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Backpacker Magazine – October 2012

Bear Grylls: Master of Disaster

Q&A with Guest Editor Bear Grylls

by: Anthony Cerretani

Bear Grylls Master of Disaster (photo by Ben Fullerton)
Bear Grylls Master of Disaster (photo by Ben Fullerton)

In order to become a true survival expert, you can't wait for a few accidents to come your way. You have to go looking for wilderness adventure. Which is exactly what Grylls, 38, did for seven seasons of Discovery's popular show, Man vs. Wild. And this came after countless serious scrapes while training for, and then serving in, the British Army's ultra-elite SAS.

More creds: He's climbed Everest, explored the Arctic and Antarctic, and faced off against deadly wildlife. In other words, our guest editor for this issue knows his survival skills--because he's had to use them. You'll find his field-tested advice in the following pages. But first, Deputy Editor Anthony Cerretani checks in with Grylls about living through the unexpected, learning from mishaps, and what it's like to make a career out of life-or-death epics.

BACKPACKER: Has there ever been a moment when you actually thought, “This is it. I think I’m going to die.”? Did anything change for you after that moment?


BEAR GRYLLS: I’ve had too many of those. I almost died falling down a monster crevasse collapse in the Himalaya, in a big Class V whitewater river in the Malaysian jungle, in a Himalayan slab avalanche, a rockfall in Canada, a parachute malfunction in Africa, a frozen lake in Ireland. Oh, and I almost drowned in quick mud as a kid. They have all taught me the same things: You gotta respect nature, never get complacent, and always have a backup plan.

What keeps you motivated to seek out the sharp edge between safety and disaster in the wilderness?

It’s the only place that I feel totally at home and calm—I find everyday life quite hard sometimes. For me, a switch kind of flicks when I am in the wild, especially when things start to go a little wrong. That is always my time. I am not as totally reckless as people sometimes think, but I know what I can do and have a good instinct for danger. I always give myself a 20-percent margin of error in the wild. (It used to be 10 percent, but I’m improving.)

What’s your most important piece of survival advice?

The heart of great survival is all about spirit—having that spirit of dogged determination to never, ever, ever give up. The rest is detail.

What’s the worst advice you’ve heard?

Bugs taste like chicken.

You’ve mastered knife skills, foraging, firestarting, and other lifesaving techniques. Which is the most important?

All are important: Ultimately, knowledge is power and the more you know, the easier your escape should be. Ingenuity is an under-appreciated but vital skill to develop. It means you can work out smart ways of doing things with very little. This ingenuity is the part of survival that I love the most.



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Chris Sanders
Sep 25, 2013

You guys need to fix this site, everything I want to add a comment and be a part of the conversation there's always a problem.

I don't mind the article it was funny because I know better then to listen to Bear G. What bothers me is the ads that have dominated over the content. I can't tell where the articles of useful information begins or where the ads end. I understand about paying the bills but you can do better then this.

rick
Nov 20, 2012

this is why i no longer buy your mag , promotion of things that i would wipe off my shoe!

meanolddog
Nov 20, 2012

Interesting, no matter where I go on the trails or the net, and this guys name is brought up, people mostly spit or the politically correct remain silent..and here we have dozens of people giving their opinion of this guy while the Backpackers Staff are idolizing him...Kind of says it all about Backpackeer and how far they have sunk, must be reaching new lows now...

Scott
Nov 20, 2012

RELAX people, Bears real message wasn't "go buy my knife," it was depend on the HUMAN SPIRIT of Determination. That Spirit is what we need more of in life, not product placement.

Scott
Nov 20, 2012

I don't doubt Bear's skills, but the way he presents them on his show is very irresponsible. Les Stroud, while not as flashy or dramatic as Bear Grylls, teaches real survival skills on his show, rather than engaging in stunts to demonstrate his awesomeness. Les is also a musician and lives off the grid, though his penchant for homeopathic remedies is troubling.

Mike Martie
Nov 18, 2012

The survival knife he promotes with his name on it is over priced and of low quality. he does not give or demonstrate good survial skills on his show. His show his harmful to people wanting to acquire real survival skills. Don't waste your money on this guy.

meanolddog
Nov 11, 2012

Bear is a danger to himself and others. He is basically a Marketing gimmick which of course appeals to everyone at Backpacker who are basically Marketing people or what we call Maggots, as in marketing maggots, because their job is to decieve people into paying high prices and buying gear they don't need to keep that Advertising dollar coming in. Sure wish for the days of Mr. Rodale himself being around, he was an honest man...By the way, Bear's Machete has been recalled because as with most of the equipment with his name on it,. it is junk or near junk. I have six Years in the U.S.Marine Corps and would not want Bear in my Squad, as I said he is a danger to himself and others..and I still question him finding a Bear Trap tied to a Hawser Rope in the Desert especially after I lived in and near the Desert for some 30 years. If you people had any brains, you'd snuggle up to a real expert, as in Les Stroud..But Les is not a marketing wizard so you probably don't like him, plus he is knowledgeable and safe and smart, attributes you folks do not seem to find valuable and honest too..For shame...

Bob
Nov 11, 2012

I was so disappointed in BP to see Bear Grylls featured throughout the Oct issue. I know that they know better. Just trying to pander to the masses, I guess.

john mayden
Nov 09, 2012

you should be ashamed to promote this fool or do you want readers to die?

john mayden
Nov 09, 2012

you should be ashamed to promote this fool or do you want readers to die?

john mayden
Nov 09, 2012

you should be ashamed to promote this fool or do you want readers to die?

john mayden
Nov 09, 2012

you should be ashamed to promote this fool or do you want readers to die?

john mayden
Nov 09, 2012

you should be ashamed to promote this fool or do you want readers to die?

john mayden
Nov 09, 2012

you should be ashamed to promote this fool or do you want readers to die?

bill arden
Nov 09, 2012

this guys a joke follow his show and see or die because of this idchit!

bill arden
Nov 09, 2012

this guys a joke follow his show and see or die because of this idchit!

Jeff
Nov 09, 2012

Is anyone else sick of this guy? The only thing he's master of is self-promotion. His former "survival" show was a joke and offered bad advice. (Example: if you're trying to get found, build a raft out of logs and float down a whitewater river to safety.)

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