What I’ve Learned From Survival Shows

by Tommy Grant

“We have all been guilty of being backseat adventurers when watching programs such as Naked and Afraid, Man vs. Wild, or Alone, to name a few. We kick back, crack open a cold one and proceed to judge the ever-loving shit out of every competitor. And in those moments, we become” experts” on everything the contestants are doing wrong.

That said, if push ever were to come to shove and the proverbial shit hit the fan, would our baseline knowledge translate into our survival in the types of situations seen on these television shows? “We have all been guilty of being backseat adventurers when watching programs such as Naked and Afraid, Man vs. Wild, or Alone, to name a few. We kick back, crack open a cold one and proceed to judge the ever-loving shit out of every competitor. And in those moments, we become “experts” on everything the contestants are doing wrong. That said, if push ever were to come to shove and the proverbial shit hit the fan, would our baseline knowledge translate into our survival in the types of situations seen on these television shows? 

Naked and Afraid Survival Tactics

“Based solely on the content of such” survival” shows and the information they provide, here are five things I have”learned” from these programs that give me confidence in my ability to survive.

Fire

Assume that you have found yourself stranded in the wilderness through some unfortunate series of events. You have just arrived, and nothing around you looks familiar. There is no one near you, and nothing that looks like civilization is in sight for what seems like miles. That’s all right, though, because you have seen survival shows and handled this situation! 

Conveniently, there just so happens to be a bottle of water sitting beneath a pile of leaves to your right. (The type of TV show mentioned above typically claims that this is due to all the pollution in the world; therefore, trash—often very useful—is everywhere.) Sweet! You saw that dude in a ponytail on TV make fire with one of these once. What did he say to do again? Make a bed of kindling, and—oh, yeah!—use the convex edge of the water bottle as a magnifying glass.

Simply hold the bottle close to the kindling, and in a few seconds, you will have a roaring fire. Thank goodness for pollution! (Disclaimer: Unlike the cavemen’s experience, aliens will not assist you with creating your fire, and frankly, the discarded water bottle may not be much actual help either.)

Water Purification

In all seriousness, you should never drink still water. Not only is that shit gross, but you will experience immense pain and violent bowel movements.

“Now that you have a roaring fire (I swear to God if you let that thing go out!), it will serve as your primary way to obtain potable water (aside from the more logical but less-televised methods of using clothing as a filter, collecting dew from plants or taking a five-minute stroll to find a running stream). Based on your extensive experience as a TV survival show watcher, a rusty bowl or cup will usually be lying around in these situations. But if you find yourself without such wilderness luxuries, you can use the super-simple and always convenient” stone-boiling” technique.

 “Now that you have a roaring fire (I swear to God if you let that thing go out!), it will serve as your primary way to obtain potable water (aside from the more logical but less-televised methods of using clothing as a filter, collecting dew from plants or taking a five-minute stroll to find a running stream). Based on your extensive experience as a TV survival show watcher, a rusty bowl or cup will usually be lying around in these situations. But if you find yourself without such wilderness luxuries, you can use the super-simple and always convenient “stone-boiling” technique. 

Impromptu Container Systems

All you need for this is a stump or a hollowed-out piece of correctly sized wood to hold the water you will purify. Next, place several more giant stones into the fire and let them sit for several minutes to get them extremely hot. Once you believe that they are at a high enough temperature, keep in mind that you are trying to flash boil your water, and use pieces of wood to transfer the stones to your makeshift container. This will allow you to bring the water to a boil when you don’t have a suitable container to put directly into the fire. Could obtaining safe drinking water possibly be any easier than this?

Having a proper shelter is a must for any outdoor survival situation.

Creating Safe Shelter

Think less about Marriott and more about Red Roof Inn. You’re looking to create something that will, at the very least, protect you from the elements and provide some physical protection along the way. A simple A-frame structure is the most accessible and most minor energy-wasting shelter. To create your frame, you must bind four large branches together (typically to an enormous tree or branch). The most accessible visualization I can give you is that of a typical camping tent, only one but instead made of sticks and leaves. You can use living branches (green in color) to bind the large branches together since green sticks are more pliable. 

With your frame now assembled, the next step involves fashioning a roof. Find larger, lush branches with their leaves still intact, which will theoretically be sufficient to repel water should it rain. Working from the bottom up, lay the brush along your frame until you have complete coverage over your shelter. Hopefully, this will work for you since there will be no OB truck with the heater running to crawl into after the cameras have stopped rolling and the temps drop below zero. Just sayin’ … 

Locating Food

Sure, you can spend your banishment Cast Away-style eating grubs and coconuts until you’re found … or take the fight to the wilderness! No one has the time to figure out how to make a snare trap on the fly. Furthermore, the gratification of doing so probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in the movies, anyway. 

Therefore, it is time to make a bow and some arrows. First, procure a long piece of wood, which will act as the bow itself. This should be dry and dead but not so dead that it cracks when bent (for obvious reasons). The length of this piece of wood should approximately match your height. Ideal wood types for making a bow include the more flexible species of trees, including mulberry or juniper, which none of us would likely be able to pick out of a lineup, so do your best and move on.

Having A Proper Blade

The handhold area should measure approximately 6 inches in the middle of the bow. Once you have determined this placement, proceed to shape the bow along the natural curve of the branch. If you’re a massive fan of Skillset, there is a 100% chance you have a knife to aid your survival.

Cut notches to hold your bowstring once you have what looks close to a typical bow. It would be great if you had a fishing line or something of the sort in your EDC (we all know that one person). If not, pray to whomever that you have halfway-decent shoe laces since these will be your bowstring. Tie a loop with a strong knot at both ends, then slip the string over the lower limb, followed by the upper limb. To ensure you have a functional bow, ensure the string is slightly shorter than the length of your bow and is in an unflexed position.

It’s Go Time

It is now arrow time. Your sticks for your arrows should be roughly half the length of your bow and constructed from a similar dead, dry wood. You want them to be as straight as possible, but if you’re having trouble locating such sticks, you can always use the heat of your hot coals to shape slightly bent ones. Next, sharpen the points of your arrows with the knife you already have because you are always prepared. Finally, carve small notches in the backs of each arrow to catch and hold the bowstring in place. Now, it is time to Revenant this shit. Go forth and bring back your game. Stalking and hunting animals may not be as easy or quick as it seems on TV, but you got this! 

Time for Your Extraction

One thing for sure that I have learned from watching TV survival shows is that you will always be within a 5-mile radius of either a significant highway or some village that will lead to your eventual return to civilization. That’s pretty much how this television genre works, so keep an ear out for the sounds of tractor-trailers or large gatherings of people. Oh, wait! I forgot that those have been banned because of the pandemic. Duh!

“Well, let’s hope someone knew your last whereabouts because if not, your likelihood of survival while being naked and afraid has been drastically reduced. Even if you never return to society, this isn’t the worst possible scenario—especially given the condition of”civilization” today! Maybe you will even hit the jackpot and find a nice person to start a new life with. You can have children and lead a much simpler existence without all of the day-to-day bullshit.

This is probably the best you can hope for today, anyway.”Well, let’s hope someone knew your last whereabouts because if not, your likelihood of survival while being naked and afraid has been drastically reduced. Even if you never return to society, this isn’t the worst possible scenario—especially given the condition of “civilization” today! Maybe you will even hit the jackpot and find a nice person with whom you can start a new life can have children, and lead a much simpler existence without all of the day-to-day bullshit. This is really probably the best you can hope for today, anyway.

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