Interview with a Bear: Grylls on Survivalism, Knives, and Rabbit Snares

You know him from Discovery’s “Man vs. Wild” television show. But did you know Brit survivalist star Bear Grylls, 37, once crossed the North Atlantic in an inflatable boat, or that he circumnavigated the United Kingdom on a jet ski? Grylls, who served three years in the British Special Air Service, has more recently worked with Gerber Legendary Blades on a namesake line of knives and survival products. We caught up with Grylls late last month to talk machetes, snare wires, and the debate around serration on blades built for survival situations in the jungle or woods. —Stephen Regenold

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Grylls shows off the ‘Ultimate Knife’ from his namesake Gerber line; photo © Gerber Legendary Blades

Gear Junkie: Okay, we should start this by talking about a machete. Your Parang machete in the Gerber line is a serious tool!
Bear Grylls: It is based on a tool given to me by Embera Panamanian tribesmen who are really the ultimate guardians of jungle survival. It is to the Embera tribe that NASA turned to for their original jungle training for astronauts if they got stranded on re-entry. The blade is the product of all those years of the Embera learning the exact tool that works well in an aggressive jungle environment and I am so proud to base the Parang on their gift to me.

Where have you deployed the Parang?
I have used it in Borneo extensively and Special Forces teams now use it in their jungle training as well. I have some great photos but sadly can’t share them!

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Parang has 13.5 inches of branch-hacking edge!

What is your favorite product in your namesake Gerber line?
My personal favorite is the Survival Series Ultimate Kit. It really is the one kit that has it all if you were in the ultimate survival situation. It is based on what we carried as our survival essentials in the Special Forces and we have designed it to be light but totally comprehensive, and that is a hard balance to strike well. I am proud that it has had a huge uptake from ex-military colleagues of mine from the British SAS and that means a lot for me.

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Bits and pieces: The Bear-curated Survival Series Ultimate Kit

There are just 16 small items in the kit?
The pieces are all based on the word “resourcefulness” — in each of the kits are enough clever and well-thought-through items to mean that with ingenuity and a little guidance there are almost no survival tasks that cannot be accomplished. I worked with bushcraft specialist buddies to get this one absolutely right. My motto is “know more, carry less.”

Give me an example of where a survival kit like your Gerber product has saved the day?
Most recently it was to use the waterproof case to keep some of my tinder dry in a jungle downpour. [The Survival Series Ultimate Kit comes in a small water-tight case.] It isn’t just about the kit inside, you got to remember that even the case can save the day! I then used the same case to collect rainwater as well once I had the fire going!

Of all the kit’s little pieces, which two or three items are most crucial in real-world survival situations?
Actually snare wire would be in there. Along with the knife and the firesteel, these three items give you the basics for survival: To hunt food, make fire, and carve tools for water collection. With the snare wire I have caught lots of food, ranging from squirrel, rabbit to even a possum! You gotta take the time to make the traps camouflaged, scent-free and well-placed.

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Survival Series Ultimate Fixed Blade Knife

Let’s talk knives. Which one knife in the line would you recommend as the most useful in a survival situation?
Probably the Ultimate Knife as it is the one that I have relied on so heavily in so many tough swamp, jungle, mountain and desert situations around the world. It has proved itself worthy of the name and I don’t say that lightly.

The Ultimate Knife is serrated, and for some people who are passionate about knives and survivalism serration on a knife is a no-no. What is your opinion?
Everyone has an opinion on serration and the purists tend to like a clean blade. This is undoubtedly best for gutting and carving, but often in dynamic survival such as on “Man vs. Wild” I need to cut something and fast. The serrated blade allows me to do this the best and often my life will depend on that speed. It is a tough compromise always but I find with the half serration I can do all tasks adequately. Ultimately, though, this debate was why we brought out a total fine blade as well! Horses for courses!

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Trading some enamel for illumination: Grylls shines a flashlight from his Gerber line to complete a task outside; photo © Gerber Legendary Blades

Were there other products you were hoping to develop with Gerber that never came to market?
There continue to be so many great ideas from the team, but for me it is all about quality and thorough testing first. The motto is “Tested, proved.” If it survives the field trials of me and my core team of bushcraft and military survival experts then it goes through. We have covered the basics now and I am excited for the lineup for next year.

What can we expect to see in the future from Bear and Gerber?
Think canteens, lights, survival multi tools, belts, and much more. In truth all we have done so far is tickle the surface!

—Read more about Bear Grylls at His namesake product line is seen on Gerber Legendary Blades’ site under the “Survival” category.


> Review: Bear Grylls Knife

> Bear Grylls ‘Ultimate Fine Edge Knife’

> Full Line: Bear Grylls Gear

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“Everyone has an opinion on serration and the purists tend to like a clean blade,” Grylls said. Here he is with a new knife developed serration-free; photo © Gerber Legendary Blades

Posted by guru - 11/03/2011 10:22 AM

From the last picture “Here he is with a new knife developed serration-free; photo © Gerber Legendary Blades”
Ummm… that blade is actually serrated, try again.

Posted by Editor - 11/03/2011 10:55 AM

Yep, it was mis-captioned. Try a browser refresh to see fix.

Posted by Malcolm Uhl - 11/03/2011 11:27 AM

I would actually buy every single product that Gerber has produced for this line if it didn’t have that idiot’s name attached to them.
I like Gerber, I like most of their products but I can’t stand Mr. drink my own piss every chance I get and the fact that most of the things he shows is very counter productive to one’s survival for the average person. Guess my money and company’s money will go elsewhere Gerber, produce the same items without twit boy getting a cut and we’ll talk. ;b

Posted by Tim @ Appalachia & Beyond - 11/03/2011 11:58 AM

I’m surprised they didn’t include the helicopter that flies him out to hotels at night during the filming of his episodes. I’m more a Les Stroud kinda guy. He doesn’t have a support crew out there with him.

Posted by Anonymous - 11/03/2011 12:35 PM

Say what you will….I still think Bear Grylls rocks.

Posted by Realist - 11/03/2011 12:37 PM

Here come the haters. If you don’t like Bear then why did you read the interview? The dude is a special forces guy that has found how to do stuff he loves and make a load of money. He freely admits what he demonstrates is “extreme”. It’s called entertainment people. If you’re a Les Stroud guy fine, just don’t get all pissy about someone who knows how to keep their show on the air and have fun.

Posted by Agnostic - 11/03/2011 01:08 PM

Not very Christian, Bear…. such blatant advertising for overpriced branded plastic handled knives…

Posted by Anonymous - 11/03/2011 02:04 PM

Bear Grylls rocks!!! He shows you how to survive in those specific situations, he doesn’t do it himself, he doesn’t have to!!! He is a bad a$$ regardless, the same goes for Les Stroud………

Posted by angel - 11/03/2011 02:09 PM

Sounds like great products. I know that carrying them would give me greater confidence if I were lost in the woods or somewhere.

Posted by dan - 11/03/2011 02:43 PM

I spend 8 days in a row in the woods of northern Maine every year, with only basic supplies. I actually use the bear grylls knife and it really is high quality. It’s based off thier old camping knife, and Jusy because it says BG on it, don’t assume its crap. Some of the other tools in the line are a little less useful to most primitive campers / survival enthusiasts, but I do recommend the knife highly.

Posted by T.C. Worley - 11/04/2011 10:22 AM

I have to laugh at myself everytime I turn my nose up at a cheap knife. Our ancestors literally survived with a variety of sharp stones. Knives with more and better features are really just helping us mask our inability to hack it in the wild. I really appreciate his “know more, carry less” comment.

Posted by Tiben - 11/08/2011 06:38 PM

I actually like the design of the fixed blade knives, good grip, blade profile and a lanyard hole… Problem is they’re made in China. Chinese blade steel is notoriously bad quality and hard to sharpen, keep an edge. I’ll stick with my Swedish made Mora knife, thanks

Posted by Steve - 11/16/2011 09:34 PM

I hope Bear Grylls is mauled to death by a grizzly during his next outing. The whole idea of nature as man’s adversary is ridiculous.

Posted by JACK - 12/23/2011 02:22 PM


Posted by Randy - 01/03/2012 10:14 AM

Well, I’m researching my first ever survival knife, and whatever brand to try than Gerber plus the guy who I am entertained by in Man vs Wild.
I hope it’s as good a knife as most YouTube videos show.
And right on for the haters, why did you even read the interview if you dislike Bear so much?! Such big nonsense.

Posted by JoshuaVP - 01/07/2012 12:39 PM

I own the Ultimate Knife, I’m not a knife enthusiast, but this is the best outdoor camping knife I have ever owned. It is extremely large, durable and tough. The case feels a little weird when carrying it around… Also not sure how to sharpen it, I did see a video on Bear sharpening the knife with river sand and a leather belt – if anyone has any ideas for the best way to sharpen a serrated blade let me know…

Posted by hello - 02/11/2012 02:28 PM

all u people who are dissing the bear grylls stuff, go die, if u dont like him, then dont comment, no-one cares what you think.
i have his ultimate knife, it rules, top quality, has to b da best knife i ever owned.
if u like les stroud, go look at his interviews and comment there, dont talk bad about bear grylls, because truth is, most of url cant do what he does :)

Posted by Dani - 02/15/2012 11:50 AM

Have the Ultimate knife and it’s amazing. Also don’t like the case as it can dig into my side, but the blade and knife work well.

Dani @ ONNO <a href=“”>Hemp Clothing</a>

Posted by Naznaczony - 04/25/2012 12:09 PM

I would like to know what gloves does Bear have on that photo above. Anyone know?

Posted by kris - 05/09/2012 09:43 AM

to everyone who doesn’t like bear grylls,i wanna say:stop bothering the fans with ur stupid comments.bear is “the ultimate survivor”,all others are wannabears;).i almost got all beargear there is and,if u like him or not,the clothes and gear is the best ever.bear grylls rules!!!

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