Guest - Not logged in 

Reviews > Books > Field Guides > PGP - Outdoor Survival Pocket Guide > Test Report by Kathryn Doiron

Pocket Guide to Outdoor Survival

Initial Report: Feb 24 2007

Field Report: Jun 15 2007

Pocket Guide to Outdoor Survival

Personal Information:
Name: Kathryn Doiron
Age: 30
Gender: Female
Height: 1.7 m (5' 8")
Weight: 68 kg (150 lb)
Email: kdoiron 'at' gmail 'dot' com
Location: Washington DC, USA

Brief Background: I started backpacking and hiking seriously almost four years ago. Most of my miles have been logged in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. I have recently finished 1200+ miles (2000+ km) of the Appalachian Trail. My style is to be as light as possible while not spending a fortune. My pack weight tends to hover around 25 lbs (11 kg) with two days of food and 16 oz (0.5 L) of water. I have recently started getting into winter hiking, snowshoeing and kayaking.

Product Information:

Manufacturer: Pocket Guides Publishing
MSRP: US$12.95
Material: Plastic
Weight (as stated): Not stated
Weight (measured): 2.4 oz (68.2 g)

Initial Report:
February 24th 2007

The Pocket Guide is a small spiral bound guide composed of plastic pages with slightly raised writing on the surface of each page. All the corners are round cut as well as the corners of each tab. Each page has its own tab and all the tabs are offset to allow easy reading. The Pocket Guide fits comfortably into my hand and lays flat when placed on a flat surface. The writing is easy to read and the pictures are clear. The spiral is a clear orange/red colour.

The guide starts off with a nice checklist of items that are a must have on either an outdoor trip or a car trip. The page is designed to be used with a wipe clean writing implement. I will look into what type of implement works best given various conditions. In the end, the list appears to be designed for packing before a trip, not afterwards in the field. There are no blank sections in this guide. All available space has been used to the max but without crowding or overwhelming. I found the information dense but clear to read. The introduction of this guide says it is designed to be at its best when the reader has taken an outdoor survival course. I have not taken any such course but I was able to understand everything as presented in the guide. In the end, I am wondering how useful I will find the guide while I am hiking. The check list is a very handy touch.

The book is laid out nicely with most sections taking up either one page or two facing pages. It is rare for any section to span more than two pages. I like the fact that, in general, a topic will span two facing pages. This means I don't have to flip back and forth when trying to understand something. Although each tab tells me what section I am currently reading, I am again reminded by the bold title across the top of each page. This is handy and due to normal reading behaviour, it is the first place I will look to determine what it is I am reading.

The pages are made of a nice sturdy plastic that gives the Pocket Guide a nice stiffness and makes it hold up nicely in my hand. But it is this same stiffness that does limit the amount of bend I can give the guide, limiting my flipping through with one hand. The spiral binding does allow me to flip the pages all the way around to view any one page in the middle of the book. The spiral ends do not allow the guide to lay completely flat but it is flat enough to suit my purposes. I am interested in how well the pages will hold up in a pack or pocket. The stiffness does not seem to allow much give.
Field Report:
June 15th 2007

Field Trips:

I have taken this Pocket Guide out on at least two overnight trips out on the Appalachian Trail near Front Royal, Virginia, one very short day hike out in the Canaan Valley in West Virginia, and it was included on a recent kayaking trip on Pohick Bay in Virginia.

Day Hike:

This short day hike was about 3 miles in the Canaan Valley and the weather was cold, about 40 F (4 C). I was hoping for snow and had snowshoes strapped to the pack. The terrain was relatively smooth with an elevation gain of about 1500 ft (457 m). While the temperature dropped a little with elevation gain there was no snow to be had.

Overnight #1:

The first overnight hike was under dry conditions with the temperatures around 65-70 F (18-21 C). Total elevation gain was 1000 ft (304 m) with a distance of 6 miles (9.6 km). Total pack weight was about 27 lbs (12 kg). I had the Pocket Guide in the back pocket where access was a little limited but it was near the first aid kit. There was little leaf cover as the leaves were just barely peeking out.

Overnight #2:

The second overnight hike saw some rain fall and I had the Pocket Guide in a side pocket for easier access. It did receive some rain with no ill effects. Mostly it was drizzling and dripping from the trees. The pack experienced about 2.5 hours of drizzling conditions. Total elevation gain was about 1500 ft (457 m) with a distance of 12 mi (19.3 km). This trip out I encountered some thru-hikers and we got to talking about gear. The Pocket Guides make a great conversational piece as everyone has their own way of doing something.

Kayaking Trip:

The kayaking trip was about two hours along the salt marshes of Pohick Bay in Virginia. The Pocket Guide was in a small carry bag in the stern of the kayak behind my seat. Due to some dirt remaining in the kayak from a previous trip, I had to wash out the kayak which left some water remaining in the bottom when I dumped the bag in. The Pocket Guide did get wet, as did everything else. The temperatures where in the high 80's F (30's C) with little cloud cover and high humidity.

Overnight #3: The last overnight trip was over Memorial Day weekend and was a two night trip. The weather was very nice over the three days with no rain but the bugs were out in full force. The temperatures were in the high 80's F (28 C) with the night time temperatures dropping to about 65 F (15 C). Total elevation gain was 2000 ft (610 m). The trip was along a section of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia to Harper's Ferry. I didn't use the Pocket Guide at all on this last trip, it ended up in the bottom of my bag and stayed there until I dumped out my pack at home.

Over the course of the last four months I have carried this Pocket Guide with me on numerous backpacking trips and even on a kayaking trip. The plastic pages have held up nicely and I have not seen any ripping of the pages nor any fading of the text. While the quality and durability of the book has been very good, the information contained in the book has only been okay. The book is divided by subject matter and each subject is boiled down to one page, front and back, of material. Each page contains several small, brief paragraphs of information or a few paragraphs and some bullet points. The information has been distilled down to the very basics. This is fine for the newest backpacker but after a few trips out with a more experienced hiker, most of the information contained in the book can be learned. The book cover is also misleading in that it shows someone splinting another hiker's leg. There is no basic first aid contained in this book which I would consider to be a basic needed survival skill. The book contains several points on things to keep in your car in case of a car emergency. Yet on the cover it shows a car caught in a flood and never mentions how to deal with this emergency.

I assumed that the information contained within this book would be at a level above the basic knowledge that many hikers and backpackers have. While it is good to know what is contained within this book, I don't feel it is necessary to carry around a book with information that I already know. The Pocket Guide does contain some critical pieces of information on navigation and fire building tips that are handy to have. Overall, I felt that about half of the Pocket Guide was filled with useful information, and the other half was either basic information or common sense. The section on auto emergencies was also a handy section.

As a backpacker I feel that I am carrying everything I need for at least an overnight stay in the woods. As such I have a shelter, and sleeping bag for warmth. What I would really like is information that I would need in case of an emergency but can't remember. Things such as basic first aid, how to navigate by the sun or stars, how to signal a plane, and possibly alternative ways to obtain water. I don't need to know how to set up a shelter or how to choose weather appropriate clothing. As a hiker were I would normally only have a few extra warm layers and limited food and water, having information on building a shelter and finding water, is very handy to have.

I really liked the check list at the beginning of the book as it was very handy. I feel that the list could have be expanded a little in some regards and contained items that I don't normally camp with, but the list contained at least the bare minimum of items needed for a trip. The problem with the list is that if you don't know how to utilize all the items on the list together, than they are useless. The book doesn't demonstrate how to use the listed items nor does it explain why they should be carried.

While I have been pleased with the overall durability and size of the Pocket Guide, I feel that the information offered by the book is a little basic and doesn't cover enough survival issues. This book is geared mostly for the beginner and most items in the book are basic common sense. I would have been much happier with the Pocket Guide if the information level had built on the basic information that was contained within this book.


    Small, compact size
    Very durable construction


    Information is a little too basic
    Cover art is misleading of contained information

This concludes my report series on the Pocket Guide to Outdoor Survival. I hope you have enjoyed reading this report series and have found its contents useful.

Read more reviews of Pocket Guides Publishing gear
Read more gear reviews by Kathryn Doiron

Reviews > Books > Field Guides > PGP - Outdoor Survival Pocket Guide > Test Report by Kathryn Doiron

Product tested and reviewed in each Formal Test Report has been provided free of charge by the manufacturer to Upon completion of the Test Series the writer is permitted to keep the product. Owner Reviews are based on product owned by the reviewer personally unless otherwise noted.

All material on this site is the exclusive property of
BackpackGearTest software copyright David Anderson