Between the Covers: ‘The Total Camping Manual’

Field & Stream recently released a new book, published by Weldon Owen, featuring “everything you need to know about” camping. Its author T. Edward Nickens is a 30-year veteran writer of the great outdoors, conservation and the sporting culture with many of the worlds most credible publications. Currently, he is editor-at-large for Field & Stream magazine, and writer of “The Total Camping Manual,” his sixth book.

This inviting tome features endearing family qualities of discussion on everything from where to go and what to bring for car camping to backpacking. The book is 297 pages long with specifically titled sections sequenced from 001 to 239 headed “Know Your National Public Lands” to “Plan Your Next Trip Now.”

Glossy photographs abound in this delightful, easy-to-read and well-organized study. Nickens provides essential information in the various sections titled “Where to Go,” “Gearing Up,” ”Essential Skills,” “Around the Campfire,” “Cooking,” “Family Camping” and “Out There.” The writer’s delivery is skilled and laid back with obvious knowledge of the topic. From the introduction of finding the perfect spot to planning the next trip, Nickens takes the reader on their own outdoor journey within the pages of his book.

One section on first aid includes help for pets who have skunk or porcupine encounters. Another section discusses various types of tents, their pros and cons and their specific uses, whether for short-term, long-term, car camping, or backpacking. The author uses the term “anatomy” for a variety of items mostly essential for camping or hiking, including section 055 “Anatomy of a Hiking Boot,” 062 “Anatomy of a Trekking Pole,” 077 “Anatomy of a Fixed-Blade Knife” and 078 “Anatomy of a Folding Knife.” An entire section of the book illustrates how to properly throw a knife, a must-have skill in case of trouble with critters. html

The study of essential camping equipment doesn’t end there. In section 099 Nickens teaches how to dry a pair of wet boots with a hot rock; in section 095 he provides the ultimate packing list; in section 127 he lists the survival kit for a backcountry trip; and in section 128 he gets down to business in the survival kit for “The Truck Chest.”

Nickens devotes several pages to building various types of fires for a variety of weather or situations, including building an all-night fire, a trench fire (protected from the wind), a tarp fire (when it’s raining) and a platform fire (when there’s snow). He includes making tinder from pencil shavings, making waterproof matches and even constructing an easy-starting fire with duct tape.

In section 079, “Get the Point,” Nickens goes into detail about the shape of a knife blade and how it determines how well a knife will perform specific tasks. The headings on his chart for this section on knives includes “Profile,” “Characteristics,” “Best For,” “Pros” and “Cons.” The author is nothing if not inclusive.

Several sections highlight different knots, including the taut-line hitch, double fisherman’s knot, the trucker’s hitch and the clove hitch. Another section 122 describes how to “read a top map (even the digital kind).”

There is a slight difference between this writer and Nickens, however, when he talks about not allowing the ruts in the road to turn you back. In glancing at the photograph of the author’s vehicle (I presume that is his), one notices the external snorkel on the vehicle, usually used for traversing in deep water. Since most vehicles are not equipped with such an extravagant accessory, the idea of ​​not allowing certain road conditions to turn you back seems suspect. Not all vehicles or drivers are constructed the same.

Section 123 “Rock the Ruts” does tell the reader how to navigate rutted roads. Following that, section 124 tells the potential participant to “slowly dash through the snow.” Section 125 “Make it Through the Muck” presents the undoubted idea that “not every perfect campsite lies at the end of a well-groomed road,” but be sure to know your vehicle and the driver’s capacity for using it safely and successfully. And never totally trust any GPS without first making sure you have an alternative plan. More than one sad story has been recorded of people following a GPS to their demise.

Section 183, “Forage for a Feast,” provides the reader with a selection of wild foods that could be gathered in the event of need. This writer, however, would be very cautious about eating wild mushrooms and certain berries. Be aware that deer also forage and, unbeknownst to most people, they leave saliva behind that could carry a parasite infectious to humans.

The section on cooking includes a 10-minute backpacker’s meal, cooking on a rock and cooking a brownie in an orange. Sections 172 and 173, “Cook Biscuits in the Fire” and Cook Biscuits on a Stick,” respectively, provide step-by-step instructions on “how-to.” Toasting the perfect s’mores and taking s’mores to the next level also highlight the chapter on cooking, which includes recipes for “vacuum bottle vittles,” baking beans in a hole in the ground and cooking on a rock.

In a few words, “The Total Camping Manual” is the book every camper needs to prepare and make for a highly successful, safe and delicious outdoor experience for the entire family. Of course, as with any potential liability, the book provides a complete disclaimer at the back. It states, “While every skill in this book has been fact-checked and field-tested, the publisher makes no warranty, express or implied, that the information is appropriate for every individual, situation or purpose and assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions . The information in this book is presented for entertainment value only, for an adult audience. before attempting any new activity, make sure you are aware of your own limitations and have adequately researched all applicable risk; this book is not intended to replace professional advice from an experienced outdoor guide.”

The disclaimer goes on to say to heed manufacturer’s instructions when using equipment and that the camper “assumes the risk and full responsibility for all of your actions and the publishers will not be held responsible for any loss or damage of any sort, whether consequential, incidental , special, or otherwise that may result from the information presented.”

“The Total Camping Manual” can be purchased on for $29.99. This particular book would make a great gift for the camper or outdoors lover in anyone’s life.

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