Man vs. Wild: Survival Techniques from the Most Dangerous Places on Earth

Man vs. Wild: Survival Techniques from the Most Dangerous Places on Earth

4.1 11
by Bear Grylls

In Man vs. Wild, Bear Grylls demonstrates all manner of survival techniques when faced with nature's extremes—from crossing piranha-infested rivers to fighting off grizzly bears. He shows us how, armed with the correct know-how and a determination to stay alive, all of us have the potential to beat the elements in even the bleakest of situations.



In Man vs. Wild, Bear Grylls demonstrates all manner of survival techniques when faced with nature's extremes—from crossing piranha-infested rivers to fighting off grizzly bears. He shows us how, armed with the correct know-how and a determination to stay alive, all of us have the potential to beat the elements in even the bleakest of situations.

Bear Grylls is the ultimate modern-day adventurer. He spent three years with the British Special Forces (21 SAS), only leaving when a near-fatal parachuting accident broke his back in three places. Just two years later, Grylls followed his childhood dream and became one of the youngest climbers ever to reach the summit of Mount Everest. He is the host of the Discovery Channel series Man vs. Wild, where viewers tune in to watch Grylls show what it takes to find your way out of the most inhospitable places on earth with little more than the clothes on your back.

Now, in his book, he shows his millions of fans worldwide how to do what he does in an utterly entertaining crash course in surviving every kind of hard ecosystem—mountain, sub-zero terrain, jungle, desert, and the sea. Grylls takes readers on a journey to the corners of the earth and recreates disaster scenarios such as being stranded on a desert island or lost in the snowy Arctic. Perfect for armchair adventurers and extreme sports buffs alike, Man vs. Wild is destined to become a classic in adventure literature.

Prepare to learn how to ... snack on maggots, dig yourself a shelter from the snow, suck the fluid from fish eyeballs, skin a snake and eat it, use your own urine to cool yourself down, live without your cell phone"

When disaster strikes and we find ourselves alone in an unknown and hostile environment, why do some people survive and others perish Almost all of the most extraordinary tales of survival seem to involve an indefinable Ingredient X, which can only be understood as having its source in that mysterious entity, the 'human spirit.'"
—Bear Grylls, Man vs. Wild

Editorial Reviews

Surviving isn't just a risky business; sometimes it's downright messy. In this heavily illustrated armchair guide, ex-Special Forces soldier, karate black belt, and all-around outdoorsman Bear Grylls teaches readers how to stay alive in the wilderness. The host of Discover Channel's Man vs. Wild doesn't pretend that it's always pretty; he offers tips on extreme measures including snacking on maggots and skinning and eating a snake. He brightens the mix with a full backpack of anecdotes and astonishing factoids. (Did you know, for example, that in the tropics, more people are killed by falling coconuts than by poisonous snakes?) A trek worthy companion for survivalists and Walter Mittys.

Product Details

Hachette Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
7.90(w) x 9.90(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

MAN VS. WILD Survival Techniques from the Most Dangerous Places on Earth
HYPERION Copyright © 2008 Bear Grylls
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4013-2293-9

Chapter One fundamentals of survival


The irony is that while we may have reached a stage in human development where we have more technology at our disposal than ever before, we have also forgotten many of the skills that our ancestors depended on for their own survival.

Today we take it for granted that we can talk to each other and see each other in an instant on opposite sides of the earth. Apart from the deepest reaches of the oceans, there is virtually nowhere on the planet that is inaccessible. Technology can tell us where we are to within a few feet; it can send an SOS message across continents so that the necessary rescue services can move into action; it can help us resuscitate people whose life force has been almost totally extinguished; it can produce at the touch of a button light, fire, warmth, hot water, and food.

What happens, however, when all of this is suddenly, and unexpectedly, stripped away?

When electricity is cut off, we are suddenly plunged into darkness and silence; our computer and television screens go blank and we are unable to communicate with the rest of the world. Our heating fails and we can't wash or feed ourselves.

For a while, for just a few hours, it all seems quite a novelty. We discover we have neighbors and talk to strangers and help each other out: things we don't do as much as we should in normal life. Then suddenly the lights come back on and we all revert to business as usual, confident that it was just a blip and we don't need to worry about it happening again for a long time.

Our growing dependence on technologies of all forms is a double-edged sword. The fact that our modern cosseted world has, at least on the face of it, become increasingly reliable and plain clever has, paradoxically, made us more and more vulnerable. People are no longer able to cope for more than a very short time when these "systems" fail.

And when technology does fail, at even the most basic level, we often feel peculiarly helpless. This book is really about redressing that balance. Reteaching us some of the skills that our ancestors would have taken for granted. Those skills, they would be horrified to discover, which we have lost so quickly. It is a "how-to" book on how to survive when the lights go out ... and stay out.

About what happens when the technology on which we depend is entirely stripped away. When suddenly we have no means to communicate. When we find ourselves alone in a strange new world - maybe a desert, a jungle, or a mountain glacier.

How this has come about in the first place is unimportant. Your light plane may have crashed on a short hop over the mountains to a remote lodge. You may have become separated from a trekking party in a barren wilderness, or found yourself in a whiteout on a mountain trail. To your disbelief, you find yourself with nothing other than the clothes you stand up in. You are lost and alone, maybe presumed dead, and no one is looking for you anymore.

No cell phone or GPS can help you now. They have all been left behind on that faraway planet called civilization. You have no shelter, no water, no fire, and no idea where you are - and evening is falling. There are unknown creatures and dangers all around you and it is beginning to get very cold. What you wouldn't give for seemingly mundane and low-tech items, such as a lighter or a water bottle, or a sleeping bag to keep you warm. Even a simple compass out of a Christmas cracker would be nice. But no matter how much you may want them, they all remain locked firmly away in that distant land you have allowed yourself to become so dependent on.

From now on, until you get yourself out of there, you have to survive alone ... or die.

This is the situation that the information in this book is designed to help you overcome. In the chapters that follow, I shall be looking at almost every terrain imaginable so I can let you in on some of the skills I know. Along the way I will be sharing the survival skills I learned during my time with the SAS, and telling some anecdotes from my experiences of climbing some of the world's highest and most dangerous peaks, plus many of the inspiring true stories of men and women who have, often against the odds, survived some of the world's most extreme environments and lived to tell the tale.

Many of the particular skills and techniques I will be covering relate to specific terrain types - a shelter in the mountains in winter, for example, will be very different to the one you build in a humid, sweltering jungle - but in this chapter I want to deal first with the skills that are, in general, common to all the different terrain types and situations you may find yourself in.

ITL{The Psychology of Survival}ITL

When disaster strikes and we find ourselves alone in an unknown and hostile environment, why do some people survive and others perish? Common sense tells us that the answer must surely lie in Darwinian evolutionary theory: namely that the "fittest," in the sense of the physically strongest and most knowledgeable, are the most likely to come through a survival situation in one piece.

It is certainly true that both these attributes will play a major part in any man vs. the wild equation. Astronauts and explorers, members of mountain rescue teams, and lifeboatmen all possess an invaluable store of knowledge and have conditioned themselves to be physically able to deal with the rigors of the environment they know they will have to face.

But it is still far from being the whole story. Almost all of the most extraordinary tales of survival seem to involve an indefinable Ingredient X, which can only be understood as having its source in that mysterious entity, the "human spirit."

And there are, indeed, some extraordinary stories to be told. They range from epic and famous examples of expeditions that went wrong to those of random individuals being suddenly and unexpectedly pitched into a battle with nature that they could not reasonably have been expected to survive.

The first category includes Shackleton's 1914-17 Antarctic expedition when he, his crew and their ship Endurance became trapped in pack ice. In an incredible feat of survival, a small group succeeded in crossing more than 800 miles of the most hostile waters on earth in an open boat to find help. In a very different environment, it also includes the crew of Apollo 13 who piloted their stricken craft back to Earth after the near fatal explosion of two of its three fuel tanks.

The second category includes the story of two Americans, Helen Klaben and Ralph Flores, who survived the crash of their light plane during a winter snowstorm on the border of British Columbia and the Yukon in February 1963. Despite being severely injured and with no bushcraft or wilderness experience and very little food, they managed to survive for seven weeks in temperatures that frequently approached -45°C (-49°F).

These two categories highlight two very different sets of circumstances where survival was achieved against all the odds. The first category is made up of a very unusual set of people. The crew members of both expeditions would not have found themselves in such dire circumstances unless they possessed what the writer Tom Wolfe dubbed the "right stuff."

Just by being picked for the expedition in the first place, they had already demonstrated their physical strength and conditioning, and a mental toughness which would give them the best possible chance of survival in an extreme environment. They also had, particularly in the case of Apollo 13, considerable training and experience to fall back on.

The other category is far harder to tie down. It contains people without the specialist skills, but with the hidden X factor that is characterized by the will to stay alive. Klaben and Flores were just regular guys who had already demonstrated bad judgment by their decision to fly in the first place, given the predicted weather conditions. Owing to lack of knowledge, they failed to take advantage of almost all the survival techniques described in this book. Nonetheless, they too survived. Why? The answer to that question is at the very heart of survival. If I bad the choice between knowledge and spirit, I would pick spirit any day. I use the same criteria when picking expedition colleagues, and the SAS (the Special Air Service of the British Army) picks its soldiers this way as well. Anyone can be taught skills, not everyone has the fire inside.

But before grappling with the source of this "fire," this elusive survival ingredient at the heart of all these stories, I want to try to distill some of the most important mental attributes demonstrated time and again by those who ultimately survive catastrophe. These "rules" will help you come through your battle with the wild: the), are the all-important elements of what can only be described as the "will to survive."

Your first priority on finding yourself alone and coming to terms with what has happened is not to panic and to avoid doing anything that will make a bad situation worse. Everything, particularly physical energy, will be in short supply and must be carefully preserved like the dwindling charge in a battery.

It is now that you must try to achieve as objective a view of your situation as you can. Denial of your predicament is a common reaction to extreme stress, but it will achieve nothing of any worth, apart from reducing your chances of survival. At the same time, convincing yourself that you will be rescued tomorrow is more than likely to end in disappointment and add a serious blow to your dwindling morale.

People might look at your survival situation and say: "Come on, be realistic, what options have you got here?" I say instead, as do so many of the survivors of disasters: "Be an optimist." In my experience, when someone says they are a "realist," it is generally just a lousy excuse for being a pessimist! Those who survive need to see opportunities not problems, hope not hopelessness, possibilities not impossibilities.

Remember that the difference between life and death often boils down to a matter of choice. The "reality" of your situation will be what you believe it to be. If you decide that the odds are so heavily stacked against you that you have no chance of survival, the battle is already as good as lost.

If, on the other hand, you choose to be inspired by the stories of those who have survived with no wilderness skills to fall back on, you will know that the seemingly impossible is indeed possible. No one is more likely to survive than those who can convince themselves they can.

Instead of dwelling on your bad luck, focus on the one-in-a-million chance that you survived in the first place. That you are, in fact, leading a charmed life and are incredibly lucky to be alive. Statistics say that most people are rescued from survival situations within five days - take heart from that. Keep a positive attitude, and you will always have hope. All survivors keep a tight grip on hope. It's a God-given gift.

It is also now that you will find yourself confronted starkly with both your strengths and your weaknesses. But be careful not to undermine yourself from within. Nobody is without their faults. Some of us have an irrational fear of the dark, while others have an exaggerated fear of spiders and snakes. Some feel they are cowards by nature, while still more have an over-exaggerated sense of their own abilities. (The latter make the worst survivors.)

Remember that courage and fearfulness are two sides of the same coin. Without feeling fear in the first place, you can never be truly courageous. Likewise, no one can really be said to be strong who has not confronted their weaknesses and overcome them. And that is exactly what you will have to do in the wild. Your confidence will gradually build and strengthen your resolve as you face and overcome each hurdle in turn, be it making a shelter, finding food, or crossing a river.

Your thoughts will also be assaulted by sudden shifts in mood. The knowledge that you might never again see your loved ones will at times seem utterly overwhelming. But don't make the mistake of trying to block "negative" emotions. If you do, you may well find they overwhelm you anyway. Far better to accept the power that these thoughts have and turn them to your advantage. Use them to strengthen your determination to survive. Don't feel sorry for yourself when actually it is your loved ones who will have to live without you if you fail to come through. So, for their sakes, keep going. Never give up. Let their faces be your guide, memories of them be your strength.

The blisters and pain and fatigue will always be temporary, maybe they will last a week, maybe a month, maybe a year, but the joy of survival, the reuniting, the looking back with pride at what you came through: those things will last for ever.

Many of those who live to tell the epic tale of how they survived relate how they were able to achieve a feat of mental gymnastics. On the one hand they were able to think decisively and clearly, to keep focused on the task in hand, breaking it down into small, achievable goals. On the other, they were also able to keep in mind some higher thoughts, whether of their faith or family, that helped them overcome the seemingly insurmountable.

The mind is our most powerful tool. Listen to the stories of those who have endured and survived torture and solitary confinement in captivity: often they talk of their minds being their escape, their strength, their anesthetic to the pain, and even ultimately their joy.

Look at the truly extraordinary case of Beck Weathers, a New Zealander on the infamous 1996 expedition to Everest when more than ten climbers died in a few days alone. After a severe storm near the summit, Beck lay motionless, severely frostbitten, dehydrated, and apparently dead for two days and a night before hauling himself to his feet and climbing down to safety.

Dr. Kamler, in his remarkable book, Extreme Survival, describes in great detail how the body responds to acute stress on the brink of death. He demonstrates how, in the most extreme circumstances, an area deep in our brainstem called the cingulate gyrus is capable of overriding every sensory, emotional, and rational input that our brain receives, in order to "create" its own reality. The cingulate seems to be the source of some miraculous returns from "near death" experiences.

But, as Dr. Kamler writes, despite the ability of science to pin down the brain waves emanating from the cingulate, "there will always be an impenetrable, mystical barrier to understanding ourselves. The fundamental nature of the human will must remain unknowable. Ultimately, our explanations for surviving the extremes will require not just science, but faith."

So how do we find that fire, that spirit? Is it in all of us, or just a precious few? I believe that each of us has it in spades; it is sometimes well hidden though, maybe by the fluff that has built up over us from a lifetime chasing the wrong things. Money, possessions, status: they are all shallow masters, and none will bring out the inner man.

All too often it is only when we are in this nightmare survival situation, and all the fluff has been stripped from us, that we stop long enough to let our spirit grow within us again. And that fire is irrepressible. However long it may have been extinguished, just like those birthday candles that forever relight themselves, the human fire or will can never be put out completely. Just ask those SS soldiers who tried to kill the spirit of so many Resistance fighters in the Second World War. You can beat and suppress but you will never prevail where there is will and a spirit.

So often those who have depended on that will and spirit in their lives talk about a faith. Sometimes it is hard to draw out of them, but it is so often the reason for their survival. We all need hope; more than you might realize. And that hope needs a home, which for me is my Christian faith. Where you find your faith is personal to you, but Jesus Christ is the source of my survival fire. And who better to have beside you when you are alone, scared and cold, and a long way from home? It takes a proud man to say he needs nothing.

So it is my belief that we all have this ability to survive against the odds. In fact, it is at the very core of what it is to be human, and without it our species would never have been able to come as far as it has. But in our modern world, the more we find ourselves cosseted by technology and the idea that we can insure ourselves against anything, even death, the more another side of our humanity tries to break free.


Excerpted from MAN VS. WILD by BEAR GRYLLS Copyright © 2008 by Bear Grylls. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Ex-special Forces soldier, karate black belt, high-altitude mountaineer and bestselling author, Bear Grylls is the host of the popular Man vs. Wild show on the Discovery Channel. Bear was the youngest British climber to reach the summit of Mt. Everest and return alive. He was recently awarded an honorary commission as a Lieutenant-Commander in the Royal Navy, and resides with his wife and son in London.

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Man vs. Wild: Survival Techniques from the Most Dangerous Places on Earth 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
To be honest the book was better than I expected it to be but was still little more than the standard Bear Grylls nonsense. As usual it strongly pushes the ¿attitude is more important than knowledge¿ notion, which makes perfect sense seeing as Bear Grylls is FAR from a survival expert. As expected there is no mention of the fact that proper knowledge will improve your attitude more than any other thing. Well¿ short of having a full production crew to provide you with all of the essentials to ¿survive' that is. This book, as with all of his other books, should be STRONGLY classified as ¿inspirational¿ more so than ¿informative¿. If you are looking for real survival skills I would strongly recommend something from Ray Mears or wait for the upcoming book by Les Stroud.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I first heard of this book I thought that his show is good but what more could he say about survival. I was surprised indeed. The book covers all the basic's about survival in any environment but also covers the mental aspects of survival.