Thursday, 1 May 2014

The Walker's Guide to Outdoor Clues & Signs

Having just finished Tristan Gooley's new book 'The Walker's Guide to Outdoor Clues & Signs' (TWGTOCAS) it is sat in front of me I'm trying to recall where I first saw the man known as 'The Natural Navigator'...Other than guessing perhaps Countryfile I drew a blank!

Now this particular copy is an advance pre-release. I will say from the off that despite the fact Tristan arranged for me to have an advanced copy I am under no obligation to write anything other than what I think about this book. 

I was keen to both get it read to blog about but also to hopefully enjoy and inwardly digest it at the same time. As I neared the end it was interesting to read the book review in the 50th edition of Bushcraft & Survival Skills magazine (which also has a feature in too). Having got other books Tristan has written I was wondering in the back of my mind what this may be like as a read, déja vu? Not a bit of it and whilst there are themes from previous publications I found it  both absorbing and something I wanted to read in every spare moment which is just as well because TWGTOCAS comes in around the 400 page mark of content. It's the sort of book that sounds good when you hold it and drum your fingers on the back.

Predictably I'm going to start at the beginning. A couple of bits stand out early on that set the tone of the book and where he is coming from for me: One is that he 'Would rather die walking than die of boredom reading about how to walk safelyand the other suggests  that the book is written for those readers 'Who like to feel their minds flex with their legs'. I like the former phrase which just suggests Get out there! but equally, don't think for one moment that he is suggesting a gung ho approach, he does state more than once that personal safety should be in the reader's mind. I like the latter phrase because oft is the time on a family walk in the country that my wife and two sons look over their shoulders to see me way back staring at this and that. There are a lot of words used in this book that stand out too, thigomorphogenisis is my favourite, but don't let this fact thing the book is high brow and hard going, it isn't, it is very readable indeed.

So what is it about? Well it's hardly going to be a newsflash when I tell you that natural navigation and indeed orientation features a lot, but it is also a detailed insight into all sorts of terrain and the flora and fauna contained within, as well as the heavens (day and night) and human habits too. there is also some writing of a trip to Borneo that he took to take the reader away from the main UK(ish)/ northern hemisphere theme of the book.


Some sections are easier to digest than others and some are more relevant to me than others but whatever sections you find float your boat the most I guarantee that you'll benefit from a re-read because there's so much information crammed in (apparently over 850 outdoor clues and signs according to the press release). Even from this initial read of TWGTOCAS I have got some useful and interesting rural and urban facts on board that will not only enhance my future outdoor experiences but may also make me look rather clever too! 

Tristan has said that he tries to find clues in everything he sees and when he paints a scenario in the book he often asks you the reader to consider why certain things apply to the said scenario before explaining it and it does make you think. For instance he states how kestrels can indicate wind direction and whilst walking past a hospital recently I looked at one of those raptor kites that are often tethered over buildings to deter pigeons and concluded that whilst it wasn't as smooth as falco tinnunculus it too was indicating wind direction, and indeed an everyday kite on a windy hillside does too. Not only did I feel pleased that I was looking but that the very essence of Tristan's written encouragement was coming out. I've decided that this outdoors version of Neo from the Matrix kind of looking at the outdoors differently needs a name-Gooleyvision is born.

With the book being a large size you are getting a lot of written information with a sprinkling of images and illustrations so is good value. Do you know what I'd love to see in the future? A series of smaller A5 sized books that are the total opposite, namely colour illustrations backed up with text. As a visual person I'd love that.

>Edit< There is an indepth podcast Tristan interview on Paul Kirtley's podcast here. 


  1. There are a lot of fun hiking trails in FL. Whenever I would drive around I would see some signs for a trail. It would be cool if they made the signs in a way to bring more people.

  2. Hi Austin, I missed this review at the time so thanks for pointing it out to me. Nice one. For other interested readers who'd like to hear more from Tristan, they can listen to my chat with him here:

    All the best,