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Book Review:
The National Outdoor Leadership School's
Wilderness Guide

The Classic Handbook--Revised and Updated

by Alisha Larame
Reprinted from The Leader, Summer 1999.

"The Harvard of the wilderness schools" -- MONEY Magazine

A few years ago I got my hands on an old and well worn copy of the National Outdoor Leadership School's Wilderness Guide. My friend had lent me a copy of his "outdoor Bible," and as I idly flipped through the weathered pages, pressed lupines, owl and blue jay feathers, and an occasional squashed mosquito helped to bookmark a few of the chapters. I took his book into the Green Mountains in Vermont for a short hiking trip I did on the Long Trail.

I was curious to learn the "NOLS way." Having grown up in the outdoors exposed to many outdoor guide books there were still questions I had about various camping techniques, and Leave No Trace ethics. My curiosity was sated in the NOLS guide, but as the world turns and grows and the wilderness becomes more accessible, so does the need to change, adapt, and add to the "NOLS way." This is why Mark Harvey has just written a revised and updated version of the classic handbook, The National Outdoor Leadership School's Wilderness Guide.

The NOLS Wilderness Guide is helpful for a variety of folks, from the novice weekend warrior to the experienced expeditioner. Both ends of the spectrum and everyone in between are heading into the wilderness with similar desires, and are abandoning their daily comforts to learn from the wilds what modern amenities cannot provide. Harvey's systematic layout of the NOLS guide is broken down into 11 chapters. Harvey explores information every camper must know like expedition planning, equipment, how to dress, and cooking in the backcountry. For those outdoor enthusiasts wishing to go on longer treks, there are chapters on emergency procedures, maps and compasses, and weather. Of course this book would not be complete without a chapter on leadership and expedition behavior, as well as proper Leave No Trace camping techniques, with recently revised LNT principles.

With a melange of Harvey's personal outdoor experience combined with other instructor anecdotes the book has a personal touch and is enjoyable to read. The book also includes an abundance of great photographs, creative illustrations, and helpful lists. There are several interviews throughout on such people as John Roskelley, one of America's most successful mountaineers, and Pamela Eaton, regional director of the Four Corners states for the Wilderness Society.

This guide is a must for all outdoor enthusiasts who are serious about knowing or improving upon outdoor skills. Presented in easy-to-understand lists, the guide outlines such things as: the staple food pie chart used to prepare every ration on a NOLS course, proper river crossing techniques, a personal list from Buck's First Aid Kit (Buck Tilton, co-founder of the Wilderness Medicine Institute), and the complete NOLS expedition equipment list.

The Wilderness Guide has become one of the quintessential pieces of outdoor gear. It is a more thorough version of the Wilderness Educators Notebook, which is the text that every NOLS instructor receives following their instructor course. According to Harvey, "the purpose of this book is really not to answer the 'why' but rather to help with the 'how.' In this book we try to teach techniques that will make your trips more enjoyable, safer, more efficient, and yes, more stylish."


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