The Lost Ways is a survival handbook by Claude Davis that explores survival techniques within the context of North America and through the lenses of both Native Americans and American pioneers.
Davis contends that the best knowledge on how to survive an apocalypse is found in our past. American pioneers often arrived with few resources and literally had to live off the land in order to survive.
In this Lost Ways review, I will discuss the content found in the book and examine the style of the author in the hopes of providing you a feel for whether or not this book is a good read for you.
The Lost Ways – Everything You Need to Know
Lost ways refer to knowledge that was widely known among Americans in the 18th century. These skills were passed down from father to son and from mother to daughter even into the 19th century. But then industrialization occurred and many of these hard-earned abilities began to fall into obscurity.
However, if tomorrow you were cut off from electricity, groceries, a smartphone and so forth, that knowledge that our American ancestors had earned would once again be invaluable.
The Lost Ways is a dense book with more than 300 pages and a substantial amount of information. It is also worth noting that this is not a book written by a single author but rather a compilation written by numerous authors with specialized skills that allow for real insight into many of the topics discussed.
About the Authors
Claude Davis is a survivalist who has written a number of books on survival and often with a focus on the survival techniques used by American pioneers and Native Americans. He wrote the foreword for The Lost Ways, was responsible for compiling and editing the book and continues to update it.
The Lost Ways e-book was written by 16 authors altogether including Davis, and it is impossible to provide about information for all of them. For some of the authors, only a first initial and a last name are provided: G. Arminius, S. Patrick, M. Richard, M. Searson, M. Taylor, P. Vlad and S. Walter. For some others, it is unclear how they actually contributed, such as Fergus Mason and Jimmy Neil.
The other authors include:
- Shannon Azares: an expert on how 17th-century sailors preserved water supplies.
- Erik Bainbridge: a Native American skilled in building subterranean roundhouses and root cellars.
- Theresa Anne DeMario: a specialist in wildcraft, which is a particular kind of foraging.
- Susan Morrow: a UK-based chemist who writes the medicinal aspects of the book.
- Lex Rooker: a survival author who specializes in creating nutritionally complete foods.
- James Walton: an expert on self-feeding fires and 18th-century recipes.
The Contents of Your Lost Ways Purchase
When you purchase The Lost Ways, you will receive four e-books, which are provided in PDF format. The online retailer that facilitates the purchase will send you a link to the download. It is recommended that you save this link. It will allow you to download the four e-books again in the future. If the books get updated in the future, which happens quite a bit with the main book, the link will point to the most current edition. The link also makes it easy to download the book onto multiple devices.
1. What Every Survivalist Should Grow in His Backyard
This is a 52-page e-book written by Claude Davis, and the focus of the guide is the vegetables and other plants that you should be growing in your garden today in order to be prepared to survive in the future. Some plants are included for their nutritional value, such as broccoli, or to provide juice, such as the prickly pear cactus, and other still are include for medicinal reasons, such as chickweed. What they all have in common is that they are native and easy to continue growing in a survival scenario.
2. How to Outlive an EMP the Early Pioneer Way
This is a 66-page e-book written by Claude Davis, and it covers a lot of the same information you will find in The Lost Ways. However, what makes it unique is that it views that knowledge through the lens of an EMP disaster. In addition, it outlines a day-by-day plan on how to survive. Day one involves your initial emergency procedures. Day three will have you finding and preserving a water source. You will finalize your root cellar on day 29 and formulate your long-term survival plan on the 30th and final day.
3. Building Your Own Can Rotation System
Canning is essential to long-term survival and something that you should be doing now in preparation for the future. Rotation is essential to effective canning because it ensures that you are eating foods before they expire. In this book, author Claude Davis provides you a step-by-step guide to building an affordable can rotation system that will automate the process for you. This eliminates all the hassle of dating lids and ensuring that the jar you pull from storage is the oldest one in the collection.
The Lost Ways – The Main E-Book
The Lost Ways is a 304-page e-book. It has been updated numerous times. The most recent publication at the time I read the book and wrote this review was version 10 of the fourth edition. This is why you may find older reviews refer to a different page count or not reference a particular chapter.
The book begins with Claude Davis discussing his life. His parents were old when they had him but his grandparents were still alive. They were born in the 1800s, had grown up in a rural area and were part of a family that was still passing down survival skills from the pioneers. They passed some of these skills down to Davis, and that tradition really shaped the man that he would become.
The Lost Ways is a survival handbook and is set up so that you can use it as a reference guide. While many of the survival techniques apply to anywhere, there is a particular focus on North America. In addition, it emphasizes how American pioneers and Native Americans did things. These are not the only techniques that will work, but they are sustainable based on the resources you have available.
It is also worth noting that there is a sentiment throughout the book that the simpler life of the American pioneer is the superior life. Davis and many of the other authors involved in composing this book choose to live that off-the-grid lifestyle. Some readers may find this sentiment off-putting at times. I know that I certainly did, but it was easy enough to ignore for the most part, and at no point did I feel that the perceived pretentiousness actually undermined the wealth of information in the book.
The Lost Ways Breakdown
In the sections that follow, I will break down what I think are the main components of the book. Two of the most common questions I encountered in making this review are does The Lost Ways work and is the Claude Davis book a scam. Providing you a sense of what you will find in the book will show you that it is certainly not a scam and that it absolutely can work if you are willing to put the effort in.
I will try to remain as objective as possible about the various sections, and after that, then I will go into the more subjective aspects, such as I what I liked about The Lost Ways and what I did not. Be aware that the sections discussed here do not represent the entire guide. This is a massive book with more than two dozen major sections, and covering them all would simply make this lost ways review too long.
– The Self-Feeding Fire
How the Early Pioneers Built the Self-Feeding Fire is written by James Walton. It is one of the earliest sections in the book and discusses how the American pioneers developed a self-feeding fire that did not require tending and could keep them warm at night as they slept. The basic concept is that there are two simple racks on either side of the fire, which is inset into the ground. Along both racks, logs and kindling are stacked in a V-shaped design in a single layer. As the core fire burns, that wood eventually crumbles into ash, and the stacked logs roll into the fire as soon as there is enough space to do so.
In a survival scenario, this structure can be quite large in order to hold as many as a dozen logs on a side, which would provide well more than enough to get through the night. I actually made a much smaller version with only four logs on each side, which was more than enough for me and my brother-in-law to enjoy a few beers outside on a cold January night. I like a backyard fire I can tend, but this is a skill I can definitely see putting to use while camping or if I ever find myself in an actual survival scenario.
– 18th Century Pioneer Recipes
Lost Pioneer Recipes From the 18th Century is also written by James Walton. The entire conceit behind this section is that our modern ways of cooking have been shaped by our ability to get anything we need from our local grocery. But what would you do if you no longer had that resource? Simple things you take for granted like salt and pepper may not even be available. Walton provides recipes that are simple but delicious and take advantage of the natural resources that are common in America.
Walton provides about three dozen recipes overall. Most are vegetarian dishes that can be made just by foraging. If you are able to hunt or trap, the author provides some meat-based recipes as well. The author also discusses pemmican, a superfood that is simple to create and that can sustain you. Finally, he provides 10 recipes involving cattails, which is an abundant plant throughout America.
– Making Beer and Moonshine
Making Your Own Beverages: Beer to the Stronger Stuff is written by chemist Susan Morrow. Alcohol in moderation is a great resource. It has medicinal purposes. It can even hydrate you if you stick to a lower alcohol by volume percentage. Of course, it can also get you a wee bit tipsy, which has benefits as well. You have probably heard stories about people in the Middle Ages drinking beer because they lacked access to uncontaminated water, but those stories are untrue and should be unheeded.
Morrow begins with the most basic of beer recipes and how to construct a basic beermaking setup. She takes you through creating the malt, making the yeast and so forth. The author also discusses how to make beer without hops, which is something you may need to do in a survival scenario. This section then discusses how to set up a basic alembic still and make moonshine and even provides schematics.
The author recommends acquiring some of this equipment in advance and adding it to your survival gear if you want the option to make beer right away. A hydrometer, for instance, would be invaluable. You can certainly make beer without it, but you would have no way to determine density and thus alcohol content. That would result in a lot of trial and error before you got your method down.
– Natural Medicines and Herbal Poultices
The Lost Ways features a big section on natural medicine but also a number of subsections. In the section about cooking with cattails, for instance, the author discusses how you can use the pollen as a diuretic and a hemostat and how you can make an astringent lotion for burns and abrasions. The roots can be used to treat insect bites, and fresh crushed root can be used to treat infections, such as in cuts.
The wildcraft section goes into great detail about wild lettuce, which is an effective painkiller. I had previously mentioned that beer and other alcohol can be used for medicinal purposes. The book contains entire sections on creating poultices with various bases, including bread, milk and pumpkin. It then continues with how to make poultices for various afflictions, such as creating poultices to soothe stomachaches, reduce muscle pain, treat congestion, relieve a headache, treat abscesses and so forth.
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– Making Candles, Glue and Soap
These are two distinct sections of the book but thematically similar, so I will feature them together. While none of these items are essential to survival, there is little doubt that having access to them would greatly increase your quality of life. That said, most people—myself included—would have no clue how to go about making them especially if you had to do it with just natural resources.
How Our Ancestors Made Candles and Glue Out of Pine Resin is a section by G. Arminius that provides a wealth of information about the many ways that you can use pine resin. In addition to making candles and glue, you can use it to treat wounds, start a fire and create a waterproof sealant. The author teaches the reader to tap a pine tree in a sustainable manner, how to melt and filter the resin and, finally, how to make candles, glue and a wide range of other useful materials for survival.
Learning From Our Ancestors How to Take Care of Our Hygiene When There Isn’t Anything to Buy is the longest section title in the book and another chapter written by chemist Morrow. The author teaches you how to make a soap in the traditional American pioneer way using wood ash, which you should have in abundance in a real survival scenario. She also covers making more advanced soaps when you get access to the harder-to-find materials. The section then covers making medicinal soap for various purposes and creating your own toothpaste in order to keep your teeth clean and breath fresh.
– Root Cellars
Our Ancestors’ Guide to Root Cellars is a massive section of the book written by Theresa Anne DeMario. The author makes a strong argument that root cellars are not just for the apocalypse but should be built right now in order to free up space and even reduce your cost of living. If you have a summer garden or make trips to farmers’ markets, you can really put a root cellar to great use.
DeMario discusses the history of root cellars. She then explores choosing the right location and how to adapt a root cellar to your particular climate. Those in colder states, for instance, may need to insulate their root cellars whereas people in warmer climates will not. The author examines what you should keep in your root cellar but also where you should keep it and how to optimize the space. She considers lighting, humidity, dirt, pests, standing water, condensation, ventilation, buried items and so forth, and she has an entire subsection dedicated to things that you should never keep in your root cellar.
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– Navigation Without GPS
How Our Ancestors Navigated Without Using a GPS System is written by Shannon Azares. This is another aspect of The Lost Ways that deals with a topic that I think many people take for granted. If there was an EMP attack and you had no access to electricity or communication services and were in an unfamiliar area, how would you traverse in a purposeful way? Azares aims to provide you those tools.
The author gives you more than one method so that you have options. The initial technique is a simple one that requires only a stick and a pebble. If you have a watch, you can keep it attuned to the right time and actually use it to tell north, east, west and south. Azares teaches the reader to navigate using the stars and the North Star in particular. She also discusses how to use the moon at night and the sun during the day. The growth of vegetation can indicate direction. You can also make your own compass, and Azares provides the instructions and checklist that you will need to make a simple one.
– Other Aspects of The Lost Ways
As mentioned in the introduction to this breakdown, it would not be practical to cover every aspect of The Lost Ways. This book is large and dense. Consider that I just presented about 1,400 words on what is not even a third of the content. There is a lot here, so let me provide a quick rundown of the other stuff:
- How to make knives
- 1700s to 1900s spycraft
- Cooking on an open flame
- How to wildcraft your table
- Making gunpowder and rolling ammo
- What our ancestors foraged for and how
- Building semi-subterranean roundhouses
- Trapping in winter for beaver and muskrat
- How frontier sheriffs defended their towns
- Making sourdough and other traditional breads
- Water acquisition, filtering and long-term storage
- Practical survival lessons—from the Donner family
- How to build and maintain smokehouses the pioneer way
- Hardtack biscuits—a survival food used during the U.S. Civil War
- How our forefathers built sawmills, grain mills and stamping mills
Key Takeaways From The Lost Ways
The Lost Ways book gave me a great appreciation for the American pioneer. I do not think I ever fully conceptualized the risks these people took and the challenges they faced. These were often family units with a father and a mother younger than I am now building a homestead and earning the health and well-being of their children through the use of the natural resources that they had available.
The techniques that these pioneers developed on their own and those learned from the Native Americans are not only ingenious but simple. I do not mean that as a criticism. I was just surprised by the sheer number of topics that had me thinking that this was actually something that I could do. Building a self-feeding fire, preserving a water supply, maintaining and rotating a can supply and so forth are all valuable skills that I now possess. I do not consider myself a prepper, but I also want to feel prepared and not completely useless should I ever be disconnected from the modern world.
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What I Liked About the Lost Ways
- The North American perspective
- Self-feeding fire and other techniques
- Guidance on how to store resources
- Gardening, foraging and identification tips
- The bonus books
This is not the first survival handbook that I have read, but The Lost Ways survival book engaged me in a way that the others did not because it was so contextualized to North America. Much of the information about water, food sources, root cellars and so forth very much applied to my local area.
There are a lot of topics in the book that spoke to me but perhaps none as much as the self-feeding fire, which actually improved my ability to start and maintain a fire quite a bit. I found all the discussion about storing water and food quite informative, and the information on gardening was great since this is something my wife and I already do. We even created a new gardening area where we are growing many of the plants discussed in The Lost Ways but also in the bonus books by Claude Davis.
My Favorite Sections of The Lost Ways
– How the Early Pioneers Built the Self-Feeding Fire
Fire is integral to human life. It is something that many modern people take for granted. Imagine the challenge of creating a fire for warmth and cooking in a way that did not require to tend it, which allows you to get some sleep and perform other activities. That is where the self-feeding fire comes in. A rather ingenious but simple design feeds the fire with new logs by taking advantage of gravity.
– Cast Iron Cooking
Cast iron cooking is something that I already do, and I cook my “world famous” chili using a cast iron pot and an open fire in my backyard. The Lost Ways has a great section on cleaning and seasoning and how to cook with cast iron, and most of the recipes in the book involve using a cast iron pot.
– Making Your Own Beverages: Beer to Stronger Stuff
This section is written by chemist Susan Morrow, and another of my hobbies is homebrewing, so this section was right up my alley. What is most interesting is how she distilled the process into a rather simple progression that you could achieve even if you lack the fancier equipment. She also provides common alternatives to hops, such as aniseed, caraway, ginger, juniper and yarrow.
What I Disliked About The Lost Ways
I think the book is longer than it needs to be. At times, it ventures from survival guide to history book. Learning about why hardtack is useful and how to cook it is really interesting, but before getting to the point, author James Walton meanders through a history lesson that is a bit of a snore fest. Likewise, author Russ Simons spends entirely too much time discussing crime in the Old West and organizing a sheriff and his deputies and a posse. Simons then “explains” how to modernize these strategies, and he completely loses me in the process because, to be frank, the entire section lacks verisimilitude.
Is The Lost Ways a Good Read for You?
Despite my nitpicks, The Lost Ways is a good book. I am glad I have read it and will certainly refer back to it from time to time. But the pertinent question here is not about me but whether or not this a good read for you. I would pitch the book as such: survival from the perspective of the American pioneer. Does that concept interest you? If the answer is yes, then I highly recommend it. Be mindful that this is not a traditional survival handbook. That works both for and against it, but I think overall, it works for it and allows for a book that discusses survival in a unique and contextualized manner.
Critic Reviews of The Lost Ways
There are not many Lost Ways reviews written by professional book reviewers. As is often the case with nonfiction books, The Lost Ways reviews have been limited to magazines, newspapers and websites that cover this particular niche. Another issue perhaps is The Lost Ways is more of a living document that continues to be updated by Claude Davis. All that said, the aggregate rating based on the professional reviews that are available is more than four stars out of five, which is quite good.
Customer Reviews of The Lost Ways
After I had read The Lost Ways, I went to Google to search for reviews, and among Google users, it had an 88% approval rating, which is also quite good. But the star rating—which only reflects those users who left a text review—was 2.1 out of five. That surprised me. However, digging a bit deeper revealed some shenanigans. Most of the people who left reviews were not verified customers. Many even left comments that made it completely clear that they had not even read the book. It is unclear to me what the motivation is behind all of those bogus negative reviews, but it really is a shame.
On a positive note, if you limit reviews to those associated with verified purchases, the approval rating is quite high. It has an almost perfect rating on Amazon, which is one of the retailers where customers were able to purchase the initial hardcover edition, which was only available via there for a limited time.
How to Purchase The Lost Ways
The Lost Ways download is only available through the official Lost Ways website. The standard price is $37. It includes the main e-book and the three bonus e-books. You also have the option of receiving a hardcover with your purchase. The standard price is not increased, but you do have to pay an additional $8.99 for shipping and handling. There is a hardcover only option, but I would not recommend it. You do not save any money and miss out on the bonus e-books and the ability to start reading right away.
Thelostways.com offers a 100% money-back guarantee, which makes it very easy to recommend the book. If you decide the book is not for you, the company will refund all of the standard price. Note that if you opt for one of the hardcover options, the company will not refund the shipping and handling, and you must ship the hardcover back to the publisher before your refund will be processed.
Final Thoughts and My Verdict
The average review among both critics and verified customers is about 4.5 out of five stars, and I think that is a fair rating. The lost ways book aka “Old Ways” certainly has some minor shortcomings, but those do not detract from the fact that this book is loaded with practical knowledge that is presented in an engaging way.
I would like to see a fifth edition that eliminates some of the more extraneous subject matter. I also think that some of the diagrams could be improved. Davis could add additional content to the more popular sections, but even if he got it down to a lean and mean 250 pages, it would be well worth it.
But do not let that criticism discourage you from reading The Lost Ways. I include them here because I think that this book could be a five out of five, and that is how I think Davis could get there. That aside, The Lost Ways is the best survival book I have ever read. Full stop.
The North American perspective is fantastic. Viewing it through the lens of the American pioneer is insightful. The techniques are all simple and practical, and the authors do a good job of providing a modern perspective on the various techniques and framing the concepts in different ways.
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