Ray Mears or Bear Grylls – Who’s the best influence on your kids?

It’s a bit ‘Marmite’ this: most people either like one or the other, and there’s much debate over Ray Mears vs. Bear Grylls. So who’s the better influence for your kids?


Starting a Fire

There’s been a lot of debate over the internet over who is better: Ray Mears or Bear Grylls.

I was in an online group recently where this discussion came up. Some people came down firmly on one side or the other, but there was also some interesting debate, which got me wondering, who would you prefer to influence your kids?



Ray Mears

Ray Mears certainly knows his bushcraft.

Anyone who is seriously into bushcraft says Ray Mears is clearly the best.


Bear Grylls


Former reserve SAS and a military survival specialist.

He clearly knows a lot of stuff, and his face is everywhere. And of course, he’s the UK’s Chief Scout.


Aren’t they basically the same?

If you’re not into any of the more extreme outdoor adventures, you’re probably not interested in either of them. In fact, you probably lump them both into the same pot.

However, there are some big differences in their approach. Not really down to the individuals, but in the approach of Bushcraft vs. Military Survival. Both have completely different mentalities.



Bushcraft Survival

Bushcraft is all about working with the environment to survive.

You need knowledge and practice at certain skills (such as making and using a bow drill), but essentially anyone can do it.

From a survival perspective, it’s typically about being cautious, and very aware of what could harm you. If you get sick or injured, things get a magnitude worse.



Military Survival

This is quite popular on the TVs at the moment, especially with former Special Ops soldiers, such as Bear Grylls – but there are quite a few now making a name for themselves.

Military survival stems from being able to survive a short period of time until you get rescued or extracted. For example, when ejecting behind enemy lines or escaping from the enemy.

Although Special Ops may operate behind enemy lines, they are generally equipped, have extraction plans, and some form of military backup – even if they have to relocate for it.

The military are taught bushcraft skills, but as you can see from above, their normal working scenario is usually very different from an average Joe survival situation.

There’s another element to add with the Special Ops people: they’ve all been through some of the toughest selection processes in the world. These people are fit, they’re tough, and they’re driven. They also have other skills such as being to repel down a cliff when normal people find another route.

Whereas a pure bushcraft based survivalist may take a cautious approach, the DNA of the military survivalist may not. They also have the physical and mental resources to push on when normal people do not (plus, they may be used to the ‘habit’ of having the military backup safety net).


So which is better?

Neither one is better than the other. They both have their place for what they do. But for most people, they’d be better following the bushcraft route.

It’s important to distinguish the two though, as it helps see that Ray Mears is in one world, and Bear Grylls is in another.


Ray Mears vs. Bear Grylls

So allegedly, Bear likes and respects Ray Mears, but Ray Mears dislikes Bear.

How much of it is really true or just press, I can’t say, but there’s a lot in the Bushcraft world that dislike Bear Grylls.


The problem with Bear Grylls

The bushcraft community generally say: if you follow Ray Mears you’ll survive; if you follow Bear Grylls you’ll die.

If you think about the difference between Bushcraft and Military Survival, then yes, normal people trying to copy the Military approaches could end up in very difficult situations.

River in Flood - would you cross?

The biggest concerns is that kids will try and copy Bear and throw themselves off a cliff with nothing but a small bit of rope, or try to swim across a raging river rather than walk around it.

As a parent, these are valid concerns, but….


Is this really a problem though?

Bear Grylls has in more recent times called himself an ‘Entertainer’ rather than a survival expert. He clearly knows some survival stuff, but most of his programmes are entertaining. All my kids, both male and female, love watching Bear Grylls. It is entertaining.

Ray Mears on the other hand is ‘boring’ in their eyes (Sorry Ray).

His programmes are not entertaining, they’re educational. And that’s OK.


Am I concerned about them watching Bear Grylls?

Not at all. (But I keep a watching eye).

In fact, watching Bear Grylls motivates them. It gets them engaged in getting outside. When we’re outside, we may say “let’s camp out like Bear Grylls”. Why? Because they can relate to something they’ve seen on the TV.

Bear Grylls Infulence

We recently got a Bear Grylls top for our youngest. It was like some sort of superhero costume. With his Bear Grylls top on, he practically ran up a mountain. He was inspired.

….and that’s why Bear Grylls is the Chief Scout in the UK. He’s engaged with the kids through entertaining them. He inspires them.

Once they’re interested, then bring in the experts like Ray Mears.  Unfortunately, if you give them Ray Mears from the start, you’ll put them off. We don’t want them thinking the outdoors is boring.

What about the cliffs? The raging rivers?

My kids see all sorts on TV.

Car chases and car crashes. Swords made from lasers that can slice a person in two (yep, Star Wars). And a mouse hitting a cat with a frying pan.

Do we let them repeat everything they do on TV? No.

Do they want to repeat everything they do on TV? No.

But..

Remember that Bear Grylls top inspired our youngest to run up a mountain? Well, he could be inspired to climb a cliff too.

That’s not a bad thing. What we have to do as parents, is educate them on the right and safe way to do it. Not to kill that inspiration, but to make sure that when they do something they learn to do it correctly.

…and that’s what we do as parents all the time.

that’s what we do as parents all the time

So, let them get inspired by Bear Grylls. Buy them some Bear Grylls stuff if it helps them be inspired when outdoors. But let them know what’s appropriate, what’s not, and help them learn the right things to do…….perhaps by learning from Ray Mears if course 😉


If you’re interested in finding out more about either Bear Grylls, Ray Mears, or survival & bushcraft, here’s some useful links.

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Father to 3 kids, who loves getting out and about (hiking, running, camping, cycling, canoeing...) Co-founded Get Out With The Kids to help other parents enjoy the outdoors with their family.

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