None of these is videos are going to win any Academy Awards. However, they do
serve adequately to illustrate various survival techniques, many of which are easier to
demonstrate on video than to explain in text and graphics.
A video is no substitute for practical experience. Better by
far to enroll in a survival
course or otherwise gain some hands-on practical wilderness
experience. These videos are
also no substitute for reading up on the subject, as much as you
can. A picture may be
worth a thousand words, but no affordable video can possibly
cover all the intricacies and
material that can be found in a comprehensive book. However,
lacking practical experience,
any of these videos will give you an advantage over just reading
a book. An advantage that
could mean the difference between death and survival.
|| Medicine For The Outdoors -
to Emergency Medical Procedures and First Aid |
Paul S. Auerbach, M.D., Produced
minutes, Split Image Productions Productions,
Pretty good professional production. Some overt commercial
mention of specific
products, but not so much as to be terribly offensive. Most
common first aid procedures
demonstrated and common wilderness medical problems discussed,
albeit not in great detail.
A good adjutant to the wilderness medical
|| Bushcraft.se - Swedish Wilderness Survival Project|
Michel Blomgren is creating an excellent series of FREE downloadable wilderness survival videos and related information. Some are sub-titled, but the latest are in English. Good, solid information and generally above average production values. The presentation is oriented towards his native Swedish cold weather and forest environment, but most of the information is relevant regardless of your survival circumstances. His "SURVIVAL: Episode 1 - Five Points of Survival" is a very good introduction to the subject and the price is right.
|| Prepared To Survive - Essential Information for Every Outdoor Enthusiast (DVD)|
Produced 2005, 2 Disks, 174 minutes, Widescreen, LifeView Outdoors, $35
Disclaimer: Doug Ritter, editor of this Web site and reviewer of this DVD, received a modest honorarium to appear on this DVD, but receives no income from the sale of the DVD. The Equipped To Survive Foundation receives a donation from each sale direct from the publisher (link below).
For the novice with little or no wilderness survival knowledge or actual field experience, this is a very good DVD (video), providing an excellent introduction to survival. Host Gretchen Cordy, a former Air Force survival instructor and participant in the original "Survivor" TV show (try not to hold that against her), gets the basics of wilderness survival across in an effective manner. The production quality is first rate and heads above most other survival videos. With nearly three hours of video, there's a lot of useful information, but it is a shallow treatment of the subject aimed at the beginner. As you'd expect from a presentation aimed at the novice, those with a modicum of experience in this field are unlikely to find anything new or any unique tips here.
The introduction, which features Cordy, Doug Ritter, editor of this Web site, respected wilderness medicine authority Buck Tilton and Rich Johnson, a survival instructor, is a pretty extensive review of the fundamental concerns that a person faces in a survival situation. It effectively drives home the important points from various perspectives, the advantage of having multiple experts involved.
From there it goes into practical survival techniques, such as shelter building and fire making, as well as a discussion of survival kits and equipment, mostly presented by Cordy. Nothing fancy here, this is just the most basic skills and information for the most part. The setting is a temperate forest and little or no time is spent on any other environment, but the basics of survival are essentially the same, no matter where you are. The instructional portions are clear and easy to follow. Being a DVD, you can skip to exactly the parts you are interested in and easily review material, which is an advantage over straight video.
Even though there are a few minor things in this video that I might approach differently, there's nothing in here that will kill you, unlike some survival videos (that's actually quite a compliment, truth be told). The skills illustrated and the advice provided will work very well for the novice at whom this video is aimed, or just about anyone who wants to brush up on their survival education. Anyone who views this DVD and abides by the lessons and advice is going to be well prepared for most temperate climate survival situations, which is the whole point. Response from those who have purchased this video has been very positive, an indication of how much better than most it is.
The Prepared to Survive DVD has received a Gold Aurora Award and a Silver Telly Award (their highest honor).
|| Preparing To Survive with Peter Kummerfeldt|
Produced 1999, 90 minutes, Bow Hunter Education Foundation and Wildtrack (available from OutdoorSafe), $30
Peter Kummerfelt of OutdoorSafe covers all the critical basics of survival and survival equipment. The instruction provided is clear and easy to follow, nothing fancy or complicated, and it is a good introduction for the novice. Techniques demonstrated are simple and practical, exactly what is needed the most in a stressful situation. It is always a pleasure to learn something new and that isn't all that common in these videos that generally go over well traveled ground, but I did pick up a couple good tips.
Since Peter's equipment and basic survival kit advice pretty much aligns with what you will find on this site, I am naturally comfortable with his recommendations for the most part. While I could pick nits about some of his suggestions for particular equipment, mostly the result of new gear available or new knowledge since this video was produced (some of the information on particular products he mentions and endorses is dated, as is some information on water treatment) by and large he provides solid equipment advice, better than most. His demonstration of the drawbacks of Mylar Space Blankets, one of my pet peeves, gets the point across nicely. I'd have much preferred that his demonstration of use of a lanyard on a pocket knife had been with one having a locking blade, setting a good example, or if Peter at least mentioned this as being a describable feature from the standpoint of safety and functionality, but this sequence does have value in demonstrating how to open one-handed a conventional folding knife that is not equipped with a one-hand opening blade, and there are unfortunately lots of knives with both deficiencies out there.
Peter calls Colorado home, and the Rockies in his figurative backyard make for a magnificent backdrop, but the focus is on survival in similar environments, the forested wilderness, there is virtually no coverage of other common environments, such as the desert. While many, if not most, survival concerns and techniques remain the same regardless of environment and by and large those shown will stand the viewer in good stead no matter what, this limitation should at least be mentioned on the package and promotional information, which it is not. This video was produced in part by the National Bowhunter Education Foundation and there are a few telltale mentions of hunting and related issues, but they are just barely noticeable and there is nothing graphic in this regard at all.
Production values are adequate. The pace drags at times and there are a few inconsistencies, but nothing that significantly detracts from the presentation, or are likely to even be noticed except by an expert or someone looking for them. All things considered, while it is probably time for an updated version, even as is this video is very much worth the price of admission.
Peter is also the author of "Surviving A Wilderness Emergency."
|| Stay Alive! A Guide To Survival In The Desert
Produced 1992, 65
minutes Westmoreland Productions,
For the novice with minimal or no experience in a wilderness environment, or for
someone just interested in the basics of survival, the Westmoreland "Stay Alive!" videos
make a good complement to any survival book or manual. They also include enough
information to serve adequately as a neophyte's introduction to the subject. Given their
generally good production quality, credible presentation and information and their very
reasonable cost, they are an excellent value. The "Mountain" version (below) is a somewhat better
presentation than the "Desert," not surprising since it was the second in the series.
Preston Westmoreland does a good solid job of presenting the basics and demonstrating
techniques that are often difficult to envision from just reading about them. Given the low price and good quality, they are an excellent value.
|| Stay Alive! A Guide To Survival In
Produced 1993, 90
minutes Westmoreland Productions,
- #1 - Sheltering and Fire
- #2 - Food Procurement
- #3 - Tools and Improvised Materials
- #4 - Signaling, Orienteering and Your Environment.
60 minutes each,
World Survival Institute (WSI), (No Longer Available from the source)
The WSI videos with Chris Janowsky (RIP - 2006) go into
considerable depth on the subjects covered, but are not very polished or professional
productions. However, they can be "survived," and there is a lot of knowledge to be gained.
They deal primarily from the vantage point of the mountain/forest/arctic environment, though
of course, the basics of survival remain the same, no matter what the climate. Whether they
are worth the not insignificant expense is another question entirely and probably depends on
your depth of experience and interest.
The novice on a limited budget would do better to read the books, get one of the
Westmoreland videos and/or some of the Woodsmaster videos and spend the extra money on more
or better equipment. From a practical standpoint, the other videos offer you a far better value
and are a lot more enjoyable to watch. For those seriously interested in the subject, the WSI
videos do provide a rich resource, though the cost is still quite high for the production
quality, in my opinion. It was easier to rationalize the cost when these were the only game
in town, but that is changing and it's much harder to stomach now.
Of the four, "#1 - Sheltering and Fire," is the best and most useful, closely
followed by "#4 - Signaling, Orienteering and Your Environment." The other two are
not quite as useful for someone interested in the basics, going into areas and depths of more
interest to the serious survival types.
|NOTE: I am often asked why we don't have reviews of the many videos produced by Hoods Woods since these early ones below were made. Unfortunately, they took exception to some of my comments about production values, claimed they cost them sales and difficulties, and have declined to provide any more videos for review. Despite reports that later videos exhibit much improved production values, we are not able to offer our evaluation without videos to review and we do not have the resources to purchase the videos. We would be happy to accept tax-deductable donations for this purpose, either of funds or videos.|
|| The Woodsmaster Series: Volume
1 - Spark Based Firemaking|
Produced 1996, 58
minutes, Hoods Woods Wilderness Video
The first video in this new "Woodsmaster" series by Ron Hood, of Hoods Woods, it shows some typical first time
production lapses, but is generally well done. When we speak of "spark based firemaking"
most of us aren't talking about fire bows, which use friction to create a hot "coal," a major
topic of this video, so the title is not entirely apropos. Nevertheless, we'll cut Ron quite a
bit of slack because he does an excellent job of teaching how to make and use a fire bow,
including a few tricks that most don't cover. If you can't produce an effective fire bow after
viewing this video, it sure isn't his fault. A wry sense of humor helps get across the
patience this method requires and the difficulties that often occur.
Ron does eventually get around to covering both traditional and modern "spark based
firemaking," doing a good job of demonstrating various equipment and techniques. Along
the way he imparts some solid wisdom and tips about making fires, using knives in a
survival situation and numerous other field tips and tricks. The only significant shortcoming
is Ron's failure to discuss and demonstrate a greater variety of natural tinders and discuss the
gathering of fuel for the fire, both essential parts of survival firemaking. Overall, however, it
is a good video on survival firemaking and would make a good tutorial for anyone looking to
expand or refine their firemaking skills. It is a good value. (Note, if purchased in
combination with the other videos in this series, only a single S&H charge of $4.50 is
|| The Woodsmaster Series: Volume 2 -
Principles of Outdoor Survival Shelters|
Produced 1996, 62
minutes, Hoods Woods Wilderness Video
Shelter is generally critical in a survival situation and Ron Hood of Hoods Woods gets that message across early on. This
video doesn't seem to flow as well as the others in this series, but there is some great
information here, ably, if not elegantly, presented. Ron's excellent demonstration of a fire
bed is well worth the price of admission alone. It is one of the best techniques available for
ensuring a warm night's sleep in chilly conditions and he covers all the important basics and
adds his own tips and tricks as well.
This video deals primarily with shelter in a temperate mountain and forest
environment. There's nothing wrong with that, it just isn't clear from the title or
promotional materials. While much of the information Ron passes along is relevant to any
survival situation, this isn't the video to learn how to make shelters specifically for a desert,
jungle or snowbound environment.
The basics of selecting a good shelter site are well covered. As in his other videos,
Ron teaches a few other useful tricks for wilderness living along the way. Overall, this
video is the weakest of the first three, in terms of production values, organization and
content, but there is still plenty of worthwhile material that serves to make it a reasonable
value. (Note, if purchased in combination with the other videos in this series, only a single
S&H charge of $4.50 is charged)
|| The Woodsmaster Series: Volume 3 -
Making and Using Your Outdoor Survival Kit|
Produced 1996, 96
minutes, Hoods Woods Wilderness Video
Ron Hood of Hoods Woods does a pretty
respectable job of presenting the basics of assembling a survival kit and the rudiments of how
to use the stuff in it. Both a "Mini Kit" (what I call "personal") and "Maxi Kit"(larger,
knapsack size) are covered, both focused on the fundamentals. Ron demonstrates some
interesting "tricks" that will help get you thinking, always a good thing in a survival video.
Since much of his presentation follows along lines similar to the recommendations you'll find
on the ETS Web site, I naturally pretty much like what I saw. I might quibble with a few
things, but overall, they are not grievous errors or omissions and more a matter of style
than substance. His visual demonstrations complement the information on survival
equipment and kits found on this ETS Web site, making for an unbeatable combination.
This is the third video in this series and the Hoods have learned a lot about producing
videos in the past year. The production values are significantly improved and reasonably
professional, generally well done, though still not up to Hollywood standards. Ron's
experience as an instructor is most evident in this video, his engaging style helps hold your
attention. While an hour and a half is a long instructional video to sit
through in one sitting, and it could have been done in less time with some careful rewriting
and post-production work, it isn't unreasonably long, and you can easily view part of it at a
time with no reduction in benefit. This video comes closest to being a basic introduction to
wilderness survival of all the Hood videos so far and it's the one to buy if you're only
buying one. Given the low price, it is an excellent value. (Note, if purchased in combination
with the other videos in this series, only a single S&H charge of $4.50 is charged)
|| The Woodsmaster Series: Volume 4 -
Primitive Navigation and Wilderness Travel|
Produced 1997, 84
minutes, Hoods Woods Wilderness Video
The production values of these videos improve with each one and Karen Hood's greater experience behind the camera shows, making this the easiest one yet to view. Ron Hood of Hoods Woods does a good job explaining some of the fundamentals of primitive navigation without a compass. I would have preferred to see more on the practical aspects of applying the knowledge Ron shows us how to gain using these methods, but overall, the information in this video will stand a survivor in good stead.
Covered are such important techniques as the shadow stick and shadowless stick compass, making a pocket size Ottoman Sun Compass and using a watch as a sun compass. Celestial navigation is also covered and effective use is made of a night vision scope to show the actual night sky. Ron shows how to use the more accurate celestial compass.
Travel tips include the essential Predominant Object method to mark your trail and keep from getting lost and the critical need to stop and look back the way you came on a regular basis. The most efficient means of walking in the open, the "lock step" or "plainsman's stride" is demonstrated, as is the effectiveness and safety of using a walking stick. The importance of pacing oneself by heart rate and how to take a proper rest are also covered. These latter are topics that are to often given short shift by many instructors. Ron also presents a unique method of determining proper hydration.
Along the way, Ron also demonstrates basic knapping, making an obsidian arrowhead as an example, along with how to affix the arrowhead to a shaft. The "head hole" is also presented as a means of staying warm over night.
As with the previous videos, there is a plethora of useful information and Ron does an excellent job presenting it in a generally understandable fashion. The information contained in this video will go a long way towards keeping a survivor "found," as opposed to getting lost. Given the low price, it is an excellent value. (Note, if purchased in combination with the other videos in this series, only a single S&H charge of $4.50 is charged)
|| The Woodsmaster Series: Volume 5 -
Traps And Trapping|
Produced 1997, 88
minutes, Hoods Woods Wilderness Video
There are more ways to make animal traps than you can imagine. When it comes to techniques, the situation isn't any better. Any basic instruction in making and using traps has got to be well defined or it ends up more confusing that helpful. Ron Hood of Hoods Woods does a decent job breaking traps down into two basic kinds and then demonstrating a few of the most basic traps and how to use them, building blocks upon which a survivor can improvise. This video meanders of a bit on occasion and there are a couple rough spots in the production, sound that isn't a clear as it could be, but the strength of the material presented makes that far less annoying than it might otherwise be.
Ron breaks traps down into two primary types, "holding" and "machine." The former is self-explanatory, the latter are traps which actively engage and/or kill the trapped animal. He demonstrates making and setting a variety of both types, with enough close-ups and detailed discussion to allow even a novice to make and properly set one of his traps.
Video has a some major advantages over books in teaching trap making, and Ron takes advantage of the medium. While constructing basic traps isn't all that difficult, what cannot be brought forth in a book is the general difficulty that comes setting the traps and the danger that often accompanies that task. A trigger has to be light enough to be easily tripped and that can take some patience, which is well demonstrated. The video graphically shows the dangers involved, hopefully instilling in the viewer the proper respect for the potential for tragedy.
The video also graphically depicts the results of trapping, a dead animal, a couple marmots in this case. While not gruesome or bloody, some may find this portion disquieting, but it is important to recognize that traps are not toys and they kill. A warning is provided for those who might be squeamish and want to fast forward through these parts of the video.
As with his previous videos, there is plenty of additional useful information presented in the course of instruction. Ron does his usual excellent job getting the important information across. This video is a useful addition to the series. Given the low price, it is an excellent value.