Good food, creature comforts. Just two things you’re unlikely to find on a survival course. So why are an increasing number of us paying to spend days sleeping rough in the great outdoors? Sam Lewis reports
SURVIVAL ISN’T SOMETHING I necessarily associate with epic expeditions. Being married to an ex-marine, even a gentle hike in the Scottish highlands is undertaken with assiduous military precision — and a backpack bursting at its seams. Spare clothing, Swiss Army knife and hot chocolate are just some of the essentials I’ve been laboriously drilled to pack alongside a map and compass.
But what would you do if you were forced to spend a night in the great outdoors without any of these items? Cry, die… or would you survive? It’s a question an increasing number of civilians, corporate groups and even stag parties are keen to put to the test, paying big bucks to see if they’ve got what it takes to survive in the wild wearing only the clothes on their backs.
Welcome to the rapidly expanding business of ‘survival’ courses, where you can sign up to a masterclass in bushcraft or choose more rigorous expeditions where your kit is confiscated to see just how you’d fare in the face of adversity. While some participants are on a quest to acquire wilderness skills, others are SAS wannabes hungry for adventure and, with many of the courses run by ex-special forces, you know it’s going to be tough.
Not surprisingly a lot of people want to follow in the footsteps of Bear Grylls, the man whose CV reads like an Action Man figure. After serving in the British Reserve Special Forces, he conquered Mount Everest at the age of 23, before glamourising survival craft in the TV programme Man vs. Wild (also called Born Survivor) by performing a variety of daredevil stunts jumping from cliffs and helicopters.
“Our academy [the Bear Grylls Survival Academy] teaches the skills needed to survive in some of the world’s most challenging situations,” says Grylls. “These courses are for anyone who wants to learn skills that one day might save their life, as well as accomplish one of the most challenging survival adventure courses out there.”
Although chances are you won’t get to meet Grylls in person if you sign up to one of his courses — he’s bound to be busy wrestling a grizzly bear or alligator somewhere in the world — demand worldwide has rocketed. He now offers courses in the UK, USA, Africa and Dubai, and locations in China, South Africa and Australia are set to be established by the end of the year. Plus, he says, he’d love to run expeditions in the Amazon, the Sahara or even Antarctica.
- Published May 2015
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