Survival TV shows are hard to miss these days. But most of the “reality” shows on tv today are frustrating to people who actually know something about how to survive in extreme situations.
The “game show” feel of a survival show just reminds you that these people have an entire crew of people right behind them. TV survival shows have scripted scenarios and “challenges” that they say are supposed to demonstrate actual survival. But most of the time it just ends up feeling fake.
If you look hard enough, there’s more than a few survival tv shows that have their moments. Check these out and you might actually learn a thing or two.
One of the most realistic survival tv shows you will find is Survivorman. Les Stroud travels to different wilderness scenarios around the world and survives on his own for a week. One of the most striking things about the show is that he operates the camera himself, proof that he is truly alone in the woods.
Stroud gives a lot of good advice on how to survive. Unlike other shows where they tend to do risky things for the ratings, Stroud avoids doing things that might kill him, like jumping off of rocks. He also occassionally does fail, and he’s open about that on the show.
Ed Stafford became famous as an adventurer when he walked the entire Amazon river by himself. Marooned with Ed Stafford is a survival tv show that shows Ed in different situations. Ed knows what he’s doing and he’s proven that on the show.
It’s interesting to see different to survive in different areas of the world or to see how different accidents might play out, but sometimes the different situations he puts himself in are over the top. If you were really surviving in the wilderness, you’d be making cautious and careful decisions.
For example, a lot of the time Ed is dropped off completely naked. That makes for interesting tv because it puts him at a disadvantage. But it’s not exactly realistic to what you need to know if you have to bug out tomorrow. All in all, Ed’s survival tv shows are interesting and full of good information.
Here’s a clip of the show where Ed is marooned in Botswana and a hippo comes into his camp. There are lots of clips from Discovery UK so you can see some of the cool things Ed has done.
Alone is a survival tv show put on by the History Channel. Contestants are a pair of family members dropped out in the woods with a few tools and the content of their backpack. The competition of the game is to see who can survive the longest foraging, hunting, and keeping out of the elements.
The competitors are with a camera crew, and each couple is a pair so they aren’t completely alone as the title says. However, people do start to break down a bit after being alone with that family members for weeks and weeks.
There are lots of clips of the show on Youtube to give you an idea of the sort of situations they feature. In this clip, a father and son team have some luck fishing. They have fishing line and they’ve rigged it up to long sticks for a makeshift pole.
4. Naked and Afraid
Naked and Afraid is a survival tv show where one male and one female contestant who have never met have to work together to survive in the wilderness. Naked.
This show can teach you something about how to survive if you look really hard, but it definitely feel more like a silly reality tv show than a serious example of how to survive in the woods. Although the people all claim to be interesting in survival, the show focuses a lot more on how awkward it is for two strangers to be naked in the woods together.
Naked and Afraid is certainly on of the shows on our list that feels the most like gimmick television. But it’s still worth checking out.
Here’s a clip so you can be the judge for yourself. The show gives each contestant a score at the beginning and end to judge their ability to survive in the wilderness.
5. Fat Guys In the Woods
Fat Guys In the Woods is an example of how a survival tv show can still be a great way to teach people basic survival skills. The show takes doughy men with no survival skills out into the wilderness with a professional who teaches them different survival techniques.
Since the show gets the drama from people who don’t know what they are doing, they don’t have to drop experts off in the remotest areas of the Himalayas or in Bermuda. They stick with basic skills and situations that might actually happen to a person. That makes this show a great way to brush up on new ways of staying alive if you ever have to bug out or find yourself surviving in the wilderness.
In this clip, the expert shows how you can use antibiotic ointment to boost a tinder bundle for a more efficient firestart. The longer your tinder will burn, the better chance you have of setting a fire, especially when it’s wet outside. This is an example of real knowledge that you can use.
6. Dual Survival
In the survival tv show Dual Survival, two experts with different approaches have to survive in scripted scenarios. They show different approaches to different tasks.
Part of the drama of the show is highlighting friction between the two people in the situations. One guy is always kind of a hippy and the other guy is more focused on survival. In this clip, you can see how the two experts approach opening a coconut differently. One guy takes his time and handles the coconut carefully to make sure he can drink every single drop while the other expert is less careful and wants to get to the coconut water faster.
The show doesn’t always have a lot of scenarios that are realistic for SHTF events. But it is interesting how they have two people to debate different ideas back and forth a bit.
7. Life Below Zero
Life Below Zero is a survival tv show that centers around people who actually live off the grid in Alaska. It’s a show that follows real people around their lives, which makes it a great show to learn off the grid techniques.
The downside of the show is that it’s not exactly relatable. Most people don’t live very close to the Arctic circle where cold is the biggest danger every day. At the same time, exposure to cold can be deadly in lots of parts of the United States as well. If you have to bug out in winter, you’ll need to be prepared to protect yourself against this kind of weather.
In this clip, one of the people on the show punches through the ice to set up a beaver trap. He has equipment and uses a dog sled because this is where he lives, not some situation where he is dropped off in the woods.
8. Yukon Men
Yukon Men is a survival tv show that follows people living in a Tanana, Alaska, a remote village in the Yukon. The show talks about their real struggles and challenges in the freezing weather and harsh seasons.
The people on the show actually live here so you see the ways they overcome those challenges in a realistic setting. Like the last show on our list, however, the environment this far North is a lot different than the bug out reality most of us would find ourselves in if the shit hit the fan tomorrow.
It’s still a great show that gives us a look into people who are just crazy enough to go live this far off the grid, which is something we can all relate to. In the clip above you hear one of the men talking about the different ways they have to prepare themselves for the cold Alaska winter.
9. The Legend of Mick Dodge
Mick Dodge is a man who lives in the Hoh Rainforest. He gave up his life one day, grabbed his gear, and headed out to live off the land. He is more of a naturalist than a survivalist, which means he went off grid to go be in touch with nature more than he did to master his elements. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been successfully off grid and providing for himself for a long time.
It’s things like the fact that Mick doesn’t wear shoes as often as he can that take away from the credibility of the show. It’s worth mentioning that he does wear shoes from time to time and he talks about being safe on the show, but most of us would feel safer and more in control of our situations if we keep our shoes on.
In this clip, it explains a little bit about who Mick is and what brought him into the woods in the first place. Other clips show ways that he lives off the land, like by eating bugs in the rainforest and sleeping in stumps.
10. Dude, You’re Screwed
Dude, You’re Screwed takes five different people and drops them one at a time in situations where they have to survive with random objects they have. For example, in the clip below the man is in a situation with a golf club.
While one person is surviving, the other critique and discuss what he is doing. The biggest chance for learning something is listening to the people talk. It’s not completely educational, but the commentary points out the dangers in what the person is doing and what other choices they should have made.
In this clip, one of the guys sets up a makeshift forge and creates a machete out of a golf club. He heats it in a fire, hits it with a rock, then cools it in the water. He repeats this for about five hours, then he pulls a file out of his boot and creates a sharp edge. It’s not the most practical use of his time, but it does help him cut through the tough jungle growth.
11. Ultimate Survival Alaska
In Ultimate Survival Alaska, people compete by surviving in Alaska and travelling while living off the land. They have to get to the end of different journey legs within three days in small teams.
Although this show can teach you different techniques for moving through the wilderness and living off the land, there are some places where the show makes you roll your eyes. For example, in this clip one person wants to find out how deep a river is. Their solution is to strip naked and to walk into the river. I don’t know many true survivalists who would take that kind of a risk just to see how deep the river is.
12. Live, Free or Die
Live, Free or Die is a survival TV show that follows people who leave their “normal life” behind and go live off the grid. There is a lot of information on how to survive when you live off the grid. The show gains points because it’s not a scenario or a temporary extreme setting. It’s an example of what a lot of us might think about: living off the land and being completely self-sufficient.
In this clip, one of the people who live off the land makes glue out of pitch in the woods. He plans to eventually use this pine pitch to waterproof his equipment so that he can be a more successful hunter.
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