Here’s a reminder that another new episode of Dual Survival will be on tomorrow night (Tuesday, January 9, 9pm EST). Cody and Joe will be in South Africa.
Here is what I thought about last week’s show, Mars on Earth, which took place in the Atacama Desert in Chile. (And if you missed it, it’ll be replayed Tuesday at 8pm EST, right before the new South Africa episode.)
Mars on Earth was actually the third episode shot with Cody and Joe. I’m not sure why they’re not shown in the order they’re produced, but it’s good to see the return of Dual Survival.
Joe is definitely different from Dave Canterbury, and I’m not sure they’ve quite got the chemistry worked out yet. Dave thought the barefoot hippie stuff was just plain silly, and he let us know about it. He was an Appalachian boy, with a lot of homespun knowledge and ability from growing up in a rural hunting environment. His military experience just added frosting to that. Joe is military through and through. He’s from Pittsburgh, and I at least got the impression that his background was more suburban. Thus, most of his outdoor experiences were gained in the military, without much leavening.
Joe does seem to be more accepting of Cody going barefoot, but I also found him suffering from many of the misconceptions of the shod.
And by the way, for any new readers who come upon this, I have a lot of experience going barefoot outdoors (not at Cody’s level, though). That’s one reason I feel at least partly competent to talk about this stuff. I’ve been hiking, camping, and backpacking barefoot for about 17 years (and have plenty of shod outdoors experience before that). I’ve been to quite a few places, and I know what bare feet can (and cannot) do in a lot of diverse environments. Of course, Cody has me beat all ways to Sunday. He’s tramping outdoors so much that he has a lot more callus than I do. But I understand what he does, and can extrapolate from my experiences.
OK, now that I’ve said that, what about the episode?
I found the conflicts somehow a bit artificial. Maybe they were just testing each other out, but also keep in mind that one of the points of the show is contrasting two different styles of survival. And some of the discussions seemed rather forced, as if the producers told the stars to gin something up.
One thing that really bugged me was, right near the beginning, when Cody and Joe split up. Joe went uphill to get ice for water (good idea) while Cody headed to a prominent set of rocks looking for decent shelter. That was OK. But then Cody didn’t like that location, and left to find another one farther downhill. His only hint to Joe was that he put a yellow helmet on top of the rocks (and used the parachute, but that was close in color to the rocks and not very visible).
That struck me as totally asinine. When you agree to meet at a certain spot, you just don’t change it, and I really expect that Cody would know that. Instead, Cody just made preparations for a fire, and made himself comfortable. Maybe the producers were looking for a bit of suspense: would Joe manage to find Cody? But to me, in a real-life survival situation, Cody should have set up the shelter, and then returned to the designated meeting place (or really close to it) to guide Joe back to the shelter. Then, the fact that it was already set up would allow both of them to get comfortable quickly.
However, don’t forget that in this real life, there are camera crews there! That makes them a lot easier to spot. Not only that, but the crews are probably in fairly constant radio contact when separated like that. So there wasn’t that danger that this stunt might have presented if they truly were alone. But I think it is a pretty poor demonstration of good sense and good survival skills.
As usual, Cody’s bare feet were more than up to the task of dealing with the desert, and climbing down from their high altitude.
I just like that picture—it shows so nicely how bare feet mold themselves to the terrain. I do that a lot myself. However, there was one small segment as part of this descent that, while supposedly showing difficulty with Cody’s bare feet, really showed the opposite.
When walking over this stuff,
This shit is really fuckin’ sharp, dude. This is like a bunch of razor blades.
Yet, he traversed it just fine, despite the minor complaint. Bare feet can do that.
One of their disagreements that rather drove me nuts was Cody’s obstinacy about carrying firewood as they headed into a region without any. Here’s Cody’s comment (part of a much longer conversation).
Cody: We can’t possibly carry enough firewood to get us through the night. In 23 years in the desert, I’ve never carried firewood and I’m not going to fuckin’ start now.
That is not a good reason. Yes, use your experience to guide you, but don’t get locked into it. It’s not as if the firewood would have been all that heavy to carry along. No, whatever they carried might not last long, but as Joe pointed out, it was something. If nothing else, one needs to be flexible in a survival situation.
Cody went on:
Clearly, we can’t have fire next to parachute. We can have body next to parachute. Fire and shelter, and shelter without fire . . . they’re two different animals.
Really? You can’t have fire next to parachute? Then what the heck were you doing here the previous night?
There was further “discussion” as they later bedded down for the night, all wrapped up in their (reserve) parachute. (While they showed breaking up the firewood into nicely burnable pieces, they never showed us whether it got used or not.)
If things were really cold, I have issues with that picture. Yes, they noted that they doubled over the parachute, but that looks pretty sloppy. They might have been able to triple or quadruple it for extra insulation. And they should have been able to get their heads in there too, so that they weren’t exhaling all their heat into the night.
[Yes, I know a lot of people don't think you should withdraw your head into your sleeping bag because your breath has a lot of moisture in it. I've never had a problem doing so, though I do make sure I leave a hole for at least some fresh air. But in a desert environment I think it makes even more sense—there's just not that much moisture around so you won't dampen yourself.]
But what I really think they missed out on was the trick up heating up rocks. A simple fire would be a danger to the parachute. And a simple fire would let a lot of heat escape into the air. But if they made a small rock shelter for the fire (I’m talking a foot across, at most), a lot more of that heat could be captured warming up the rocks. And then the warm rocks could have been brought into the parachute wrapping. Now that’s using the available resources much more efficiently.
So I think Cody was the one being unreasonable here.
But then there was that whole segment about Joe drinking his piss. Here’s part of that conversation:
Cody: Do you want me to give you the physiology about why that . . .
Joe: Nope. I already know about it. The physiology is . . . salt dehydrates you more. Is that correct? Yes or no.
Cody: Salt pulls water. That’s what it does.
Joe: What have we been walking on for the last 30 minutes.
Joe: You’re barefoot.
Cody: Don’t give me that, man.
Joe: You don’t think that the salt is sucking moisture through the bottoms of your feet?
Joe: And how is that?
Cody: Because it’s a fuckin’ foot. You’re talking about ingesting urine into your body.
Side commentary (Cody): I don’t have regular feet. I have very thick callused layers. And if the bottom of the foot was so great at absorbing substances into the body, people would be doing illegal drugs with their fuckin’ feet.
Cody: The epidermis is impermeable for a reason.
Joe: For a guy who’s walking around barefoot, in shorts, on the most hostile desert on this planet, to tell me not to drink a mouthful of my own urine, takes huge elephant balls.
Here’s the thing: walking around barefoot and in shorts is not physiologically damaging. Cody is quite right that the skin is pretty much impermeable, particularly to such things as salts. Yes, it might dry out the surface layers of the skin, but it is not going to be absorbed (even if you don’t have Cody’s extra-thick callused layers). It is not at all comparable to ingesting urine by mouth.
And it is also true that You Can’t Get Drunk Through Your Feet.
Slightly later, Joe explains further:
Joe: I’m doing this as a psychological edge just to get some wetness in my mouth and swallow just a little bit. * * * I know my body.
Well, no. People really don’t know their bodies. If they did, various elixirs from the 1800s would not have existed. If they did, all of the various quack cures that we see these days would not exist either. Cody was spot on describing the physiological effects, and Joe’s body does not have some sort of magical cancelling effect just because he wants it to. The world just does not work that way.
If one needs a psychological edge (and don’t we all?), then choose one that doesn’t simultaneously physiologically blunt that edge. Do something with your mind that does not diminish the ability of your body.
I spent some time trying to think about something that urine might have been good for. (After all, this is a survival show, and they are contractually required to show us disgusting things in each one. ;-)) If they could have figured out some way to distill the urine, that would have been useful, but I don’t think they had anything to do that with. About all I could think of was that the urea is pretty good for skin, so maybe patting a bit on the lips might help if they were chapped. But then, the salt really wouldn’t help, and who’d want to smell dried urine that had been placed just beneath one’s nose?
So, I’ve got nothing that urine could have been used for.
Finally, it would not be Dual Survival without at least some concern being expressed about Cody’s bare feet.
When they rolled up the parachute and used it to rappel down that 40 foot cliff/ravine, here’s what Joe had to say in a side comment:
Why Cody does not choose to wear shoes or boots and pants . . . that’s none of my business, but in an environment like this, he’s at a severe disadvantage.
That is a typical comment from the shod not understanding the advantages of being barefoot.
As we watch Joe descend in his boots, his foot actually slipped at one point.
He of course couldn’t feel what he was stepping on and picked a bad spot. So then his foot slipped and he had to try other spots to see how they were. And then when he did find spots, his only point of contact was the thin edge at the toe of his boot.
Now contrast that to Cody descending:
First, just before that shot, we saw him feeling around with his toes to find a good point to place his foot. Next, look at how is foot is placed there. Because he can bend his foot, not only are his toes flat on the surface, but so is the ball of his foot. He has a lot of foot surface grabbing onto that rock, way more than Joe every could.
That’s the benefit of bare feet. That’s why Joe is the one at a relative disadvantage. It’s just that the perennially shod don’t even know what they are missing and plod along in their self-assurance.
Anyways, just because of my criticisms, don’t think I didn’t enjoy the show. I think they’re still working things out. And most of it had great scenery and great survival tips.
I just hope that they can work on better disagreements.