Eat Bear Poo, or Cuddle a Non-consenting Sheep... You Decide! Why Bear Gryll's New Show is the Best and Worst Survival Show Yet!

When I was in high school I wanted to be just like Bear Grylls. I wanted to run through the wilderness while taking on crazy “survival” challenges. I wanted to look cool, run a lot (for no apparent reason), and eat crazy stuff, all in the name of adventure.

Then, I grew up… a little.

As a career bushcraft instructor I guess you could say that I AM living out that dream, but in a different way. I focus on slowing down and letting nature teach, rather doing crazy stuff in front of a camera. That said, I am still a huge Bear Grylls fan. Bear is well known to the survival community for his unsafe teaching style and history of less-than-legal/truthful film work, but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s an enormously experienced explorer, and father, who is constantly encouraging kids to get outdoors.

So of course, when Netflix wouldn’t stop shoving advertisements for Bear Grylls new show “You vs Wild” down my throat, I said “why not?” and gave it a shot. Overall, it was definitely worth my time. Here’s why…

This show is ridiculous, in good ways and bad.

The good? Bear visits beautiful, exotic locations that are a joy to watch. As always, he is an talented presenter and captivating story teller. After watching him run around in the jungle it’s impossible to stay indoors yourself! He just makes exploring the wilderness look so darn fun.

The bad? Bear is constantly presenting you with ridiculously illogical “survival” decisions, at which point he turns to the camera and states “you decide!”

No Bear. I do not think that you should do either of those things. I do not think that you should try to climb with a moldy rope, or wrestle a sheep to the ground to stay warm. Also, why couldn’t you just take your helicopter to the village yourself? Why didn’t you bring any extra food with you? There are these things called granola bars and they’re way better than rinsed off poop.

That said, it is extremely fun to watch this show with my four year old, who has no idea why this man on the TV will do whatever he says. At one point my son even turned to me and said, “daddy, I don’t think he should do either of those things.”

Well done my boy… well done.

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History's Survival Competition Show Is Casting Season 7: How To Get On, and How to Blow It

So the time is here, once again. ALONE (History’s hit survival tv series) is casting for its 7th season, and you might be exactly what they’re looking for. As most of you know, I have a special connection and love for this show, after competing on both the 1st and 5th seasons. I’ve compiled a list of dos and don’ts, to get you started. Read this, and if you still think you’re a good fit, shoot them an email (shown at the bottom of the blog post.

Author’s note: These points should speak for themselves, so although I love interacting with you guys, all show questions are best answered during the application process, by people who actually work for ITV or HISTORY. I should also add that these are just my opinions, and other than being a former participant, I am not affiliated with the show in any way.

How To Blow It

#1 Trash Talk the show, other outdoor professionals, or previous cast members. If you’re a cool person and not a jerk face, this should go without saying. Being intentionally negative about things in an attempt to promote yourself is tacky, and a sure way to get your application shredded. Think of it as a job interview. If you appear negative now, you’re probably going to get even more negative as the process moves forward, and no one wants to work with a negative person.

#2 Be Public about your participation in the casting process. I know it’s exciting to think about the possibility of being on TV and having an awesome wilderness adventure, but you’ll need to keep it to yourself. Don’t announce that you’re applying via social media, and do not put your “application video” on youtube. You have nothing to gain by doing this, and everything to lose.

#3 Act. ALONE is all about a real, raw adventure. The people who go through the applications can spot a fake person from a mile away. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. In the words of Bernard M. Baruch, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind.” 

How To Get On

#1 Demonstrate Competency. You don’t have to be the world’s best survivalist to get on ALONE, but you do have to show the casting team that you aren’t going to die as soon as they drop you into the woods. Demonstrate that you know what you’re doing in the wild, and that you are a rational person. You’re also responsible for filming your adventure, so being a good communicator is key. You can be the baddest guy/gal in the woods, but if you don’t know how to communicate your journey, you’re not a good fit for ALONE.

#2 Be Attractive. This doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the way you look. ALONE wants people who draw other people in with their personalities, and their “vibes” for lack of a better word. Maybe you’re an undaunted mother who loves the outdoors and wants to show her kids that she has what it takes; or a mail carrier who has some wilderness skills, and a knack for physical comedy. Maybe you’re a naive “no-collar” male in his early twenties who never wants to call it quits… but what do I know about that.

#3 Be Yourself. This goes hand in hand with not being an “actor” and it’s the number one piece of advice that I give to everyone who tells me that they want to apply for ALONE. Be yourself, and at the end of the day, its okay if the show doesn’t think you’re a good fit for them. I don’t know you, but I’m sure that you’re a better person than whoever you would pretend to be. Be truthful, be honest, and be yourself.

So, that’s all I got.

Do you still want to apply for the show? If so, email alonecasting@itv.com and say “Hey guys, I’d like to give it a shot.” Good luck!

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Sam Larson is a husband, father, and lover of the outdoors. He’s had the privilege of training with world renowned instructors in many different environments.

I Spent 16 Weeks Alone In The Wilderness: Here's what I learned

In the spring of 2014 I was sitting in a garage carving a canoe paddle, when I got a phone call about a new reality survival show. They asked if I wanted to audition, and after several emails, interviews, and evaluations, I found myself on a sea plane, flying over the wilderness of British Columbia.

The idea for the show was simple. The ten of us participants would be dropped into separate locations in the wilderness. Our task was to survive for as long as we could, while filming every part of the experience, remaining completely ALONE. The winner received a cash prize, but as I would soon find out, no one leaves the woods empty handed.

I spent over seven weeks in British Columbia before the storms of the Pacific Ocean and the draw to be home with my wife, who was expecting our first child, overcame my desire to stay in the woods. Only one other person remained.

Second Place.

Three years later I received another phone call. Participants who had previously been on the show were being invited back for a “redemption” of sorts. Although I didn’t feel a need to “redeem” myself, the pull to go back to the forest and to be alone was strong, and six short weeks later, I was flying to Mongolia. After two months alone in Mongolia’s Khentti Mountains, my wife was flown in to tell me that I had won, and shortly after the most emotional reunion I’ve ever experienced, my wife and I were flown by helicopter to a remote yurt, where I would start my transition back to civilization. After two days of hanging out and listening to what my family had been up to while I was gone, my wife was flown home to take care of the kids (we had two by this time) while I finished up the last few days of my transition.

Again, I found myself alone. This time however, I was in a warm yurt, well fed, and without the obligation of cutting my own firewood. This was my chance to reflect on my journey, and to unpack what I had learned and experienced. I still hadn’t truly wrapped my head around what had happened to me. Over the course of these two experiences I had spent well over 100 days alone in the woods. But, what had I learned? What had I truly experienced, and how would these experiences effect my life?

This blog post is my attempt at explaining my mental journey, and the thoughts that helped me to persevere, and ultimately, win.

There’s always something to be thankful for.

Hunger was no stranger to me during these wilderness experiences. I sometimes went as many as four days without a bite of food. One experience comes to mind where I got up to check the twenty traps that I had set over the course of a week. All of them were empty. I could tap into my emergency rations, but that would be even more disheartening than an empty stomach. I cut some firewood, grabbed a handful of pine needles, and headed back to my shelter for the evening. After starting a fire and getting a pot of snow melting, I added the pine needles to make tea.

I sat back in a chair that I had constructed from birch saplings and watched the flames kiss the bottom of my pot. Each day inevitably ends with reflection. What happened? How did I feel about the day?

Honestly, it was difficult for me to name a positive at first. It was cold and my once plentiful supply of firewood was dwindling, pushing my wood gathering further and further from camp.  And of course, the stinging reality that my traps were empty… again.

I saw my tea start to boil, so I removed it from the fire and poured some into the wooden cup that I had made. I put the cup to my lips and slowly sipped the hot liquid. I poured another cup of pine needle tea, this time taking a few seconds to stare at the steam pouring off the top before taking another sip.

‘I have this cup of tea,’ I thought to myself. ‘I have this cup of tea that is really just hot water with pine needles in it, but for today, that’s something to be thankful for.’

There’s an intensity in silence. That intensity leads to clarity.

We live in a world of distractions. I remember looking around in our food tent after returning from my wilderness camp and seeing the paper tab of a teabag urging customers to follow them on facebook, the first advertisement I’d seen in months. It was my first “culture shock” and I hadn’t even left the mountains. From traffic lights to advertisements to cell phone notifications, our attention is always in high demand. My weeks in the wilderness provided me with an opportunity to forego these distractions for a significant amount of time. So what happened?

Clarity.

I was finally able to complete my thoughts and to delve into life’s big questions. Was I really being the best father and husband that I could be? What mark was I leaving on the world? Was I cherishing my time with loved ones? At times I felt overwhelmed by the thoughts. I would unpack a portion of my life, attempting to wrap my head around what kind of a person I really was. After all, other people’s perceptions of you really don’t count for much when you’re all alone.

I thought about my life for days. This was the most critically uplifting and (sometimes painfully) raw time in my life. I would sit and stare into the fire for hours, often laughing or weeping (occasionally both on the same night), or just staring in silence.

After weeks of this routine, my thoughts became clear, precise and extensive. I had no idea how beneficial it would be to simply slow down, and be silent.

Life is defined by a series of challenges, and how we react when confronted with these challenges

The number one question in my mind, particularly in Mongolia, had to do with my breaking point. During my first adventure, I left the wilderness by my own decision. In Mongolia, I decided to either win, or push myself to my breaking point. I find that this is what scares people more than anything. It’s easy to think of a hypothetic breaking point, based off of previous experiences. It takes true courage to look your breaking point in the eyes and pursue it. This is why I have so much respect for the other participants, and their journeys.

When confronted by obstacles in a wilderness setting I’ll do whatever is necessary to survive, even if I'm stranded with nothing but a used diaper and a rusty butter knife. I came to the conclusion that giving up wasn't an option.

However, this decision to take on a massive challenge followed years of less-than-sexy challenges. Long nights at a cubicle trying to pay off unreasonable amounts of debt, devastating health issues, and dealing with the anxiety that is injected into a person when they’re thrust back into society after long-term wilderness isolation, just to name the ones that I’m not still too embarrassed to write about online. Not every challenge has a happy ending and we don’t emerge from every challenge unscathed. The moment I realized this I remember thinking to myself,

“I can’t always decide my own destiny by simply ‘trying harder,’ or ‘being brave,’ but if effort and bravery are integral to success, at least I will fail knowing that I couldn’t have done anything more.”

After all of these days and nights alone in the woods, this is what I’ve come away with. I’d like to sincerely thank you for reading my thoughts, and I invite you back to this blog whenever you have the time. There will always be more adventures, and there’s no telling where a good adventure may lead.

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Sam Larson is a husband, father, and lover of the outdoors. He’s had the privilege of training with world renowned instructors in many different environments.

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What Is Bushcraft?

I am a bushcraft instructor.

To some of you, that means something.

To some of you, it doesn’t.

Although the term “bushcraft” has seen more recognition lately, the majority of Americans still don’t know what it means. I’d even argue that the majority of outdoor enthusiasts aren’t exactly clear as to what “bushcraft” is.

For starters, it doesn’t involve turning landscaping shrubbery into Mickey Mouse ears.

When I was a teen approaching high school graduation, I knew that I wanted to become a person who leads people in the outdoors. I scoured the country for outdoor education programs that were geared towards college age students. Inevitably, I ran into the largest wilderness education school in the country. I looked through their website, in awe of the beautiful scenery and variety of exotic locations where they held their courses. I was so intrigued by the school that I drove out to their campus in Lander, Wyoming to speak with the staff first hand. Speaking to the staff further solidified my belief that this school was special. They all possessed the virtues of great leaders.

While touring the campus I was shown a large room, specifically designated to outfit the students. Everything from underwear to backpacks to tents and gas stoves. As a genuine gear geek, the room brought a smile to my face. I had never seen so much of the latest and greatest equipment in one room!

But, there was something missing…

Every skill that the school advertised relied heavily on the equipment that they supplied. Although I’m not a purist when it comes to primitive skills, it left me yearning for more. I don’t want to solely do things “to” nature.

I wanted to do more “with” the natural world than simply climb over its back. I wanted to know it deeper and rely on it, rather than high-tech, heavily manufactured equipment.

Don’t get me wrong, I love climbing its mountains, navigating its forests, and paddling its rivers… but I wanted to interact with the wilderness in a more in-depth way. I wanted to understand the trees, not just walk around them. I wanted to know the edible and medicinal plants. I wanted to understand what the weather meant, and why it did what it did. I wanted to be able to carve a life out of the wilderness, in a sustainable way.

Creating fire with sticks, building shelters with trees and earth, eating “weeds,” making cord out of inner bark, and understanding wildlife. At least, that’s a good start.

Bushcraft is when we take a step closer to nature. Bushcraft is not just observing nature, but participating in it.

Bushcraft is the human celebration of the natural world, in its purest form.

About The Author

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Sam Larson is a husband, father, and lover of the outdoors. He’s had the privilege of training with world renowned instructors in many different environments.

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