Bear Grylls – The epic, inspirational outdoor leader

Published July 6, 2020

I feel slightly overwhelmed to try to even summarize the many reasons I consider Bear Grylls an inspiration. He’s been the UK’s Cheif Scout since 2009 (now Chief Ambassador), he’s scaled Mount Everest at 23 years old, he crossed the Arctic Ocean in an inflatable boat, he’s created his own line of Outdoor products and kit, he has his own Survival School to help people experience and learn survival skills, he’s written over 10 books, and he’s created countless TV Shows around the world focused on Survival and the Outdoors.

That is only to name a few. But what really makes Bear Grylls an inspiration for me and many others is his positivity and enthusiasm for life and the outdoors. That alone makes him a true, inspirational outdoor leader.

Bear Grylls quote
“We have one life and there is one extraordinary world created for us to enjoy.” – Bear Grylls

Who is Bear Grylls?

One of the biggest questions people have about Bear is, simply, why is Bear Grylls called Bear?

Not long after he was born on June 07, 1974, his older sister, Lara, gave him the nickname of “Bear”. Lara took to him right away, overly pleased to have a little brother. He became her own little teddy bear and the name stuck. Later at school, while Bear was a teen, he received the nickname “Monkey” because of the crazy amount of climbing (even up school buildings) that he did.

Fortunately, Monkey Grylls did not stick and we do not watch, for example, “Man vs. Wild with Monkey Grylls”! Although “Running Wild With Monkey Grylls” sounds quite funny.

Bear was born in the United Kingdom growing up spending most of his time either in London or on the Isle of Wight, just off of the south coast.

Bear was a rather, self-professed, odd kid who was not naturally athletic and spent a lot of time being bullied. He also attended the very prestigious, Eton College. It’s a bit hard to imagine Bear at a school like that, but as he says, he didn’t exactly fit in. Though he is very thankful for the education he received there.

After College, he spent a bit of time near Bristol exploring University and what to do next. His Father and many of generations of men in his family were in the Royal Marine’s. Bear was initially going to follow suit, but decided to take on an entirely different challenge – the SAS.

If you have never read or heard about the training involved to become a member of the SAS, you must at least read “Mud, Sweat & Tears” for Bear’s recounting of that experience. Absolutely must! I love being pushed and I love seeing how far I can be pushed, but the level of difficulty involved in SAS Selection is nearly beyond comprehension.

Yet, Bear’s greatest challenge came after he finally passed the SAS Selection and spent a few years in the service. While spending time and working in Africa, Bear suffered a very serious injury during a very scary parachute landing. He landed very fast and flat on his back, damaging his spine, and spent some very serious time wondering if he was ever going to walk again.

Bear spent nearly a year in rehab; a year that was rough on him both physically, mentally and spiritually (more on that later). Bear became depressed and struggled to find hope during such a trying time.

Crazy kid, while lying in pain, stared at a poster in his room that his Father had given him when he was a child of Mount Everest. Bear found his determination and wasn’t afraid to share it with others. He told himself that when and if he could walk properly again, he would make it mean something – he would climb Mount Everest.

And he did – which is another story you must read about. What a scary adventure that was. I cannot imagine even having the determination to attempt such a feat, let alone go through with it.

Following Everest, Bear started to slowly pick up publicity. His job became to travel and give speeches about his adventure to different conferences and businesses. It was quite entertaining reading about his first few rocky speeches he gave in “Mud, Sweat & Tears”.

Bear truly seems to be every man. Who he is and what he had done and accomplished is quite inspiring as he seems like you and I – just an average person who didn’t let his self-doubts and fears stop him from living the life he wanted.

Anyways, back to topic. His speeches eventually led him to meet the right person, who happened to be in the television business in the UK and pitched the idea to get Bear on a television show.

The rest is history in the making. Bear has gone on to do quite a few survival shows such as Born Survivor, Get Out Alive, Man vs. Wild on the Discovery Channel, Running Wild with Bear Grylls, and so much more.

Man vs. Wild was where I first became aware of Bear and immediately wanted to watch more. I love the outdoors and learning about surviving in the outdoors and Bear makes it very fun and enjoyable!

Bear and his show have received an enormous following and a lot of criticism as well, which I talk about later in this post.

Another huge part of Bear’s life is, of course, his wife, Shara, and his three children Jesse, Marmaduke, and Huckleberry (YES, he named two of his boys Marmaduke and Huckleberry)!

Bear Grylls Wife & Family

Wife: Shara Grylls
Children: Jesse, Marmaduke and Huckleberry

I really enjoyed reading about Bear and Shara’s love story in his autobiography, Mud, Sweat & Tears. Bear seems to have a lot of passion for his wife and family and it really shows. Before reading Mud, Sweat & Tears I hadn’t known much about his wife and kids other than their names. But what a story it is!

Bear met Shara at a very inconvenient time. He had fully recovered from his parachute accident and was completely motivated and focused on preparing and training for the climb of his life – the summit of Mount Everest – which was only months away.

But his heart was captured. The first weekend he met Shara, he went with her and some other friends on a hike. When the hike got a bit steep and a bit scary, all of the girls began to get frightened, some even to the point of tears, at the difficult terrain. All but one. Shara kept her composure and her cool.

This particular event stood out to me quite a bit. It would certainly take that sort of woman to capture the adventurous heart of Bear Grylls!

Bear and wife, Shara
Bear Grylls and wife, Shara

The couple were inseparable after that. They very quickly fell in love and have been together ever since.

In his autobiography, Bear describes his departure from Heathrow Airport in London to be the first of many tear-filled times he has had to travel without her.

I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to be committed to many months apart from a new love. Based on the difficulties he faced on Everest, I bet knowing Shara was back home waiting for him to return was a constant lift for him and a hopeful reminder to keep going and to survive.

Before long, Shara and Bear became engaged. As only Bear would do, he proposed right after a skinny dip in a lake. While on shore, before even being able to dress, Bear proposed, stock naked. I am surprised she took him seriously! Haha

Before the wedding day, they bought a place to live – a fixer-upper that was actually a house boat in London parked on the Thames. I would have a hard time living in a big city, but I think I could handle a house boat. Their wedding night was their first night in the house boat.

Bear and his son, by Ian Jones
Bear and son by ianjonesphoto

Not long after the wedding, they both went through the most difficult time of their lives. Both, only months apart, lost their father. What a difficult thing to go through in life and especially as a couple early in a marriage. Bear and Shara found strength in each other.

Bear and Shara have since become parents to three children – all boys – Jesse the oldest (b. 2003), Marmaduke (b. 2006) and the youngest Huckleberry, who was born on their Thames houseboat in 2009.

Bear seems to be quite an inspiration and role model when it comes to love and parenting. One quote from Bear he mentions that:

“We live in such a health-and-safety culture. If you want to empower kids, you show them how to manage risk. I do this with my kids and those of my friends. I say: ‘OK, what we are going to do today is going to be incredibly dangerous.’ You just see 30 massive grins. Show me an eight-year-old kid who doesn’t want that. They think it’s Christmas. ‘Then I say: ‘We are going to look after each other. There are going to be big moments. Our lives will depend on each other. Don’t get it wrong, kids.’ They grow before your eyes.”

… Amazing.

Bear and his 3 sons working out
Bear and his three sons workout

Shara herself has managed to stay out of the limelight for the most part. Not too much is known about her life. It would be great to hear more from her. Here is a short video clip I found on YouTube with some intimate moments of family life and some fears she has before Bear did his paraglide above Mount Everest.

YouTube video

While you may not see much of her on the screen, Shara has written two wonderful books. The first book she wrote in 2009 is called “Marriage Matters“, and was updated and rebranded in 2012 to “Never Stop Holding Hands: And Other Marriage Survival Tips” (also on Kindle).

After the fame and success of his television shows, Bear and his wife and family bought their own island off the coast of Wales. Not your typical paradise when you think of an island. No sandy beaches with palm trees and warm water. I imagine it’s often quite cold and windy with rocky cliffs, yet full of fun and adventure!

Bear did get in a bit of trouble with the Gwynedd Council by posting a picture of a new renovation to the island on his Twitter account – he installed a huge slide that shoots you right off of the cliff into the water below! Without the proper planning permissions, he was forced to take it down.

God-willing, Bear, and Shara will continue to be an inspiration to couples and parents all over the world. And those three children of his, Jesse, Marmaduke and Huckleberry, live long adventurous and fun-filled lives that are also inspirational and respectable.

Bear Grylls quote - embers
“Within us all are incredible embers of dreams, hopes, and aspirations, waiting for us to breathe them into life.” – Bear Grylls

Is Bear Grylls fake?

The survival-themed television series have been popular for a while now, with shows such as Ray Mear’s Bushcraft and Survivor Man. It is difficult to talk about survival shows without mentioning Bear Grylls, however. His show, Man vs. Wild, was extremely successful and introduced many to the genre. Early in the show’s history, it ran into some issues with authenticity which led to some labeling Bear Grylls fake.

The word “fake” is often tossed around in the survival television show genre. After all, these hosts are put into conditions that are often considered to be dangerous under normal circumstances – who in their right mind would do that?

If you are a fan of this television genre, then you have likely seen a few of the different shows out there. Generally, each series seeks to inform viewers on topics associated with wilderness survival as the host(s) seek to make their way to an extraction location and/or endure a set amount of time in the wilderness area.

Some shows, such as Ray Mear’s Bushcraft, tend to look more like a documentary, with expert guests, technique demonstrations, and historical accounts associated with the current topic.

Les Stroud’s Survivor Man has a more solitary feel to it, due to him using an assortment of camera equipment to film his own journey and experience.

These shows contrast with Bear Grylls’ Man vs. Wild. Bear’s approach to the genre is one of survival expert and entertainer, which he pulls off quite well. One moment he will be crouched down explaining how to create a fire, the next moment he will be running through the jungle like an athlete or chomping on a bug in front of the camera.

So, is Bear Grylls fake? A large part of the controversy surrounding Bear Grylls’ authenticity stems from the filming during Discovery Channel’s Man vs. Wild and Born Survivor: Bear Grylls in the UK. An investigation by British network Channel 4 found that Bear appeared to mislead viewers as to whether he was actually spending the entire time on location during his adventures.

Additionally, Mark Weinert, a consultant on the show, stated that Bear spent a few nights in a lodge during the filming for the Sierra Nevada episode and spent nights in a motel for the filming in Hawaii.

In an interview with the BBC, Bear apologized, stating, “If people felt misled on how the first series was represented, I’m really sorry for that.” He added, “I’m the person that takes the rap for these things, even though I’m not always involved in the editing side of it, but ultimately it is me on screen.”

Bear went on to elaborate some on how the shows are filmed, stating, “The truth is much less exciting – we film these things over six days and, after filming the night stuff, we’re back with a crew in a base camp lodge – whether it’s a tented camp in the Saraha[sic] or in Sumatra poncho’d up in the jungle.”

Additionally, the producers of the show promised transparency in future programming.

Now, while misleading viewers is a bad thing, does that make Bear Grylls fake or the information he passes along incorrect? Honestly, I don’t even feel like he was misleading anyone. I always viewed the shows as, “what to do if you’re in this situation”, and presented in a way that is entertaining and educational. At no point did I ever feel Bear should actually be putting himself in harm’s way for my viewing pleasure. That would be absurd. 🙂

Remember: Bear was in the British Special Air Services (SAS) and trained in survival techniques. Following that service, he went on to do some amazing feats in his adventures, such as climbing Mt. Everest. By the time the first season of Man vs. Wild had been released, he already had an impressive list of accomplishments that would qualify him for the role in the show. His experience and expertise have only grown since then.

Sure, some of the events are staged in his shows. The nature of an emergency makes it such that you must stage the events to demonstrate effective responses. Demonstrations simply make for a better educational tool than talking about it.

It would be a shame to discredit Bear’s experience and talent for something such as these allegations. We need more passionate individuals that are willing to educate the world in topics that could save their lives. After all, if you found yourself stranded in the wild, would you care more about how to effectively find water, or would you care more about whether the person who demonstrated the technique slept outside all night or had help to scout the location?

So, there you have it, the definitive answer to whether or not Bear Grylls is fake! The answer, quite clearly, is no!

Bear Grylls – the inspiration

Whether or not Bear is creating a new TV Show, writing a new book, inspiring kids in the Scouts, donating to charities, or motivating people to get outdoors, to just keep going, to never giving up, to eat healthy, or to stay fit, it’s clear he defines the character and leadership qualities we look for in a leader and inspiration.

I always look forward to hearing about his next pursuit or headline and hope he never gives up as well and continues to inspire and motivate.

Bear Grylls quote - the essence of survival
“The Essence of Survival is: Keep Trying. Keep Trying.” – Bear Grylls

Bear Grylls Facts & Frequently Asked Questions:

What is Bear Grylls’ real name?

Bear’s real name is Edward Michael Grylls.

Who is Bear Grylls’ wife?

Bear Grylls’ wife is Shara Grylls (Maiden Name: Shara Cannings Knight).

Does Bear Grylls have kids?

Bear Grylls has three sons, Jesse Grylls, Marmaduke Mickey Percy Grylls, Huckleberry Edward Jocelyne Grylls.

How old is Bear Grylls?

Bear Grylls is 46 years old.

When was Bear Grylls born?

Bear Grylls was born on June 7, 1974.

Where is Bear Grylls from?

Bear Grylls was born in Donaghadee, Ireland, but grew up in Bembridge, England on the Isle of Wight.

How tall is Bear Grylls?

Bear Grylls’ height is 6’0″ (183 cm).

Where does Bear Grylls live?

Bear Grylls lives on his own island called, Saint Tudwal’s Island, in North Wales

Written by Hutch


Hutch is the founder of Hiking.Earth. He comes from an outdoors and environmental background and helps people love and enjoy the outdoors and protect the planet.