Top five field guides

Woodlore, wild food and mushroom foraging: bushcraft expert Andrew Price chooses his favourite guides for outdoor living. 

Photo: Jo Keeling

Photo: Jo Keeling

Camping and Woodcraft, Horace Kephart

First published in 1906, this ranks sixth among the 10 best selling sporting books of all time. Kephart was a librarian and woodsman who lived in the Great Smoky mountains of the USA, and spent most of his time living in the wild. Consequently, he became an expert on all aspects of life in the great outdoors. These 480 dog-eared pages have inspired and fuelled my interest in camping and wilderness living since I first discovered a copy in a village jumble sale at the age of 12. A must-have book for the library or backpack of every nostalgically-minded outdoorsman.

The Survival Handbook: A Practical Guide to Woodcraft and Woodlore, Ray Mears

This was Ray Mears' first book, written when the author was only 26 years old and published in 1990. In the pre-internet world, this book was groundbreaking, packed with thought-provoking ideas, ancient skills, and pictures of skinned rabbits. With it came a realisation that I was not alone, and there was at least one other person in the world whose idea of heaven was sleeping in a debris shelter in the woods. It was full of photographs, line drawings and excellent descriptions of the type of “Duffel” or equipment necessary to become a true wilderness adventurer. By comparison with his more recent publications it was rough and ready, experimental and lacking the sure-footedness of his more recent books. All factors that make it some of Ray’s best work in my opinion.

Wild Food, Roger Phillips

If I was asked to recommend one book for the first time (or experienced) forager it would be Wild Food by Roger Phillips. It's packed with full colour photographs and recipes featuring many of the UK’s wild edible plants and fungi. Unlike many field guides, he avoids over complication, and sticks with species that are easily identified. He also includes a selection of traditional recipes and folklore, as well as a few tried and tested concoctions of his own. Most of the plants featured in the book are actually good to eat, and turn a trip to the coast or local hedgerow into a gastronomic adventure.

River Cottage Handbook: Mushrooms, John Wright

There are a lot of excellent fungi identification guides out there, but most of them are more concerned more with scientific identification than culinary delights, and while I find Mycology a fascinating subject, my real passion is for finding things that are good to eat. John Wright’s book has an introduction by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, so it should come as no surprise to find that as well as providing a well-illustrated and comprehensive guide to edible (and not so edible) fungi, it also has a selection of recipes and advice for preparing them. It’s a well written and entertaining read, so definitely has a place in my foraging basket.

Mountaincraft and Leadership, Eric Langmuir

This book was first published in 1969, and has since undergone several amendments and reprints in order to keep the content up to date with the latest developments in equipment, techniques, and access legislation. It's a must-read for anyone with a serious interest in spending time in the hills and mountains, and particularly those who intend to lead other people into those environments. It's a comprehensive read, with chapters on navigation, hillwalking technique, camp craft and expeditions, food and nutrition, river crossings, mountain weather and meteorology, first aid, incident management and mountain rescue and so much more. I currently own a copy of the fourth edition, and would certainly consider it to be recommended reading for every outdoor instructor.


Andrew Price founded Dryad Bushcraft in the hope of inspiring others to learn to be comfortable with the outdoors through knowledge, rather than expensive equipment.