Ed Stafford knows a thing or two about survival.
The survivalist and former army officer not only holds the Guinness World Record for being the first person to ever walk the length of the Amazon River (an achievement that Sir Ranulph Fiennes described as “truly extraordinary”) but he’s taking his life in his hands in Discovery show Marooned.
The show, which is now in its second series, sees Ed being dropped in the middle of a very hostile environment and tasked with coping in his new surroundings – be it desert, jungle or bushveld – with nothing but a few clothes and a camera. His aim is not just to survive – but to thrive.
"I have to say, it’s more than just ‘this is how you light a fire’, or ‘this is how you build a shelter’,” he tells BT TV of the new series which starts at 9pm on Sunday May 9 on BT Channel 322.
It turns out that there’s more to surviving than meets the eye. Here are Ed’s top 5 tips for what to do if you find yourself lost in the wilderness...
1. The priority is finding shelter… or money
Ed explains that depending on where you are, the priorities for what you need to survive completely change. “If it was in London, it would all revolve around money, and if it was in the middle of the jungle, it would revolve around something else – which would be shelter initially,” he explains.
“The four survival priorities I always end up coming back to are water, food, fire and shelter. If you have water you can survive – water is the most important in any environment – but invariably the others sort of go up and down the pecking order dependent on the environment.”
2. Make yourself a cup of tea
It may seem strange, but one of Ed’s main missions at the beginning of every episode is finding a way to make himself a cup of tea – even if it’s made from pine needles!
“I think it’s a pretty British thing to do,” he explains. “For some reason if we need a little pause for space in life, if things get a little too much for us, we spontaneously turn the kettle on and have a cup of tea.
“And as soon as we have a cup of tea everything’s OK. I suppose something like having a cup of tea adds a little bit of normality into my life. It’s a bit of routine that comforts me and makes me feel a bit more normal. That is why I do it, although it’s a slightly ridiculous thing to do!”
3. Get some basic clothing
“In the Gobi Desert I was caught out by the fact that it was just so hot,” explains Ed. “I’d love to say my feet were so hardened that I would be able to endure any environment, but the truth is that they’re pretty London-soft, and I got dropped off in the middle of the Gobi Desert and I literally could not walk over the ground because it was too hot.
“I actually had to cut the straps off the camera bag and make a pair of shoes out of them so that I could physically walk towards the mountains and get out of the desert, so I have to admit that was a bit of an admission of failure!”
4. Keep calm and carry on
“There is almost a fixed survival priority which I would say is a survival psychology,” explains Ed.
“There are things that are necessary to survive practically, but if you’re in a spin and completely panicking, then that will undermine your attempts to achieve anything. I think your state of mind is 80% of it.
“I always try and sit down and compose myself. The adrenaline starts kicking in but if I treat it as a game, it becomes this really fun, positive thing, rather than fearful and negative. Your eyes will be open, you’ll be looking around, you’ll be seeing possibilities and you’ll certainly be more aware and active and positive in a situation.”
He also reveals that he now uses meditation when he’s on an adventure to try and calm himself. “I give myself that space to enable myself to make good decisions and not be too wrapped up in everything and not be too reactionary,” he says.
“I try to step back from my thoughts and my emotions and I think that gives me a greater clarity and a greater ability to make good decisions.”
5. And try your best to find a good pub…
“I crave boring and normality,” admits Ed, rather surprisingly. “To be honest, I would love it if Discovery Channel decided they wanted to have a home improvements channel and I could do some DIY around the house, but I don’t think that’s going to happen!
“When I go home, I just like the niceties of life. I like going to the pub, having a nice meal, having nice sheets on my bed, and crawling into it and being comfortable. Ranulph Fiennes surprises me because he is one of those explorers who is still an explorer when he comes home.
“He did a speaking tour about three years ago, and I knew the lady who organised it and he refused to let her book him into hotels because he said he didn’t want to spend the money. So he slept in his car and carried his baseball bat with him! He just literally lives this ridiculously on-the-edge sort of adventure life the whole time. But I think life is about balance!”
Marooned with Ed Stafford airs at 9pm on Sunday May 8 on Discovery, BT Channel 322, and will also be available to watch on catch-up.
Photo credit: Discovery