Excerpt: Survive!: Essential Skills and Tactics to Get You Out of Anywhere

"Survivorman" host and producer Les Stroud has written a real-world guide to survival using his decades of experience for the title.

Read an excerpt of the book below.


It was decidedly fate. Soon after quitting the music industry and resolving to live a life of outdoor adventure at the age of 25, I opened the newspaper one morning and saw a small ad for a wilderness survival course. Not long after, I found myself on my first solo outing: curled up in my shelter, boots sticking out the entrance, rain teeming down . . . and I was giddy. I realized then and there that I was reliving my boyhood days of building shelters behind our family cottage, only this time I could stay out all night. I was hooked, and since then, wilderness survival has figured prominently in my life.

VIDEO: Les Stroud on GMA.Play

In Surviving the Extremes, Dr. Kenneth Kamler writes, "Human beings are the only animal whose emotions, spiritual imperatives and lust for adventure overrides our survival instincts. We get into trouble because we have an insatiable desire to explore. We know very well we have assumed risks when we travel in an extreme environment and that our decisions could have fatal consequences." My own insatiable lust for adventure has seen me voluntarily place myself, time and time again, in survival ordeals or extreme adventures. I used to do it for fun, and I guess I still do.

I have always channeled my creative energy toward filling voids, doing things that nobody else has done. Creating a survival series for television was no different. I had seen lots of survival films; they seemed dry, boring, and of little interest to anyone but the hardest-core survivalists. What was missing was the drama that unfolds in real-life situations. I realized that to really show how to survive you need to go out and actually do it—and film the experience. Out of this thinking, my idea for producing a television series, eventually called "Survivorman," was born.

From the get-go, I vowed not to let Survivorman make a mockery of survival by incorporating games and challenges, or by cheating my way through it by staying in hotels every night or bringing along a makeup artist to help me look dirty. There would be no camera crew to offer me food and assistance. I needed to be out there, alone, just as I had for years trained to be, actually surviving, or at least coming as close as I could to simulating that experience. Dr. Kamler notes, and I agree, that there are four forces at work in the struggle for survival. Knowledge—well, you've got a good start by reading this book. Conditioning—an often-overlooked aspect of preparation for wilderness adventure. Luck—my dad would have called it "dumb" luck; hopefully you've got some! And the single most important force of all: the will to live. Without it, people have perished beside packs of supplies. With it, others in similar situations have survived seemingly impossible ordeals. To this list I would add survival kit. Certain gear can make a huge difference in your struggle to survive.

Snowmobiler Chris Traverse certainly had most of those forces when he got lost on his way home from a fishing trip in northern Manitoba in March 2008. To reach safety, he had to endure five days of walking through waist-deep snow without supplies. I was humbled when Chris credited Survivorman with helping him survive.

Stories like Chris's are a large part of what led me to write this book and to make sure that, like my TV show, there is nothing phony about my work. The field of wilderness survival is cluttered enough with information. I stick to tried-and-true methods, providing the background and explaining the skills that I know can help you to survive. The skills are ones that anyone can easily learn and use, and that should work anywhere, anytime. I also provide essential checklists, which you'll find at the end of the book; photocopy these and use them to plan your next adventure. Preparation is everything.

Yet no matter how prepared you may be, you should never lose sight of the fact that a survival situation is an emergency. It may seem fun on a survival-skills weekend when you're fully fed, guided by an instructor, and surrounded by a group of like-minded students, all smiles and dirty faces. But in a real-life ordeal, "fun" is not part of the equation.

Survival is not about smelling the pines and feeling the breeze on your weathered and tanned face. Survival is not fun. It's not pretty. It's never comfortable. It may involve eating gross things, enduring pain and deprivation, and battling fatigue and loneliness. It may involve danger. It's about life or death. If you want to learn how to survive, read on. . . .