Arctic Survival with Survivorman

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Survival should never be about fighting against nature.” — Les Stroud

Best known as the Canadian Screen Award winning producer, creator and star of the hit TV series Survivorman (OLN Canada, The Science Channel US, Discovery Channel International, City TV (Rogers) Canada), Les Stroud is the only producer in the history of television to produce an internationally broadcast series entirely written, videotaped, and hosted alone. With Les known as the original genre creator of ‘Survival TV’, Survivorman is one of the highest rated shows in the history of OLN Canada, the Science Channel US and Discovery Channel US and remains the highest rated repeat show on the Discovery Channel. Survivorman is licensed for broadcast worldwide, with ratings in the US hitting 2 million on individual episodes. He has been nominated for twenty-one Canadian Screen Awards (formerly the Geminis) and has won for Best Writer (twice) and Best Photography.

A proud member of the prestigious Explorers Club, Les received Fellow (highest rank) of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. Les has received both the Distinguished Alumni award and was nominated for the Premieres award for excellence for work in his field. He contributes to dozens of charities and benefits, is an ambassador for Shelterbox, and is an advanced survival trainer for the Canadian Military Armed Forces as well as sits on the board of advisors for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Organization.

Adventure Canada recently caught up with Les to pick up on Arctic survival tips from the master!

Adventure Canada: What type of special considerations would one take into account in order to survive in an Arctic environment?

Les Stroud: Nothing about the Arctic in terms of survival can be taken casually, but twenty-four hours of total (or near-total) darkness is like nothing else on earth. Yet even when the sun is up for twenty-four hours a day, conditions can be some of the harshest on the planet. It pays to be your own survival shelter—which is to say that your clothing is the first most vital bit of shelter you should consider. The traditional Inuit clothing—caribou hide and sealskin—was and still is the perfect material to be your own kind of ‘walking shelter’.

AC: What’s the coldest place you’ve personally endured? How did you do it?

LS: I happened to be in a place called Wabakimi Provincial Park in northern Ontario when it hit -47°C during a solo survival expedition. A twenty-four-hour fire was the only way to survive such extreme temperatures, along with staying out of the wind.

AC: How does the presence and nature of Arctic wildlife factor into a survival strategy?

LS: There are two things to consider here for survival: danger and food—the most obvious danger being polar bears, for which carrying a rifle for protection is of the utmost importance. For food, everything depends on whether or not you are in a hunting scenario, a fishing scenario, or a ‘lost it all’ survival scenario. The addition of fishing tackle and a good rifle with ammunition and skill would make a huge difference. 

AC: What’s the single most essential piece of gear for an Arctic expedition? Why?

LS: There is not one single piece of essential gear as all situations differ, sometimes slightly and sometimes drastically. Shelter is vital, as is a way to create warmth, but then a rifle for both protection and hunting is indispensable.

AC: What kinds of Arctic vegetation would a survivalist take into account? Why?

LS: The most abundant are the small shrubs and root greens that, in many locations, can cover an entire hillside and keep you fed for weeks—at least in terms of greenery. 

AC: What are the most common mistakes you see people making in the wild—both with regards to their own safety, and the sanctity of the environment?

LS: In a survival situation, panic is the first big mistake. But the overriding mistake that can allow for things to turn ugly is not respecting the land, the wildlife, and the weather. Survival should never be about fighting against nature, or tackling the wilderness. It must always be about going with the flow of the land, being able to read the signs of the environment, and respecting the possibility of what may lay ahead.

AC: What are you most excited to bring to the Adventure Canada expedition this summer?

LS: I have a deep and profound love of nature, the land, our wilderness. My goal of life has always been to re-connect people to the earth. Places such as the Arctic make it easy to boast a powerfully beautiful landscape that can inspire and change someones life, just by seeing and visiting it. My passion for the land will be in full force on my Adventure Canada expedition!

AC: Thanks Les! See you this summer!

Les Stroud joins Adventure Canada’s Heart of the Arctic expedition this summer as a member of the onboard expedition team. Until March 31, save 15% on the berth cost of this extraordinary sailing, and join Les along with celebrated author Margaret Atwood in some of Canada’s most remote and wonderful communities.

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