Book Review – Wildwood Wisdom by Ellsworth Jaeger

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to camp the way our ancestors did?  Wondered how to portage a canoe?  Ever heard of making a spoon or bowl out of bark?  Did you know you can make a whole cooking kit entirely out of tin-cans?


Wildwood Wisdom was written by Ellworth Jaeger back in 1945 and showed how our ancestors in the 1800’s lived and camped.  I like this book for several reasons and if you’re an outdoorsman wondering how to not only survive, but thrive while in the woods with minimal gear, then this book is for you.

When I read the first paragraph of the book I knew I’d made a good choice in buying it:

“The myriad jingle-jangle gadgets of some of our modern outdoorsmen would make our ancestral buckskin men turn in their graves.  Their packs were light and their equipment meager, for these adventurous and picturesque wilderness men depended upon their skill and ingenuity in woodcraft rather than upon a lot of “things.””

Yeah, that’s for me.

These guys knew how to travel light and how to make things when they set up their camps at night.

I tried some of the stuff in the book like building a bed made of small limbs (works great) and a birch bark bowl.  Now these are cool skills that any woodsman should know how to do.  The book talks about nearly anything to do with the great outdoors that you can think of.

This is not a book that you read and then put back on the bookshelf.  This is one of those books that you take with you and use as a reference for years and years to come.  If I were to take four pieces of survival gear they would be:  a knife, firesteel, military grade poncho, and this book.  The first three will give fire, warmth and shelter, and the book will help you to provide everything else.

The drawings are plain and oddly stylized by our standards, but detailed enough that along with the description you can figure out what the author is trying to convey.  And there are plenty of illustrations to look at while you’re reading.

Here’s an example of how to make a crooked knife, which is kind of a one handed draw knife favored by the northern Indians and Eskimos:


By using the author’s description and this illustration you can easily figure out how to make the crooked knife.  Most of the instructions in the book are given this way and once you figure out the format you can quickly understand how to do exactly what he’s describing.

My son will get a copy when he’s old enough and I’m already looking forward to showing him how to do some of the things in this book .

If you’re an outdoorsman or are interested in any type of camping or survival I would highly recommend this book for your library.

-Jarhead Survivor