Q&A With Les Shroud

Les Shroud, host of TV’s Survivorman and Canadian hero, took questions from Reddit yesterday. Here are his best answers.

How long are you alone in the wilderness before the psychology of your aloneness becomes a factor?
Usually on the third day.

What exactly are the signs of psychological distress in the wilderness?
I find apathy and slight overall feeling of melancholy are the toughest to deal with.

During the run of Survivorman, did you have a plan in place in the unfortunate event that you did not survive? Would you have wanted that episode to air?
Yes, I would’ve. I told my crew, “Edit it, air it, and make sure my kids benefit from it.”

Whatever happened to your other show, Surviving Urban Disasters? I thought that show had the potential to be even more helpful than Survivorman since it dealt with much more common situations.
I would’ve love to do urban disasters and I may revamp it, but it got caught up in the first years when they started copying my show with other shows, and so I didn’t produce it, which is unusual for me. I am not proud of that show. I think the edit sucks and I would love to re-do it.

Do you have some sort of “panic button” for when something really bad happens that you can’t get out of?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. On some of the journeys I have carried with me a two-way radio so that I can contact my safety crew who are usually situated from five to 50 miles away. The problem is, the radio doesn’t always work—as in places like the jungle or canyons. At those times I am completely without any outside help and have to think very much in terms of survival only. One of the last shows I did, Norway, I got myself in quite a dangerous situation stuck on the mountainside with a safety crew only miles away. I couldn’t get back up the hill, couldn’t go forward, and I had no radio.

How much pre-work do you and/or your support crew do scoping locations? For instance, in “10 Days Norway” you happened upon a hunting lodge right when you needed it most. Do you have awareness of a general direction to head for safety?
It’s a mixed bag. On some locations I really haven’t a clue. I go out and see what I get. On others I do some scouting work to check ahead of time—where it makes most sense for me to go and where my greatest struggles will be—this helps me to really set up a strong survival scenario to deal with and film and tell you the story. In the case of Norway I knew there would be cabins up on the mountain and homes down below in the fjord. Still, my job is to survive, so I just go out and do what I do. I don’t really plan which day per say I will find something or even if I will. Sometimes I have an idea, and sometimes, not a clue.

You’re going into the woods for an afternoon hike alone with plans to return in a few hours. You only have your clothes on your back and maybe a bottle of water. . . What’s in your pockets?
A way to start a fire, a knife, a cell phone, and if I am being survival minded, an orange garbage bag, a signal mirror, some parachute cord, a whistle, and my harmonica.

Have you ever thought “I’m going to die in here” during any of your adventures?
It was touch and go in the Kalahari with heat stroke and as well in Norway on the mountainside. I did say things I didn’t let my editor put in the final cut.

What is the biggest survival myth?
That it is fun.

Do you think you could beat Mantracker?
They asked me, but they won’t do it for real, so I said no.

Is there anything you have ever done that your producers wouldn’t or couldn’t put on the air?
I’m the producer, and nope. Sometimes I do a crappy job at filming something and that is the reason it doesn’t make it on—or its just plainly a boring scene—but those are the only reasons.

What park is your favourite place to camp in Ontario?

If you had to live the rest of your life with one indigenous people, which group would you choose?
The Waoroni.

Have you ever been in a situation where luck played a bigger part in survival than skill?
Every situation. They are at least close to equal.

Is there a place that you would not even attempt to survive, due to its potential danger?
Death Valley.

What is your professional opinion on Bear Grylls?
Lets establish one thing first: he acts (they act), I survive. As far as the survival instruction and gimmicks shown, I will speak only as a survival instructor and not the guy who first put survival on TV: many of the actual survival skills taught are bogus. It is NOT possible to squeeze drinkable water out of elephant dung. Well, it is when your cameraman has soaked it with bottled water. Others are pure TV stunt entertainment and do not relate to the real world of survival, so my ‘professional’ opinion of Bear Grylls is that he is a TV host, acting out scenarios based on what he and his producers dream up and glean from books and from the on-location consultants advice.
I would even go as far as to say that some of the skills, if followed and attempted in a real survival situation, could result in worsening the situation.
Then again, maybe the same could be said about whatever choices I make when I am out there, but then that is the difference: I need to make choices on the spot to secure my survival, he (they) need to do the next scene for the location director and then spend all day filming a dangerous scene of clambering down a 15 foot waterfall when they could’ve walked around it in 10 minutes. I am glad he has at least brought attention to adventuring in nature to the young fans, and I am sure he is a great outdoor adventurer and he seems to be quite the athlete, but my professional opinion on the subject of survival is that he is not an instructor I would ever suggest to be followed when survival skills are the ones you want to learn.

So should you drink your own piss or not?

When urinating, do you use it to strategically “mark your territory” for protection around your camp/setup for the night/rest out in the wild?


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