If you own a television and you follow this blog, there’s a good chance you’ve seen a survival show and are at least familiar with names like Les Stroud, Cody Lundin, and Bear Grylls. But there are many renowned survival experts who never became television personalities and who you may find just as informative and interesting. If you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere with few supplies and you’re running out of daylight, chances are you’re in much better shape if one of these five folks are with you.
John “Lofty” Wiseman was the youngest member in the history of Britain’s elite Special Air Service unit (SAS for short), getting in at 18 years of age in 1959. After retiring from the service after 26 years (and having reached the rank of Sergeant Major), he began writing books on survival skills, and has had several books published including his first, “The SAS Survival Handbook” which is a standard for anyone wanting to enhance their skills. Other publications include “The SAS Self-Defence Manual,” and “The SAS Urban Survival Handbook.” He has also served as a consultant for survival schools, and behind the scenes on television shows.
Larry D. Olsen
Larry D. Olsen is a pioneer in the field of teaching survival skills. After immersing himself in nature at a young age by hunting, trapping, and exploring with only primitively made tools (he modeled his early philosophies around the ways of the Anasazi), Larry went on to teach outdoor survival classes at BYU in the 60s. His approach to teaching was that one should learn to live without previously purchased, built, or manufactured gear (the guy is pretty hardcore). In the late 60’s, he started a program for kids that had gotten in a bit of legal trouble, taking them into the great outdoors and teaching them survival strategies. The idea behind the program was to teach them personal responsibility, courage, respect, and compassion, and he was widely recognized for the approach. He also wrote the book “Outdoor Survival Skills” for his class, and it was later published widely. In fact, the actor Robert Redford enjoyed the book so much that he hired Olsen to be a technical consultant on his movie “Jeremiah Johnson.” 25 years ago, Larry expanded upon the idea of youth rehabilitation programs by founding the Anasazi Foundation with his friend Ezekiel Sanchez, and it became the first licensed and accredited outdoor behavioral healthcare provider.
Few are better examples of outdoor hardcoreness than Lisa Fenton. Lisa spent four years working under famous survival guru Ray Mears, and has traveled to some of the world’s more desolate, unforgiving areas. She is one of the co-founders of Woodsmoke, and school that teaches a variety of bushcraft and survival techniques. She has led conservation-motivated expeditions in search of wolves, lynx, leopards, cheetah, and many other seemingly dangerous predators in unforgiving climates all over the world, often living in the wilderness for several weeks or even months at a time. She has a laundry list of close calls that she has had to work her way out of during her travels (check out the Woodsmoke website at www.woodsmoke.uk.com and read her biography to get a full grasp on the crazy situations that she has survived), and she hangs out with indigenous peoples for fun. Fenton is the real deal.
Mors Kochanski is another survival instructor from way back. This guy learned his skills the right way, through personal immersion in nature (it helped that as a kid he had to walk 7 miles each way back and forth to school on a bush road). You’ll notice that most all true survival experts have a profound love for nature and Kochanski was no different. In 1986, he wrote “Northern Bushcraft,” and it became a Canadian bestseller. He had other publications, such as “Bush Art,” and a number of booklets on quick-hit tips, like “Wilderness Skills in Deep Snow” and “Survival Kit Ideas.” His philosophy is a classic one. “The more you know, the less you carry.”
Don’t let the common name fool you, Tom Brown is an uncommon guy. Learning survival skills and bushcraft from a childhood friend’s grandfather at a young age, Tom went on to spend ten of his formative years living alone in various United States wilderness areas using almost exclusively primitive tools. Ten years virtually alone and relying on no one but yourself in the wild will turn just about anyone into a fine-tuned, hard-ass survivalist. After returning to his home state of New Jersey, Brown began using his tracking skills to assist authorities with finding missing persons, fugitives, and animals. Brown is also a prolific author, having 18 books published thus far, and served as consultant for the film “The Hunted.” He founded Tracker School in New Jersey, where he teaches students about everything from flint-knapping to primitive shelter building.