Snow man: Ray Mears pictured in Sweden in 2015

Faster Travel

Out of the wild

What does the survival expert Ray Mears do when he’s not exploring? Heads for a nice, luxurious hotel, maybe…

Describe a favourite travel memory
My favourite memories are made when travelling into unusual places. For example, going to work with reindeer herders in Siberia, where the journey itself was also an adventure. I also had a memorable trip to a remote part of the Venezuelan rainforest – a huge challenge. There’s a skill to travelling; you have to use your wits.

Which destination has inspired you the most?

I once became interested in a wartime attack on a Nazi-occupied factory in Norway. When we visited the area, I discovered a fascinating story of how four men went on a gruelling mission to prevent the Nazi regime from making an atomic bomb. I ended up making a TV series, The Real Heroes of Telemark.


Ray has fond memories of visiting Siberia to work and walk with reindeer herders

Where’s top of your bucket list?

It’d be nice to go back to the Central Pacific islands. I made a documentary in Western Samoa, the closest you can get to paradise. There’s such joy in people’s voices singing in the churches.

What’s the most memorable hotel?

The most memorable are usually the worst ones! However, I’ve stayed in some amazing places. The Wickaninnish Inn on Vancouver Island is magnificent. My cabin overlooked the Pacific, and had its own fire.

Do you prefer the wild or staying in a hotel?

On a wilderness trip I like to arrive and stay in a hotel so I can get over the jetlag and sort out my kit. Then I go fully wild and self-sufficient, very Spartan. But at the end it’s nice to come back to a good hotel to get cleaned up and take in the nearest metropolis.

What are your three packing essentials?

A sense of humour is vital, because things go wrong. A modern phone is also important. With apps you can check on delays, organise hotels and deal with travel problems. And I usually take binoculars, to watch nature.

And the most extreme environment you’ve been in?

Nearly all the countries I visit are extreme in some way. The coldest was northern Sweden, at -55C. The worst wind-chill was in northern Canada with the Inuit, where it was -42C and we had 40kmh winds, so it was about -70C. The hottest I’ve experienced was a drought in northeastern Namibia. Extreme is what I do, and I get used to it.