Waterford Press Field Guides
It’s often said that knowledge is power. That power can sometimes be the difference between just having an enjoyable experience out on the wild and actually making it back safely if something goes wrong. While it’d be nice to be able to take all sorts of outdoors classes, and to actually retain everything you learn, that simply isn’t practical for a lot of us.
That’s why books, videos, and magazines that cover the topics we’re interested in are so great. The problem comes when we leave home and actually head out into the bush. It isn’t generally practical to drag your library with you into the field and even a select book or two can take up a lot of room and add weight to your pack. In situations like this it’d be nice to have a light, compact reference suited to the task on hand. It’s here that the folks at Waterford Press have staked out their niche, with a great series of outdoors pamphlets designed to help you out when you’re in the field.
The folks at Waterford Press know a thing or two about the outdoors and they’ve compiled an impressive library of reference guides to walk you through everything from bird watching to outdoor survival and pretty much everything in between. They have a variety of guide series but the three that I thought were most fitting for our Woods Monkey readers were their Pocket Naturalist and Pocket Tutor Guides, and their Duraguide series. The Pocket Naturalists and Tutor guides are 6 panel folded pamphlets coated in a heavy laminate. They’re each 8.25 inches high by 3.5 inches wide when folded. Weight is about 1 ounce. The Duraguide are similar in format but are printed on an innovative paper which Waterford Press describes as practically everything proof! “Waterproof, stormproof, packproof, wrinkleproof, dirtproof, childproof, bendproof and stretchproof” according to their website. That’s quite the claim and we’ll see how that pans out as we test them. Either way, both the traditional laminated field guides and the Duraguides are sturdy, lightweight and compact references for use in the woods, on the water, and when away from home. They easily tuck into even the smallest daypacks and can slip into the hydration sleeve on most packs behind the bladder. The six panels on each guide are packed with information and illustrations on both sides giving you essentially twelve pages of reference material. The material provided is concise, informative and easy to read. It’s also very well illustrated with appropriate drawings for the topic at hand. For example, the Pennsylvania Wildlife Guide I received has 152 full color illustrations of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, butterflies and other insects and as well as a map and listing of prominent regional wildlife sanctuaries throughout the state. Each illustration is accompanied by the common and Latin names for the animal as well as a short tip on helping to identify them. Other guides, such as the Field Dressing Game Duraguide, offer “how to” type instructions as well as illustrative drawings showing the proper way to pluck, skin, and gut game. Point being, Waterford Press packs a lot of information into the space provided.
If you’re like me, you may have some training and have done a lot of reading on outdoors topics over the years, and probably have some specific areas where you’re very well versed. Invariably though we can’t all be experts at everything, and we tend to forget the further removed we get from reading the material or attending a class on the subject. That’s when having a reference guide really shines. It helps you fill in those blanks and refresh what you may already now, but which has gotten fuzzy with time and disuse. The key is having a reference you can take with you that suits your needs, is there when you need it, and that will withstand the rigors or travel and exposure to the elements. The Waterford Press guides are thin and light enough to slip into a pack as mentioned earlier, a Bug Out Bag or kit, or even a large cargo pocket. In fact they’re thin enough you can pack a couple of different topics based upon the situation. Planning a day fishing out on the lake? Perhaps you’ll grab the “Boat and Water Safety”, “Freshwater Fishing”, and “Field Dressing Game” (which also includes fish!) to put into the bottom of your tackle box or stuff in your fishing vest. How about a multiday backpacking trip? That may call for slipping “Wilderness Survival”, “Edible Wild Plants”, and ‘Knots” into your pack. Maybe you’re going on a hunting trip. In that case, “Pennsylvania Wildlife” (or whatever guide is right for your area), “Field Dressing Wild Game” again, and “Animal Tracking” would be the ticket to stuff in the game pocket of your hunting jacket. Any of these trips could also benefit from the handy “Emergency First Aid” Pocket Tutor Guide as well. A Bug Out Bag or an emergency storm kit would be well served with the “Disaster Survival” Duraguide and the “Emergency First Aid” Pocket Tutor. If it’s simply a basic car camping trip, especially with young or newer campers, then the “Camping 101” Duraguide might be just the ticket backed up by the “Outdoor Knots” Duraguide and maybe once again that always useful “Emergency First Aid” Pocket Tutor. Just with the twelve sample guides I received for review I can see a multitude of practical uses and combinations based upon my planned activities.
Okay, so we know the Waterford Press guides are light, thin, and handy but how are they for actual content and durability? As mentioned I had twelve guides to check out. This gave me a cross section of the Naturalist guides, Pocket Tutors and Duraguides. Generally I found the information presented to be clear, concise, and extremely useful. Now, there’s no way that the folks at Waterford can tell you in a twelve panel pamphlet as much as they could in a full sized field guide, survival manual, or textbook, but they do an extremely good job of packing a lot of information into a small space and making it easy to read and understand. If you have a good working knowledge of the topics already, these are going to be a handy refresher, especially under a stressful situation like when involved in a survival scenario or with an injury to yourself or a member of your party. If you’re relatively unfamiliar with the topic presented you’re going to walk away with a lot more information than you had before you read the guides. They’re presented in such a way that even someone new to the subject matter should be able to pick them up and understand what they’re trying to get across. No, they won’t make you an expert animal tracker, survival instructor, or Wilderness EMT, but they will give you an edge you might not have without them.
For durability testing, I took one of the Duraguides and ran it through the ringer. Since they cost a little more than the other guides and are billed as being practically bombproof I decided to see what they could take. The first thing I tried to do was simply rip it in half. When you feel a Duraguide, it’s sturdy but actually doesn’t feel as tough as the laminated guides. I know from past practice that while laminated guides and maps can be tough, you often can still rip them at the seams or otherwise damage them. They’re resistant to water and damage, but not immune. Well, I soon found out that the Duraguides are more than they seem. They’re strong buggers! I first tried a small tear with no luck. Perturbed by my lack of progress I unfolded the guide took a couple good handfuls and really pulled on it. Nothing. It seemed to stretch a slight bit and then just went right back into shape, no worse for wear. Hmmm, I don’t know if Waterford’s “ripproof” claim is absolute, but I’m convinced it isn’t going to happen easily at any rate. Next I folded, stuffed and otherwise crumbled the Duraguide up to see how it would fair. While I did get it to crinkle a little bit, it pretty much returned to its original state and was unaffected by the abuse. I don’t think it will be bothered by rolling around in a pack and having gear dropped and stuffed on top of it over time. Next I wanted to test it for water resistance. I put the guide in the sink and let hot water run on it for about 10 minutes and then let it soak in a pool of water for another 10 to 15 minutes. When I pulled it out, it felt heavier and I thought it must have soaked up some water. Wrong. It turns out it had gathered some water in the folds but after I dried it off with a towel it was as good as new with no damage, no smearing, and no degradation of the material evident. Last, just because I was spurned by the soak test, I dumped half a pot of old, hot coffee on it to see if the higher temperature would have an effect or if the coffee would stain the paper. Once again I was foiled in my effort to ruin the guide. At this point I pretty much gave up. I won’t say there’s no way you can destroy these Duraguides, as someone surely will find a way, but I can say that they should survive most exposure to water and abuse that they’re likely to see on a boat or in a pack in the wild.
Waterford Press has a huge variety of guides to choose from with literally hundreds of Naturalists Guides covering a vast number of animals and habitats, and a good selection of both Pocket Tutor and Duraguides covering useful outdoors skills and areas of knowledge. No matter what your outdoor activity there’s an extremely good chance that they have a topic you’ll be interested in. When you factor in the handy layout and informative contents of the guides, along with the top quality illustrations, the practically indestructible nature of the products and the extremely affordable prices it just makes sense to grab a variety of guides for your pack, kits, and car! Prices for the Pocket Naturalist and Pocket Tutor Guides are only $5.95 and the Duraguides are only $7.95. If you want to bring a little extra knowledge with you on the trail, or share it with friends or family who could use that extra help on outdoors subjects, then it’s well worth checking out what Waterford Press has to offer.