Tomorrow I’m going for a 48 hour solo hike carrying a 20kg pack. The weather forecast is for overcast conditions and high humidity — 31ºC (88ºF) — so I’ll prepare accordingly. But what if I didn’t know that muggy hot weather is perfect for dehydration and heatstroke, or that in cold weather the thing that will kill me quickest is moisture? Where would I turn to for useful advice? Well, I could always
read a book turn to the ultimate source of information known to man …
I wouldn’t begin my outdoors education with the tv series ‘Man, Woman, Wild‘ which would have you believe that appropriate clothing for the south coast of Tasmania begins with a plunge-bra, a versatile item also featured in their Chihuahuan Desert escapades because they could have used it to make a sling to throw rocks at the vultures circling overhead as she lay under a saltbush dying of heatstroke. I’m sure the survival-bra found a different use in every episode, but I couldn’t keep watching.
Another show I’d avoid is Bear Gryll’s ‘Survival Island‘. If you find yourself stranded with a group of whiny assholes, my advice is to steal a machete and a pot, and strike out on your own. While you’re building a fire, collecting water, and constructing a shelter for the group the others will be swimming, braiding each other’s hair, and laying around groaning because they haven’t had a burger in 24 hours. Then when you ask one of them to help, the whole group shouts “who died and made you the boss??” So leave them to their own fate. They’ll be drinking each other’s pee within hours
Totally avoid the ‘Celebrity Survivor‘ shows. I only ever watched them in the hope that somebody I dislike would die or lose a finger or something. If you can put up with the sheer vapidity of these dipshits, you are bound to see some bewbs, mostly because all stranded celebrity women remember to pack a bikini and/or ubiquitous survival-bra. You may also see celebrity penis. Like I said, my advice for participants is to strike out on your own the first chance you get — and while you’re at it, steal everybody’s shoes. My advice for everybody else, keep channel-surfing.
Do not put your faith in ‘Survivorman‘ or anything else remotely associated with Les Stroud. While he is the man Bear Grylls could have been if the latter grew some balls, Les has a voice like a man without any. If you can take survival tips from someone who sounds gelded, by all means. But for me, I want confidence-inspiring vocals. Les does know his sh*t though, and you could do worse, but for all his skills I would be garrotting him on someone’s survivor-bra in the night, then casting the blame on the bimbos in the morning. “See!” I would cry, pointing at an imprint in poor Les’ neck “It says 28F!! Krystal is the murderer!”
The premise of ‘Dual Survival‘ is interesting but flawed in the fake duality of the stars. Joe Teti’s macho ex-military hard-talking alpha-male schtick is not the yin to Cody Lundin’s earth-mother, shoeless-hippy, nature-communing yang. Both have skills. Working together, they are full of valuable information, but too much of the show is about them NOT working together. That’s the premise: watch two assholes arguing when they should be digging a fire-pit, sort of thing. I know they were both replaced in later series, but all I could think about when I watched Joe chasing a bunny through the snow was “You just burned 5,000 calories to catch 1,000 kilojoules worth of meat…”
‘Out of the Wild: The Alaska Experiment” held my attention for a bit. I like seeing the big dudes falling over first because they can’t subsist on three berries and a one-fifth portion of muskrat every two days or so. Instead the wiry, older people survive and look on with clear frustration while the token bikini-model tosses her hair and blubs for the camera. But of course the oldies will be going back to pumping gas in Buttf*ck, Idaho, after the show, whereas survivor-bra girl, win or lose, is going straight onto the cover of GQ. Dude, she may be stoo-pid but she’s not stupid. That’s why she be smilin’.
And while it’s not at all relevant to my hike tomorrow, the idea in ‘The Colony‘ that when the world ends you’ll find yourself shacked up with a bunch of suspiciously useful people who know how to macgyver a generator out of a defunct tractor and turn rotting pig carcasses into a bio-fuel generator., is a bit far-fetched. Instead of an electrical engineer who can turn an empty coffee-can into a radio transmitter, or an ER nurse who can manufacture penicillin from fermented toenail clippings, aren’t you much more likely to get stuck with a bunch of useless assholes who are going to steal your machete and shoes and leave you in the lurch? I hate people like that.
Be careful of any advice you received from guy called Ed. If you miss the last name, go back and check, because it could end in tears. Ed Wardell’s ”Alone in the Wild‘ is hilarious if, like me, you enjoy the slow psychological breakdown of a self-proclaimed ‘wilderness expert’. Wardell is scared of bears 24/7 to the point that it deranges his mind. But he does teach us one useful wilderness lesson: cry less and stay hydrated. In any case (for me), what a relief it was that he pulled the pin. Value = zero.
Ed Stafford’s ‘Into the Unknown‘ series, on the other hand, is full of potential. I say potential, because I can’t get past the guy’s pinched head. He has a properly deep voice, though. But that head! Luckily, he’s worked that out and employs the age-old technique of distraction by making us look at his buff physique. But that head!
Finally, what I consider to the the quintessential survival show, and certainly the one with the most realistic premise. Take two totally average people and shove them into the godforsaken wilderness. Let them grab one useful thing apiece, but other than that, nothing. And when I say nothing, I mean NOTHING. Voila, we have ‘Naked and Afraid‘ a series where there’s no hiding from the mosquitos, the mud squelching between your toes, the thorns and sharp stones, the burning heat or the freezing cold. This show messes folk up. Adapt, overcome, survive — or don’t. If I had one second to grab one thing, would it be a machete, a fire steel, a pot? Makes you really think, because these poor bastards then have to deal with the consequences.
But if I make it sound awful, let me assure you it is not all that bad. Given my many failed attempts to lure my wife into the wilderness, I guess the only mud I’ll be smearing is the protective layer I apply to myself before the mozzies come out. Or I’ll just reach for the DEET. Mind you, if she did come with me, I might just have to leave the insect repellent at home …