Ok, I know that there are quite a few who speak less than kindly about Bear Grylls and his cheesy survival shows on TV. And I don't want to be perceived as "piling-on", but after watching one of his programs today about survival in the New Mexico desert all I can blurt is WTF!?
Repeat after me - ''If I'm stuck in the desert, and fighting for survival, I won't compound the perils by taking stupid chances, doing unnecessary but visually interesting stunts.''In this episode Bear decides to throw a rope across to a rock pinnacle because he doesn't have enough rope to rappel to the bottom of a 30' ravine. As he shimmies across the gap, his makeshift grappling hook gives way and he almost (wow it was thrilling) falls. . . What you'll never hear on one of his shows is "Geez, that was a really dumb idea - on second thought, maybe it would be better to take the safer, long way around." And that's my point - He's not teaching you anything you'll really need to know for survival. He's pandering to the couch-sloths that inhabit most of America. The lazy majority that bitch because they have to
The 'don't-doers,' that are Bear's audience, can't conceive of the idea that someone would actually go into the wild for fun and adventure. The fact he's peeing into a snake skin and then wearing it, as a necklace, for 2 days in case he needs to drink it is no more absurd than the fact that the crazy mofo is out in the boonies in the first place.
Those of us with some survival knowledge and a love of the outdoors, are just marveling at his ability to look at a situation and find the most treacherous and idiotic solution to the problem. He is, in short, someone I refer to as a 'SHIT-MAGNET.' He's a guy who discovers a river and then decides to jump 80' into it without any idea how deep the water is. Or a guy who climbs down a chimney and discovers he's rim-locked - No way back up, and no way down. . . He's not teaching survival - He's showing you how people die. He's just playing with fate. The secret to survival when you find yourself in a character-building moment is to act carefully and reasonably. The second you feel desperate, you will start doing desperate things. The most devastating occurrence, when in a remote survival situation, is injury. Stay healthy and you will have time to fix the situation. Don't drink dangerous water or eat foul meat, or glissade down a steep slope on a yak carcass, at breakneck speeds - it makes great TV, but it's not good survival technique. We're talking about life & death here - you have to consider the risk/reward of taking a risky short-cut, or eating dodgy food that will likely give you a GI problem and deplete you of hydration as you vomit and diarrhea your way to civilization.
Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy watching this guy eat a raw lizard, drink his own piss and squeeze brown effluent out of a 20 lb. elephant turd as much as the next guy, but don't sell it as a survival show. It's as much a survival show as the 'wild mustangs' he lassoed were wild, and as real as the volcanic gasses created with smoke machines. Bear is a TV personality and he's making a good living as such - more power to him. I just wish he wasn't hyping his antics as education. On that score he is an idiot.
If you want to learn about survival read these books:
- Deep Survival: Who lives, Who dies, and why
- When All Hell Breaks Loose: Stuff You Need to Survive . . .
- or even my article on Survival Kits for Paraglider Pilots.