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Les Stroud - Survivorman

Updated on October 25, 2015

Survivorman is a Canadian TV program by survival specialist Les Stroud which premiered in 2004. Survivorman takes Stroud to various remote environments all over the world, from the Amazon jungle to the cold Arctic, where he is left to survive all by himself. While not as popular as other survival-themed shows like Bear Grylls’ “Man vs. Wild”, Survivorman is a far more realistic and offers great educational value.


Every episode, Les Stroud is dropped off in a remote area of the world, and left to survive by himself for roughly a week, at the end of which he meets up with his rescue crew. Using his survival skills and knowledge, Les has to create shelters, build fires, find food, and stay clear of any dangers of a specific environment.

While he is provided with a small amount of food, water, or equipment, like a candy bar or a match, these are used to simulate the items you may have in a real accident. What makes the survival even more difficult is the fact that Stroud has to film everything that he does for 7 days all by himself.


One Man, One Location, Seven Days

As noted above, the most unique element of Survivorman is that Les Stroud does not have the help of a production crew, or the luxury of normal food and comfortable sleep, as most other survival-based TV programs.

Instead, he brings his multi-tool, harmonica, and 2 cameras for filming, in addition to whatever items are given to him to suit the theme of a specific episode. In the Costa Rica episode, for example, Les was given a pair of pants, swimming goggles and 3 pens, to simulate him being stranded on a jungle beach after losing his kayak.

Les is also given a satellite phone and a radio strictly for safety purposes, which he can use to contact his rescue crew, who are located within rescue range. However these have yet to be used, as in every episode Les has managed to survive the full 6-7 days before making his way towards the rescue crew.

Physical And Psychological Toll

The second realistic element of Survivorman is the physical and psychological toll of solo survival on Les Stroud. Les has to build shelters from material he finds around his location, start fires via different and often difficult methods, search for food, and sleep in a very rough and exposed environment for 7 days.

In addition to all of this, he has to carry, place, and retrieve a total of 23 kilograms of video and audio equipment, which he uses to film everything that he does in his week of survival.

This adds on a huge burden that even a person in a real survival situation doesn’t have to worry about. This is best explained by Stroud’s own words: “setting up or tearing down all of my camera gear takes about 65% of my time”.

The psychological burden, on the other hand, manifests itself as the lonesome, and often fearful state of mind that Les finds himself in, much like a person in a real accident would. In one episode, for instance, Les is stalked by a jaguar, and has to flee very quickly back to safety of a nearby aboriginal village, where his rescue crew awaits.

Other times, he finds himself playing on his harmonica to raise his spirits and pass time, and talking about how to stay positive and calm. Although both the viewer and Stroud himself know that he can be rescued in case of any real danger, the psychological toll of being alone for 7 days in a hostile environment is still very real.

Failure is Real

The third and last important element of realism in Survivorman is, quite simply, failure. Les is not afraid to show himself failing to catch an animal for food, being able to start a fire, or having a hard time battling a cold or hot environment, or simply having things not go as planned.

Much like in a real situation, not everything happens according to plan, and this is once again a very important educational lesson for survival.

Survivorman Season 5 Episode 1 Jungles of Grenada

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    • jimmar profile image

      jimmar 3 years ago from Michigan

      Les Stroud's television show is sooo much better than Bear Grylls. His is realistic and as you point out he does show his failures. He does not take the crazy risks that Bear claims to do, and he does it alone, not like Bear who has a fully equipped crew on hand to bail him, or find a hotel room out when things get dicey. But...even though Les has a good show it is still made for 20-40 minutes of television time so i'm sure much of the boring and brutal realism is sacrificed for the more entertaining bits. But the way, no disrespect for military, but most don't really know jack about wilderness survival, unless of course they have been specifically and extensively trained AND have real world experience. Being military trained does not mean you will survive, more likely the gung-ho jarhead will be the first too die.

    • profile image

      Nativeborn7 5 years ago

      There's always some idiot who has to talk down the "successful guy". Les Stroud has done an outstanding job in what he attempted to do. The episodes were honest and educational. Thanks, Les.

    • profile image

      Jack Teflon 5 years ago

      As ex-milI can honestly say you will die if you are as incompetent and amateur as Les Stroud.

      If you have all the fire starting kit he has from locals and still don't know how to do it and keep it going,you will die.

      You build your dry area first, and bug cleanse it.Make a soft area from what ever's dry,and keep a fire that will keep going all night,and you have a built in temp feel if you've done it many many times.

      At least one person has died following his advice....

      If you're military trained there are SO many things he doesn't even know about........DANGEROUS.

      I'll throw one in for free. Carry some tampons! They are sealed, and they break up into the best tinder for a fire you can carry in your pocket. And re-seal.

      Follow this guys advice unless you're in Canada (oooops!someone already died there following him......) and you'll get vermin menu.

      Unless someone is ex-mil survivor expert or knows ONE area for 10yrs don't believe someone from the snow giving advice in the tropics.

      Or you are a statistic.

      Worst survivor show on international tv.

    • Jason Oleinik profile image

      Gleb Oleinik 6 years ago from Richmond, BC, Canada

      Agreed! Unfortunately most people care about entertainment than educational value.

    • CWanamaker profile image

      CWanamaker 6 years ago from Arizona

      Survivorman was really an awesome show. I really appreciated the realism. I think this guy blows Bear Grylls out of the water.

    • Jason Oleinik profile image

      Gleb Oleinik 6 years ago from Richmond, BC, Canada

      @ slmorgan absolutely, I watched all the episodes, it's really both entertaining and very educational.

      @ myriadmom He's a great survival expert, all of the stuff he has done is not just for money but also for actually giving people good information.

    • myriadmom profile image

      myriadmom 6 years ago from Hilo, Hawai'i Island

      I love Les Stroud. His is the most real of the survivor shows.

    • slmorgan profile image

      slmorgan 6 years ago from San Francisco

      I had vaguely heard about this program. Thanks, for extensive information on the show. This may be worth watching from episode one.