Bear Grylls has achieved a number of incredible feats in his lifetime. In the United States, he is best known as the host of Man vs. Wild, but in the UK he has hosted several different survival shows. He’s gained some notoriety for several outlandish stunts throughout his life and in July of 2009, he was named the Chief Scout of The Scout Association in the UK. He is the youngest person to ever receive the honor and was only 35 at the time.
Despite a long list of impressive achievements, his most popular project, Man vs. Wild (also known as Born Survivor: Bear Grylls in the UK) has received quite a bit of bad publicity. Unlike other survival programs such as Survivorman, Man vs. Wild has been caught faking survival situations for the show. Because they were caught, the show had to start beginning every broadcast with a disclaimer that notified audiences of its behind-the-scenes enhancements.
Because of the disclaimer, it is now fairly well known that some of the show is faked, but there are a lot more behind the scenes secrets that most people are completely unaware of.
Here are 15 Behind-The-Scenes Secrets About Man Vs. Wild.
15 The Show Has Multiple Behind The Scenes Experts
The fact that Man vs. Wild uses behind the scenes experts to help Bear Grylls and his crew shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. After all, the show begins with a disclaimer that explicitly says, “Bear Grylls and the crew receive support when they are in potentially life-threatening situations.” What is surprising is how much the outside experts actually do.
After the episode aired, it was revealed that a Polynesian-style raft that Bear Grylls supposedly built was actually constructed by a team of people lead by an outside expert name Mark Weinert.
When Weinert was asked later about his role on the show, he replied “If you really believe everything happens the way it is shown on TV, you are being a little bit naive.”
14 Bear Grylls Didn't Always Sleep Outside
In addition to receiving help from outside experts, it was also revealed that Bear Grylls has slept in hotels rather than outside while filming the show, which was actually confirmed by the show.
Bear’s travel luxuries were revealed in a report by the UK’s channel 4.
“We take any allegations of misleading our audiences seriously,” a spokesman for the show said in response. “Bear does do all his own stunts and does put himself in perilous situations. But Born Survivor (known as Man vs. Wild in the US) is not an observational documentary series, but a "how to" guide to basic survival techniques in extreme environments. The program explicitly does not claim that presenter Bear Grylls' experience is one of unaided solo survival.”
13 Bear Grylls Had A Dangerously Close Call
Bear Grylls may not be in any danger while filming Man vs. Wild, but he has faced some very serious life and death situations, even seriously hurting himself in the process. In 1995, when he was just 21 years old, Bear broke his back during a military training exercise. After jumping out of a plane, his parachute failed to inflate at 16,000 feet.
Grylls fell to the earth and suffered major injuries.
“I should have cut the main parachute and gone to the reserve but thought there was time to resolve the problem,” Grylls told The Daily Mail in 2007. “The doctor said I was a miracle man. I had come so close to severing my spinal cord. Because of my age and my fitness, they decided I could avoid surgery.”
12 Bear Grylls Owns A Private Island
Bear Grylls doesn’t just like to rough it when he’s filming an episode of Man vs. Wild. The celebrity outdoorsman seems to spend most of his life outdoors. He even has his own private deserted island that he uses as a vacation home and refers to as his favorite place on the planet.
“It’s 20 acres and five miles offshore with no mains, electricity, or running water,” Grylls told Vanity Fair in 2012.
“It has a little lighthouse beside our house and is surrounded by amazing sea cliffs, seals, and dolphins. It is my favorite place on the planet! We have a 30-foot, high-speed ex-lifeboat. It is a rigid inflatable boat with twin 300-horsepower engines behind it that can tackle any sea it needs to (often with our dogs and children, as well).”
11 Bear Grylls Is Not The Host's Real Name
Bear Grylls is the perfect name for a professional outdoorsman. Bears are one of the fiercest animals on the planet, and Grylls invokes the feeling of being outdoors and reminds you of summer. It would appear that Bear Grylls was destined to become a world traveler and survival expert.
Unfortunately, “Bear” isn’t his real name. Bear Grylls’ real name is Edward Michael Grylls, but “Bear” isn’t just a name that he chose when he started his career.
It turns out that his older sister, Lara Fawcett, gave him the nickname "Bear" when he was a young boy.
“I was christened Edward,” Bear told The Guardian in 2011. “My sister gave me the name Bear when I was a week old and it has stuck.”
10 The Demonstrations On The Show Are Exaggerated
Given that the makers of Man vs. Wild have admitted that the show is a how-to guide to survival techniques and not a story of unaided solo survival, several of the more extreme things should be called into question.
For example, why would Bear Grylls be willing to drink his own urine, rappel down a waterfall with vines, or squeeze the liquid out of an elephants dung if he could just go back to his hotel instead?
To make matters worse, it seems that some of the things that the show recommends wouldn’t even work.
“It is not possible to squeeze drinkable water out of elephant dung,” Les Stroud the star of Survivorman said in a Reddit AMA. “Well, it is when your cameraman has soaked it with bottled water.”
9 A Lot Of Prep Work Goes Into Each Episode
Each episode of Man vs. Wild takes between 7 and 10 days to shoot. Prior to shooting, the show’s crew spends about a week scouting out the area and preparing for the shoot. They also have to go through an extensive list of equipment checks.
After the crew’s preparation, Bear Grylls’ training can begin.
For each show, Grylls undergoes approximately two days of intense survival briefings and training. This is where the outside experts are used the most because they know the terrain better than the crew.
"I spend two days on location prior to dropping in,” Grylls said. “I go through all the safety and comms briefing as well as being briefed on local conditions, and flora and fauna by local rangers and a local bushcraft expert."
8 Bear Grylls Is Afraid Of Heights
Bear Grylls likes to live his life on the edge and has accomplished a lot of incredible feats. Just a year and a half after breaking his vertebrae in a parachuting accident, Bear Grylls achieved his childhood dream of climbing the summit of Mount Everest. At 23 years old, he became one of the youngest Britons to ever achieve the feat.
To make things even more impressive, it turns out that he achieved this feat despite his fear of heights.
When asked if he ever struggles with some of the things he has to do on Man vs. Wild, Grylls replied “of course, I'm human, I get scared an awful lot on the show, I struggle being sat at great heights. I've learnt over the years that the more of a nightmare it is for me, the better viewing it makes.”
7 A Smoke Machine Was Used To Fake Fumes From A Volcano
In an episode of Man vs. Wild that aired in 2007, Bear Grylls and his production team may have taken things a little too far. The episode showed survival techniques that could be used on the Mount Kīlauea volcano in Hawaii.
At one point in the episode, Grylls is shown surrounded by billowing white smoke.
"Look at this, you can actually see the sulfur dioxide seeping out of these vents,” Grylls said. "In high concentrations, this gas is a killer."
As it turns out, this scene was faked using artificial smoke to simulate the toxic gas.
"Sulphur dioxide fumes are colorless and you can't see it, so smoke generators were used off-screen to make the existing fumes seem visible," said a safety adviser advisor for the show.
6 The Crew Faked A Lasso Scene
The smoke machine in the Mount Kīlauea episode isn’t the only example of Bear Grylls and his production crew using half-truths to enhance the drama of the show.
It was revealed that a group of horses that Grylls referred to as “wild” were actually trained.
In response to the revelations, Discovery issued a statement that read, “Discovery Communications has learned that isolated elements of the Man vs. Wild show in some episodes were not natural to the environment and that for health and safety concerns the crew and host received some survival assistance while in the field. Moving forward, the program will be 100% transparent and all elements of the filming will be explained upfront to our viewers. In addition, shows that are to be repeated will be edited appropriately. Bear Grylls is a world-class adventurer and a terrific talent.”
5 Bear Grylls Holds A Wacky World Record
There are a lot of strange world records, but few are more dangerous than the one that Bear Grylls holds.
In 2005, Grylls was part of a team that broke the record for the highest open-air formal dinner party.
The group used a specialized balloon that took them to 24,262 feet before they climbed down onto a suspended dining table and ate a three-course meal.
“The only drawback was the other two members of the team ate all the food so there was nothing left when I landed,” said David Hempleman-Adams, an adventurer who organized the stunt. “Without doubt, this is the strangest record I have ever attempted. It was a fun stunt but was at the same time very dangerous. There were potentially a lot of things that could have gone wrong.”
4 Bear Grylls Has A Black Belt
Even before establishing himself as an elite outdoorsman and adventurer, Bear Grylls earned a reputation as someone who was tough and determined.
He earned a black belt in Shotokan in an attempt to stop people from bullying him.
“I had never felt so proud as I did finally wearing that belt after having crawled my way up the rungs of yellow, green, orange, purple, brown—you name it—colored belts,” Grylls wrote in his book Mud, Sweat and Tears: The Autobiography.
“I had done this on my own and the hard way; you can’t buy your way to a black belt. I remember being told by our instructor that martial arts is not about the belts, it is about the spirit; and I agree... but I still couldn’t help sleeping with my black belt on that first night. Oh, and the bullying stopped.”
3 Bear's stripped-down river trip
When one of his companions lost his legs in a climbing accident, Bear Grylls decided to do something to help him out. In order to raise money for his friend, Bear Grylls decided to row 22 miles down the River Thames in a homemade bathtub. To make matters worse, he decided to attempt this feat without clothes.
This wasn’t the only water-based stunt that Bear Grylls has pulled off in his career. After conquering Mount Everest, Grylls and his crew attempted to cross the North Atlantic Ocean in an open-air inflatable boat. Even before that feat, he also led a team that attempted to circumnavigate the British Isles on jet skis.
"It took 30 days and it was fun for about half an hour,” said Grylls. “We were on these little hairdryers while the waves were so large we would lose sight of each other."
2 The Worst Thing Bear Grylls Has Eaten On Camera
Despite his many adventuring accomplishments, Bear Grylls is probably best known for the outlandish things that he is willing to eat on his show. Over the years he’s eaten intestinal fluid, eyeballs, feces, and even drank his own urine.
The worst thing he says he’s ever eaten was a raw goat member.
“All these things taste pretty horrible, but ultimately it’s about being able to plumb those depths and do the things you can’t imagine you’d do in your normal life,” Grylls told The Mirror in 2015. “But you have purpose, which is to see your family at the end of the expedition, so you do these things. The worst has probably been raw goat’s [members], they were bad, then I’ve eaten things like camel intestinal fluids, yak eyeballs, bear poo, urine, snakes, scorpions, you name it. It always makes me very grateful to get home.”
1 The Show Once Used A Crew Member In A Bear Suit
In the first episode of Man vs. Wild, there is a very dramatic moment where Bear Grylls believes that he is being stalked by a grizzly bear. Footage of something moving in the forest is shown, and he decides to flee his camp in the middle of the night to try to escape.
Unfortunately, this scene was completely fake, as pages from the episode's script would later show. There was no bear. Instead, it was a crew member in a bear suit.
"Bear... wakes up in the middle of the night when he hears a loud noise,” the script reads. “The camera watches him just as he wonders what the noise is. This will have to look like video diary hand-held. The camera peeks out of the shelter and in the darkness we see a movement in the bushes, a roar and something rip the food bag from the tree."
What shocked you the most about Man vs. Wild? Let us know in the comments!