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Who is Ray Mears and Why Should I Care?

Bear Grylls, an ex-British Special forces is a name that comes up when you think of outdoor survival. With Gryll’s military background it is reasonable that he does, in fact, know outdoor survival. Ray Mears is also a bushcraft expert from the United Kingdom. However, Mears does not have a flashy background. You do though see quite a few videos on Youtube of him claiming to be an expert and offer advice ranging from foraging in the wild for food to how to sharpen your knife in camp.

After seeing Mears’ wide internet presence I decided to do some research to find out about his background, and basically whether or not he is qualified to give outdoor survival skills advice. This article will first tell you a short bio, and then go into his background in bushcraft and briefly describe his various businesses.

Who Is Ray Mears?

Mear’s background is somewhat of a mystery as very little is said about his early upbringing. Ray Mears was born on 2/7/1964 in the United Kingdom and grew up in the North Downs. (Southern Part Of England) His pre-bushcraft days are quite unremarkable as was wanting to join the Royal Marines. However, because of poor eyesight, he was rejected. As a result of not being able to join the military, he settled on a civil service job until 1983, when he formed Woodlore a business that taught outdoor survival courses and outdoor survival equipment. Since working at a civil service job did not train him for bushcraft, It is a bit of mystery how he was able to learn bushcraft well enough to start his own school.

  • Was he self-taught?
  • What knowledge did he have in outdoor survival?
  • Was it simply a situation of fake it or make it?

If it was 1983, and I was looking to attend his school, I would be quite skeptical. However, Ray Mears made a name for himself and appeared on numerous TV shows, and is now considered to be among the top bushcraft experts in the UK.

TV Shows

Mear’s first outdoor survival TV show was on the BBC series Track (1994) and from 1997 to 1998 he was in World of Survival. Another TV shows that he is known for is the documentary “Real Heroes of Telmark“, which was about the Norewign soldiers who were able to destroy Hitler’s effort to build an atomic bomb. Ray Mears now has appeared in numerous TV shows, some of which is Ray Mear’s Bushcraft, and Ray Mears Goes Walkabout. He is also an author of numerous books, some of which is Ray Mears Essential Bushcraft, and The Outdoor Survival Handbook.

Essential Bushcraft

Woodlore School

In 1983 Mears started the UK’s first wilderness survival school. I do not know about the classes back then. I can though tell you about the classes that he currently offers and steer you in the right direction if you are wanting more information.

Two-Day Courses

Ray Mears Woodlore School’s main offering is a two-day, intro to bushcraft and an outdoor navigation class. Both of these classes are affordable at 300 pounds or around $416 in US dollars. The bushcraft class will give its participants real-world experience in learning outdoor survival techniques. I was unable to find out if it was an overnight in the wild class or not. The navigation course, which is the same price, as you likely had guessed, focuses on navigation in the wilderness using compasses and other means.

Expedition Classes

His expedition classes are what could be called Woodlore’s flagship courses. They are expensive and range from $3,460 to over $8,000. One of the classes that they showcase is a winter outdoor-survival course in Finland. His most expensive class is held in Namibia, Africa where you will be taught how to track wild game animals.

Also, he has a Heroes to Telmark Expedition, where he traces the steps of the famous Noreweigin soldiers I told you about earlier.

Online Store

On Mears’ website, you can also purchase wilderness bushcraft equipment that is hand-picked tested in the field by either Mears or his staff. One item to note is that you can buy a Ray Mears Gransfors Bruk Axe. The Axe was made via a partnership with Gransford Bruk (a Swedish company) and is designed under Mears’s strict specifications.

His store also offers various knives (hunting knife, pocket knife, hatchet, survival knife, carving knife, etc.) His store sells the best gear available so it is not cheap. For example, a pocket knife from the famous knife maker Fallkniven costs over $345. The only bushcraft knife I did not see was a Bowie Knife.

Ray Mear’s Knife Sharpening Video

Mears’s video, on whetstone blade sharpening, is short. However, this video is worth watching as it simplifies knife sharpening. All you have to remember is to keep the stones wet and push the knife toward the blade’s micro bevel I won’t bore you with my explanation as the video does an excellent job. I will though give you a list of all the equipment that is needed to get the job done.

Needed Equipment

Three Japanese Whetstones-Grit 800, 1200, and 6000 (Especially useful for carbon steel or stainless steel knifes

King KDS 1000/6000 Combination Grit Whetstone, New Style for Sharpening Harder Steels

 

Optional (Highly Recommended)-Clamp to hold the stones when you are sharpening your blade on them

Adjustable Knife Sharpening Whetstone Holder: Durable Sharpener Clamp Holds Whetstones & Waterstones To Sharpen Kitchen Knives & Cutlery - Rust Resistant, Zinc Plated Steel & Non Slip Rubber Base

Nagura Stone-Allows the 6000 grit sharpening stone to be better able to polish any blade.

King Japanese Nagura Stone #8000

Leather Belt-Standard, leather belt suitable for outdoors will work

Timberland Men's Classic Leather Jean Belt, Dark Brown, 38

 

Word of warning– Be sure to have a quality knife sheath after sharpening your knives via a whetstone as they will be razor-sharp.

Final Thoughts

To answer my first question: Yes, you should listen to Ray Mears knife sharpening video, his other videos and read his books. He’s been teaching Bushcraft since 1983 and has been on TV for nearly forty years. Also, he seems like an average everyday man and does not have an over-the-top personality, which means he likely earned his rep on his skills and not hype. So, even though his background may be a bit of a mystery, it is highly doubtful that he would be as successful as he has been if he were incompetent. So, looking at his videos will not be waste of time. My advice is to watch his videos, try them out and see if his instruction works for you.