PK Podcast 50: Les Hiddins, The Bush Tucker Man

PK Podcast 50: Les Hiddins, The Bush Tucker Man

Major Les Hiddins became well known through his ABC TV series “The Bush Tucker Man”. In 1980 Les had received a Defence Fellowship to research survival in northern Australia and looked heavily into traditional bush foods, with the help and cooperation of Indigenous communities. His work was compiled and used by the Australian military in various forms, including the clever idea of “snack maps”. Les later included bush tucker information in his Bush Tucker Field guide, as well as Explore Wild Australia, and now on his Bush Tucker Man website.

Major Hiddins was the principal author of the Australian Army’s military survival manual, published in 1987. Les retired from the Australian Regular Army in 1989 with the rank of Major. In addition to his TV work and writing, he continued to work with the Australian Army Reserve until 2001, working with Indigenous Australian communities in northern Australia. He is still actively researching and sharing his information and we get into this and a whole lot more in this podcast episode…

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Related Material On Paul Kirtley’s Blog

PK Podcast 49: Gordon Dedman On Australian Bushcraft And Survival

PK Podcast 48: Bruce Zawalsky On Canadian Wilderness Survival

PK Podcast 44: John Hudson, UK Military’s Chief Survival Instructor

PK Podcast 40: Miles Irving On Wild Foods, Foraging, Health And Connecting With Nature

Five Survival Plants Every Forager Should Know

Survival Foraging: A Realistic Approach

Ten Of The Best European Berries To Forage


11 thoughts on “PK Podcast 50: Les Hiddins, The Bush Tucker Man

  1. Good timing. I went and burrowed “Bush Tucker Field Guide.” this morning from the library. I then got home and received an email about this podcast with Les Hiddins. (Yeah, the guide is hard to get.)

    I remember watching the Bush Tucker Man, series with my family when I was young. Not sure of the exact series or T.V. episodes, but the transpiration bags over the leaves for collecting water was a “WOW” moment at the time.

    What a great idea of “snack maps.”

    Some fantastic stories and a great podcast.

    1. Ha, that is some coincidence. I’m glad this came at a good time Craig.

      Yes, there is a lot of good stuff in Les’s shows, not just plant foods. It’s always worth people remembering or realising this.

      Snack maps are great. I have three of them at home and they are among my prized possessions 🙂

      Warm regards,


  2. Another great podcast Paul.
    Les is a true living treasure. His original land rover is in the Darwin war museum.
    This is another one going to my car play list.
    Thank you for asking my questions.

    1. Thanks Justin. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for submitting your questions, which I think Les appreciated.

      Good to know where his Perentie is. I’ll have to have a look in the museum when I finally get up to Darwin.



  3. It’s amazing Les never heard of Richard Graves. I got his book “Bushcraft” back in the later 1970’s and, though Aussie based, it does have much useful info, such as firecraft and ropework, and it seems he may have been in the WW2 category of knowledge, dealing with similar stuff like the Craighead brother in the USN. The split match, the coal pot to transport fire, the hidden fire, a lot of sneaky stuff used for evasion and escape and survival were impressed upon me at an early age (though now it’s evolved due to Google Earth Imaging – where to hide indeed?). Nice to hear Les. I visited the site, and love his, “stiff shit” approach to things, which he does regret somewhat, in rare cases. He’s a no nonsense man, like Mors was, set in what he knows and what works for real, with no illusions of what is out there.
    I really enjoy what you do, Paul. You’re on the way to being a legend too, I’m sure. (Though I don’t believe you’re looking for that title, you’re a humble guy, and that’s what’s good about you.)

    PS. The British influence is greater in Australia, with the same terms “Mate”, “bonnet”, driving the other side of the road, etc, which we don’t use in Canada. Those darn Yankees have influenced us here. 😉


    1. Hi Marcel,

      Thanks, as always, for your observations and comments. I’m glad you enjoyed hearing Les, and visiting his site 🙂

      I’m glad you enjoy what I do Marcel and I very much enjoy and appreciate how you interact with what I do both here and on the other platforms.



  4. Great interview, thanks Paul.

    I’m another ‘oldie’ who watched Les’s series and was encouraged to get outdoors.


  5. Hi Paul,

    Thanks for putting together the interview!
    It is interesting to hear how he planned his field trips and also how he put together his equipment. Back in those days there wasn’t any Youtube to see the latest camping gadgets. I liked his plan to learn about local foods, not by looking for plants, but by looking for indigenous communities who could teach him. I spent much time in my younger days watching the Bush Tucker Man on TV, and also exploring parts of Northern Australia. He was an inspiration to me, and still is now. 

    1. Hi John, thanks for your comments. I’m glad you enjoyed the podcast and like the detail we went into.

      Warm regards,


  6. Now I know its tough sometimes, but I feel I have to save up a few Paul Kirtley Podcasts for when I really need them. As you might recall Paul I’ve been in and out of hospital for various reasons over the years. So to pass time I love nothing more than to pretend I’m sat in the room with whomever you’re with, sipping something appropriate and smiling as the conversation wanders. This time it was eye surgery… so eyes closed (no choice there) and relax, only to be occasionally startled by the unexpected sound of the Elizabeth Tower Bells.

    I really did want to commit to the Tree and Plant Identification Course this year but alas by ill health means my concentration is again elsewhere. Fingers crossed I can finally get on it next year as it looks amazing! I can’t say thank you enough for what for me is the best Podcasts available. Please do keep them coming and I hope to be involved on some sort of course asap.

    All the best, Matt

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