( Top 24 ) Famous Survivalists

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Most people will never be in a major SHTF situation, as life in our modern age is fairly comfortable. We live in a very complex society and we have learned to rely on each other to fulfill all our needs, from food to water and shelter. As more and more people realize that our way of life is very fragile they start educating themselves about prepping and surviving in different conditions. You have probably heard of Bear Grylls, but not all survivalists have a background in the army, some of them are movie celebrities, UFC champions, actors, doctors, and so on. Some consider being a survivalist as a hobby, while others consider it a way of life.

Thousands of years ago everybody was a survivalist, humanity had to overcome massive hurdles, as biologically we only have one advantage which is our ability to think and plan things ahead. Most animals evolved massive teeth, claws, and other functions that allow them to survive in a dangerous world. Humans on the other hand have relied more or less on their brains and on their tools to survive.

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Even today they are a lot of survivalists who are unknown, people doing extraordinary things in order to survive. On the other hand, there are a handful of famous survivalists who are survivalists only in front of the cameras, once these stop rolling they take out their canned beans. Most survivalist shows are trying to sell the adrenaline, although in most cases they exaggerate for dramatic effect. On the other hand, there are the hardcore survivalists who actually know what they are doing and they love what they are doing. One thing that most survivalists use while filming their adventures is vitamins, for more information check out my recent article Survival vitamins ( Top 13 SHTF Vitamins ).

Famous Survivalists

Famous survivalists have captured the imagination of people around the world with their incredible survival skills and resourcefulness. One prominent figure is Bear Grylls, known for his popular television show “Man vs. Wild,” where he showcases his expertise in surviving extreme environments. Another well-known survivalist is Les Stroud, the creator, and host of the television series “Survivorman,” who ventures into remote wilderness areas alone, demonstrating his survival skills and documenting his experiences.

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Additionally, Cody Lundin, a survival instructor, and author, gained recognition for his appearances on television shows and his emphasis on primitive survival techniques.

1. Bear Grylls “Man vs. Wild”

Born 1974 in Northern Ireland, Bear Grylls is probably one of the most famous survivalists on this list mostly due to his show Man vs. Wild. During the filming of Man vs. Wild, he would often eat raw meat, drink his own urine, and on one occasion even ate raw goat testicles offered to him by an Afghan goat herder. He is known also for being the youngest man to climb Mount Everest, at that time he was 23 years old.

He has spent most of his time in the British army where he has learned most of his skills.

During his TV series, he often traveled around the world facing different dangers from different environments. Being an adventurer he is not afraid to tackle any obstacle but during one of the episodes of Man vs. Wild he got stung by a bee and had an anaphylactic shock to it, his head swollen up. He was in serious danger but luckily the crew had adrenaline just in case, upon administering it the swelling stopped.

Although he was in anaphylactic shock he didn’t stop his adventure and continued filming the episode. Expert in improvising specialized tools with only the help of his knife, in a desert environment he would often skin a snake and use its skin like a water “bottle”, or if he didn’t have water he would pee in it and store it in the snake’s skin for later use. Before filming an episode he would often go to the destination to learn from the elders, and he would incorporate these newly learned skills in each episode of Man vs. Wild. A lot of survivalist tend to hunt for rabbits, although eating rabbit meat comes with some dangers, for more information check out my recent article Dangers of eating rabbit meat ( Protein poisoning & Tularemia ).

2. Ed Stafford “Ed Stafford: Naked and Marooned”

Ed Stafford is an explorer and survivalist he became famous for being the first man to walk along the entire length of the Amazon River. He is one of the most interesting survivalists as in his TV series “Ed Stafford: Naked and Marooned” he is left alone with no tools or any clothes in different environments. One of the most popular episodes of “Ed Stafford: Naked and Marooned” is when he was left on a small deserted island to fend for himself, with no tools, no food, no water, and naked for 60 days.

3. Les Stroud “Survivorman”

Born in 1961 in Canada Les Stroud is well known for the Survivorman television series. He is living off the grid with his entire family and has spent several years living off the land. He is one of the few real survivalists as unlike most survivalists he actually practices what he is teaching and if you have seen the Survivorman series you know he is the real deal. He is mostly a self-taught survivalist which is an accomplishment in itself. In a survival situation, you will still have to clean your clothes although with as little to no water, for more information check out my recent article How to clean clothes without water ( Top 13 Ways ).

4. EJ Snyder “Naked and Afraid”

EJ Snyder has over 25 years spent in the army as a trainer in matters of surviving off the land and self-reliance. While serving in the army he earned the nickname “Skullcrusher”, people being trained by him often saying there is no SHTF event in which he could not survive. After leaving the army he eventually ended up in several high-profile TV series like Dual Survival, Naked and Afraid, and Man vs. Amazon.

5. Mykel Hawke “Man, Woman, Wild”

Mykel Hawke was born in November 1965 in Fort Knox and spent around 12 years in the army. He has become famous with the Man, Woman, Wild series made by Discovery Chanel. During his military career he also trained the UN peacekeeping force in matters of survival, he was also part of the search and rescue team during the war on drugs in California.

6. Dave Canterbury “Dual Survival”

Born in September 1963 David Canterbury is a survival instructor with over 20 years of military experience. He is an expert in survivalism and primitive skills, using hardly any tools he is a master of improvisation. He also was the star of the Dual Survival show made by Discovery Chanel.

Dave Canterbury is highly skilled in bushcraft and if you are familiar with bushcraft you probably know he is also the author of the widely recognized and praised Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival book. He has also co-starred in the TV series Dual Survival where in one of the episodes he got a nasty cut and ended up cauterizing it and closing the wound.

7. Matt Graham “Dual Survival”

Matt Graham has been living off the grid and off the land most of his life since he was 15. Most of the survival skills he learned from trial and error and he is mostly a self-taught survivalist. In addition to being an excellent survivalist, he is also a triathlete with his biggest accomplishment being the completion of the Pacific Coast Trail in 58 days, which is a 1700-mile-long trail. He became famous with the Discovery Channels Dual Survival, and he also starred in several shows on National Geographic Chanel.

In addition to being a celebrity in the survivalist world, he is also teaching his skills at Outdoor Survival School in Boulder. There are a lot of common items which can turn into survival items in case of need, for more information check out my recent article ( Top 44 ) Overlooked Survival Items.

8. Ray Mears famous survivalist in “Ray Mears Bushcraft”

Born in 1964 in England, Ray Mears is a survival and bushcraft expert. He is a self-taught survivalist and at one point he was training the UK militarily in all aspects regarding survivalism and bushcraft. He has appeared in and hosted several TV series in the UK like Extreme Survival, Wild Food, Survival with Ray Mears, and many more.

9. Cody Lundin “Lost in the Wild”

Cody Lundin is one of those survivalists who actually practices what he is teaching. Currently, he is living off the grid in Arizona with his family, he became famous with the TV series Lost in the Wild. He has learned his survival and bushcraft skills from Native American elders, adopting their way of life and living off the land. During the shooting of Lost in the Wild, he was always barefoot no matter the terrain or weather conditions.

He also founded the Aboriginal Living Skills School in Prescott, where he was teaching for several years.

10. Aron Ralston “127 Hours”

While Aron Ralston was hiking in the Blue John Canyon alone a large rock fell on him and trapping his right arm. He knew that the possibility of somebody finding him was slim as he was in a remote location. He managed to survive for 127 hours by rationing his supplies, his biggest threat was death from dehydration. Having no more water and on the brink of death, he decided to end his life by cutting his wrists. This is what actually saved him, he was so dehydrated that his blood was so thick that he wasn’t bleeding out.

At that point he decided to cut off his right arm in order to survive, he had to do this with a small knife. After he cut off his right arm he headed back to his truck and during the walk, he was found by a family which rushed him to a hospital. Aron Ralston is one of the top survivalists who survived 127 hours in the desert due to his sheer determination to live, no matter what the cost. There is a movie based on his experiences, if you want to check out more survival movies then check out my recent article Best survival movies ( Top 18 ).

11. Laura Zerra “Naked and Afraid”

Laura Zerra is one of the youngest famous survivalists, during her childhood she was definitely not like other girls. As a child she was fascinated by survivalism, she would oftentimes wander the highways in search of road kills so she can tan hide.  She is also fascinated by bows, and at an early age, she was already making her own bows, which she used to hunt small animals. She became famous with the Discovery show Naked and Afraid in 2013.

12. Steve Backshall “Britain’s Lost World”

Born 1973 in the United Kingdom, this survivalist is known for pushing his limits. He was in a number of television series like Britain’s Lost World, Lost Land of the Tiger, and Lost Land of the Volcano. During the filming of one of the series in Argentina, he was trying to catch an anaconda when he was bitten by a caiman, luckily he made a full recovery after the incident.

13. Ricky MeGee

In the Australian Outback helping each other out is normal, this is what Ricky MeGee also did when he picked up two hitchhikers. The next thing he remembers is waking up in a shallow grave and a dingo was sniffing him. Although it is a mystery what exactly happened leading to him being almost buried alive the most probable explanation is that he was drugged by the hitchhikers to steal his truck which was never found.

After he woke up in his shallow grave he survived for 70 days in the Australian Outback, drinking his urine and eating lizards and small critters. He eventually stumbled upon a water dam where he made himself a small shelter, after a few days he was found by some cattle ranchers and rescued.

14. Tom McElroy

Tom McElroy was fascinated by everything related to survivalism from an early age. During his twenties, he has spent more than a year living completely off the grid, by hunting, fishing, and trapping. He has also lived with several indigenous tribes from where he learned most of his survival skills, some of these tribes were the Huaorani, who are living in the Amazon, and the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico.

He has even lived with a shaman in Sumatra for some time. Tom McElroy became famous with the Discovery Channel shows like The Naked and Afraid and Solo Survival.

15. Hazen Audel “Primal Survivor” 

Hazen Audel has spent most of his life living and learning from indigenous tribes across the world, from Mongolia, Kenya, Panama, and in other locations throughout the world. During his time with a lot of tribes, he has also learned their languages, which makes him one of the only people who can speak several languages which are on the verge of being lost forever. Hazen Audel became famous with the TV show called Primal Survivor produced by the National Geographic channel.

16. Nathan Fillion “Castle”

You probably know him from the TV show Castle, and you probably didn’t know that he is also a survivalist. He has a bug out vehicle and as he knows how to weld he is planning to customize his bug out vehicle with armor plates. He was invited to the Conan Tonight Show several times and he claimed he was prepping for a zombie apocalypse, he was probably just joking.

17. Douglas Mawson 

Douglas Mawson was born in Australia and he was a famous explorer, back in the days when Antarctica was not fully explored in 1912 he led a small expedition to explore it. This was long 300 miles extremely dangerous journey, during which one of his team of 3 fell into a crevasse dragging all their supplies and most of the dogs with him. The team member who fell died in the crevasse and as there was no possibility to get back the supplies the two remaining men decided to head back to base camp.

Luckily not all of their dogs died in the crevasse, but the few that survived were used as food. His other surviving teammate was in bad shape with his skin peeling off and his genitals freezing and falling off. He died after a few days and once Douglas Mawson managed to get back to the base camp, people started to speculate that he might have eaten his teammate as he wouldn’t be able to make the long journey without any food.

18. Steven Callahan

Steven Callahan was an avid sailor, he was often sailing with his sailboat Napoleon Solo, during one of his trips a whale bumped into his boat doing considerable damage. His sailboat was starting to sink and he was forced to abandon it, he had a small life raft and very few provisions. He has spent 76 days in his sailboat, with his only company being some Dorado fish. Eventually, he was rescued by some fisherman who also caught his beloved Dorado fish. During the 76 days on his liferaft, he has signaled with flares to several ships 7 times and not one of them has noticed him, after he has been rescued he found out that he drifted more than 1800 miles from his sailboat.

19. Roseanne Barr

If you are in your 30’s you probably have seen the Roseanne tv show at least one time, although not many know Roseanne is actually a prepper focusing on being as self-reliant as possible. Although she is not living on a homestead but she does have plans one day to live completely self-sufficient and off the grid.

20. Mors Kochanski 

Mors Kochanski was born in Canada he is an expert bushcrafter, during his long career as a survival and bushcraft trainer he trained US and UK armed forces.

21. Mauro Prosperi

Mauro Prosperi was an Italian police officer and an avid marathon runner. He competed in the Sands of Marocco Marathon in 1994 which is a 6-day long marathon through the desert. On the first day of the marathon, he got lost in a dust storm while trying to find his way back he crossed the border into Algeria where he found a small shrine and used it as shelter. While at the shelter he was drinking his own urine and eating bats.

At the point of despair, he decided to end his life by cutting his wrists, he was so dehydrated that blood was not flowing out. Eventually, rather than dying of dehydration he decided to find help and wandered for 9 days in the desert, during which he was eating lizards and bugs. After 9 days he managed to find a small village which saved his life. Even after this experience he still went back to complete the Sands of Maroco marathon in 2013.

22. Jan Baalsrud

Jan Baalsrud’s story begins during WW2 in Norway, where he was part of the local resistance fighting the Germans. He was frequently traveling on the sea to avoid the German troops, during one of his trips germans found the boat killing everyone on it except him. He managed to jump off the ship and swim to the shore where he was found by two girls. Before he managed to jump off the ship he got shot in the foot, or more precisely one of his big toes was shot off.

As Norway was under German occupation he had to make it to Sweeden, he made several attempts to cross the mountains during one of which he had been hit by an avalanche which made him go blind and he was wondering on the mountain blind, with no food and water for several days before he was found. After many unsuccessful attempts, he managed to get to Sweden but not before he spent days hiding in icy holes and cutting off all his toes so his foot won’t get infected.

23. Jose Salvador Alvarenga

Jose Salvador Alvarenga was a professional fisherman, he was working on a small fishing boat with another colleague named Ezequiel. During one of their fishing trips in 2012 on the sea, they got caught up in a storm that lasted around 5 days. The ship has suffered significant damage and before they got in the lifeboat they managed to send out an SOS through the radio. The search for the two men only lasted for 2 days as the search and rescue team didn’t find anything, after 2 days of searching they abandoned the search and presumed the 2 men have drowned.

The two fishermen survived on a small life raft, their emergency rations didn’t last for long, and eventually, they had to catch and eat raw fish. Their biggest problem was the lack of fresh water, during rainstorms, they improvised a way to collect rainwater. After 3 months on the liferaft, Ezequiel died, as the raw fish diet has taken its toll on him.

After his colleague died, Jose Salvador Alvarenga spent another 9 months at sea. Eventually, he saw dry land for the first time in more than a year, he abandoned his liferaft and swam to shore, luckily for him he found the Marshall Islands and he was quickly found by a couple and got rescued. Jose Salvador Alvarenga has spent a total of 13 months at sea on his liferaft, making him the only person to survive for such a  long time in a liferaft.

24. Tom Brown

Tom Brown was born in 1950 in New Jersey, he is a highly skilled survivalist and tracker. Most of his skills were learned from Apache elders who in an effort to keep alive their culture of living off the land and the skill of tracking began to teach the local children. He did not appear in TV shows like some other survivalists in this list but he does actively teach and has written several books about tracking and survivalism.

Key Takeaways

  • Bear Grylls is a well-known survivalist and adventurer, famous for his television series “Man vs. Wild.” He has showcased his survival skills in various extreme environments and has written several books on survival and outdoor activities.
  • Les Stroud, also known as “Survivorman,” is a renowned survival expert and filmmaker. He is recognized for his self-filmed TV series “Survivorman,” where he survives alone in remote locations for up to ten days, showcasing his survival techniques and skills.
  • Cody Lundin is a survival instructor and author known for his expertise in primitive living skills. He has appeared on television shows like “Dual Survival” and has written books on survival, wilderness living, and self-reliance.