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Survival Book Warnings//questions
I think most survival manuals will have some dangerous information. It is how it is presented that makes a difference. For example: A book says you can get up to two quarts of water a day in the driest environment from a solar still. That leads some to believe they will get two quarts a day. I prefer to cover the solar still expressing what is likely, instead of possible (which theoretically is anything in an infinite universe). I got a lot of what I know today from Outdoor Survival Skills by Larry Dean Olsen, but it has a problem. In more recent editions it throws a punch at us folks that denigrate the solar still, saying we don’t know how to build one. I built my first one after reading his book and I have built hundreds since, mostly to demonstrate how unreliable they are. Since Olsen is such a fan of the contraption, on my courses I have the students read his directions on solar stills directly from the his book and build one per his instructions. Average yield is two teaspoons in 24 hours! In my previous post I talked about which military manuals were in question on this subject. I am not saying to disregard LDO’s work, but look and any survival book with healthy skepticism.

My own book needs some upgrading. The Universal Plant Edibility Test has many enemies on this board, and with good reason. It is not foolproof, and it could get you killed. I cover it in my book because I have some clients that could easily find themselves in long term survival scenarios or escape and evasion. The test was initiated by the military for long term survival in unfamiliar environments. The original test, however, was not thorough enough, starting with direct contact with the plant. After some serious problems, another stage was added using the morphology of the plant as well as smell to discard possibly dangerous species before physical contact. Yet if you had a stuffy nose and tried the test on water hemlock, you would die. I put it in my book, but with strong warnings, that this was not a replacement for specific knowledge. Such a test should be used as a last resort. The US Air Force has expanded it even further now, and it takes about 24 hours to complete. I need to address this in the next printing.

To me, a book concentrating equally on poisonous plants is more valuable than one concentrating mostly on edible plants. It takes a long time to die of starvation, but just hours from some plant poisonings. Vec is right, in these situations first aid takes precedent over botany. Because first aid is such broad topic, however, I chose to limit the subject in my book to problems specific to arid and hot environments. Do not buy my book as your definitive first aid reference.

I also need to change the section of my book dealing with heat stroke. While the treatment I describe for cooling the patient by immersion can be effective, it is not the best. Pouring water on the victim and fanning is more effective than immersion. That will be updated soon. I think that every survival instructor or writer should still be learning and updating their work. To me there is no embarrassment in improvement. The writers, however, that just copy other work are ones to watch out for. They do not have the field experience and don’t really know what does or doesn’t work.

Also beware of how the manual is advertised. There is no premier or best general survival book or authority. Ones that are advertised as such are highly questionable. The Official Pocket Survival Manual series by Robert W. Pelton is an example. (Do not confuse this author with Robert Young Pelton, of the World’s Most Dangerous Places fame. The latter is quite a good read.) The OPSM series by Robert W. Pelton concerns me at several levels.

The series is advertised as the best in the world, and the author is the world’s foremost expert on the subject. First off, the title says it is official, but who officiated it? What is the official connection? There is none that I can find. Another thing the promotional material says is you will not find the Latin names of plants, “The last thing you want to read when you are hungry.” True, but it might be the first thing the doctor wants to know when you’ve poisoned yourself. It takes little space to add the Latin. When an author does not do so, I tend to wonder how much research they have done, and if they are truly interested in helping the reader.

Another advertising boo-boo of this series is calling other survival manuals too verbose, yet this series is in four volumes (The Official Pocket Survival Manual, The Official Pocket Edible Plant Survival Manual, The Official Pocket Medicinal Plant Survival Manual, and The Official Pocket Medical Survival Manual). Each manual runs from 262 to 280 pages and retails for $15.00 each. So the 1,092 page non-verbose, intentionally lacking plant nomenclature set will run you $60.00. That’s a pocketful, but you save weight with the empty wallet. But remember kiddies, it’s OFFICIAL!

As for the good ones, I don’t think you can go wrong with Aboman’s list and I am honored to be there.

Here is the main thing: Select something that tells both the downside as well as the upside of any techniques. Reserve those that claim to be “the only book you’ll ever need” for latrine duty and firestarting, and pick something that explains things in a way you can remember. You may not have the book with you when it hits the fan. And think about this: In the middle of root canal would you like to have your dentist stop and read from The Official Pocket Guide to Dentistry?


Edited by: David Alloway at: 1/22/03 9:53:13 am
Hey Mike, thank you for posting this here!! I sure appreciate that all david's wisdom won't be left behind in EZ board hell! Nice to know all the new people will get to benifit from his words.

Sad fact I think I read most of the books he is refering to! There are some CRAPPY and down right dangerous survival books out there!

Although there are so many tried and true practices that have been around literally forever, when it comes to survival, some things have also drastically changed. For instance, when I was first reading every book available, I made a practice of carrying a plastic sheet and some tubing to use for a solar still. It really wasn't until recently that I saw how ineffective they are. It pays to constantly try new and different things, and bounce ideas off folk in this board!
"As for the good ones, I don’t think you can go wrong with Aboman’s list and I am honored to be there."

Is that list on this message board somewhere or on another place. I can't find it.

If you're gonna be dumb, you gatta be tough. --Roger Alan Wade

The list referred to here is I believe from “Aboman’s Guide To Wilderness Schools and Primitive Events” This is Aboman’s first book. His second book was “Aboman’s Guide to Survival & Self-Reliance: Practical Skills for Interesting Times.”

Both books are available through Amazon and while I do not have the first one I do have the second and found it to be well written as expected and informative. Unfortunately it was not written in Abo speech! That would have made it a riot and very unique.

Hope that helps

It is always good to use caution when useing second hand information, and some great points were made. As an avid reader of countless manuals, history and for lack of a better term how to books, you have to keep in mind that the author is not necessary an expert on the subject he or she is writing about.

I will use history as one example. How many times have you read a book over the last ten years where the author took it upon their self to change our history or distort what occurred? The same is true for authors on other subjects. They distort the truth or just repackage what someone else has previously written and have no first hand information on how something works and have never put it through a field test on their own. Or the test is done in a laboratory perfect environment, and would not work as advertised in a field situation. Or through mondern reasearch what they have been teaching was found to be hazdarous or deemed unnessary.

In law enforcement I do not know how may classes I have been forced to attended (mandatory training) being taught by so called experts, who were published on a particular subject, who when questioned about their role or experience in that area of expertise had never had any practical experience what so ever on the subject matter. Yet arrogantly stood in front of the class and told us how to do a job that we had been doing daily for years. But their superior intellect has given them the key to enlighten the poor ignorant masses.

I see this with weapons instructors all of the time, they do not carry a gun, they have never worked in an area where a gun is used, they have no first hand experience on what takes place in an armed encounter. Yet because they took some 8 hour instructors course they are experts. I will spare you the detail but a lot of these persons are actually recommending equipment and teaching habits that will get people injured and killed.

Some of the survival writers I have read and watched do the same, they are more interested in selling books or pushing a particular products or service then they are in reporting the truth. So to quote my favorite Bible passage Acts 17:11 These were more noble (men) than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, (To find out) whether (What they were being told) those things were so.

There a lot of books out there that are entertaining, however they provide marginal, un-tested and some times information that is blatantly incorrect. So it is up to the individual to test the information and cross check what the author presents to see if the information is accurate, and works as presented. What works in some areas may not work in others, because of avalable materials, moisture conditions, etc. Look at poor Lewis and Clark and their foldable boat. It's use was based on their ability to make tar from Pine sap, when they arived at a point where it was to be put to work, their were no pine trees and it was later just sold for scrap. Good I dea! Bad Planning?

You must hone your skills based on your personnel abilities and experience. You do not want to be trying new things out when you life depends on it.

<img src='<#EMO_DIR#>/bash.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':bash:' />

Lewiss and Clark Folding Boat sold for scrap??

First time I ever heard that. Don't think it's disposition is mentioned in the Journals.

I knew that it didn't work, for all the reasons you mentioned, and have discussed this boat with numerous people, none of whom knew the final disposition of the frame. Most just figgered that it was left "on the peraira" as useless excess weight. Which is what I thought, too.

Where'd you find out about the scap stuff, bro Steve?

Exciting news... <img src='<#EMO_DIR#>/smile.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt='Smile' />

Aboman gotta know...


Proverbs 21:19 -- God

Nuke the gay whales.-- Me

"Private ownership of Weaponrey is the Last Defense against All tyranny Foreign and Domestic" -- engraving seen on an antique powder horn
Lewis and Clark had a combination of family yard sale and government surplus auction.Their epic trip completed, and their crew disbanding, Lewis and Clark decided to sell literally three boatloads of supplies and tools. Those lucky enough to attend a public sale in St. Louis sometime after September 23, 1806, walked off with goods today regarded as some of the most important artifacts in U.S. history.

Because the trip's goal was to locate an all-water route to the Pacific and to bring back examples of flora and fauna, maps, and Indian data from the unknown territory President Jefferson had just bought from Napoleon, this information was considered most important and worthy of saving, not the everyday items that made the journey possible. Virtually everything they took with them that is of interest to historians is gone.

Meriwether Lewis had been given a generous line of credit by Jefferson to purchase supplies; he felt obligated to reduce the debt by selling off the equipment and giving the government a check, which he did for $408.62. A seemingly small amount today, this was a considerable sum in 1806, giving more speculation to the quantity and quality of goods sold.

"This was a dreadful disgrace," wrote Stephen Ambrose about the auction in his 1996 best seller about the voyage, Undaunted Courage. "The artifacts should have been preserved in public museums rather than sold for a pittance. But apparently the captain had already intended to sell them at the value of their immediate utility rather than preserve them for museums." After two-and-a-half years in the wilderness, it's reasonable to assume that Lewis and Clark's priorities weren't museums, which probably didn't even exist then, but more likely a hot bath, a change of clothes, and a good meal.

Because St. Louis did not have a newspaper until 1808, there was no way in 1806 to publicize their auction, nor is there a copy of an advertisement or broadside listing items to be sold news of the auction was spread by word of mouth, and that it probably took place on the city dock.

For an expedition so significant in U.S. history, "there are precious few Lewis and Clark artifacts The explorers camped along rivers like the Missouri and Columbia, "they packed it in, and they packed it out." Now there are ongoing archaeology digs to locate the campsites, forts, and Indian villages mentioned in journals kept by the men.

In recent years, a branding iron marked "M. Lewis" was found in the Columbia River. Also, notes on the expedition written by William Clark were discovered in a Minnesota attic in the 1960's and they were going to throw them away it's very conceivable there are Lewis and Clark artifacts in attics and historical societies all over America." But even if one suspects a Lewis and Clark link, Duncan said, "there's the burden of proof showing provenance."

While many of the items may not carry any identifying information, the rifles probably did. Lewis had traveled to the government's arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia (now in West Virginia), to special order 15 flintlocks. But there is disagreement among collectors whether the rifles were the Model 1795 or the newly designed Model 1803. What is known is that they were .54 caliber, with barrels 33 inches long, and were similar to Kentucky rifles. They probably were labeled "Harpers Ferry." A pair of "horseman's pistols" mentioned by Lewis is believed to be model 1799 made by North & Cheney of Berlin, Connecticut.

Also on the voyage was a small bronze cannon mounted on a swivel and four flintlock blunderbusses. These were obtained in St. Louis. Their whereabouts is likewise unknown.

Other equipment packed for the expedition and possibly sold at auction were six copper kettles, ranging from one to five gallons in size; 25 falling axes; several pickaxes, adzes, and spades; 24 iron spoons; 24 pint tin cups without spoons; and leaden gunpowder canisters, and the folding boat. There were also knives, nails, chisels, and files. Also ordered from Harper's Ferry were 24 pipe tomahawks. How many of these items were lost, traded, or survived to be sold is unknown.

Lewis and Clark also buried several caches of goods near the rivers they traveled.

Today's highly collectible, engraved powder horns originated during the French and Indian War when soldiers combined idle time with creativity and fantasy. It is not improbable that some of the 20-plus members of Lewis and Clark's "Corps of Discovery" also personalized their horns and other property. Many books are available that provide the names of the crew.

A valuable member of the corps was George Drouillard. Also referred to in journals as Drewer and Drewyer, he was half-Canadian, half-Shawnee. His skill as an Indian interpreter, hunter, and woodsman proved vital to the success of the journey. Lewis later described him as "a man of much merit with an ardor which deserves the highest commendation."

Drouillard wrote many letters to his parents in Windsor, Canada. When they later moved to California, the box of letters and papers accompanied them. Drouillard lived only four more years before he was killed by Blackfeet Indians while on another expedition. The box of letters was passed down to relatives.

Author Charles G. Clarke, in his 1970 book The Men of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, writes that when conducting research he was contacted by someone who said Drouillard's box of papers and memoirs had been in a relative's rented storage unit in California until 1929. When the rent went unpaid, the contents disappeared.

The Items contiue to turn up and most are probably lost forever. Even my dear friend Ron, use to use Celluloid film from movies made in Hollywood in the teens and 20's to start fires when he was a child, that his granfather (one of the original set builders) had obtained from the early studios. Those films probably would be worth hundreds of thousands today. But at the time it was just old crap that got in the way and it burned "really Hot"


Many thanks, Steve.

All good info. I was familiar with much of it already, but haven't yet dove into Undaunted Courage. Is the sale of the boat frame for scrap specifically mentioned there, or is is referenced elsewhere?

I've read Clarke, as well as Tailor Made, Trail Worn by Moore and Haynes, Suicide or Murder? by Vardis Fisher, Feasting and Fasting With Lewis and Clark, by Holland, Sacajawea by Howard, Sacajawea by Waldo (a novel--with some outlandish suppositions, I might add. Waugh), ...Or Perish in the Attempt by --I forget who, From Sea to Shing Sea, by Thom, and of course the Journals, by Moulten, and deVoto. Started to read Sign Talker (another novel--about George Drouillard), by Thom, butt thought it was too PC, and did not reflect an accurate portrayal of Drouillard IMHO, painting him as an illiterate half-breed, who *just couldn't understand the ways of these foolish white men*. Not Drouillard as I came to know him through the Journals and elsewhere.


Thanks for the big response.

I'd still like to know tthe reference to the boat frame scrap sale, so I can tell my buddies.

Take care--out there in Nebrasky. <img src='<#EMO_DIR#>/biggrin.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt='Big Grin' />


Proverbs 21:19 -- God

Nuke the gay whales.-- Me

"Private ownership of Weaponrey is the Last Defense against All tyranny Foreign and Domestic" -- engraving seen on an antique powder horn
I will have to check I do not remember, if it said thae boat was sold as scrap or sold as a boat and ended up as scrap. But I will find out. In those days it was probably worrth more as a metal and in the area it was sold bots were not a problem to come by.
Awesome information Steve, thank you for the lesson!

I had not heard of the auction and while it is a disappointment from our perspective I can certainly see how at the time it was an appropriate, even honorable thing to do. Giving money back to a fledgling gov't = pretty cool in my book...not many instances of that spirit today <img src='<#EMO_DIR#>/biggrin.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt='Big Grin' />
Hope is for the lazy....

"Doing better next time. That's what life is." - The Bloody Nine

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