My Outdoor Life by Ray Mears

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My Outdoor Life by Ray Mears

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Louise Jones
Reviewed by Louise Jones
Summary: Ray Mears tells the story of his life and recalls some of his amazing adventures travelling the world and meeting native peoples.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: June 2014
Publisher: Hodder
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781444778212

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Sometimes, a seemingly insignificant incident in one's youth can have far-reaching and profound consequences. Life is punctuated with pivotal moments that can completely alter a course of events. Ray Mears recalls such an incident when aged six, he opened an encyclopaedia and saw a picture of cavemen for the first time. A few months later, the same volume was sitting on the edge his desk, when suddenly, it started to slide. Mears reached out to grab it:

…I was left holding a single page from within it...the one with the image of the cavemen...that picture awakened something within me that has defined my whole life. I firmly believe it was the spark that ignited my passion for the natural world around me.

Mears' love of the outdoors has certainly defined his whole life. He teaches 'Woodlore' (he hates the term 'survival'), showing people how to use natural resources to create shelter, transport and food. He has travelled the world, meeting remarkable people who have become perfectly attuned to their respective environments: the Aborigines in Arnhem Land, the Samoans on Savai'I and the Evenki in Siberia. Each experience has taught him something about the human condition and the amazing adaptability of people to survive in the harshest of environments using the bare minimum resources.

As one would imagine, Mears has his fair share of campfire stories to tell, many of which read like the plot from an Indiana Jones movie. In one particularly memorable chapter, Mears had been asked to protect Ffyona Campbell on the African leg of her round-the-world walking record. The pair faced angry mobs, thieves and would-be rapists and had some very narrow escapes. Mears is a great storyteller and vividly brings his tales to life with wonderfully descriptive prose.

The book also touches on some of the darker episodes of his life. Reeling from the shock of his wife's breast cancer diagnosis, he then had to come to terms with his father's sudden death from cancer. It was also at this time that Mears was involved in an horrific helicopter crash. He speaks candidly about the impact that the loss of his father and wife had on his life. Mears, used to being in control, found himself completely powerless in this situation and was left reeling from the impact for a long time.

He also discusses his part in the manhunt for killer Raoul Moat. It was fascinating to read about how Mears used his finely-tuned tracking skills to work out where Moat had been sleeping and walking in the woodland, using signs like slight depressions in the foliage, cracked twigs and overturned stones as clues.

Despite a rich and interesting life, Mears never comes across as cocky or arrogant. He has a quiet humility about him that makes him an incredibly likeable character and he speaks to the reader with the warmth of a close friend.

I was completely absorbed in this book and unable to put it down. My family have had to listen to me read numerous excerpts of the book out loud, as I enjoyed it so much I just had to share it with someone. My Outdoor Life gives the reader a fascinating insight into a man who has truly lived life to the full. I found it an inspirational read and thank the publishers for my review copy.

Those who enjoy this book may enjoy Paki Harrison: Tohunga Whakairo : the Story of a Master Carver by Ranginui Walker

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Buy My Outdoor Life by Ray Mears at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy My Outdoor Life by Ray Mears at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy My Outdoor Life by Ray Mears at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy My Outdoor Life by Ray Mears at

Booklists.jpg My Outdoor Life by Ray Mears is in the Top Ten Autobiographies 2014.


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