With 1.5 million subscribers, Joe Robinet’s YouTube channel has become a go-to source for people who want to learn about wilderness camping, backpacking, and solo bushcraft.
Yet unlike many other outdoorsmen, Robinet doesn’t call himself a survivalist.
“I’m not trying to face nature one-on-one and battle it and get by eating bugs,” he told The Epoch Times. “I prefer to be comfortable out in the bush.”
Robinet’s adventures may be approachable—at least by the standards of bush camping—but “nature, red in tooth and claw” can still make its presence known.
Once, while cooking meat along a shoreline in the remote Canadian wilderness, he heard some huffing and puffing from the woods nearby. He thought it was a black bear, so he started yelling at it to drive it off. But whatever it was, the sound kept getting closer and angrier.
“Normally when you yell at a bear, it runs away,” Robinet said.
He threw a rock into the bush where he thought the bear might be. It bluff charged, though he still couldn’t see it directly.
“You can see the trees shaking from where it comes,” Robinet said.
Robinet noted that he regrets what he did next: eating the meat he’d cooked on camera, near where he assumed the bear to be. After a few more minutes, it still hadn’t left, so he departed. When he got home, he analyzed his footage of the encounter. Sure enough, it sounded like an angry black bear.
“I would’ve been his lunch if he’d wanted me,” he said. “I should’ve gotten out of there quicker.”
Robinet’s story began far from the heart of black bear country. He grew up in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, across the river from Detroit.
“I didn’t have any kind of country upbringing,” he said. “When I finally got a chance, I moved up north for college, and I started really going outdoors and things like that.”
“I figured that pictures could be cheated, and video not really,” he said.
Robinet taught himself how to film by watching instructional TV shows and YouTube videos.
“It just started growing and growing and growing. I saw after seven or eight years I could finally make some money off of it,” he said. “I couldn’t even monetize when I first started.”
He was eventually able to quit his job and move his family up north, closer to where he goes camping.
Before Robinet’s channel really took off, he had a brush with small-screen fame. In 2015, he was a contestant on the first season of “Alone,” the wilderness survival reality TV program. Robinet tapped out when he lost his firesteel. He thinks that he wouldn’t have misplaced it if he had kept it on a lanyard as he normally does.
“We were given very specific instructions that we were only allowed to have thirty yards of paracord or something like that,” Robinet said. He was careful to follow everything by the book. “I shouldn’t have worried about it. People did everything that they wanted.”
Losing wasn’t easy for him.
“It was a crushing blow,” Robinet said. “I was depressed over that. I felt like that was my life, that was my chance, that was my dream.”
Yet in retrospect, he thinks that the $500,000 prize money might have made him a little too relaxed about his future. Losing motivated him to build the channel he has today.
“I wouldn’t have been so hungry to make YouTube my career at that point,” Robinet said.
He had a few key pieces of advice for aspiring bush campers.
“Start off where you can bail out if you’re not feeling it—and don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t hack it the first night,” Robinet said. “If you’re hearing some noises in the night, maybe it’s a better idea to be somewhere where you can be close enough to your car. It’s good to build up to being actually in the wilderness.”
He also advised people to leave a note with someone letting them know where they’ll be.
Robinet thinks that nature should be treated with respect. He taught his kids never to litter in the wilderness, even going so far as to pick up beer cans, tin cans, or other garbage deep in the bush and take them back with him.
It’s no surprise that his “environmental war cry” is all about responsibility.
“Try to be a good steward of the land while still using it—because it is there for us to use and for us to care for,” Robinet said.