Even if his name doesn’t sound familiar, most people know Bear Grylls by the shows he’s in. Though arguably, the one most people know him from is Man vs. Wild which ran from the mid-2000s to the early 2010s. In it, Grylls traveled to remote places in the world in order to show off his survival skills as well as demonstrate to the audience how to survive in similar scenarios. Because of his extreme tactics, television audiences everywhere were entertained by Grylls for not just his good looks but also his apparent tenacity at overcoming any circumstance.
But like most reality show personalities, the authenticity of what Grylls does on camera has been questioned by skeptics while supporters rebuff them. Nevertheless, his popularity grew so big that he even founded the Bear Grylls Survival Academy. As the name implies, this is for those who think they’ve got what it takes to survive in the wilderness like Grylls has time and again on TV. With that said, there’s currently not a lot of information about it since it’s relatively new. Yet thanks to some helpful witness accounts, we’ve got some useful tips for those interested in undertaking the program for themselves.
25 It’s Not Widely Available
Despite Bear Grylls’ popularity in general, the survival academy that’s named after him doesn’t have too many locations around the world. Originally, it “Launched in Scotland and the United Kingdom” according to Pursuitist which makes sense as Grylls is British. Since then, several branch locations opened in America, Ireland, and Africa (as indicated by the above picture). But even in America alone, there are only three locations that host the Bear Grylls Survival Academy. As stated by Pursuitist, they are: "Frost Valley in the Catskills of New York, Glacier View Ranch in Ward, Colorado and Yosemite National Park in California".
24 Applicants Have to Meet Standards of Physical Fitness
For those fortunate enough to live near a place that hosts the Bear Grylls Survival Academy, or have enough money to travel there, there are a few things to consider before trying to sign up. To begin with, not any man woman or child may join as they have to meet “Certain standards of physical fitness” according to Pursuitist in the application process. Though it’s unclear how strict these standards are, we can only guess that the academy probably won’t allow people who are physically incapacitated to some degree or not physically fit enough to be trekking through the wilderness.
23 Helmets and Harnesses are Complimentary
While a canteen and knife are the most basic tools for surviving out in the wild, there are other items which can be useful as well. For instance, a helmet is good to have for situations where one has to climb rough terrain such as a cliff or even cross over a chasm that one could possibly fall down as it provides much needed protection to the head. As for a harness, it’s mainly good for carrying one along ropes when climbing or crossing difficult terrain. For these reasons, the Bear Grylls Survival Academy does provide free helmets and harnesses.
22 Rubbing Mud on One’s Body May Be Required
Among the various things that Bear Grylls is known to do on his survival shows, rubbing fresh mud all over his face is one of his more typical actions. So naturally, the instructors at his survival academies teach this method to participants as it’s meant to be “An exercise in applied survival” according to The New York Times. Because mud is dark in color, it helps one blend into the wilderness better which is typically made up of darker colors like brown and green. It also masks one’s scent from predators and prey alike, making it easier to move around.
21 A Stash of Supplies Can Be Found
When it comes to lesson planning, a good way to teach something is by offering some kind of reward for learning the thing that’s taught. This can be anywhere from a good grade on a test to a physical treat. Because whether the student is human or animal, they’re more motivated to learn if they can get something in return. Such an approach is apparently done at the Bear Grylls Survival Academy in Ireland, as the participants were rewarded for being able to navigate successfully by finding “A stash of such well-known survival tools” according to the Irish Examiner.
20 Includes a Hefty Price of Admission
Apart from one’s level of physical fitness, there’s also the price of admission to consider. Now this in of itself isn’t strange, since it’s a form of insurance to the company that’s responsible for the activity-in-question. Because by paying money to them, a person is putting their life into the company’s hands who in turn are responsible for the person’s well-being. With that said, the prices for getting into Bear Grylls Survival Academy range from $579-$3,215 per person in just the US locations alone according to USA Today. Seems like a pretty big investment.
19 Rope Work is Learned
Another lesson that might be learned after the first night of a Bear Grylls Survival Academy course is how to maneuver along a rope. Hence, the complementary harnesses are required to do this along with the helmets. Apart from doing things like zip-lining “Across a river,” USA Today says, one might also learn ways to climb a rope by hand. After all, there’s always the possibility that a harness may not be on hand. Thus, one must do a “‘Commando crawl’ along a rope” to the other side of the river in the latter scenario the Irish Examiner states.
18 Injuries May Occur
While one may be in the company of an instructor who knows their way around the wilderness as well as other people, there’s always the chance that an unexpected injury may happen. It is the wild, after all, where injuries are almost a given. Though with the right preparations and guidance, these can be minimized. For instance, a reporter from the Irish Examiner who participated on the 24-hour Bear Grylls Survival Academy course managed to walk away with only a chipped nail and “Rope-burnt bits”. Now that’s pretty minor compared to the kind of injuries that could’ve happened.
17 Those who Survive are Rewarded
Once back in the realms of civilization, participants in the Bear Grylls Survival Academy are given proper rewards for their perseverance and general participation. According to Pursuitist, they get: a “Coveted Bear Grylls Survival Academy badge and certificate and survival essentials” which include “A Bear Grylls Ultimate knife, rucksack and head torch”. Though the certificate would’ve probably been plenty in terms of recognition, it does seem nice to also get some free survival gear out of the deal. Of course, they’re only useful if one actually uses them or not. Still, a reward’s a reward no matter what it is.
16 The Number of People That Can Participate is Limited
So if money’s not an issue, let alone physical fitness, then one must also consider how many people can participate in a Bear Grylls Survival Academy course at any given time. While this may not apply to all of them, USA Today says it is “Limited to 12 participants” at all the US Bear Grylls Survival Academy locations. In other words, only six pairs of people are allowed to go on any one course whether it’s the 24-hours or five days. Though given the large price of admission, that’s probably the number of people who can afford to go.
15 Instructors are Present (Most of the Time)
While it may seem like Bear Grylls does his surviving alone, there’s always a camera crew that follows him. Such is also the case for those participating in the Bear Grylls Survival Academy, as each course comes with an instructor who guides the participants through the wilderness and shows them different outdoor survival techniques. At least, in the 24-hour course. In the five-day course “Participants will be instructed over a period of three days, after which they will be left without guides with only one another to trek from an unknown remote location through varied terrain” Pursuitist states.
14 Canteens are Given to Participants Prior to the Course
So with the price of admission paid after meeting the academy’s expectations in terms of physical health, the next thing to consider is what to bring for the course. Apart from obvious things like appropriate clothing and footwear that’s good for the outdoors, it’s also important to consider any additional items that may be necessary for survival. Fortunately, the Bear Grylls Survival Academy does provide a few items to its participants that are free of charge. One example is the “Bear Grylls-logoed canteens” USA Today mentions which are shown in the above picture despite the logos not being visible.
13 Comes with Different Course Options
Like most academies, the Bear Grylls Survival Academy does offer several different courses. The objective for all of them, though, is to head out into the wilderness and learn different techniques for surviving in similar environments. Yet the difference between each course is the length of the program and the kind of people who can participate in it. These include “24-hour adult courses, 24-hour family courses and the five-day adult intensive course” Pursuitist states. Now it may seem contradictory to include children as possible participants, but we’ve all got to start somewhere to be a true survivor.
12 Hosted by Various Outdoor Programs
Now one may think the Bear Grylls Survival Academy consists of distinct buildings established in remote areas that are also close to major cities, but that’s actually not the case. In actuality, they are programs held at pre-established locations belonging to different outdoor programs and non-profit organizations dedicated to exercise and those who enjoy the outdoors in general. For instance, the Bear Grylls Survival Academy branch location in New York has a “Home base in Claryville” according to USA Today. Specifically, at the Frost Valley YMCA building which hosts many other adult and youth outdoor programs as well.
11 Bear Grylls-branded Knives are Given to Participants Too
Aside from canteens, another item that is given to participants of the Bear Grylls Survival Academy are knives. But these aren’t just regular knives, as the above picture shows, as it is a “Bear Grylls-branded knife with a built-in stryker notch and rod” as described by the Irish Examiner. In other words, it’s a good-quality knife that is not only durable but is also easy to use even if one isn’t familiar with knives. While most people associate this tool with self-defense and animal slaying, a knife can also be used for other things as well.
10 One of the First Things That’s Taught is Navigation
So with all the complimentary items covered, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty: what actually happens on a Bear Grylls Survival Academy course? Well, it depends on the length of the course itself which will determine how many different survival skills the instructor covers as he or she guides the participants through the designated wilderness that’s usually a few miles from the base camp. For instance, at the Bear Grylls Survival Academy location near Maynooth, Ireland, the first thing the participants learn is how “To follow simple directions using a wristwatch as a compass” Irish Examiner says.
9 Everyone in the Course Makes a Shelter Together
Whether one decides to travel alone or with friends in terms of traversing the wilderness, participants in the Bear Grylls Survival Academy are required to partake in the same activities for not just the sake of learning but also to be helpful to the group in general. For example, those who participated in the 24-hour course in New York had to make their own shelters together as they “Set up an A-frame structure and then cross-hatch it with smaller, thinner branches and fill in the spaces with hemlocks, moss and swatches of birch bark” USA Today describes.
8 Participants Learn to Find a Good Source of Water
Apart from being able to navigate in the wilderness with none of the modern conveniences such as a cellphone or even a compass, finding water is another important skill to learn in general. That’s why this is one of the essential lessons in any Bear Grylls Survival Academy, though not all of them may involve dipping down to the edge of a stream and drinking the water directly as the above picture shows. On the course in New York, for instance, the instructor “Floods a jug with stream water and plunks in several iodine tablets” as described by USA Today.
7 Traps are Set Up to Catch Potential Food
Though this isn’t required from the participants, the Bear Grylls Survival Academy instructors will typically set up “A simple snare near a burrow and a spring-loaded trap not far from it” according to USA Today. This, of course, is used to catch prey that may be eaten. Because when one is stuck in the wild, there is no room for pickiness with animals that can provide much needed nutrients. Of course, the kind of prey that’s caught may depend on the environment. In the case of a forest, one is more likely to catch rabbits which live in burrows.
6 Fires are Crafted from Whatever Materials are Available
As destructive as fire may be, it is also necessary. In the wilderness, for example, its light can provide warmth and heat for cooking purposes. It can also “Ward off the bobcats, bears and coyotes” USA Today points out which are common predators that can be harmful to humans if they’re bothered. So fires act as a deterrent of sorts, though one has to make them first. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to make a fire as demonstrated by the Bear Grylls Survival Academy courses with tools such as “A cotton ball, knife and flint” available USA Today states.
5 Foraging is Required but Not Eating What’s Found
Unlike hunting, which requires tools such as traps and weapons, foraging is a general term for gathering anything that looks edible with one’s bare hands. It’s also a good substitute for hunting as some things that can be gathered such as mealworms supposedly “Contain pound for pound more protein than a steak” according to an instructor at the Irish Bear Grylls Survival Academy course as stated by the Irish Examiner. So while participants are expected to forage during the course, they don’t have to necessarily eat what they find. After all, it's mainly the act of foraging that matters here.
4 Alternative Meals are Offered to What’s Caught
Just like with the foraging, participants aren’t expected to eat whatever prey gets caught in the traps set up by the Bear Grylls Survival Academy instructors. Instead, one can partake in an alternative meal that’s provided. For instance, at the New York course the alternative meal was “Chicken tortillas with salsa” according to USA Today. In addition, some of the foraged foods that other participants gathered can be eaten. In fact, a reporter who participated in the Irish course resorted to “Plucking blueberries from a nearby bush” as opposed to eating the rabbits that were caught the Irish Examiner says.
3 Worms are On the Menu
While the prey caught in the trap may vary, let alone whether anything gets caught in it or not, one edible creature that's pretty consistent with any Bear Grylls Survival Academy course is worms. Often eaten by Grylls himself on his shows, these little guys can be found just about anywhere so long as the soil is moist and not dry. Although how edible they are depends on the species, let alone their level of nutrition. Because mealworms have a high level of protein, as pointed out earlier, they’re the kind that’s typically served to Bear Grylls Survival Academy participants.
2 Everyone Has to Sleep Together in the Makeshift Shelter
Once everyone has eaten their meals, whether they’re from the wild or provided by the instructors, the Bear Grylls Survival Academy participants then have to sleep together in the makeshift shelters they created as teams when the time comes. Now this may sound uncomfortable, but it’s better than sleeping on the bare earth where all kinds of creatures may show up like the salamander in the above picture or unexpected storms which are worse. Though the experience has been described as “An uncomfortable night's sleep, complete with howling coyotes in the distance and a symphony of snores” USA Today says.
1 Participants Have to Wade in Rivers
Depending on what course the Bear Grylls Survival Academy participants signed up for, what happens the next morning may be different. For instance, those who signed up for the 24-hour course will pack up and make their way back to the base camp while the five-day course participants stay to presumably learn more skills. In either case, though, there will most likely be a “River Run” involved. As the above picture demonstrates, this is where one is required to “Jump into icy, waist-deep waters” USA Today describes and run along it for a certain length of time.
Resources: usatoday.com, pursuitist.com, irishexaminer.com, nytimes.com