Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Who is the greatest of them all?

I had to do it ... I asked that question that keeps getting asked in one form or another; "who is the best survival guy?". It's been asked as Mears vs Grylls, it's been asked as Bushcraft vs Survival and it's been asked generically and with specific context. I tried to make it as contemporary as possible.

The question I posed was "Which of these do you think would, today, survive longest or get out quickest if placed on their own in a random, realistic survival situation with bare bones kit?".

The poll can be found on Facebook and was prepopulated with few choice survival types and voters were allowed to add their own.

Couple of notes on the question. First being that I asked about 'today', meaning nowish, so age had to be taken into consideration and as a consequence, those no longer with us were excluded. An honourable mention therefore has to be given to Teruo Nakamura, a Japanese soldier and most recent World War II holdout to be found in 1974, having spent the years following the war living off the land thinking it was still going on. He dies in 1979.

Secondly, the situation was to be random, albeit in the space of  possible situations the individual might find themself. Next I ensured that getting out was an option and lastly that the kit was to be sparse, which implied no preparation. With that, I was pretty sure I had all bases covered, but of course, there were people who picked at it. Oh well.

I tried to spread the question as internationally as possible, but being British, most of my connections were also. Those connection were also mostly bushcraft and survival community type too. Even this blog is mostly read by Brits, so even if you share the question on and we give it another month, the results may still be skewed. Of course, Facebook being the platform may be considered a bit ageist or techist. And yes, the media probably helped a bit, but not as much as you might think. 

And so to the results. There were around 100 votes at time of writing, so that's a nice easy conversion to a percentage.

Ray Mears - 31 votes. Known for being a Bushcraft guy, Ray has his own school at Woodlore and though concentrated on survival back in the day, is more of a wild camping, wild food eating, wildlife type on the telly these days. He's well travelled and demonstrates a lot of skill on camera and clearly recognised as an asset in a survival situation.

Dave Canterbury - 21 votes. Dave is best known in the community for his "survival for the common man" videos on YouTube which his publishes under the name of his company, The Pathfinder School. Dave also co-produces Self Reliance Illustrated magazine, which I'm proud to have been invited to submit an article to this Spring. Dave shot into the public eye with the Discovery series Dual Survival also feature Cody Lundin, below.

John 'Lofty' Wiseman - 20 votes. Lofty is best known for being the author of The SAS Survival Handbook which was published back in 1986 and is what got me into this game in the first place. The Gem version of this book was, at last look, Harper Collins best seller of all time. Now the figurehead of Trueways Survival School, though no longer teaching in the field, Lofty's skills are broad and proven through experience but at 72, might have been considered to have been getting on a bit, though I wouldn't mess with him, even though he's always been a jolly decent fellow whenever I've met up with him.

Les Stroud - 6 votes. Bit of a jump down to the Survivorman who uniquely takes all his own footage on his survival escapades. With no hotels and no catering van, Les Stroud gets out there an does it for real. He too has been all over the world and is one of me favourite TV survival types, harmonica notwithstanding.

Bear Grylls - 4 votes. Yes, four votes. Just goes to show, for all the entertaining telly, people did not think he has what it takes, even though he's climbed Everest, was a part timer in the special forces and as an adventurer has been over the world. He's Chief Scout in the UK, but is best known for Born Survivor or Man vs Wild and has eaten some manky foodstuffs, climbed waterfalls, jumped out of helicopters and used a piss filled snake skin as a cooling scarf. Bear Grylls has started his own survival academy, but it's very expensive.

Cody Lundin - 4 votes. Co-star of Dual Survival with Dave Canterbury, Cody runs the Aboriginal Living Skills School in Arizona where he lives 'off the grid'. Better known for his primitive skills, he also teaches contemporary survival and preparedness. I suspect, however, he's even better known for his bare feet and tiny shorts.

Mors Kochanski - 4 votes. Author of the book Northern Bushcraft first published in 1988, and known for the phrase "the more you know, the less you carry", which has stuck with me since I first heard it. Mors has more recently become the adopted grandfather of the British bushcraft community and is highly respected by many still.

"Steve M off of BCUK" - 3 votes. See now you're just being silly, because that's me and although I'm only part way through my book, I've not got a branded knife on the market and I've not usually on the telly for more than 5 minutes at a time. Having said that, it was nice to be thought of, especially since one of the voters works for Ray Mears's school.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes - 2 votes. 'The worlds greatest explorer' according to The Guiness Book of World Records. He climbed Everest at 65 and was the first to visit both poles, amongst other amazing thing. He also cut off his own first bitten fingertips with a fretsaw, which is pretty hard core.

Cookie Monster - 2 votes. At least I got more votes than Cookie Monster.

The last few each got one vote, some of which went back down to zero. I'm frankly amazed some of these didn't get more votes.

Les Hiddins is known as The Bush Tucker Man, and is almost certainly the first TV survival guy with his series of the same name. He's likely to be better known in Australia.

Bruce Parry is a TV adventurer and is best known for his series Tribe. Bruce has arguably eaten worse tasting food than Bear Grylls, and under the pressure of village elders who he did not want to offend by spitting it out or throwing up.

Lars Monsen is a Norwegian adventurer not afraid of harsh environments and is best known for spending over two years alone on a hike across Alaska and Canada.

Ben Fogle is also an adventurer, but is now well know for his wilderness skills. Lovely chap though.

Two interesting additions were Bear Grylls's Cameraman and Ray Mears's Sound Man, both of which were honoured for their continued participation in their more famous counterpart's experiences. I'm sure there have been very many of each, but nice to be recognised I think.

Lastly, "the man with most luck on his side", got a vote and it just goes to show that this very important concept is still recognised, no matter how hard I tried to craft the question to avoid it.

Feel free to comment this this article or the poll, which will be left open. It would be interesting to hear other perspectives and maybe see of the positions change.

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