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 with Rob Miskosky

Canadian Wilderness Survival

In my nearly 40 years of traipsing around in the wilds of Alberta, only once did I become lost to the point where I thought a night out in the bush was going to become a reality. Sure, on other occasions I’d been turned around, but I always managed to figure it out. This time, however, I was completely unsure of where I was. This was also at a time before we had devices like the GPS. Then, it was compass or bust. In my case, no compass either — let’s just say I wasn’t the fastest bullet in the box and like most young men in their early twenties, quite invincible; who needs a compass? As I said, not the fastest bullet in the box.

After several hours and many stumbling miles in the dark, I finally stopped, gathered the necessary wood for a night’s fire, poles and spruce boughs for a lean-to, and set about getting ready for a long night. I had a juice box, a granola bar and half a sandwich, so I wasn’t concerned about starving to death; at least not that night. I also carried with me several items that would ensure — at least I hoped — my survival.

Long story short, after setting up a camp, being stubborn, I decided I would walk for another hour. Sure enough, within that hour I stepped out onto a gravel road where I flagged down a water truck that was making a late run into a camp somewhere. The driver knew the area well and managed to get me within a mile of my parked truck, which was a heck of a long way from where I was. By this time, it was well past midnight and I was beat; my legs and feet were sore, and my pride had been challenged. After that experience, I never went hunting again without a lot more stuff in my backpack, including a compass.

I have never been one to write book reviews. In fact, since much of my job entails reading, seldom will I read outside of my work establishment, especially a 400-page book. But when Bruce Zawalsky stopped by my office and dropped off his book, which was then given to me, I decided I would at least thumb through it, as wilderness survival has always intrigued me. That night at home, 200 pages later, I was still reading.

Canadian Wilderness Survival is a fascinating book and according to well-known bushcraft and wilderness survival instructor, Mors Kochanski, “... I am impressed on a number of points. It deals with modern wilderness survival in an up-to-date, lively and easy to understand way.

“The text is supported by profuse colour photographs. There is a colour picture or diagram virtually at each turn of the page.

“Unique in my experience, supplementary online content is provided by URLs and QR codes for additional audio, video or online content.”

Indeed, there are numerous “Online Content” boxes placed strategically throughout the book that will lead the reader to additional instruction and information. As well, there are “Survival Tips” boxes that contain “short pieces of information that can save your life in a survival situation”, and many photos, making it easy to see what the author is referring to.

The book has been broken down into three sections, Part 1: The Science of Survival, Part 2: Learning the Right Skills, and Part 3: The Path to Survival. Each of these sections is broken further down into chapters. As an example, in individual chapters Part 3 covers Clothing and Sleeping Bags, Fire Lighting, Shelter Building, Emergency Signals and Wilderness Survival Equipment.

I spend many days alone each year in the Canadian wilderness while running my trapline. Often, I am many miles away from the comfort of my cabin and because of this I carry a survival backpack with me that I thought contained everything one could possibly need for a survival situation — boy, was I ever wrong! After reading Canadian Wilderness Survival, I have discarded items, added several new ones, and now feel much more comfortable with the knowledge gained from reading Bruce’s book. I highly recommend this book to every outdoorsman and woman that spends time in the wilds.

Bruce Zawalsky is the Chief Instructor at the Boreal Wilderness Institute ( You can find out more about Bruce’s book at ■

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