TV

Ed Stafford: How to survive if you are Left For Dead

Adventurer Ed Stafford is back with a new series, Left For Dead. He shares his top survival tips and says it's harder and harder to get away from it all – or at least to escape 3G coverage

What’s the idea behind Left For Dead?

I’m dropped into the middle of the most harsh and remote places on Earth where I’m left to escape in ten days.

How is it different from your previous series?

It’s a journey, it’s under time pressure, and it’s a far bigger physical challenge. Marooned saw me try to ‘thrive’ in one location. Now I have to take these skills and apply them to a very mobile journey. There’s less time to build shelters and more time spent ‘roughing’ it in order to make progress. There’s more action, more decision-making, and more hardship. It’s Marooned on steroids.

ed-stafford-laos

Someone keeps taking you to the middle of nowhere and leaving you behind – are they trying to send you a message?

Haha. Most likely – yes!

Do you start off naked in this one?

Nope. I’m 42 years old this year. No one wants to see that! The nakedness was a TV stunt and we wanted to now distance ourselves from that. This is me surviving with just the clothes I stand up in.

Where are the extreme environments you have to deal with this time?

The Darien Gap, Panama; The Atacama Desert, Bolivia; The Altai Mountains, Mongolia; Madagascar; Bulgaria; and Laos.

If we found ourselves stranded somewhere, what are the first things we should do?

You should S.T.O.P.

S is for ‘stop’. Sit down on your pack and have a cigarette if you smoke. The key is to pause, do nothing, and compose yourself – not run around like a headless chicken.

T is for ‘think’. Where did you last see your colleagues? When did you last know where you were? How long have you been alone? Write down what you know.

O is for ‘organise’. What have you got with you to help you survive? Empty your pockets. Have you got a compass, lighter, food? Lay it all out in front of you so your resources are clear to you.

P is for ‘plan’. Make one. You know your situation and what you have with you to help you. Now come up with a strategy to help yourself get help. This may be initial investigation of the local area to help you find water and things that may help you further.

If we’re lost, what’s the best way to ‘find’ ourselves again?

I would use the compass point method. Imagine you are in the middle of the jungle and you are lost and separated. First thing you should do is make a mess. Snap branches and if you have a machete make a small clearing that you will be able to recognise. This is now your Base Camp from which you will conduct exploratory probes. First walk north for 50 meters – cutting a clear and wide path as you go. If you find nothing, then return to base and try south for 50 metres. If after 30 metres south, you find a stream then make a note of it in your notebook. Then return to your base.

As you work around all the compass points you are methodically amassing information – you are taking back control of the situation. Extend the probes – 100m, 500m. But always coming back to base. Eventually you will find the path you lost or some sign that will help you get out. The key is that you are not panicking, you are in control.

My strongest survival skill is my ability to manage my mind

Is survival more about physical or mental endurance?

Mental. 90% is mental. There are some gym monkeys who wouldn’t last a day in some environments. Just watch some contestant survival shows if you don’t believe me. My strongest survival skill I would say is now my ability to manage my mind. Everything you do and experience is through your mind after all. My top tip is to treat it like a game. If you worry too much you may freeze in panic. Treat your experience like a game and it becomes fun and exciting – it shifts it into something positive.

https://twitter.com/Ed_Stafford/status/901462946395684870

Is this a typical survival diet?

It’s typical if you’re on a tropical island – yes! But it so depends on where you are. I’ve lived off palm hearts, tadpoles, rats, a skunk, even dead cats that have been given to me by locals (a mouldy ocelot in Brazil)!

You look pretty good in the accompanying selfie. Is this diet and lifestyle something that other people looking to get into shape should follow?

Many people simply eat too much. At home I’m as guilty of this as anyone. These trips give me a chance to experience life without the excess. When a small meal has to sustain you for maybe two days. It’s healthier I think to cut down on quantity and eat real (non-processed) food. So yes – the times I’ve spent in isolation I think were good for me.

After you’ve been struggling for survival, what is it like when you’re back and can just pop down to the local supermarket for anything you need?

It’s great and it makes me grateful for everything that I have. My wife cycled across South America last year with no money and essentially living off handouts and generosity. When she got back to the UK we went to Sainsbury’s and I lost her. I eventually found her up an aisle crying her eyes out. She was so overwhelmed by the food that was available to her that she completely spun out.

Are there less remote areas now?

Obviously yes. The remote parts of the world are being nibbled at constantly by consumerism.

Are there times you feel remote and isolated but are surprised by the encroachment of development?

It’s rare to be out of 3G data these days. The whole world seems to be covered. There is a sadness when you see wild areas reducing in size but there is a strong conservation movement trying their hardest to slow this down. It’s hard to be judgmental from my position of relative affluence – palm oil growers want to make a living, loggers need to feed their kids. There are no easy answers.

Wild places are sacred – they heal and they reconnect us

Why is it important to keep places wild and untouched by humans?

Where to start with that one!? I believe the problems of the world are correlated directly to the levels of urbanisation. Vast concentrations of people are impossible to maintain sustainably – dispersed villages have a far lighter footfall. Then add the disconnect that most people feel living in cities and you have a recipe for people to make bad choices that are out of sync with the planet. Wild places are sacred – they heal and they reconnect us. They are vital.

Is this a reversible process?

Hmmm. I hope so. But humans can’t continue to consume and multiply as we do. A shift in consciousness is starting but let’s hope it takes hold before it’s too late.

Do you think in the future your series will document a time where there are some remote areas left?

That’s a sad thought and not something I’ve ever considered. I deeply hope not.

Ed Stafford: Left for Dead premieres exclusively in the UK on Discovery Channel, 9pm, Thursday 14th September (Sky 520, Virgin 250, BT TV 322)

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