Surviving the Wilderness.
Two buddies, Gerard and Bucky were sitting around watching survival videos, and Bucky bet Gerard $100 a day for each day that Gerard could stay out in the wilderness.
So, Bucky drives Gerard out to the middle of nowhere, with only a Machete, knife, cordage, and a magnesium and flint firestarter. (Plus a backpack full of camera equipment and a hoodie.)
I’ve decided to review and critique each video. I’ll note what could and should have been done, for the edification and education of my readers, as well as pitfalls to avoid, and just plain out idiot things that you absolutely should NOT do. (Such as drink straight out of a stream or carve things into live trees…)
I have also included a link to each video. They can be hard to find since Youtube altered the way videos are displayed in that the next video in the series is not always listed in the recommended list.
Please note I’m not bashing the survival skills of this fellow, or the lack thereof. (Mostly…) I’m commenting so that other folks can see where opportunities were missed, and so if they find themselves in the woods, they don’t miss those same opportunities. There’s nothing like starving and having no idea that you just walked past six meals worth of food due to your ignorance.
I thank Gerard and Bucky for having the guts to post these vids so that people can see what someone’s ‘first time’ out in the wilderness really is like. Everyone thinks its so easy to just walk out into the woods and survive. Reality is somewhat a bit different.
Thanks to my pals Aktrekker and SlowRide13 on the Green Deane forums for the links to the first and second videos.
Surviving the Wilderness – Episode 1 – The Beginning:
This is just the prelude and driving to the wilderness.
Surviving the Wilderness – Episode 2 – Finding Camp:
Here Gerard makes his first little camp area.
At 1:20 in the guy starts hacking at the greenery that isn’t even knee high with his machete. And I’m thinking… what the heck was that for? Dramatic effect? Seen one too many jungle movies?
I’ve had three machetes in my life, and other than having fun with one shortly after the ‘Rambo’ movies came out, haven’t found much use for it in a normal camp situation. I keep the ancient one I have, as it’s better built than the later two, just in case I have encounters with animals. 3 feet of razor sharp steel comes in very handy in such situations. But not for hacking down ferns like someone is in the Amazon river basin.
I think that was purely for dramatic effect. No machete action was needed to walk through those weeds, and just wastes precious energy and calories swinging that thing for nothing.
Surviving the Wilderness – Episode 3 – Shelter:
The shelter isn’t exactly shelter from anything. It won’t keep out either the rain or the animals. I think I built a more solid shelter when I was 8. However, something is better than nothing, even if it’s only to have a psychological ‘cave-like’ place to sleep.
OMG. 2:20 into video 3. The guy starts hacking into a full grown live tree. Why? To make a record of his time there. Very few things irk me enough to make me want to thunk someone, but if I’d seen this done in person, the guy would be keeping his teeth in his pockets. That’s right up there with idiots who carve their initials in trees and write ‘Dumbazz was here’ on ancient monuments.
He has a machete. He could have split a small dead log in twain, then used the flat surface to etch his little ‘record’. Idiot. I realize that’s negative and highly judgmental on my part, but I can’t imagine anyone really thinking that doing what he did to that tree was OK, or a good idea.
Please don’t EVER do this to a live tree for no reason.
At 2:30 in, he epically fails at starting a fire. Humorously so.
My favorite part so far is the end of vid 3 where in typical American childish impatience, he kicks his fire pile of what looks to be bone dry leaves because the wind keeps blowing around his magnesium. Dude, your 21 years are showing. Big time.
But I do agree that it’s very good for folks to watch this series. Especially folks who seem to think that the uninitiated will just waltz into the woods and start living out there like it’s no big thing. And they can’t even start a fire.
The guy said he ‘looked up how to do this online’. Obviously prior to his being dropped off in the woods. But, typically, he didn’t think to actually PRACTICE it first a few times. I do wonder what he plans to eat and drink though. Looking forward to watching episode 4…
Surviving the Wilderness – Episode 4 – Days End
This is just a short little commentary by Gerard recapping the day’s events.
Surviving the Wilderness – Episode 5 – Finding The Stream
When starting a fire with a flint, he should have been much closer to the material he was trying to light on fire. He’s basically ‘going out to bat’ with the firestarter here, and then wondering why nothing is catching. Also, with those leaves being as dry as they are, he certainly shouldn’t need the magnesium to start the fire.
Most of my commentary focuses on around 3:00 into the video.
First off the water. He just drank this straight from the stream. I hope he didn’t get crypto-whatever. he should have skipped the machete and brought a portable water filter for backpackers and hikers. I have two. One has a viral-guard filter. Never leave home without it. At the very least, get one of those ‘life-straw’ things.
Secondly, the frog. He has no food. And no way to get food. Letting that go was stupid. Period. He said he didn’t have a fire going anyway. After drinking right out of the stream, raw frog would be the least of his worries. Think of it as American sushi.
(For the record I’d personally cook the frog, but after slurking out of that stream, he can’t possibly do much worse…)
Thirdly, he’s walking by tons of cattails. Obviously he has no idea they’re edible. You don’t even need to get down to the roots for a quick snack. Just pull the shoot and peel and nom the bottom few inches. I do this when walking in swampy areas all the time. Om nom nom.
Fourth. He found a patch of ox-eye daisies. He has one behind his ear. Cute. But he should have collected the greens. Young ox-eye daisy greens are, in my opinion, a superior nommable. I eat them straight and raw. The older they are, the more ‘perfumy’ they get though. You can also eat the white petals of the flowers. I wouldn’t eat too many of the yellow centers though. They can give some folks an upset stomach. But a few out of hand shouldn’t cause any issues in any but the most sensitive of folks.
Surviving the Wilderness – Episode 6 – Fire
So here he is attempting to start a fire, for what, the fourth time? No fire ring, just trying to light a pile of leaves, connected to all the rest of the leaves, connected to the rest of the forest.
I don’t think I need to point out how utterly stupid this is. If you have no rocks, make a fire ring by clearing the leaves away in several feet from your fire, and scratch and disturb the dirt at the very least in a circle around where your fire will be. This will keep the fire from creeping out. If you have the means, make a fire ring using dirt and/or rocks to contain the fire.
After all that scraping the fire flint I kind of felt embarrassed for the guy. He should have accidentally caught it on fire by then with all those sparks flying around.
At about 2:25 in, he gets lucky and accidentally catches part of the forest on fire. A stray spark, not even where he was aiming, caught a leaf on fire.
I wonder what this guy would have done if it was raining.
At least now he has a fire. And later in the same video he must have cleared the leaves around the open flame. (Or likely ended up just pushing them all into the fire.)
Surviving the Wilderness – Episode 7 – The First Meal
As he’s about to leave his fire in search of food, he notes that maybe it’s a good idea to push the leaves away from and/or into the fire, and states that maybe he should put some of those rocks around the fire. (He’s had rocks this whole time and just NOW thinks it’s a good idea to make a fire ring?)
To his credit, he goes back and gets what is likely the same frog, in the same spot. And he cooks it and eats it. Good job, Gerard!
Surviving the Wilderness – Episode 8 – Another Night
Gerard talks about being a bit weak from lack of food. He had no lack of food, simply a lack of knowledge about food. Food was everywhere around him. I don’t know if anyone later pointed out to him the cattails he walked past. (The easiest parts to collect in his situation would have been the bottom few inches of the shoots can be peeled and eaten raw, and the roots can be roasted and peeled and then stripped with your teeth for their starch.) Or if anyone mentioned the ox eye daisy greens he passed up. (The flower he had in his hair.) I can guarantee that anyone even passingly familiar with wild plants could fill a basket in very short order if they know what to look for. There was no reason whatsoever for him to be hungry with that bounty around him.
That’s why I support places that encourage ongoing education concerning foraging and identification of wild plants, like Green Deane’s forum: ‘Eat the Weeds‘
Also check out his online Youtube videos
The last I checked he had something like 143 foraging videos all available for viewing free online.
And the main Eat the Weeds site:
Surviving the Wilderness – Episode 9 – Target Practice
At about 1:20 into the video, after talking about needing his teeth brushed, Gerard states “I don’t know about any plants I can use, but I’ll find out when I start sticking stuff in my mouth.”
Do not EVER, and I do mean EVER do this!
This is how you end up being those few people a year who die by eating random unidentified wild plants.
Surviving the Wilderness – Episode 10 – The Creek
This guy spends an awful lot of time and energy staging ‘walking out’ and ‘walking towards’ shots with his camera.
Finding the larger stream with the fish was a definite plus, and the first thing he should have done is just what he was talking about, and that is to make a new campsite there and bury the fire at his old campsite. (And take a ember-encrusted stick from his previous fire to start the new one.)
Shelter isn’t an issue in the middle of the summer and his old campsite didn’t provide any shelter anyway.
You can also build a little dam (or two) in a creek and corral the small fish between your dams. And when they can’t get out, you have all the time in the world to figure out how to catch them.
Continued soon in Surviving the Wilderness – A Review and Critique, Part II