Friday, 25 November 2016

Man Vs. (2015)

So how would a TV survivalist who has a warm hotel at the end of his sat-phone do in a real-life emergency survival situation? I love my outdoors shit, so here's a breakdown of the woodcraft/survival techniques and cockups.

  • Equipment wise, as well as his clothes he has: a Tilley hat, camera, flashgun, can of energy drink, apple, Swiss Army Knife, a stick of chewing gum and of course the sat-phone.
  • Shelter building. It's hard to break green spruce limbs by hand - they're really springy! The lean-to shelter is reasonable but it's a little too tall which makes the open side quite large which will let out heat and let rain and cold in. One of these shelters needs to be just big enough to lie under and no more. There also needs to be a deep, insulating bed of pine branches to lie on, which I think he regrets a little later on.
  • Dealing with a large splinter. Cleaning the would.
  • Fire-lighting using the concave base of a drink can. He should have already sourced his fuel before starting the fire. There is also no fire reflector so a lot of its heat is going unused.
  • Shelter and fire built before night-time which is a good idea.
  • Using a sat-phone to ring your friends does not exactly replicate the isolation of being stranded.
  • Backed away from a wolf correctly. Did not run, did not act aggressively, did not turn his back but calmly and slowly backed away.
  • Wisely didn't eat the dead, floating fish. You should avoid eating a dead animal unless you know exactly what caused its death. I did take home and butcher a road-kill deer once, but it was by the side of the road with a broken neck, no other injuries and still warm. Risky? A little.
  • Animal tracking - rabbit shit can usually be found on mounds so they can scan the surroundings from the high ground.
  • The figure-4 deadfall trap was well built, primed and should work. Although you only see the single trap he does mention that he'd set others. This is really important. Set as many as possible. More traps equals a greater chance of success (two out of three successful traps would be a little unusual, though).
  • Gutted the rabbits away from camp. Good. I always gutted mine in the field and left the innards for the foxes. Skinning and butchering, I'd do at home. The gutting and skinning was done correctly (his knife skills were a little crude but all he had to use was a Swiss Army knife) although at one point he says you want to cut deep - no you don't, you could puncture the stomach and that's something you don't want. One thing he didn't show was that you need to squeeze the urine out as soon as you kill them. If left in it can taint the meat when you butcher it. It will still be edible but will taste a little off. If you do get piss on the rabbit try soaking it in water for a few hours - this also reduces the gamey flavour if that's not your thing.
  • Uses a spit to roast the rabbit. Normally you would lose useful fat using this technique but as rabbit has very little fat I'll let him off.
  • Saving and rationing food is a good idea.
  • Hanging food in a high branch away from camp is good. You'll want to keep bears and wolves away from where you sleep. The rabbit that he hangs hasn't been gutted as yet. Normally you would gut as soon as possible but, in this case, it's probably a good idea to leave the rabbit whole to help keep the wildlife away, as long as you're going to eat it within a day or so.
  • Although he uses a camera strap as cordage there are other sources available in the wild: hazel, willow, nettles, ivy.
  • Keeping your mind active is very important. Do not become lazy.
  • If you think you're going to be camped in the same place for a few days, improve your shelter!
  • Do not throw your main means of communicating with the outside world onto the hard ground.
  • Good, he reset his traps.
  • Moving away from the place where you told people you could be found is not a great idea.
  • Shelter mk2 is not bad but needs more spruce boughs on top and the side. Again, it needs insulation on the ground. I would be worried about rain run-off from the cliff-face though.
  • I'm not sure how he moved his fire as he left his drinks can at the other camp. This can be done but I would have liked to see him do it.
  • Not picking up his old drinks can and disassembled sat-phone was a bad move.
  • Do not panic, do not run. A simple injury can be life-threatening in the wild.
  • A signal fire shouldn't be lit inside a load of trees - the smoke needs to be seen and wind can blow the smoke horizontally rather than it rising vertically. There is a perfectly good shoreline which would have been better.
  • When wet he quickly gets out of his clothes, squeezes out as much water as possible and redresses. That'll do if fire-lighting can't be done.
  • Another panicked run.
  • Drinking from an unknown and possibly stagnant water source is a bad idea unless you really have no choice.
  • I told you a panicked run wasn't a good idea!
  • A makeshift bandage but ruins his warm base-layer in the process.
  • When climbing try to avoid grabbing roots and grass as they can easily and unexpectedly give way.
  • No matter how angry you are, do not smash your radio!
  • I'll let him off his panicked run this time.
  • I knew that flashgun would come in handy.
  • He wisely went around a rock face rather than try to climb it. It's all about minimising risk.
  • He grabbed the food and knife but forgot about Duncan's rifle.
The survival stuff was, overall, very good for a change and as for the film? It's Bear Grylls vs. Predator and pretty good fun. That man-sized deadfall scene was brilliant!

I've written a similar woodcraft/survival based review for The Edge if you're interested.

Letterboxd Review

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