URBAN SURVIVAL - BOOKS: The SAS Urban Survival Guide and Tom Brown’s City and Suburban Survival Review

Tom Browns City and Suburban Survival and The SAS Urban Survival Guide
Tom Browns City and Suburban Survival and The SAS Urban Survival Guide

Tom Brown’s City and Suburban Survival and The SAS Urban Survival Guide - One Isn’t Worth The Paper Its Printed On

Urban Survival is by far my favorite survival subject and out of all my skills, it is the only one where I consider myself consonantly proficient (well, that and binge drinking). Most of what I know is a combination of self learning, the classroom and practical experience living in Urban Hostile Environments around the world.

I know in the grand scope of Urban Survival skills I still have a ton to learning to do - there isn’t a single subject in survival or any other life skill that can’t be modified, studied or improved upon until it eventually becomes instinct.

So in the interest of filling up the watermelon I call a head with more Urban Survival knowledge I picked up the 2 most popular and widely available Urban Survival books on the market; Tom Brown’s City and Suburban Survival and The SAS Urban Survival Guide.

These books were written by two of the top “gurus” in the wilderness survival field; Tom Brown Jr. and John “Lofty” Wiseman. One was pretty good despite going off subject a bit and the other sucked mad balls.

The SAS Urban Survival Guide
The SAS Urban Survival Guide

The SAS Urban Survival Guide Right Where it Belongs

The SAS Urban Survival Guide is written by John “Lofty” Wiseman who is a 27 year veteran of the UK Special Forces. He has also written 3 other survival books, the SAS Survival Handbook being the best.

Out of the two Urban Survival books I reviewed this one is printed on the best quality paper… and that’s about the only good thing I can say about it.

The biggest complaint I have about this book is it doesn’t have an index in the back like every other book on the planet has. And if you weren’t already frustrated enough trying to look up certain subjects, the table of contents doesn’t have the page number for the individual subjects either.

So basically if you want to look up a particular piece of information you have to read the whole damn book to find it.

The SAS Urban Survival Guide gives advice like “Don’t stick your hand in a blender” and keep a sewing needle and thread in your EDC (everyday carry) kit. Thanks Lofty, now I will be able to sew my pants up after an earthquake demolishes my condo.

This book is filled with other worthless warnings like the dangers of storing photo developing chemicals at home (do so many people in the UK still use celluloid film that he just had to include this?), wile at the same time he completely excludes subjects like long term Urban food storage (as long as you can still develop your film stock from the 80’s, I guess you wont need to eat in an emergency).


Good Thing I Have All This Film Around To Eat After the Earthquake

He doesn’t include any information on using firearms for self defense in his book, now considering that Lofty Wiseman is a Brit (a country where guns are basically outlawed) it’s really not surprising guns were omitted.

And I don’t have the slightest problem with that at all, all skills have to be tailored to your environment - and in countries where you can not own guns like the UK I wouldn’t expect any dedicated chapters about using them for defense in an urban environment.

But what really kills me is he says wide sweeping statements about guns like:

“Firearms represent more of a risk than a serious form of protection”


“There is very little defense against an attacker armed with a Gun or Rifle”

Ohhhhhhhh Yes Sir – he did go there…

Now besides the fact that a “Rifle” is a “Gun” (that would be like saying “I like candy because it tastes like candy because it has the flavor of candy flavor”) both of those quotes are flat out inaccurate and damn arrogant for someone to say with such authority.

Guns Dont Work
Guns Dont Work

“Firearms represent more of a risk than a serious form of protection” - John “Lofty” Wiseman

Honestly, I stopped reading the SAS Urban Survival Guide after that, maybe the rest of the book has good information – but bold statements like that killed even the slightest possibility in my mind that this book had any information of value to me.

I suspect that Lofty had some sort of multi-book deal so he was forced to churn out one last Survival guide to fulfill his contract and this monstrosity was the result.

Lofty if you are reading this, I really enjoyed your other books and I recommend them to my friends, but WTF happened with this one dude?

Tom Browns City and Suburban Survival
Tom Browns City and Suburban Survival

Tom Brown’s City and Suburban Survival

For those of you who have been sleeping under an IKEA table for the last century, Tom Brown is one of the most well known American Wilderness Survival gurus and possibly the most famous modern day tracker in the world.

He learned his wilderness survival and tracking skills from a Native American Apache elder as a child, he is the founder of a renowned tracking and wilderness survival school and the author of several books including a weird autobiography.

Tom’s experience wile tracking an ex-SF fugitive in the mountains for the feds became the basis for the movie “The Hunted” staring Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro. It’s a great movie despite the striking similarities to First Blood, it also has some kick-ass knife fighting scenes that are a must watch for FMA (Filipino Martial Arts) fans.

The Hunted
The Hunted

Tommy Lee Jones Playing a Character Based on Tom Brown Jr. in "The Hunted"

Tom Brown’s City and Suburban Survival has some solid practical Urban Survival information along with good information on food storage and water. The book is easy to navigate either by the table of contents or the index in the back.

This book is organized by chapter in the more traditional “food, water, shelter, ect” style that most people familiar with Wildness Survival training are used to.

The one thing I didn’t like about this book is about 40% of the content is about Wilderness Survival. Firestarting with a bow drill, stalking animals wile barefoot and building a figure-four trap are great things to learn if in you are in the wild – but not if you are living in New York City.


Sorry Tom, No Need For a Figure-Four Trap Here, Unless You Want to Catch a 40 Pound Rat

I am guessing that Tom Brown included so much Wilderness Survival information in his book because he needed some filler to fatten it up and Wilderness Survival is the main subject he knows.

I can’t really see Tom living in downtown Washington DC or Metro Paris so some of the information he wrote about Urban Survival may have been be theory based for him. I actually got the feel from both authors that allot of the stuff they wrote about survival in a city was researched and not experienced (more on that below).

Like the SAS guide Tom doesn’t include anything about using guns for self defense, I really don’t know why (he lives in the US). Sure Tom Brown isn’t known as a tactical trainer by any means, but he should have at least mentioned using guns for self defense in the city.

Pretty much 99.99999% of the people I know who have a survival mindset consider owning a gun just as important as storing food, so (in my opinion) guns should be included in any book about Urban Survival, especially if the book was written by an American.


Good Thing I Don't Need a Gun in the City

If you decide to pick up a book on Urban Survival I would go with Tom Brown’s City and Suburban Survival and just skip over the parts about wilderness survival and thumb through the more relevant Urban Survival stuff.

In Conclusion…

After reading both of these books I feel that they were both written from the perspective of someone that doesn’t live or work in urban environments 24-7, 365. Also both of the books seem way outdated and don’t include allot of Urban Survival information that is common practice or popular to learn these days.

Subjects like tactical firearms training, bug out bags, lockpicking, gear selection, information security, ect. are not mentioned at all or barely get a sentence. They either lean towards basic home-ec around the house safety (SAS) or Wilderness Survival (Tom Brown) information.

In both of the books the chapters on crime (again in my opinion) are useless, information like “carry your wallet in your front pocket” (Tom Brown) and “Keep your doors locked wile driving” (SAS) are not only common sense, they read like an old Mcgruff the Crime Dog pamphlet.


Keep Those Windows up Kids!

If you really want to learn about Urban Survival you should pick up Tom Brown’s City and Suburban Survival as a primer and hit-up a good survival forum like thesurvivalpodcast.com.

The SAS Urban Survival Guide Tom Brown’s City and Suburban Survival Both Available from Amazon.com


————————————————————————————— ~James GJames G is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long. He spends his off time in his homes in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns and writing poorly written articles.