The worst advice Bear Grylls ever gave us

Burly. Brave. Bold. If you're going to be lost in the wilderness, Bear Grylls is the guy you want to have with you … if you have a death wish and are just hoping for a little entertainment and eye candy before you check out in the most spectacular way possible.

Yes, Bear Grylls touts himself as a survivalist, but any actual survivalist will tell you that most of the things he does on TV are just plain stupid. If you truly do find yourself lost in the woods one day, taking Grylls' "survival" advice is way, way more likely to get you killed than to save your life. Sure, the dude is entertaining, but everything he does is designed to shock and amaze, not educate. So watch Bear Grylls in the comfort of your own home with a bowl of ice cream and a comfy bed to turn into afterward. And the next time you're in the wilderness, forget everything he told you. And for the love of life, pack bear spray and stay on the freaking trails.

Raw game meat is "fine to eat"

Okay. So, there's a reason why the FDA says you should cook meat to a safe minimum internal temperature. It's because raw meat can make you sick. Sure, you've seen Bear Grylls eat raw meat on TV, but you don't know what was happening to him gastrointestinally a couple days later, and that's reason enough for caution.

It might be tempting to think that bacteria like salmonella and E. coli are mostly just a problem in overcrowded factory-farming conditions, but the Illinois Department of Public Health says those dangerous microbes can also be found in wild game. And if the vomiting and explosive diarrhea doesn't finish you off when you're out there without access to clean water and a toilet, the parasites probably will. So before you dig a reindeer's heart out of a fresh carcass with your bare hands and then feast on it like a Khaleesi with her own wilderness survival show, just consider that a belly full of trichinellosis is really not a great trade-off for those fleeting few moments of looking like a super-awesome savage badass with blood all over your face.

Throw food at a bear

So you're out hiking one day, you turn a corner, and there's a bear standing in the trail. Do you A) remain calm, keep quiet, and wait for it to move away or B) throw food at it?

We're going to guess that even if you've never hiked or seen a bear in person, you probably would lean toward Option A. But guess what Bear Grylls did in that situation? He threw his food at the bear.

Grylls' reasoning was that throwing a pack full of food at the bear would create a distraction. The bear will check out the pack and you'll be able to make your escape. And that's certainly true if the bear is named Yogi and if the pack has a complete pic-a-nic in it. But when you throw food at an ordinary, non-talking, not-cartoon bear, you've just let him know that you are a willing source of food. That's maybe not what you want.

According to the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club, many bears are wary of people and probably will move away on their own. An aggressive bear may require active deterrence, so stamping your feet, waving sticks around, and making yourself look big can be effective, but your best defense is to carry bear spray whenever you are in bear country. And don't throw your food-filled pack at the bear because that's just stupid.

Just pull the leeches off, it'll be fiiiiiiiine

Bear Grylls sometimes picks up a leech or two. It happens when you're swimming around in jungle waters, and when you deliberately put leeches on yourself so you can gross out your audience. Not that he would ever do anything like that, but you know.

Anyway, on one episode of Man vs. Wild, Grylls falls in a river in Borneo. After surfacing, he finds a leech stuck to his midriff and informs the audience that "the best thing to do is grab him by the head and twist him off." But Borneo Eco Tours says that's a terrible idea, because when you pull on a leech (or burn it, put mosquito repellent on it, or douse it with salt), it might regurgitate into your open wound. Yes, you could get an open wound full of leech vomit. Leech vomit (and most other kinds of vomit) in an open wound is generally considered Not Good and can cause much bigger problems than just having a gross leech attached to you.

So what should you do if you do happen to find yourself covered with leeches? Either put up with it (HA!) for the 20 minutes or so the leech needs to fill up, or use your fingernail to gently push the leech's sucker until it detaches. Once you've detached the oral sucker, you'll need to also detach the posterior sucker, at the fat end of the leech. Then you can throw it back into the river while shrieking in horror.

There might be something useful in this very dangerous abandoned gold mine

So we're not totally sure how descending into an abandoned Yukon gold mine is a survival thing because it's the exact opposite of what you should do if you're trying to survive, and also if you're just out in the wilderness in general and you happen upon an abandoned gold mine. So why did Grylls go in the mine? Because he thought maybe he'd find something "useful" in there. So that's evidently worth potentially breaking a bone or falling into an impenetrable shaft because you never know, some miner might have left his boots down there or something.

Just in case you happen to think Grylls is giving you permission to explore abandoned mines in the name of survival, consider this story from the BBC: In October 2018, a 62-year-old man was lowering himself into a 100-foot mine shaft in Arizona when his carabiner broke. He fell into the mine and broke both his legs, and then, while trapped underground for 48 hours without food or water, he killed three rattlesnakes with his bare hands. It took six hours for emergency teams to rescue him and he had to be airlifted to a hospital, which certainly wasn't cheap. On the plus side, if you have two broken legs and are still able to kill three rattlesnakes with your bare hands, you're a badass. Bear Grylls would be proud.

Mmmmm, pee

Bear Grylls does a lot of terrifying things, but this one is probably the worst. The mere thought that you could one day get lost in the wilderness and have to drink your own pee to survive is enough to make a lot of people want to give up nature forever and just get a couple of houseplants.

The first time Grylls did this he was running short on water in the Australian wilderness. "It may seem disgusting," he tells the audience, "but your own urine is safe to drink." So is he right? Because in theory, if he is right then everyone who has ever died of thirst is a sucker because they had a perfectly good source of water and didn't even know it.

According to Slate, Grylls is only sort of right. Provided you're healthy, your urine is sterile and about 95 percent water. So far, so good. But the other 5 percent is the part you have to worry about. There's also nitrogen, calcium, and potassium in your urine, which is the stuff your kidneys were trying to get rid of in the first place. So if you drink your urine once, you're probably fine. But if you keep doing it, those waste products become concentrated, forcing your kidneys into overdrive. After a few days, your kidneys will probably fail and you'll die. So sorry, Bear, drinking pee is not really "safe." But we'll give you points for gross.

Real survivors climb down waterfalls and die

You may have heard that following a stream is a good, basic plan for finding your way out of the wilderness. But the trouble with following streams is they don't always meander gently along until they finally arrive at civilization. Sometimes they plummet over a pile of rocks into a pool 10 feet below. Jumping blindly over the falls into the pool is an exercise in stupidity because you have no idea if the water is deep enough to cushion your fall or if you'll end up breaking your legs on the shallow bottom.

In an episode of Bear Grylls: Escape from Hell, Grylls is re-enacting a scenario in which a lost hiker climbs down a waterfall. He uses what appears to be a tree root to get close to the pool below, and then he jumps. Now, it's worth remembering that Grylls almost certainly knew how deep that pool was, but he doesn't actually say that either he or his producers had already walked down to it from the safe side and checked it out — which could give impressionable viewers the idea that jumping blindly into a pool at the bottom of a waterfall is no biggie. But there's more than just pool depth to consider — as North Carolina State Parks points out, the rocks around a waterfall are usually more slippery than they look. So for goodness sake, just go around the waterfall. Maybe you'll add 10 or 20 minutes onto your ordeal, but you also won't break every bone in your body and die from hypothermia, so perks.

Downed utility wires make great death lines, err, zip lines

Besides drinking his own urine and enticing bears with delicious backpacks full of beef jerky, Bear Grylls is also known for building things out of random objects he just happens to "find." In the wilderness. Not that we doubt the reality of his reality show or anything, but sometimes Bear's finds do seem a little suspicious, like that time he found the wreckage of a hang-glider in the desert and used it to build some weird parachute-powered car thingie. Which is cool, but seriously? That wreckage did not look like it had been out there in the desert for more than an hour or two, so really, Bear, it seems like your first priority should have been finding the crash victim. Unless your producer was the one who put the hang-glider there, in which case, lame.

Then there was the time Grylls scavenged electrical wire from a downed utility pole and used it to make a zip-line. Now, anyone with a mom, a utility account, and at least one cell in the common-sense sector of their brain understands that you don't approach downed power lines, and you certainly don't try to salvage wire from them. Because even if they look like they're not electrified, you really have no way of knowing that until you touch them and, you know, die. So there's yet another check mark in the "things Bear did that you should not do" list. Sigh.

No, no, no, no, just don't do this. Ever. Please.

The problem with shows like Grylls' is that producers are constantly having to up the ante to keep things interesting. So after we watched Bear Grylls drink his own urine and were mostly done vomiting, he knew he had to find some new and even more disgusting way to make us vomit some more because otherwise our toilets might start to feel like they weren't getting enough face time.

So when you're out of water and maybe you've gone through a couple glasses of your own urine, your next step should be drinking the water you squeezed out of a pile of elephant poo. Because getting lost on the savannah or on the back lot behind a circus tent is a very real risk for most of Grylls' viewers.

Anyway, in this nasty episode, Grylls advised his audience to take a nice big handful of elephant poo and squeeze it until liquid comes out. And drink it. Never mind the part where you will suffer a deadly case of dehydration after you're done vomiting the entire contents of your stomach and the first few feet of your intestines. If you can bypass that almost-certain side effect, though, here's what Africa Geographic has to say about elephant dung: It's actually rather low on bacteria? Still, even if drinking elephant dung water is theoretically not-deadly, it's unclear how anyone would get past the vomit factor and actually keep any of the "water" down.

You too can be like Luke Skywalker in a dead tauntaun

In another of Gryll's most memorable moments, he disembowels a dead camel and then climbs inside the carcass.

He doesn't sleep in the camel or anything, but he does tell his audience that a disemboweled camel is a great place to shelter during a sandstorm. Never mind that it takes hours to disembowel a camel, so it's not like you can go, "Uh oh, there's a storm coming, better gut this conveniently already-dead camel now!"

Weirdly, we were unable to locate any scientific studies on the advisability of sheltering inside dead animals. We're going to guess that the fresher your disemboweled camel is, the better.

Beyond that, though, you're not Luke Skywalker, and there's no chance you're ever going to get a starring role in the Empire Strikes Back, so you can just cross that one off the pro-con list. Also, wild animals are attracted to dead carcasses, so you really don't want to be inside one when the jackals show up. (Note: Grylls tries to ward off jackals by peeing around his camp, so y'know, props for accuracy.) And finally, animal carcasses that have been baking for hours in the hot sun are full of bacteria and other things that can make you sick, especially if you happen to somehow touch any of the dead decomposing parts of the dead decomposing camel as you are climbing inside. So just no.

Live spiders are good for you, or something

And then, Bear Grylls ate a camel spider. Now, from an anthropological perspective, eating large spiders isn't really that strange. There are people South America who regularly eat tarantulas, and some even use tarantula fangs as handy little toothpicks at the end of the meal. So maybe that's why Bear Grylls decided it just wasn't shocking enough to simply eat a live spider.

First, the spider he ate wasn't technically a spider at all, but a camel spider. Camel spiders are solpugids, so they sort of look like a cross between a spider and a scorpion. Also, camel spiders are venomous — their venom won't usually kill a person, but it hurts. So getting bit by one would suck. Getting bit by one in your throat while it's on its way down to your stomach would extra-suck. So you'll at least be happy to know that Grylls chopped off the biting part before he ate it, but it was totally still squirming.

We're sure he had a very good reason for not waiting for the thing to die before eating it. Perhaps scrabbling spider legs generate a life-affirming electrical current in his stomach? Maybe spiders lose their nutritional value immediately after death?

Nope. We can't think of a single logical reason why one might need to do that. So in conclusion there is never a good reason to eat a live spider. So just don't. The end.

Calories are for burning

Bear Grylls runs around a lot. He's also does a lot of climbing things, rappelling down things, building things, swinging over things, and paddling things. And doing a lot of calorie-burning things is really not a great idea when you're lost because you've just given all your beef jerky to a bear and giant camel spiders are scarce in the American wilderness.

Unless you have an infinite source of food, or you're really good at hunting and game is super-abundant in the place where you happen to be, lost people have to conserve calories. Running around and climbing/rappelling/building/swinging/paddling is great for staying fit, but in the absence of sustenance it's not great for staying alive. In fact surviorist Jason Marsteiner doesn't even recommend hunting because it may burn more calories than it provides. Instead, Marsteiner says, eat a handful of cooked bugs. You'll get more calories from bugs than you'll get from meat. So in that, at least, Marsteiner has something in common with Bear Grylls.

Survival = risk-taking

So there is one ridiculously terrible thing Bear Grylls does that overshadows all this climbing waterfalls, scavenging power lines, and going into abandoned mines. If you think about it, pretty much everything Bear Grylls does besides maybe getting dressed in the morning and shaving is a terrible choice, and let's face it, we really don't know if he shaves with an actual razor or with a live swordfish or something.

Anyway, the one thing he does that really is the worst advice of all is risk-taking. Because as long as you have no broken bones, no raging case of explosive diarrhea, no spider bites inside your esophagus, no self-induced renal failure, and you haven't electrocuted yourself, you just might be able to walk back to civilization. If you do stupid things and get injured, though, you're going to freeze to death in a ravine somewhere or get eaten by that grizzly bear once he's finished off your backpack full of beef jerky.

Bear Grylls knows this, too. In fact he once told an Outside Magazine writer that he was perfectly aware how bad his advice is. "Textbook survival is boring," he said. "You just stay where you are, don't take risks, and wait for help to come get you. That doesn't make for interesting television."

It does, however, make for great advice. Thanks, Bear.