Mears became particularly enamoured with the forests of his home region and those further afield, describing them as “sponges for wildlife” and making it his mission to learn as much about outdoor survival as he possibly could. Bushcraft was liberation in nature for him, and he became such a master of it that he went on to become revered like few others as a guide, instructor, television presenter and author.
It’s the latter of those job titles which brings us to sit down with Ray in a comfortable hotel lounge near the Edinburgh Book Festival. He’s preparing to present his latest book ‘Out on the Land’ to the Scottish capital – a manual and in-depth insight into bushcraft skills honed in northern forests.
When we talk about ‘northern forests’, we’re referring to the boreal forests which cover most of inland Canada, Alaska as well as Sweden, Finland, much of Norway and more.
“You have to ask the right questions of the right people, and the right people are disappearing…”
“To go out on the land is a very important phrase,” Mears notes. “The indigenous people who we spent many years working with in the far North use the term often.
“But out on the land is also where we validate that historical information that they pass on. The only way to know if certain methods work is to go out and test them.”
The book centres on understanding the practicalities of tribes indigenous to the boreal forests around the world; on capturing the true craft and techniques of ‘the other’ – the people you don’t see on television or in print, but who have been practising outdoor survival skills in order to do exactly that for generations.