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Outback Survival: Bob Cooper, Outback survival specialist


Outback survival specialist, Bob Cooper, is one of those blokes who’s handy in a tight spot. He’s known as Australia’s foremost survival expert, lending his expertise to mining companies, wildlife rangers and military outfits both here and overseas.

We chewed the fat with Bob and found out what is takes to survive in some of the harshest environments on the planet.

You’ve been described by Australian Geographic as Australia’s Bear Grylls. What’s one thing Bear Grylls does on his televised escapades that you never would?
He runs through the bush and desert and jumps off things – never run or jump about unless something large is chasing you.

You’ve studied hundreds of survival incidents from around the world. What is the number one thing people do wrong when faced with a situation of survival in the wilderness?
Making decisions based on their emotions. Knowledge dispels fear and if most people just knew the five basic priorities of survival they may not have turned a mishap into a tragedy.

The five basic priorities of survival in the wilderness are, first and most important: water. Then signals, shelter, warmth and food, in that order. Food is the lowest priority. To date I have not come across anyone who has starved to death in an Australian survival situation – including the early explorers. It’s all dehydration and exposure.

Also, never sip water. When your brain is dehydrated you start to not think straight.

If you sip water, the first sip goes to your digestion, the second to your liver and kidneys and none gets to your brain. You need to drink a cupful or those pirates will.

You and your mate have been lost in the Simpson Desert for two days. Things are getting dire. Is it better to drink your own urine or your mate’s?
Both people should urinate into a hole in the ground and put a plastic sheet over it to create a desert still – drink the fresh drinkable water created by using this technique.

I don’t recommend drinking anyone’s urine. Uric acid isn’t great for you.

The Australian outback is known as being a harsh environment for the ill-prepared. Having worked in many parts of the globe, what region of the world would you least like to find yourself in if you had to emergency parachute out of a plane?
The ‘Bad Lands’ of the Mexican desert – I visited that area on horseback 1997 and it has deep ravines with hidden water sources and extreme hot/cold climate.  In some areas it resembles an atomic bomb site.

What top six items would you include in an Australian emergency survival kit and why?

  1. Fire lighting flint – fire provides warmth, signals, purifies water, smoke/fire, protection from insects and some animals, cooking, important psychological comfort plus many more reasons.
  2. Two clear plastic bags – make drinking water from none toxic plants by trapping transpiration, create shelter, keeping tinder/clothing dry, floatation.
  3. Mini Multi tool – with knife and plyers – many uses.
  4. Vial of Condys Crystals – water purifying, antiseptic and anti-fungal agent.
  5. Compass – navigation to safety or a better location.
  6. Soup (stock) cubes – for food.


What’s the closest shave you’ve ever had in a survival situation?
Land, Sea or Air? There’s been a few.

I was once forced to land in the Great Sandy Desert when my helicopter motor stopped at 500 feet and down we went. Luckily we weren’t badly hurt and managed to walk out of the desert to get help.


Bob Cooper

Bob-Cooper-Survival-Kit-(new)-0712-high-resFor over 30 years Bob has honed his survival skills by learning from many traditional cultures. His experiences include living for extended periods with Aboriginal people in our Western Desert; sharing bushcraft abilities with the Bushmen of the Kalahari in Botswana as well as the Lakota Sioux Indians in Dakota; and jungle time with the Orang Asli people in Malaysia.

His roles have included instructing Special Forces Units, conducting survival courses throughout Australia, lecturing with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Service on survival in the Mexican Desert and delivering wilderness lessons in the UK.

Learn more about Bob at www.bobcoopersurvival.com 

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