and water) of a little less than 10 kg (22 lb) for three-season camping.

Regarding this test, I have read many of the exploits and how-to books of survival experts ranging from Jack London over Tom Brown to Rüdiger Nehberg. I have vicariously prepared for surviving any number of hardships in the comfort of my easy chair, shivering along with Ralston, Simpson and Paulsen. I've begun trying out some of the tips given and have occasionally taught some which I've found to work in our Jiu-Jitsu club's "Outdoor Camps". I'll be judging this book's perceived utility against this background.

Year of manufacture: 2006
Manufacturer: Pocket Guides Publishing
MSRP: 12.95 USD

listed weight: none listed
measured weight: 68 g (2.4 oz)
listed dimensions: 3 3/8 in (8.6 cm) wide by 4 1/2 in (11.4 cm) tall by just under 1/4 in (0.6 cm) thick
measured dimensions: the pages measure as advertised, the binding extends outward by about 6 mm (1/4 in)

The Pocket Guide to Outdoor Survival consists of 14 laminated pages, printed on both sides, which are spiral-bound together. They are printed black on white with a few illustrations and feature tabs which list topics by keyword.

Report Plan:
I plan to give an overview of the sections of this book and my impressions of the material contained therein in the next phase of the report. For now, here's a list of the questions I prepared before receiving this book (and my answers so far) (other answers will be provided in the next phase of the report). Does it fit into my pack's belt pouches? Yes, the size is such that it does fit into any kind of pocket easily. Do I find the size of the print a good compromise between readability in the dark and weight saving? Looks good so far - the paper is very bright and the printing very distinct, giving very good contrast. What is the cover like? Will it survive a quick glance if it's drizzling, or does it take water badly? Well, it's laminated. The manufacturer claims they're testing their books by keeping them immersed for a month. I am confident at this time that rain won't be an issue. How will the book live up to being bounced around in pockets, or being repeatedly crammed into a pack with a bunch of other stuff? Again, the pages appear rather tough to the touch due to their lamination, so I foresee no problems here. Are there pages for notes? No. If so, how well do they lend themselves to starting a fire or use as TP? (Don't worry, I'll be politically correct in my report of the results. Though that does remove one of the very few photo opportunities I can envision in the ambit of this test…) The other book by the same manufacturer which I received came with an extra page (printed and apparently accidentally included). As that page isn't meant to be a part of that book, I believe I'll skirt the edge of "destructive testing" by removing that one extra page near the end of the test period and see whether that page makes for a decent fire starter. Is it well organized? Is there a handy reference chart in the back or front or somewhere? If I'm trying to look up a particular technique, can I find it quickly? If I'm trying to find unknown solutions or techniques for a known problem, can I find them quickly? Yes to all of these. While I haven't read all the details given yet, I can already state that finding a subject in this book is made very easy by the printed tabs (and by the fact that there aren't very many pages to begin with). Are the results down to earth and easy to follow or of the more esoteric variety? An example: While I expect an outdoor survival book to cover how to make a fire with a bow drill, I would hope it also suggests keeping an extra lighter somewhere where I'm likely to have it if I should need it. It's actually the other way around - it does suggest to have *three* sources of fire on my body (giving examples) and then goes on to describe how to light a fire if I already have a source of ignition. While I was surprised that bow drill, spark striking and other means of providing for the initial ignition aren't mentioned, I can't say I blame the author. The bow drill method is very rarely adequately covered even in treatise-length books, so I feel that it was reasonable to skip it here.

And, of course, the last test: will I keep the book in my pocket after the test is over?

Field Report:
I've kept this book (and a companion volume I am also testing) in my pocket on a number of my trips - both solo backpacking and business. As such, I have often had time to peruse it at some leisure. I have not, however, had to resort to it in order to look something up I did not know how to do. I assume that the reason for this is that I've become quite comfortable with the kind of hiking and backpacking I do (not sure it's what Hendrix would call "experienced", but it's good enough for me). It seems that I already know what I need to know, doing what I do.

Nevertheless, I've read the book many times over, thought it over a lot and have discussed it with others, and here are my thoughts on some of the contents:

The section on clothes is pretty good and concise. If this is information the reader didn't have before going out on a trip which leads far from home, the reader definitely needs to read this.

There's a page in here which attempts to explain the concept of contour lines. The associated picture is actually pretty decent, but I again do not believe that someone unfamiliar with the concept would be helped a lot by the very brief description. This is even more true, as in the companion book to this one on hiking, for the very brief explanation on magnetic declination. If I were to make a suggestion, I'd assume that someone who plans to stray far away from home to a degree which makes researching survival techniques part of the preparation is someone who knows about contour lines - skip the subject and devote more detail to something else. I very much appreciate, however, the tips given on "staying found".

This is a pretty good section with good pictures. I'm thinking that if I knew someone about to go on a long trip with a car into the moderately unknown, I'd like them to have this in the glove compartment, because it might actually come in very handy in case the car stalls and, due to heat or cold, one needs to find shelter outside of the car.

I've mentioned this before, but believe it bears pointing out again: The approach taken by the authors not to deal with primitive fire-making methods at all is sound. Have several ways of quickly making fire at hand instead. However, I would have suggested a bit more detail on the fire building part. It took me quite a while to figure out that whatever I use for tinder needs to be shaven down as small as possible, and then packed rather tightly in order for fire to catch. A general note that tinder, as well as twigs, can't possibly be too small but are usually way too large, would, I feel, be very helpful.

A point in case illustrating the difficulty for a book of this type. Apart from the pack that I'm not sure I'd be much reassured by being told not to panic when buried by an avalanche, I'll have that information only if I've read it before. Which I can do in a different type of book. The same is true for the search tips - good information, but I believe it should be present in the minds of the potential searchers when an avalanche comes down. If it's not already there, I doubt the first reaction would be "hmm, my partner just got swallowed by an avalanche - let's see what my handy little guidebook has to say about this". Saying this does not make the information presented less valid - but it speaks against the format of the book. This is information other, bigger books which are meant to be read (often) before a big trip can cover in more detail, and with a better chance of being present when needed.

I find that the authors did a very good job of condensing a lot of valuable information into a handy little package. However, I believe that a large portion of the information would be better dealt with in a less handy and less little package (and, in fact, has been dealt with in such fashion in a number of books available). Still - this particular book is one I'd feel comfortable giving away to people who embark on long journeys in areas where help would be far away in case something untoward happens. That is, if the people in question are otherwise not too interested in survival techniques.

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