Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Survivorman vs Man Woman Wild vs Dual Survival vs Man vs Wild

First off, before anyone thinks I'm putting on airs, I want to stipulate that with the possible exception of Man Woman Wild's Ruth England* I'm quite certain that all of the survival experts critiqued below know more about wilderness survival than I do.

I've enough survival knowledge to evaluate most of the survival tips given on the shows, and the likelihood that you will ever encounter the "survival situations" they put themselves into.

Also I realize these are commercial shows that must entertain to reap ratings and so I accept that they will occasionally do things that are contrary to good survival practices. But I expect them to clearly label these exceptions and to keep them within the realm of realistic survival situations.

(*Ruth is the only one who doesn't list survival expertise in her résumé or biography.)


When it comes to showmanship Man vs. Wild is a Barnum and Bailey Three Ring Circus compared to Dual Survival's Abbott and Costello; Who's On First routine. Continuing in the Vaudeville vein Man Woman Wild is a George Burns and Gracie Allen Show compared to Survivorman's Bill Cosby's one man standup routines.

Entertainment Value
Bear Grylls' antics on Man vs. Wild are, I think, more for ratings than instruction. Although he cautions against doing what he's about to show you how to do his examples speak louder than his words and his examples sometimes go way beyond survival.

The Abbott and Costello backwoods bickering of Dual Survival's Cody ("The more you know the less you need") Lundin and Dave (Patience my ass I'm goin' out and kill somethin') Canterbury is fun to watch. Cody's minimalist's 'at one with nature' eat shoots and leaves while foraging for bugs and snails style contrasts with Dave's 'hunter/killer "eating furry critters", snakes and alligators style.

Likewise watching survival expert Mykel Hawke instruct wife Ruth England in various survival techniques is entertaining as the normal give and take between husband and wife are added to the survival show mix. Mykel's explanations are more interesting because of the husband/wife aspect. I find myself looking forward to the next Man Woman Wild show.

Les Stroud uses neither outrageous antics nor verbal give and take between survivalists in his shows which makes him the best and least entertaining instructor of the lot. Still, if I had to recommend one show to learn survival techniques Survivorman would be my pick.

Relevance to Reality
If watching someone eat eyeballs from rotting carcasses, haul around half inch steel cable to slide down on from the top of a cliff to the top of a tree and repeatedly jump off of cliffs of indeterminate height into waters of indeterminate depth is your idea of relevant survival instruction then Bear Grylls is your man.

Walking around barefoot for twenty years is a great marketing gimmick for a Sonoran Desert survival school proprietor, but deliberately going unshod in a real survival situation is just plain stupid. Already Cody has had to resort to thick wool socks and field expedient sandals in the face of glaciers and cactus spines. The claim that having to go slow to look out for sharp rocks and scorpions somehow makes one more observant of one's surroundings reeks of excuse to me. Going slower or faster may be the difference between making it to the next waterhole or not. A discalced wilderness traveler is looking at the uneven ground immediately underfoot, not at surroundings.

Neither Bear's nor Cody's survival strategies is realistically defensible much less recommendable. The difference between the two survivalists is that Cody gives sensible advice while demonstrating realistic survival situations.

Survivorman Wiki

Survivorman on Discovery Channel

Les Stroud

Man Woman Wild
Man Woman Wild Wiki

Man Woman Wild on Discovery Channel

Mykel Hawke Wiki

Ruth England Wiki

Dual Survival
Dual Survival Wiki

Dual Survival
Discovery Channel

Cody Lundin Wiki

Dave Canterbury Wiki

Man vs. Wild
Man vs. Wild Wiki

Man vs. Wild Discovery Channel

Bear Grylls

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