The Wild Truth: 7 Famous Survivalists

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In the face of adversity, the true character of a person shines through. 

This is never more evident than in the realm of survivalists – individuals who embrace the challenge of thriving in nature’s most demanding environments. 

So what are the credentials of famous survivalists? For me it’s their tales of resilience, resourcefulness, and courage that are not just fascinating; they offer invaluable lessons for us all.

I’m excited for you to meet 7 of my favorite famous survivalists, those who have braved the wild, pushed themselves to the limits, and emerged with inspiring stories of determination and survival.

These extraordinary individuals come from diverse backgrounds, each with a unique approach to mastering the art of survival. 

Their experiences range from icy tundras to scorching deserts, from dense forests to treacherous mountain peaks.

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The Wild Truth: 7 Famous Survivalists

In this article, I delve into the lives and exploits of these survivalists, as Jack Morgan, founder of Survival Anytime, and a seasoned survivalist myself, I am excited to guide you through this unique list of famous survivalists to see what we can all learn.

So, whether you’re an experienced adventurer looking to learn new survival techniques, a novice seeking inspiration to step out of your comfort zone, or a simple lover of extraordinary human stories.

These survivalists are all worth your time to follow, study and learn about more.

So in no particular order, let’s get into it.

Bear Grylls

Edward Michael Grylls, better known as Bear Grylls, was born on June 7, 1974, in Northern Ireland. 

One of the more mainstream famous survivalists Grylls is a former SAS serviceman, survival instructor, and honorary lieutenant colonel in the Royal Marines Reserve. 

Grylls is known for his high-energy and adventurous personality.

Grylls’ military career was cut short by a parachuting accident in southern Africa where he broke three vertebrae. 

Despite this, he overcame his injuries and later achieved one of his childhood dreams: climbing Mount Everest. At the age of 23, he became one of the youngest person to reach the summit.

After his successful climb, Grylls began a television career. 

His breakout series, “Man vs. Wild” (also known as “Born Survivor: Bear Grylls” in the UK), premiered in 2006. 

The show, which ran for seven seasons, saw Grylls employ various survival techniques in harsh environments around the world, often with little more than the clothes on his back and a basic survival kit.

In addition to “Man vs. Wild”, Grylls has hosted a number of other adventure and survival-themed TV shows. 

These include “Worst-Case Scenario,” “Bear Grylls: Escape from Hell,” and “Running Wild with Bear Grylls,” in which he takes celebrities on 48-hour survival adventures.

Grylls is also a bestselling author with a number of books to his name. These include the “Mission Survival” children’s adventure series, as well as several non-fiction books about survival.

Outside of his media career, Grylls is involved in various charitable and youth organizations and was appointed Chief Scout of The Scout Association in the UK in 2009, becoming the youngest person to hold the position.

Grylls is admired for his survival skills, physical endurance, and his ability to educate and entertain in the realm of outdoor survival and adventure.

Les Stroud

Les Stroud was born on October 20, 1961, in Mimico, Ontario, Canada. 

He is a survival expert, filmmaker, and musician best known for creating and starring in the television series “Survivorman.” In this series, Stroud places himself in various harsh and remote locations around the world with minimal gear, demonstrating survival techniques while filming himself.

Before becoming one of the better-known famous survivalists Stroud worked in the music industry and was a garbage collector. 

His interest in survival skills and outdoor adventures grew over time. 

He trained with the Canadian Outward Bound Wilderness School and studied survival in various ecosystems around the world.

“Survivorman,” which first aired in 2004, distinguished itself from other survival shows by using minimal production crew. 

Stroud would venture into the wilderness alone, carrying all his equipment and filming everything himself. 

This approach gave a more genuine representation of solitary survival than other shows at the time. 

In addition to demonstrating survival skills, Stroud often emphasized the importance of an individual’s psychological state in survival situations.

Stroud has ventured into various challenging environments in “Survivorman,” including the Arctic tundra, the Costa Rican jungle, the Australian outback, and the desert island of Tiburon. 

In each episode, he demonstrates how to survive in these environments with limited supplies until help arrives.

Beyond “Survivorman,” Stroud has produced and hosted other survival-themed shows, including “Survivorman: Bigfoot” and “Surviving Disaster with Les Stroud.” 

He has also written several books and made survival-themed music.

Off-screen, Stroud is an advocate for nature conservation. 

He has spoken on behalf of organizations such as the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and The Royal Canadian Geographical Society.

Stroud’s work has been recognized for its authenticity and educational value. 

He’s respected for his survival knowledge and his commitment to depicting survival situations realistically which is why he makes my list of famous survivalists.

Ray Mears 

Raymond Paul Mears was born on February 7, 1964, in Kenley, Surrey, England. 

Mears is another one of the more famous survivalists, especially in the UK and is most known for his expert bushcraft skills. He’s also a woodsman, instructor, author, and TV presenter. 

Mears is known for his television series about bushcraft and survival techniques, such as “Ray Mears’ World of Survival,” “Ray Mears’ Bushcraft,” and “Ray Mears’ Wild Britain.”

Mears first learned about survival techniques from his father, who taught him how to track animals in the Surrey Hills, which sparked his interest in outdoor life. 

As a teenager, Mears traveled through the New Forest by canoe, further honing his survival skills.

In 1983, Mears founded Woodlore, The School of Wilderness Bushcraft, which is one of the first schools dedicated to teaching bushcraft, a term he popularized. 

Bushcraft goes beyond survival skills and includes the ability to live sustainably off the land.

Mears’ television career began in the 1990s with the series “Ray Mears’ World of Survival,” which introduced audiences to indigenous people around the world and the survival techniques they employ. 

Other television series followed, all focusing on outdoor skills, wildlife, and survival.

One of Mears’ most notable contributions was his role in tracking down Raoul Moat, a fugitive in Northumberland, England, in 2010. 

Mears’ tracking skills were instrumental in locating Moat, demonstrating the practical application of his expertise.

Mears has written several books on outdoor survival, bushcraft, and history, sharing his expertise and passion for the natural world. 

His written work is just as popular as his television series and courses, making him a significant figure in the field of survival skills.

In addition to his survival expertise, Mears is known for his deep respect for the environment and indigenous cultures. 

He emphasizes a philosophy of being ‘at one’ with nature and living with it rather than against it, a sentiment that resonates with many people globally.

Cody Lundin 

Cody Lundin is an American professional survival instructor at the Aboriginal Living Skills School, which he founded in 1991 in Prescott, Arizona. 

Born on March 15, 1967, Lundin has made a name for himself in the field of survival and primitive living skills.

Lundin’s interest in outdoor survival began at an early age. 

After graduating from school, he lived on the streets, in a commune, in a backcountry shelter, and even in a brush shelter in the woods where he slept on pine needles for several years.

Lundin is best known for his time on the Discovery Channel series “Dual Survival,” where he co-starred with several different survival experts, including Dave Canterbury. 

His time on the show was marked by his barefoot approach – Lundin is known for not wearing shoes, even in extreme environments, as part of his survival philosophy. 

His appearance on the show elevated him to a celebrity survival expert.

In addition to his work on television, Lundin is also a prolific author. 

His books, “98.6 Degrees: The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive” and “When All Hell Breaks Loose: Stuff You Need to Survive When Disaster Strikes,” have been well received in the survivalist community. 

These books cover a wide range of survival skills, including how to maintain core body temperature, collecting and purifying water, and preparing food.

Lundin’s teaching philosophy is heavily focused on self-reliance, nature preservation, and primitive living skills. 

He believes in being prepared and having the knowledge to survive in various environments which is what prepping/survival is all about.

Even after his time on “Dual Survival,” Lundin has remained active in the survival community, offering courses through his Aboriginal Living Skills School on wilderness survival, urban preparedness, and homesteading. 

His courses cover a wide range of topics, from desert survival skills to how to survive a disaster in an urban environment.

Dave Canterbury 

Dave Canterbury is an American survival specialist who was born on September 19, 1963. 

He is best known for co-starring on the Discovery Channel’s “Dual Survival” from 2010 to 2012, alongside Cody Lundin. 

Canterbury brought a military survivalist perspective to the show, based on his background and experience.

Before his television career, Canterbury had various jobs, including working as a commercial fisherman and a hunting guide. 

His survival training and philosophy combine military, tracking, and bushcraft skills. 

He is known for his “5 Cs of Survivability” concept, which highlights five essential tools for survival: a cutting tool, a combustion device, cover, a container, and cordage.

Canterbury is the co-owner and supervising instructor at the Pathfinder School in Ohio, which was named by USA Today as one of the “Top 12 Survival Schools in the United States.” 

The school focuses on wilderness survival skills, self-reliance, and primitive skills, providing training for both beginners and advanced students.

Beyond his television and instructing career, Canterbury is a New York Times bestselling author. 

His books, such as “Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival,” “Advanced Bushcraft: An Expert Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival,” and “The Bushcraft Field Guide to Trapping, Gathering, and Cooking in the Wild,” have made significant contributions to survival literature.

He also maintains a popular YouTube channel, “The Pathfinder School LLC,” where he shares survival tips, gear reviews, and outdoor skills. 

His emphasis is on using easily obtainable items to survive in the wilderness and educating on how to be prepared in any situation.

It should be noted that Canterbury’s reputation was somewhat controversial due to discrepancies in his claimed military background but despite this, he still makes my list of famous survivalists for his contributions to survival skills training and education.

Mykel Hawke 

Mykel Hawke is a retired U.S. Army Special Forces officer, survival expert, and television personality. 

He was born on November 29, 1965, in Fort Knox, Kentucky. 

Hawke’s survival expertise is rooted in his extensive military experience, which included serving in places like Panama, Colombia, and war-torn regions of Eastern Europe.

After retiring from the Army, Hawke turned his survival skills into a career, teaching survival skills to others and appearing on a variety of television shows. 

He is perhaps best known for co-starring with his wife, Ruth England, on the Discovery Channel’s “Man, Woman, Wild,” which aired from 2010 to 2012. 

In the show, the couple was dropped into various harsh environments around the world with limited supplies with the challenge of surviving for several days.

Hawke also starred in another survival show, “Lost Survivors,” which also featured his wife. 

The couple was given a map, a compass, and a basic kit, and were tasked with finding their way back to civilization from a remote location.

Aside from his television career, Hawke is an author and has written several books on survival, including “Hawke’s Green Beret Survival Manual” and “Hawke’s Special Forces Survival Handbook: The Portable Guide to Getting Out Alive.” 

His books are renowned for their practical advice, clearly explained survival techniques and comprehensive coverage of survival scenarios.

Hawke’s survival philosophy emphasizes practicality, adaptability, and resourcefulness. 

He advocates learning basic survival skills, like how to find water, build a shelter, start a fire, and navigate, to survive in any environment.

Today, Hawke continues to educate others about survival and preparedness through his books, television appearances, and speaking engagements, with his military experience, survival expertise, and charismatic personality he’s one of the famous survivalists that are still active in the space.

Ed Stafford

A personal favorite of mine is Ed Stafford who’s a British explorer, adventurer, and survival expert. 

He was born on December 26, 1975, in Peterborough, England. 

Stafford first gained recognition for his achievement of being the first person to walk the entire length of the Amazon River, a feat that took him two years and four months to complete. 

His journey was documented in the TV series “Walking the Amazon,” which aired in 2011 and I highly recommend watching this one.

Following the Amazon adventure, Stafford’s career in television continued with a number of survival-themed shows. 

One of his most well-known shows is “Marooned with Ed Stafford,” where he was left in remote locations around the world with no food, water, or survival equipment, not even a knife. 

In each episode, Stafford had to rely on his survival skills and ingenuity to survive for 10 days.

Another one of his popular TV series is “Ed Stafford: First Man Out,” a survival competition show where Stafford competes against other survival experts in various harsh environments around the world.

Stafford’s approach to survival often involves pushing his mental and physical limits. 

He emphasizes the importance of psychological resilience in survival situations, alongside practical survival skills.

In addition to his television work, Stafford is also an author. 

He has written several books about his adventures and survival experiences, including “Walking the Amazon,” “Naked and Marooned,” and “Ed Stafford’s Ultimate Adventure Guide.”

Stafford’s accomplishments as an explorer and survivalist have earned him a place in the Guinness World Records and recognition from the Royal Geographical Society.

Ed Stafford continues to share his survival expertise through television and his written works, inspiring others to explore and survive in the great outdoors.

Final Thoughts

The remarkable lives and experiences of these 7 famous survivalists truly encapsulate the determined spirit of humanity. 

Each of their stories is a testament to resilience, resourcefulness, and the will to survive against all odds. 

They have faced nature’s most formidable challenges head-on and emerged stronger, wiser, and ready to share their wealth of knowledge with us.

Their stories teach us that survival is more than just enduring harsh environments. 

It’s about understanding and respecting nature, adapting to challenges, and never losing sight of our innate capacity for resilience. 

These survivalists remind us that, equipped with the right skills, knowledge, and attitude, we too can navigate life’s toughest terrains.

I hope their stories inspire you and remember, survival isn’t merely about getting through the storm; it’s about learning to dance in the rain. 

So, grab your gear, step into the wild, and embrace the adventure that is survival.

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Jack Morgan
Jack has spent the past 15 years honing his survival skills and has taught hundreds of people how to find food, water, and shelter in the wilderness. He's also a passionate advocate for sustainable living and believes that everyone should be prepared to survive in case of an emergency. With his years of experience and practical know-how, Jack is the perfect guide to help you navigate the world of survival.