When he was a kid growing up in the Toronto suburbs, Les Stroud loved to play near a local creek. Sure, it was underneath a highway and backed up to a parking lot, but finding rare plants and spotting animals like deer and foxes got him hooked on exploring nature wherever he could find it. After extensive training as an outdoor guide and educator, he entered the equally treacherous world of show business, becoming one of the pioneers of survival television as the creator and star of the popular international TV series Survivorman.
Since 2001, Survivorman Les Stroud has filmed himself venturing alone into a remote location with minimal supplies to teach viewers how to stay alive by finding his own food and water and building his own fire and shelter. And now young readers can tag along on some of Stroud’s most exciting adventures in his new book, Wild Outside: Around the World with Survivorman, with vivid illustrations by Andrew P. Barr.
“Since the first days I sat in a canoe as a guide and instructor, I would teach young people about nature and take them out into the wilds,” Stroud says. “It has always been a thrill and a gift to be able to open young people's minds and hearts up to the amazingness of the natural world.”
That sense of excitement and wonder comes through as Stroud describes everything from sliding down a Norwegian mountain and being chased by an amorous moose to encountering giant rats on a deserted South Pacific island and chowing down on grubs in the Australian outback and Sumatran jungle. Along the way, he provides interesting facts about science and nature and offers simple experiments and activities for kids to try, including assembling their own survival packs.
Aimed at readers ages eight to 12, Stroud’s book even has advice for youngsters who might be a little wary of the great outdoors. “The wilderness is not there to hurt you any more than your kitchen or your living room is,” he says. “It’s not for you or against you; it just is. And it's an incredible, natural world of adventure and beauty without even trying to be so. With a few basic skills, you can learn to be comfortable and confident in nature.”
Those skills include reading a map, using a compass, observing wildlife, building a pile of leaves for warmth, and even signaling to rescuers if something happens to go wrong out there in the wild. Stroud has advice for adventuring during the pandemic as well. “Following all the guidelines set out by scientists and medical authorities will stand you well in the wilderness also. Maintain distance and when unavoidably near others, wear your mask properly. (No chin diapers!)”
The message he most wants to convey to kids? “That adventure is right outside their door,” Stroud says. “That nature is easy to understand with a little bit of time spent in it. That the outdoor world is an escape for the imagination that rivals any fantasy, and that they can easily learn the skills of adventuring to keep them safe from even the simplest accident.”
Next up for the Survivorman are a couple of new American Public Television shows, Surviving Disasters with Les Stroud and Les Stroud’s Wild Harvest, in which he forages for wild foods and then meets up with a chef to turn it into a three-course meal. And, of course, he’ll continue to share his endeavors with young fans (especially on his YouTube Channel: Survivorman – Les Stroud) who he hopes will take a hike in his footsteps. “The ultimate goal is interacting with nature on a personal and physical level so that we get to know it better,” Stroud says. “Once a young person learns some basic skills, the rest of the story is filled with excitement and fun and passion. I hope my book will help give kids the confidence to take those first steps to becoming outdoor adventurers.