Survival means doing what you have to do in order to live and sometimes that means thinking smart rather than working hard… Chris Ryan
Published back in 2003 “Chris Ryan’s Ultimate Survival Guide” is a title that has sat on my bookshelf for a great number of years and one that I have referred to many times when brushing up on my bushcraft techniques.
Chris Ryan, for those of you who are unaware of him, is famous for his escape and evasion across the Iraqi desert during the first Gulf War. Chris was the only member of an eight-man SAS team to escape from Iraq after their patrol hit serious problems. Three patrol members were sadly killed and four captured (Andy McNab being one of them). It was the longest escape and evasion in the history of the SAS and a true feat of human endurance and for this he was awarded the Military Medal.
Chris Ryan joined the SAS in 1984 and during his ten years in the Regiment, he was involved in overt and covert operations and was also Sniper team commander of the anti-terrorist team. Ryan was involved in the legendary “selection” course for the last two years of his career in the Regiment. Chris left the SAS in 1994.
Hunting Chris Ryan
In 2003 Chris featured in the popular “Hunting Chris Ryan”, a documentary series produced by the BBC. It comprised three hour-long episodes, each pitting the SAS veteran against a four-man ‘Hunter Force’ whilst he completed a set objective, his mission being evasion and ultimately extraction once the objective was complete.
On the back of the series Chris wrote “Chris Ryan’s Ultimate Survival Guide”. In the book Chris shows readers what it takes to survive the most unforgiving territories on earth from the desert and rain forest to the tundra and urban survival.
No nonsense bushcraft
The book is written in the same straight forward style as Chris presented the documentary series, a style that I have found is common to most armed forces instructors. This makes the content easy to digest and enjoyable to read.
The book covers all the content you would expect from a title like this with particular focus being on adopting a positive mental attitude to survival. Chris shows how to keep a clear head, even when exhausted and malnourished and how to develop mental toughness by setting yourself goals.
Chris addresses the main threats to life, shares his expertise from the basics, to matters of life and death; how to find water, navigation, surviving injures, finding shelter, evading capture and what to do if you’re found. Pretty much the standard fare for a book on survival.
What makes this book stand out in my mind is that it actually features large colour photographs of Chris demonstrating the techniques he covers in the text. This is something I thought really made a difference to the book as you begin to get a feel for the way Chris acts in the field. Chris demonstrates slaughtering and a preparing a goat (not for the screamish), preparing game and constructing a makeshift backpack.
The photographs are accompanied by very well produced line illustrations which are all presented at good sizes throughout the book which is something I wish other authors and editors would take note of today.
What makes it a good book for bushcrafters?
“Chris Ryan’s Ultimate Survival Guide” is a book often overlooked by bushcraft practitioners due to it’s perceived military slant which I think is unfair. The military side of the book (escape and evasion etc) is actually only covered towards the end of the book and really it is just an overview of the what you should do in that situation.
The vast majority of the book is a goldmine of tips, advice and techniques from a man who really does know what it is to be pushed to the limits of survival. Overall, the book would be of great value for those with an interest in learning vital bushcraft and survival skills. The way that Chris presents the content is a great guide for anyone looking to teach others bushcraft skills in a clear and simple manner.
The title is now out of print but there are still plenty doing the rounds on eBay and Abe Books at very reasonable prices. This title has been of great use to me and my friends for years and I am happy to say that it can be considered to be Sumo Survival Approved!