A Full-Length Survival Guide In Your Pocket - Wilderness Preparedness

A Full-Length Survival Guide In Your Pocket - Wilderness Preparedness

How is the Tight Spot Real-Time Guide for Wilderness Survival unique?

I have been collecting wilderness survival stories, tips, skills, guides, instructions, experiences, case studies, best practices, strategies, failures, triumphs, and (most importantly) personal outdoor experience for over four decades. Along the way, I’ve also found many rumors, exaggerations, myths, assumptions, and too many tall tales to mention. Every wilderness survival resource is at least partially useful and many of them are at least generally educational. But unfortunately, too many have made me bury my face in my hands with concern for anyone who may try to apply some of the information that these resources recommend in a real tight spot.

With that context, I began to define and outline a purely practical new kind of survival guide specifically for getting out of a tight spot in real-time.

I started by creating a list of requirements for the ideal practical guide:

1. It must BE WITH YOU to be useful

I found a pattern in lost person case studies and countless reports from those who survived harrowing moments and days in the wilds (and I’m sure most of those who didn’t survive would agree) that in a tight spot, even a very experienced person can struggle with clarity of thought. Even the very basics can be forgotten or jumbled in the panic of a dangerous or potentially dangerous situation; add injuries to the mix and the situation can become dire very quickly.

It’s clear from the research that having a trusted source of emergency survival information, in the moment that you need it, could make all of the difference. The problem is that nearly all comprehensive survival guides are far too heavy and bulky to be brought on most outings like backpacking, outdoor sports, wilderness walks, and adventure travel, and they certainly can’t accompany us on every random exposure to the wilderness that we may have. Yet, so many survival situations happen in unexpected times and can occur anytime we explore, pass through, ride across, paddle on, fly over, or even skirt wilderness areas. Even small state parks have their share of lost person incidents.

Another factor I considered is that tight spots can often occur as a result of severe weather or in wet or snowy seasons where moisture is a consistent threat. A useful guide would have to be able to withstand the elements and be durable enough to go on many adventures.

From all of this, it was clear to me that my guide would have to be compact and lightweight enough to fit into a pocket, and it must be printed on a durable paper that is waterproof and tear-resistant.


Many "survival" guides dedicate space to bushcraft and long-term survival projects that are closer to homesteading than solving the most common life-threatening backcountry emergencies. What seemed to be most needed was a guide with a total focus on getting back to safety, one way or another, as soon and as safely as possible.

3. It must be ACCESSIBLE to many levels of experience

Many guides delve deep into specific topics that require previous experience or that assume a higher basic outdoor competence that many who have problems in the backcountry simply don’t have. In effect, that content is wasted and ineffective. In a survival situation, avoiding distracting time-consuming activities, particularly those that will most likely yield only a minor benefit (if any), can mean the difference between life and death, or at least risk further disorientation and/or calorie depletion.


I decided to throw out all other priority lists I had previously studied and approach the problem fresh, with no assumptions. I had to establish a survival priority sequence that applies to the most scenarios and situations, but doesn’t compromise real needs to do it.

This was the second hardest task of the project; to find a layout, design, and referencing system that was clear and flexible enough to present the specific steps that need to be taken for survival, and returning home, for the greatest variety of tight spot scenarios. A linear step-by-step real-time guide was what I realized was needed and that I then planned to create. Satisfying this motivation took more thinking and effort than all but one other aspect of the project (described in my last point below).

5. It must be REAL-TIME

It should only contain content that will be useful in the moment of difficulty. Preparation content is not only not useful, when the tight spot is already upon you, but adds unhelpful discouragement in the form of a reminder of what you SHOULD have done to avoid the situation you’re in and already seriously regret. There will be time for reviewing and then modifying your behavior for next time, but only if you have a next time. Getting you home to have the opportunity to better prepare for that next time is all that matters in a tight spot.


Many survival guides, books, articles, and courses conflict with each other on various aspects of survival. They may advise different steps at difference times, use contradictory methods, and even omit steps that can be critical in certain scenarios, leaving the reader to wonder what applies and when. Who is right? What really works? When should it be done? What is practical? What is missing for my situation? I set out to dig deep into a wide variety of real-world scenarios and case studies and have arrived at what I believe are the true best practices, with the least number of compromises.


Some tips are either obsolete, theoretical, or never worked in reality in the first place, yet they were perpetuated, reprinted, and copied from old survival manuals as filler, or as answers to situations for which the compilers didn’t have experience or knowledge. I got to the bottom of many of these myths, and either omitted them entirely, or incorporated the practical reality into mine.


My own personal observations and experience were corroborated by my research into case studies that the single most important beneficial factor in mortal struggles of every kind is a person’s determination to survive. This applies not only to wilderness survival but to serious illnesses and injuries, violent encounters, psychological trauma, etc.

The second common theme that unified a significant portion of survivors is the importance of having faith, not only in those who report you missing and those who are searching for you, but in God. Paired with my own affection for the principle of faith, I had to be certain to give appropriate and beneficial coverage in my guide to the importance and impact of the mental and spiritual aspects of survival. This content comes at the end of the guide, not to be seen as lower in priority, but as a reference that contextualizes, enlivens, and qualifies the whole work.

9. It must BE CONCISE, CLEAR, and relatively SIMPLE, yet remain COMPREHENSIVE for most situations

This was my most difficult task. Most works on the topic of wilderness survival include content (sometimes a lot of content) that isn’t directly related to the process of saving your life in an outdoor emergency. Paradoxically similar, too much of what is written directly for survival can be inadequate or unclear to follow in many real-world scenarios. Most of these experts know their stuff, but perhaps take too much for granted about what their readers actually know and understand about what to do and how. To avoid these issues, I approached this project with my sweet city-girl wife in mind. She loves nature, but has very little experience in wilderness know-how. Precise practical instructions are most needed, to be most useful, to the most people. I also approached the problem of being in a tight spot, lost and/or injured, with the search and rescue perspective in mind as well. By studying SAR procedures, search strategies, and best practices, I refined my instructions within the guide to help the reader take actions that align with those procedures so that you can more easily be found.


After more than a hundred revisions, with countless layout adjustments, reductions, distillations to get it all to fit and be clear and straightforward to read, the Tight Spot Real-Time Guide for Wilderness Survival is now available to be your trusted and constant companion in the outdoors.

I genuinely hope you never have a life-threatening situation in the outdoors where you will need it, and that it will just be peace of mind in your pocket. But if you do, I hope and pray that my guide will be just what you need to get home safely.

Larry L. Hanson

Back to blog