Book review: Outdoor Adventure Manual by The Scout Association

‘One touch of nature makes the whole world kin,’ wrote William Shakespeare.

By Pam Norfolk
Tuesday, 9th April 2013, 10:00 am
Outdoor Adventure Manual
Outdoor Adventure Manual

From the great bard to the more contemporary and much loved travel author Bill Bryson, writers and poets have found that the Great Outdoors has the power to lift our spirits and raise our aspirations.

And when it comes to outdoor skills, the Scouting movement is simply bursting with knowledge. For over 100 years, the most amazing skills have been passed from leader to leader, Scout to Scout, parents to children, but it rarely gets written down. Until now...

The Scouting Association, in conjunction with the ever-reliable Haynes publishing group, has gathered together the best outdoors people around to create the Outdoor Adventure Manual, a hands-on, inspirational guide to making the most of our extraordinary natural world, whatever the weather.

The Scouts have been camping, hiking, climbing and canoeing in every corner of the world and here they share their unparalleled store of experience on everything from how to rig a hammock and light a camp fire to creating a stove from a tin can and making rope from nettle stalks – yes, nettle stalks!

As Chief Scout, adventurer and TV presenter Bear Grylls wisely observes in his foreword to the book, ‘We have a lot to learn from Nature; its quiet strength in adversity, its instinctive sense of renewal and stoicism. I always find that something special happens when I step out into the open.’

The health benefits of spending time outdoors are also many and varied. Studies have shown patients recover more quickly if they have views of trees and grass, a simple walk in the countryside can relieve stress and depression, reduce blood pressure and cut the risk of heart disease and outdoor exercise is now routinely prescribed by doctors as the best medicine.

And in children, the results are even more pronounced. Outdoor exercise and games ensure a better night’s sleep, improve concentration and help promote teamwork, hand-eye co-ordination and social skills.

Founder of the Scouting movement, Robert Baden-Powell, put the outdoors as the heart of his scheme, saying ‘The open air is the real objective of Scouting and the key to its success.’

And while the range of scouting activities may have grown to include such improbable sports as zorbing and paragliding, the simple principle remains to encourage people to get outside, make friends and create their own adventures.

Featuring step-by-step guides to a range of key backwoods skills such as trekking, navigating, camping, fire lighting and cooking, backed by hundreds of colour photographs, this is the ultimate introduction to outdoor skills for families and anyone wanting to just ‘get out there.’

The manual kicks off with a brief history of the great outdoors and an introduction to Scouting before preparing us for the world around, its hills and mountains, woodlands and forests, heaths and moors, coastlines and riverbanks, and even a lesson on how to predict its changeable weather.

From there, outdoor enthusiasts, both new and seasoned, take a fascinating journey through the minefield of camping including choosing a tent, wild camping, shelters, planning and packing, the arts of navigation by using the sun and stars, maps, compasses and GPS and quite simply all you need to know about fires and fire lighting.

From there, we get a taste of food and cooking in the great outdoors from selecting wild plants, foraging and fishing to backwoods cooking and outdoor ovens. And when you have finished learning all there is to know about knots, there is an invaluable section on safety, first aid and dealing with emergency situations.

There are thousands of skills and tips here to help to make outdoor life easier so whether you fancy whitewater rafting or rambling in the hills, are running a youth group, planning a family outing to the Cotswolds or spending a month in Borneo, this wonderfully accessible and informative book is an invaluable guide.

And, as Bear Grylls so rightly points out, if you are truly enthusiastic about all things outdoors, why not visit your local Scout Group and learn the ropes... because they always need people like you!

(Haynes Publishing, hardback, £21.99)