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Survivorman Review


Survivorman is a program about wilderness survival, seen on the Discovery Channel (and others?). It is about one man against the elements. The man in this case is Les Stroud. He is left in various environments and has to survive for seven days while filming himself.

Going without a camera crew may be the most novel idea in the show. You can be sure that the danger is real, and a cameraman won't be slipping some food or water to Les when the camera is off. Stroud really is alone, and really does get into trouble at times. His challenges are actually made tougher by the fact that he has to lug around camera equipment, and use it when he might like to get straight to gathering food or building a shelter.

Another novel feature of Survivorman is that each show has a "theme." In the episode in the Canadian arctic, for example, Stroud is left with a broken-down snowmobile, which he cannibalizes for various useful items, including using the seat cushion for a insulating sleeping pad. In the Sonoran desert episode, he is in the middle of a desert wilderness with a broken dirt bike. He uses the wires from this to weave a blanket of grass.

This makes Survivorman more realistic than if it was just a man in the wilderness with nothing. It gets the viewer thinking about ALL the possibilities. If a plane crash is what puts you in a survival situation, you will be remembering the "Survivorman" using plane fuel to start a fire, and you'll be looking at every part of that plane for useful items. If your boat sinks and you are on an isolated island trying to survive, you'll think about how Stroud used plastic containers from washed-up beach debris to hold water, and you'll look at all the debris with a eye towards using it in some way to help yourself.

Is Survivorman Dangerous?

Some reviewers have pointed out that Survivorman may give viewers a false sense of confidence and even spread some bad ideas. In the Sonoran desert episode, for example, he does drink water straight from a stream. This is a good way to get sick, and he could have used the gas tank from the dirt bike to boil the water in. In the Canadian boreal forest episode he uses his one match the first night, and rather than keep the fire going, starts the second night's fire without matches. This is extremely hard to do for those without experience, and a better lesson might have been to keep that fire alive.

These are minor flaws, however, and perhaps due to the nature of doing a television program. In other words, Stroud wouldn't get to show us how to use a bow and drill to start a fire if he didn't need a fire started. In fact, there are often times in various episodes when he may have been better off doing something else, but the point of the show is to show all the possibilities. It may be better to keep gathering one type of food, for example, but then how do the viewers learn about the others?

Overall, this is a creative and informative show. There are all the specific techniques of survival that Stroud shows us. Beyond those, though, is the inspiration the show provides. Survivorman lets you know that you can survive, and gets you in the habit of thinking about how to use everything around you.


The Ultralight Backpacking Site | Survivorman