Bear Grylls vs. Les Stroud
It's human nature to compare people with related skills to see who is “better”. We do this all the time for athletes, politicians, writers, and artists. And so I think it is time to compare the two most popular survival experts, Bear Grylls and Les Stroud to see who is more skilled in the area of wilderness survival.
In my opinion, Bear Grylls wins this one. He seems to be able to scrounge up something to eat no matter what the situation whereas Les Stroud is more likely to just go through the entire seven day ordeal that is his show's standard just on the sustenance the producers provided him.
Again Bear Grylls seems to be better skilled at this important survival skill. I've seen him find water bubbling out of a crack in a rock or dribbling down plant roots in underground caves. Les Stroud, on the other hand, is usually lucky enough to find a stream or be surrounded by snow he can eat.
Building a Fire
Starting a fire is a necessity in most survival situations and just about every episode of Man vs. Wild and Survivorman include a fire building segment. This one is another tie since both men have proven their skills at taking two sticks, some kindling and tinder, and ending up with a roaring fire.
Building a Shelter
Both Bear and Les are capable shelter builders especially in forested areas. I've seen Les attempt to build an igloo and fail miserably, but I don't know for sure that Bear is any better it. I'm going to say that he is though given his extensive mountain climbing experience. Surely building a snow shelter is a skill every Everest climber has developed.
Seeking Out Rescue
This one isn't entirely a fair comparison. Les Stroud's show, Survivorman, has a particular format that doesn't encourage him to move too far from his starting point. He will, after all, be picked up by his crew after seven days. However, there is no question that Bear Grylls will climb, swim, or cross any obstacle in his quest to reach safety. His military training seems to have provided a solid base for such activities.
Bear Gylls is accompanied by a camera crew. While I'm sure he doesn't “cheat” be eating or drinking from his crew's supplies, it's quite obvious that having a crew carry all of the camera gear makes him extremely mobile. And knowing that there are others around to help in dire emergencies means he can take risks that make for good TV. Les Stroud is entirely alone. He has to lug his gear around with him often having to re-enact scenes multiple times bring together a coherent story. Les Stroud wins hands down for roughing it.
Bear Grylls: 4 (finding food, finding water, building a shelter, seeking out rescue)
Les Stroud: 1 (roughing it)
Ties: 1 (starting a fire)
Bear Grylls wins! But I still like watching both shows.
Update: The above comparison was done with the assumption that both survival shows were authentic. However, it has been reported that Bear Grylls and his team are staging situations. Even if only one or two things are faked, the knowledge of this makes me suspect the entire show.