If you were in the same room as a television set any time between 2006 and 2012, you no doubt saw an episode or two of Man vs. Wild. That was the media vehicle for legitimate badass and internet joke Bear Grylls, who taught survival skills on the show through real-life demonstrations. Grylls opened each episode by being airdropped into a remote wilderness, where he was then filmed surviving with nothing but his wits and the clothes on his back. The camera crew, audiences were told, had been specially instructed to provide him with no aid of any kind.
The show was eventually exposed as a fraud. Many of daring acts Grylls performed on camera turned out to be practiced stunts (in one episode he appeared to wrangle a wild mustang, but of course it was actually a trained horse), and investigators found evidence that Grylls and his crew spent many of their “field nights” in hotels. As shown in the video below, many of his locations turned out to be less “wild” than first claimed.
Over the show’s six-season run, Grylls also gave some pretty terrible pieces of survival advice. He infamously drank his own urine in the Australian desert (you shouldn’t drink pee, no matter how thirsty you are), and he taught viewers to eat raw meat, squeeze water from elephant dung, and swim through raging rapids. You shouldn’t do any of those things.
So in the outdoor survival community, Grylls is not held in very high regard. But at least one man credits his continued existence to the reality TV star’s teachings. As reported by the Telegraph last week, 32-year-old Anthony Collins employed skills he learned from Man vs. Wild to survive three days alone in the Australian Outback.
Collins and his girlfriend had been on an overland journey through Australia’s Pilbara desert when their vehicle became stuck in sand. The couple split up after an argument, and Collins’ girlfriend ended up wandering five miles to a remote mining camp where she reported her boyfriend missing.
When he was found three days later, barefoot, sunburned, and dehydrated, Collins told rescuers he had survived by eating bugs and by burying himself in the desert sand during the cold nights. He’d learned these skills, he said, from an episode of Man vs. Wild.
Just how much good these skills did Anthony Collins is debateable, though. Rescuers stressed that he’d have been found within a day if he’d stayed near his vehicle, and said that his practice of burying himself under sand actually kept him from registering on heat-seeking cameras.
This underscores the most common criticism of Grylls’ ultra-dramatic take on survival. While it’s true that hand-driling a fire and burying yourself in the dirt can keep you alive, you’re much more likely to be saved by common sense tactics like staying put and waiting for rescue.
No reports have yet confirmed whether Collins drank his own pee.
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