Best Survival Books

Updated June 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

21 Models Considered
5 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
204 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best survival books

Last Updated June 2019

From making it through apocalyptic doom to learning how to make questionable water safe to drink, survival books offer life-saving advice and tips for making the best of it when disasters strike.

Some are for beginner campers and offer “how-tos.” Those include advice on how to protect food from wild animals, construct a shelter, and how to make a fire.

There are mid-level survival books that are more for the hardy, experienced survivalist. These books include chapters on finding food and fresh water in a wild habitat.

And for the doomsday preppers there are the books that give advice on what would be needed in the event of an apocalypse. Dystopian survivors read about how to store non-perishable food for long periods of time, how to construct some sort of bunker, and what items are considered essential for survival.

Regardless of what stage of survivalist the reader is, there are priceless nuggets of information contained within each volume. Scroll through our guide, and let us help you survive, then check out our top picks.

When in a survival situation it’s important to keep a positive mindset. Be sure you’re able to stay calm and think things through. Panicking is one of the worst things you can do.

Hardcover vs. paperback

In a survival situation, each format of book has its boons and its banes. A hardcover will protect the pages of the book better, and it will keep its integrity longer when stored in a pack. But on the other hand, a hardcover will also almost always take up more space in said pack, and will be heavier.

A paperback is much more pliant but lends itself to more wear and tear. There’s less inner page protection with a paperback, so oftentimes after hard use the front and back covers will tear off. There are some types of paperbacks, though, that have laminated covers. These offer more protection of the book while still maintaining its shape.

Also consider whether you will want to dog-ear pages in the book or write notes in the margins. Check for available note-taking space.

Addresses any and all disaster scenarios

The SAS Survival Handbook is the must-have of survival books. It not only contains research on almost any survival situation, but the third edition also includes chapters on urban survival and terrorism. In our current turbulent times, urban survival may be essential knowledge.

Severity of the survival scenario

As mentioned previously, it’s essential to understand just how severe the survival situation may be. Each book focuses on different scenarios linked to various survival situations.

For instance, if you are planning to go camping and need to know what kinds of plants are edible and what kinds of plants to avoid, you probably only need a broad or short-term tips and tricks kind of survival book, or one specifically designed for camping.

A medium-level book could include more difficult tactics, such as constructing shelter without a tent or with premade materials, or how to disinfect water so it’s drinkable. This is more for a hobby survivalist, who would go on a wilderness survival trip for fun. But it could still be used to education oneself on how to survive in the wild if you are ever stranded or lost somewhere.

The highest level of survival would encompass long-term survival. This would be after a major natural disaster, after an apocalyptic event, or to be self-reliant for any number of reasons. Chapters should include how to live sustainably and how to live “off-grid.”

Visual aids

Photo illustrations can be beneficial while reading. Different books use them in different ways. Some books use photos as the main source of explanation, and offer text instructions as captions. Others are mostly text and only use a photo when it’s necessary because the words themselves aren’t enough of an explanation.

Similarly, different readers prefer different photo uses in books. Page through each book before purchasing or view a digital version of the inside pages. That way you can tell what style the book is formatted in and how photos are used. You may need to refer to it quickly, so decide if you need visuals or prefer text-based instruction only.

Each survival book offers different options when it comes to art and illustrations. Some contain hand-drawn illustrations that give the impression of a true handwritten country guide. Others utilize real-life photographs to illustrate the text.

EXPERT TIP

Fires provide light, warmth, and the ability to cook or boil water. They can also act as smoke signals to attract rescue.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

If caught in cold weather, remember most of your body heat escapes through your head. If you have no hat or hood available, use other clothing or materials from nature to insulate your head, especially while sleeping.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Be able to tell directions without a compass. The most common thing to watch for is moss growing on a stone. The moss will grow thicker on the north side of the stone because it’s farthest from sunlight.


Staff  | BestReviews

Survival guide prices

Price is linked to both the content of the book and the materials it’s made of (hardcover vs. paperback, glossy vs. matte). The price ranges from about $7 to $20. Easier and simpler survival books in a paperback format would be the most affordable at $7 to $12, with a more specific glossy-paged hardcover being the more expensive at $15 to $20, sometimes even more.

Tips

When purchasing a survival book it’s important to check many aspects of its format and creation. Read several tips before buying a survival book.

  • Review book chapters; they will give insight to the contents.

  • If looking for a specific topic, check the book’s index to see if it covers the topic.

  • Read the author’s short biography, usually included on the inside or back cover. Check their credentials and whether or not they are credible.

  • Remember what the book will be carried in. Will it fit appropriately and comfortably?

  • Flip through the entire book. A once-over will show how much text there is versus how much space is filled by illustrations or photos.

Essential for backcountry survival

The Bushcraft 101 field guide operates using the five Cs of survivability — cutting tools, covering, combustion devices, containers, and cordages. This unique guide offers ways to survive and flourish in bush country, and it also helps to better connect the reader with nature. Read, and learn to appreciate and respect Mother Nature.

Other products we considered

Of course, there’s a plethora of survival books out there. From surviving the in-laws to surviving a relationship, but we’ve narrowed down the list to only those that are for true survivalists and adventurers.

The survival books we’ve chosen contain the most relevant tips and advice, they are written by reliable and credible sources, and they cover an extensive range of topics. If you’re searching for a specific survival tactic however, there are some great choices.

For instance, The Prepper's Water Survival Guide: Harvest, Treat, and Store Your Most Vital Resource will tell you all that needs to be known about how to gather, disinfect and store water in survival situations.

Likewise, Survival Medicine & First Aid: The Leading Prepper's Guide to Survive Medical Emergencies in Tough Survival Situations focuses on medicine and first aid in a survival event. Each offers beneficial information on a narrow topic.

If your survival book isn’t laminated, try keeping it safe in a ziplock bag. That way it won’t be damaged by water or harsh weather.

FAQ

Q. Why can’t I just look online for the information?
A.
While there may be relevant information online, there are several downfalls to just “Googling” it. For one, it’s difficult to know what is reliable information, and what is opinion or conjecture. When reading a book, there’s an author biography that lists the credentials and demonstrates their credibility. Second, phones and computers die. If you’re in a survival situation, there most likely won’t be a plug-in nearby to charge electronics. Having a hard copy allows you to always access the information, especially when it’s most needed.

Q. Why should I trust one author over another?
A.
When purchasing a survival book, there’s some subjectivity involved. If you personally believe someone who has gone out and used their own tips in survival situations is more credible than someone with a degree, then that’s the author you should go with. Different authors have different backgrounds; it’s up to you to decide how you will use the information they give you.

Q. Why read a survival book at all?
A.
Some may scoff at the chance of an apocalypse or a monsoon of a natural disaster, and neither one may ever happen. But becoming lost while driving or traveling, or being stranded by a broken down car, are much more common scenarios. Reading a survival book allows you to prepare for the unknown and the improbable. How does that saying go? “It’s better to be safe than sorry.” Reading a survival book can empower you with confidence in worst case scenarios.

The team that worked on this review
  • Amber
    Amber
    Writer
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Katie
    Katie
    Editorial Director
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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