Monday, September 27, 2010

The Big Survival Show Review

This is a brief description and review of some of the survival and wilderness living TV series either currently on the air, or that can be found on DVD. Here I am only looking at TV series, not specials or movies. There may be other shows out there, but I am only reviewing the ones I have seen.

Shows currently on the air

Beyond Survival

Beyond Survival is the newest show by Les Stroud. In it, he visits different indigenous tribes in an attempt to learn from them survival skills, as well as some of the other aspects of their lives. I had high hopes for the show, but can’t help feeling disappointed. The show seems to focus way too much on different customs and traditions of the tribes Les visits, and while that is valuable information, it has very little bearing on the subject of wilderness living. Very few skills are examined during the show, and even then, only in passing. You may be able to catch some hints and tricks here and there, but that does not appear to be the main focus of the show.

Man vs. Wild

Man vs. Wild with Bear Grylls undoubtedly ranks as the worse survival/wilderness living show on TV. It is a show designed to entertain more than to teach, and as a result, the “skills” demonstrated during the show are not only improperly thought, but are right down dangerous. Not only will you not learn anything, but you may actually learn inaccurate information. While jumping off of cliffs, and exploring caves might make for good television, it increases your chance of dying in a survival situation. You can see my review of the current season here.

Man, Woman, Wild

I have been very pleasantly surprised y this show. The premise is that Myke Hawke, an experienced outdoorsman, is left in the wilderness to survive along with his wife, who does not know much about the outdoors. The fun naturally ensues. While the premise might not be conducive to a very educational show, I must say, that the information provided has been both accurate, well presented, and rather realistic. The show remains focused on actual survival skills, and does not get bogged down in artificially created drama. It is well worth seeing.

Dual Survival

Dual Survival is one of my favorite survival shows. The first season is over, but it seems fairly certain that a second season will be picked up. The show puts together a mismatched pair of survival experts, Cody Lundin (a self described barefoot hippie), and Dave Canterbury (an ex military survivalist). I am sure that the intent of the show was to create a large amount of drama between the two of them, but the result is far from it. While having different styles, Cody and Dave seem to have great respect for each other, and work well together. The result is a very informational show which gives you different points of view on each situation.

Shows that are off the air


Survivorman is the show that put Les Stroud on the map for most people. In the show, Les is stranded in the wilderness, and has to survive for a week. He is truly alone, as he does not have a camera crew, but rather films himself. The show provides very valuable information. Its biggest benefit is that it provides a realistic evaluation of different survival skill and methods. You see exactly how long it takes to do a task, and you see every time it fails. You gain an appreciation for what it is like to do a task when you have not eaten for three days. The show is a must see.

Other shows by Les Stroud that are worth seeing, but have been excluded because I do not think they deal directly with the subject of this post are Survival: Summer, Survival: Winter, and Snowshoes and Solitude.

Country Tracks

Country Tracks was a show hosted by Ray Mears, originally aired on BBC. It is a series of short episodes, in which Ray covers topics from navigation for fire lighting. It is very information dense and well worth seeing.

World of Survival

World of Survival was another series by Rey Mears, aired on BBC. It is similar in format to Beyond Survival, but I find that it gets the focus much better. In the show Ray visits different indigenous tribes and learns skills from them. While some of the information is not directly skill related, the shows are rich in information.

Extreme Survival

Extreme Survival was a series by Ray Mears aired on BBC. In the show Ray explores different environments which present a difficulty for survival. Each episode spends a large amount of time recounting actual survival stories. I find that while such stories are interesting, the amount of information presented is drastically reduced.


Bushcraft was a series by Ray Mears, aired on BBC. In the series Ray explores different aspects of bushcraft ranging from bow making with stone tools, to canoe building. The show is very rich in information. It is a must see for anyone interested in in the subject.

Wild Foods

Wild Foods is yet another show by Ray Mears made for the BBC. This is my favorite of Ray’s shows. In it he explores different foods that might have been eaten by our ancestors, and possible ways of preparing them. The show focuses mostly on Britain, but it provides an amazing insight into the lives of our ancestors.

Other shows by Ray Mears that are worth seeing, but have been excluded because I do not think they deal directly with the subject of this post are Ray Mears Goes Walkabout, Survival (the show deals with different wild animals) Northern Wilderness and Real Heroes of the Telemark.