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'How To Stay Alive': Adventurer Bear Grylls Shares His Survival Tips

With Meghna Chakrabarti

Globe-trotting adventurer Bear Grylls wants to get you off the couch and awaken your inner wild child. He shares his ultimate survival tips.


Bear Grylls, adventurer, writer, television host. Host of “Man vs. Wild” from 2006 to 2011. Host of “Running Wild with Bear Grylls.” Author of “ How to Stay Alive: The Ultimate Survival Guide for Any Situation.” ( @BearGrylls)

5 Survival Tips From Bear Grylls

How to track and trap an animal

Keep your eyes on the ground — fresh feces or teeth marks indicate an animal has passed by recently.

Animals want to survive, too. You’re clumsy. You’re loud. You smell. Your one advantage? Your superior brain. Use it.

To create a simple snare:

  • Create a small loop at one end of a rope, cord or wire
  • Thread the remaining wire through the small loop, creating a bigger loop
  • Hang the snare over an animal hole, run or trail
  • Secure the snare firmly to something so it won’t get ripped away

How to make a survival shelter

Two rules:

  • Your entrance should face away from the wind
  • If you build a fire, set it about 3 feet from your entrance, and build a horseshoe shape around the rear, to deflect heat toward the shelter

Lash a branch between two upright tree trunks.

Gather branches to lean up against the main, horizontal branch.

Cover the sides with leaves, earth or moss to waterproof it.

How to survive in the snow

Plants and animals won’t survive above the tree line, and neither will you. Stay below it for food, shelter and warmth.

For clothing, remember the acronym  COLD:

  • Clean — Dirt and grease make clothing lose its insulating quality
  • Overheating — Sweat means wet, and damp clothes reduce your body temperature
  • Loose and layers — Air pockets between your clothes act as an insulator
  • Dry — Wet clothes, especially wet socks, will kill you

If you have to cross a frozen lake or river, remember, thick and blue equals tried and true; thin and crispy, way too risky. Get into dry clothes as quickly as possible.

If you have no spare clothing, roll around in the snow to absorb water from your clothes. If you have spare clothing, roll around in the snow naked to absorb water from your skin.

To dry your clothes with no fire, hang them on branches until the water freezes, then bang the clothing to shake out the ice.


How to identify poisonous plants

Know the six-stage edibility test:

  • Look at it. Is it discolored? Old? Dirty? Rotten? Brightly colored? Find something else to eat.
  • Smell it. Does it smell rancid or dirty? Does it smell like almonds or pears? If it does, that could indicate it contains poisonous hydrocyanic acid (almonds and pears are an exception, obviously).
  • Skin-contact test. Crush part of it and rub juice on sensitive skin (your palm, wrist or inside of your elbow). Leave it for a few hours. If your skin gets red or sore, avoid.
  • Dab a bit on the inside of your lips. Keep an eye out for tingling or swelling. If you do, rinse with fresh water.
  • Chew a bit, get all the juice out of it, then spit it out. Wait for tingling, swelling or other adverse reaction
  • Eat a small amount, wait 4-6 hours. Don’t drink water, because that may dilute and offset a poisonous reaction. Don’t eat other food, because then you may not know what poisoned you.

Suspected poisoning? Drink lots of water and induce vomiting.

Stinging nettles, dandelions and acorns are all edible.

Don’t take a chance with mushrooms.

How to survive a bear attack

Prevention first:

  • Travel in groups — more humans equals less risk.
  • Make noise — if animals hear you coming, they’re likely to avoid you.
  • Most importantly — KEEP YOUR CAMP CLEAN. Sleeping, food storage, cooking and washing areas should all be 50 meters away from each other, and downwind of your tent.

Always carry bear spray or other deterrents.

Don’t try to outrun a bear, or escape up a tree. You will lose.

Defensive bear attack? Back away calmly, or play dead. A defensive bear will make noise, slap the ground with its paws, and rear up on its hind legs.

Aggressive bear attack? Make a lot of noise and fight like your life depends on it. It does. An aggressive bear is quiet and maintains eye contact.


From The Reading List

Excerpt from “How to Stay Alive” by Bear Grylls

Excerpted from the book HOW TO STAY ALIVE by Bear Grylls. Copyright © 2018 by Bear Grylls. Republished with permission of William Morrow Paperbacks, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

CNBC: “ Bear Grylls’ best survival hack is something you can use to get through everyday life too” — “As a celebrity survival expert, Bear Grylls has done everything from eating maggots in the Alps to sleeping inside a deer carcass in the Scottish Highlands. But whether you’re stranded on a deserted island or just trying to survive a crappy day at work, Grylls, host of NBC’s ‘Running Wild,’ has a ‘clear, simple mantra’ that he says can help you power through adversity.

“‘My mantra has always been just never give up,’ Grylls tells CNBC Make It.

“Grylls is a former member of the British army’s special forces (similar to the U.S. Navy SEALs) who later went on to international fame as a survival expert and instructor who has spent more than a decade hosting reality TV shows such as Discovery Channel’s ‘Man vs. Wild.’ ”

The Statesman: “ ‘I am only human!’” — Bear Grylls is synonymous with superhuman strength, endurance and stamina. Here, he talks about Shark Week, conservation of wildlife, his fears, the death-defying situations he’s had to face and more…

Q People look at you as a fearless man, although everyone has their own fears or phobias. What’s your definition of fear and what’s your worst nightmare?

Trust me, we all have these niggling fears…. when I was serving with the military I fractured T8, T10 & T12 vertebrae in a freefall parachuting accident in southern Africa, and ever since then I will always feel that fear when I’m about to jump or parachute during filming.

But there is also always that hand on my shoulder, from one of our crew, knowing it is hard for me but encouraging me to face the fear once more. You have to face fears head-on, and understand that fear is there to sharpen us. Time, experience and a whole bunch of narrow escapes, has taught me that the best way over our fears is not to run from them, but to face them and to go right through the middle of them.

Q What’s a common day in your life? Aren’t you afraid of waking up one morning without any new challenge to face or purpose?

I think as humans we are at our best when we have a goal and I have always tried to have clear goals and things to aim for. I have failed so many times but that’s OK. It’s about that relentless pursuit and that spirit of endeavour and never giving up. Those things have become habits for me nowadays but it is the friendships along the way that help and motivate me the most. I never take those for granted.

I start every day with a raw veg and fruit smoothie with loads of ginger and then a short sharp outdoor body weight workout for 30mins. Then I hit the day. I also try and make time for a short “quiet time” where I read a bit of one of the epic bible stories and that always helps keep me centred and aware of where my help comes from.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

(U.S. National Archives via Wikimedia Commons)
(U.S. National Archives via Wikimedia Commons)

(Jim Champion via Wikimedia Commons)
(Jim Champion via Wikimedia Commons)

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