TV Shows For Backpackers

By: Steven Gillman

Not many television shows are produced with backpackers in mind. Still, there are some tv shows that can be appreciated especially by backpackers. They may even contain some useful lessons. Here are some examples of the best.

The Classic National Geographic Specials

Specials produced by the National Geographic Society are great viewing when you want to get motivated for new backpacking trips. The older ones are some of the best for this, like the thirty-year-old episode where four guys built a raft and floated down the Yukon River. You can find many of these on DVD now in public libraries, as well as in some video rental stores. You can se newer episodes on the National Geographic Network and occasionally on PBS.

Les Stroud's Survivorman

This television program is all about wilderness survival. You'll find it on the Discovery Channel, the Science Channel, and possibly others. It's about one man against the elements. The man in this case is Les Stroud, who is put in various environments to survive for seven days while filming himself.

One great feature of Survivorman is that each show has a "theme." The Canadian arctic episode, for example, has Stroud left with a broken-down snowmobile. He cannibalizes this various useful items, including the seat cushion, which he uses for a insulating sleeping pad.

The Sonoran desert episode has him in the middle of a desert with a broken dirt bike, and he uses wires from this to weave a blanket of grass.

The show is creative and entertaining, but is a survival program useful for backpackers? I think so. There are specific techniques of survival that Stroud shows us and, more importantly, the inspiration the show provides. Survivorman lets you know that you can survive - and it gets you in the habit of thinking about how to use everything around you. This is knowledge that not only makes the wilderness more interesting, but could also save your life someday.

I Shouldn't Be Alive

It's a pure survival story show - all true stories of people that have survived some of the most horrible circumstances in every type of wilderness. In one episode the story is told of a couple who were stranded for nine days in the middle of winter in the Sierra Nevadas - with a baby. They really shouldn't be alive, but they are.

This is the point of watching a show like this. It is inspiring. Watch the episode where the man crashes his plane in the African desert and breaks his spine, then faces killer elephants, ants, thorns, hyenas and more. If you are ever lost in the wilderness, just recall a few of these shows and you'll know that people have survived worse situations than yours. You won't give up hope too easily.

The various "reality shows," like survivor, are mostly drama and more about political survival than wilderness experience, but there are other things for backpackers to watch on television. These include movies that get us motivated, like the "White Wolf," series. Movies like these may not be full of great acting, but they always put teenage hikers in beautiful setting that make us want to get the pack out and start making plans.

One final recomendation. If you can catch it on television or rent it from the video store, watch "The Edge," with Anthony Hopkins. It is an inspirational survival story for starters. It also has some of the most beautiful scenery you'll see in a movie. You'll want to start planning a trip to the Canadian Rockies before the movie is even over. This one is my kind of backpacker television.

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