This summer, I've been watching "Man Vs. Wild" on Discovery. The show's premise is simple: drop host Bear Grylls in the middle of nowhere with only a knife, canteen, and flint, and see if he can make it out alive. Over the show's first two seasons, Bear has found himself stranded on a tropical island, lost in the Amazon rain forest, and wandering the glaciers of northern Iceland.
As a viewer, it's enjoyable enough simply to visit these (and many more) challenging environments—but what makes the show positively irresistible is the unique combination of Bear's personality, resourcefulness, and determination, plus his insistence on absolute authenticity.
On the first show I saw, Bear demonstrated how to survive falling through ice into water in the wild. Equipped with little more than a jacket and a base layer, he jumped onto thin ice and broke through into icy water. He did this on day two, when he was already hungry and tired, with several more days and nights of hard travel ahead to get back to civilization.
Needless to say, Bear regularly places himself in situations where the average fit adult would simply perish. Watching how he gets himself out is often surprising and always entertaining. We quickly learn that survival is a technique: from simple tips like following rivers downstream to find civilization, to more advanced strategies like trapping animals for food and building shelter and fire from scratch.
Backcountry travelers will find "Man Vs. Wild" a relentlessly informative source of information on what to do when things go wrong in the wild. If you haven't been watching, check it out. New episodes of Man Vs. Wild air Friday nights on Discovery Channel.