Survival Shows

0217140923I’m not a big TV watcher.  We don’t have cable TV at our house and don’t watch any live TV shows, but I do like to pick up the out of season survival shows they put on Amazon and Netflix.

My favorite is Dual Survival, but it hasn’t been the same since Dave Canterbury left the show.  Now Cody Lundin has left as well, so I’m curious to see what the newest iteration will look like.

Another good one is Ray Mears.  He’s got a good laid back style and seems very knowledgeable about wilderness survival.

Les Stroud is another one I really like.  He goes out and does his thing alone and you can tell he works hard to get all the camera angles by himself.  His laid back approach to survival makes a lot of sense and I’ve seen episodes where he’ll try to emulate a injury and then halfway through the episode say, “Screw that.  It’s hard enough as it is!” and then stop trying to emulate the injury.

Probably the only guy I don’t like is Bear Grylls.  It’s not his style or personality necessarily, but some of the things he does to survive are just crazy.  Not to mention he’s been shown to stay at hotels while playing if off like he spent the night out in the cold in a shelter.

I like to tune in to these shows to get survival tips and ideas.  When Bear decides he’s going to rappel down a gorge on a vine I just shake my head.  Hopefully most of you are smart enough to know that a lot of what Bear does is simply for entertainment purposes.  Same for the other shows of course, but for the most part the others are showing you a few good survival tricks.

Why Survival?

Watching somebody go through a survival situation is interesting.  People like to read stories about those who have survived against incredible odds.  Why?  One of the reasons I like to watch is to see what they did to survive so I can emulate it if I ever find myself in that situation.  Remember, if that person survived their situation they did it right.

I don’t want to be the guy who survives a plane crash only to die of exposure just because I didn’t know how to improvise a shelter.  I also don’t want to be the guy who makes a pair of skis out of airplane siding and tries to extreme ski down the alps because I saw Bear Grylls do something like it on one of his survival episodes.  (I totally made that up by the way.)

There’s something about watching a person overcome great odds that folks love.  Do you remember the story about the girl who’s plane exploded in midair over  a rain forest and she fell two miles?  She landed still attached to her seat, then had to walk out of the rain forest while injured.  I don’t think you can over come any odds greater than that, but there are many stories like that out there that are worth reading.

When Cody Lundin or whoever puts themselves in a survival situation it’s interesting to us as human beings.  How will they drink?  Eat?  Stay warm?  How will they find their way out?  How will they avoid danger?  It’s interesting because there’s a sense of danger, yet here are people willing to face it, think it through, and come up with solutions that you and I probably wouldn’t have thought of.

Sure, some of it’s MacGyver stuff, but that’s usually the network trying to boost ratings and some of it’s pretty cool anyway.  And who’s not to say that a little of that kind of MacGyver’ish attitude wouldn’t be a good thing.

 Is it Survival?

Is it really survival when you’re surrounded by camera crews?  Not really.  A real survival situation is when your GPS strands you 40 miles out at the end of a logging road and all you have is a wool blanket and a bag of M & M’s.  When you’re in that situation and you have to make real survival decisions it’s a different story.  Knowing that every single decision you make is the decision between life and death will undoubtedly add a measure of stress to the situation that simply isn’t there during the filming of one of these shows.

Probably the closest of the shows is Les Stroud’s Survivorman series.  Even though he packs up 50 pounds of camera gear he still has to make decisions that could potential mean life and death.  I wonder if he has a cell phone or other way to bail out if the situation gets too dangerous?

All in all I enjoy the various programs out there for different reasons. There are a couple I haven’t seen, one being Naked and Afraid where the contestants are set somewhere nude and have to survive for 21 days.  If anybody has feedback on that show I’d like to hear it.

So how about it?  Are there any TV shows I’ve missed or maybe some good survival movies I should check out?

Questions?  Comments?

Sound off below!

-Jarhead Survivor



52 comments… add one
  • Leon Pantenburg April 21, 2014, 9:42 am

    I don’t watch survival shows. They aren’t realistic, and seldom teach much. I believe the Bear Grylls shows are dangerous. For a newcomer or uninformed person, Bear’s shenanigans may be the only exposure they get to the concept of wilderness survival.

  • JAS April 21, 2014, 10:00 am

    I’m with you on this. The only ones I regularly watch is Les Stroud and Cody Lundin. Bear always does to many risky things for me. Les Stoud keeps it pretty level headed and yes he does have an emergency satellite telephone for backup. On one show, he had to be picked up due to a severe storm moving in and he was drifting in a survival raft. I like the fact that he tries to bring some new item to each show and try it out. A few of the items he has brought along were epic fails and we all learn from that. It will be interesting to see what happens with Dual Survival, but I just saw an ad for next season, so maybe Cody came back.

    • Jarhead Survivor April 21, 2014, 7:26 pm

      That’s another thing I like about Les Stroud. If he screws up he shows it. They don’t try and gloss it over. Everybody makes mistakes and if we can learn from his so much the better for us.

  • ArmyVet April 21, 2014, 10:01 am

    I’ve watched at least one episode of every program you mentioned in your post. The only one I continue to watch is Les Stroud. There is a lot to be said about a guy that subjects himself to a week alone, with a minimal amount of survival gear and humping the extra weight of his camera gear. To those who have little bush skills I highly recommend you watch Les.

    • Jarhead Survivor April 21, 2014, 7:28 pm

      I agree. Les is probably the most realistic out of the shows I’ve seen. Not sure how much cutting room magic there is, but it looks good on TV.

      • Holmes April 22, 2014, 10:53 am

        I heard an interview with Les the other day and he said that while he respects most of the other shows his is the only real one.

  • irishdutchuncle April 21, 2014, 10:24 am

    I watched some of these, when we first got “cable” but the novelty wore off pretty quick. liked Les, thought Cody was some kind of nutcase: walking around with no shoes. my personal belief is that the Devil taught the Brits that silly accent, so Bear didn’t appeal to me.
    (even before he started doing all the risky stuff) I probably wouldn’t buy any of his Gerber gear either, unless it was vastly superior for one of my needs.

    • NoSox April 21, 2014, 11:20 am

      I don’t fancy that faker either but i do like the gear since it is made by Fiskars. The only thing i want is the Gerber Gator Axe Combo II. Its an axe with a saw in the handle.

      I also want the SOG F17N-CP Bad Axe Backcountry Knife which may be better than the Gerber one.

      • irishdutchuncle April 21, 2014, 12:13 pm

        if the axe handle is unbreakable I might take a look, but I already have a SVEN… Fiskars makes a regular pruning saw too. I tend to shy away from multi-use stuff. (jack of all trades is not master any) my current plan is to just get the tools on the
        Alaska/Canada overflight survival equipment list. (no need for me to re-invent the wheel)

      • irishdutchuncle April 22, 2014, 11:55 am

        … well as Ryan said, (see comment below) he’s an “adventurer”.
        I think that’s an apt description. I read some hotel reviews recently. staying in some of those places sounds like an adventure in/of itself.

    • irishdutchuncle April 21, 2014, 11:45 am

      … life and death decisions: I think that’s why I’m disappointed
      about Doomsday Preppers too. Nat Geo management is in the unique position of sending civilians to the most dangerous places on earth to bring back pictures. they should have
      “written the book” regarding SHTF situations. instead they exploit people, try to make preppers look foolish for “entertainment”.

      • NoSox April 21, 2014, 12:03 pm

        They did good with the American Blackout trying to wake people up a bit but Doomsday Preppers is such a joke. OPSEC is blown out the window and people can easily find you and will be lining up in bunches for help [or for other intentions] when things get crazy.

        Its a show about a family maintaining in Alaska that i like watching – Alaska: The Last Frontier. My mom put me on it when my parents came to town. The whole family kicks butt in doing chores, fishing, hunting, and growing their food all in preparation for the winter. Great Show

        • Jarhead Survivor April 21, 2014, 7:31 pm

          I thought American Blackout was pretty good too. The only thing I didn’t care for was they made the prepper look like an asshole.

          • NoSox April 22, 2014, 10:09 am

            Yeah i agree. He made some mistakes as his daughter’s boyfriend definitely wouldn’t have been brought along unless i had trained him up. Better fences, perimeter alarms and an OP. And why on God’s earth did he has his young son on Patrols at night?

            In real life those guys would’ve killed all of them for their food after of course they abused and had fun with the women.

            My wife laughs at the couple in the condo who plan to file suit after all of this over. lol Reminds me of a character in a book i’m reading that suffered the same fate as those in the show.

  • NoSox April 21, 2014, 10:47 am

    Survivorman everytime! We have watched every episode on Netflix and it has single-handedly addicted my son to the outdoors. Stroud used a flashlight to start a fire one time and my boy begged me to let him try it with an old flashlight we had. It worked and he’s been hooked ever since.

    No camera crews and dealing with whatever comes your way is the best i’ve seen at depicting real situations. I also watched his documentary on YouTube about his family and how he met his wife and the off grid home they built with their small children. I can admire someone like that compared to Bear Grylls doing dumb stuff for fun and then sleeping in a trailer at night.

    Dual Survivor used to irritate me because Cody wouldn’t wear shoes. They were in Africa and he was paying for it dearly in the bush. I understand if you’re a primitive tribe that has never seen shoes before but once i was introduced to LL Bean i find it crazy to go in the woods without good foot gear.

    • Jarhead Survivor April 21, 2014, 7:32 pm

      I saw a piece of that documentary I think. Is that the one where they move to Alaska and try to live primitive?

      • NoSox April 22, 2014, 10:13 am

        They were in the wilderness of Canada. They said when they first got married they went in the woods for a year and built a place and lived off the land. They had some old footage and photos of them making it happen.

        The second time their kids were elementary school age and they had found a nice property with about 100 acres up there. They showed them renovating the structures and making it a home. Good watch and the link is below:

  • Pineslayer April 21, 2014, 12:01 pm

    I set my DVR up for most of the shows, no commercials yea!

    Naked and Afraid, my daughter and I are watching them. At first I thought this is weird, then I saw the beauty of it. Yes, there is help close by, but after a couple of episodes you begin to see the teamwork, stress, and significance of toughening up your feet. The only 2 pieces of gear thing is great too. I learn something every episode, even if it is what not to do. I think some of the guys need more PT too. The ability to change your attitude about anything is key. A good quote from the show is, “after a week or two, everything starts to look like food”.

    As I type this, we are watching Survivorman Survival Secrets over breakfast.

    • Jarhead Survivor April 21, 2014, 7:33 pm

      I finally watched part of an episode. I need to finish watching it, but it didn’t seem to be half bad.

  • GW April 21, 2014, 12:18 pm

    My new favorite “survival show” is Dude You’re Screwed on Animal Planet. If you haven’t seen it, give it a try. It’s pretty entertaining, which is what TV is all about.

    • NoSox April 21, 2014, 12:56 pm

      Ha! Yeah that show is funny! They dropped one of their friends off near Russia in deep snow in a Santa Claus suit and minimal gear. Good show and that’s where i first saw the Kitanica Mark I coat. One of these days i’m gonna buy that coat.

      • irishdutchuncle April 21, 2014, 9:39 pm

        for those of us slightly less svelt, the Mark V jacket provides better coverage. interesting features. I’ve been looking for something with a breathable membrane instead.

        • NoSox April 22, 2014, 10:20 am

          I don’t fancy the wait gathering effect on the Mark V. I like the look of the Mark I & IV for the needs i would have up here. Have gear for every type of weather but I could see some serious usage in the winter for that coat.

          Ideally i want a coat like that which could also hold plates underneath. I think it would function better in extreme cold than wearing a standard coat with a plate carrier on top.

    • Jarhead Survivor April 21, 2014, 7:34 pm

      I’ll have to give it a try. Sounds interesting.

  • Anonymous April 21, 2014, 12:19 pm

    How about Man Woman Wild?

    • Pineslayer April 21, 2014, 2:42 pm

      Anonymous, yep we watch them too. Watching the dynamics of spouses working together is fun. Like Duel Survival, Naked and Afraid, and even The Walking Dead, teamwork. Everybody brings something to the table. Being able to walk away and let the others do their job might be the toughest aspect for most here I’m betting. Since we all know the “best” way to do something :)

      • Jarhead Survivor April 21, 2014, 7:35 pm

        I saw an episode of that once, but wasn’t overly impressed. She came off as a whiner and he was constantly trying to placate her. Maybe it was different in other episodes, but that kind of turned me off to it.

        • Brian_427 April 22, 2014, 1:57 pm

          Give Man, Woman Wild another try. Its pretty entertaining. She does get over the whining and some things she does are impressive. Hubby is training his wife and the viewers. Their interaction is good too, like Dual Survivor and Naked and Afraid, really starts to show how important team work is in a survival SHTF situation. Les has started bring his 16 year old son along on some of the shows now too.

  • riverrider April 21, 2014, 1:18 pm

    the biggest thing i like about les is he talks about the loneliness and other psychological issues of surviving. i have been in a situation like that and i can tell you it really works a number on your mind if you let it.

  • smokechecktim April 21, 2014, 2:15 pm

    Don’t watch any of them. It’s TV…it’s entertainment…it’s all scripted. If you want to pick up survival nuggets there a hundreds of websites. If reality shows are your thing go for it…but not for any tips.

    • NoSox April 21, 2014, 3:10 pm

      I definitely understand what you’re saying but i’ve been reading the blogs and the books for a good while now and i’ve learned a few things from Les Stroud and Dave C. that i’ve never seen written anywhere.

      I don’t think people should view them as gospel but any information you can gather and then test for yourself is a bonus in my book. I tore down my parent’s kitchen to the studs and rebuilt in brand new based on YouTube and HGTV. Everything has its place.

      • Jarhead Survivor April 21, 2014, 7:39 pm

        Part of the reason I like to tune in to some of these shows is just the entertainment. At the end of a long day when my brain is frazzled it’s nice to lean back and just be entertained. If I want serious survival tips I always head over to Youtube and watch some of the more serious guys there. I think Cody and Les are sincere in their interest in teaching, it’s just the networks have the last say about what gets put on TV and it might not always jibe up with what they might like to portray. They’re still getting their message out, just watered down a bit.

  • Ned Ludd April 21, 2014, 2:47 pm

    I watched most of the “naked survivor” shows. They dropped a guy on an island naked with only camera gear. Once a week he would walk to the opposite side of the island to drop off batteries and video cards and pick up a back pack with new ones. Watching him weak with hunger and thirst after 24 hours, too weak to get a shelter up and eating things that made him puke was interesting to say the least.

  • Patti April 21, 2014, 3:58 pm

    I love Les and I miss Canterbury. Dave was a great team player and I have only watched one show since he left. Cody is hard to watch without Dave.

    I did like man woman wild, as well.

    I read that Les has a sat phone for emergencies.

    • Jarhead Survivor April 21, 2014, 7:41 pm

      I wonder what season three of Dual Survival will look like?

  • Andrew April 21, 2014, 4:28 pm

    Survivorman is by far my favorite. I watch each episode over and over again.
    Naked and Afraid is pretty good. I like seeing the compromise that always occurs between the two people and their personalities.

    As far as the BG gear goes, not all of it is terrible, I grabbed the paracord knife. After rewrapping the handle, it is a pretty good and very solid knife for the money. If only it did not have his name all over it….

  • Jarhead Survivor April 21, 2014, 7:42 pm

    I bought the first version of his survival knife that came out and it was awful. I’ve heard that the second version was much better and is worth having around.

  • Ryan April 21, 2014, 10:13 pm

    I like Bear, but you have to remember that he is more of an adventurer. They really shouldn’t bill it as a how to survive show. I think it’s entertaining to watch and that show helped get my 8 year old interested.

  • Watchdog April 22, 2014, 1:27 am

    We Canucks are a tough breed. We have to be since the bush up here is so totally awesome but very unforgiving to those who don’t respect nature or have a clue about the dangers that abound out here.

    But we aren’t stupid and neither is Les Stroud. I had the privilege of meeting him some time back and I asked him about what he would do if he suffered a serious injury while shooting his show in a remote wilderness location. His answer was short and sweet, “That’s what satellite phones are for.”

    His support team/crew is never more than an hour away. However, I feel that of all the survival show on the market today, his is the most honest and sincere.

    If I had to survive for a week or more in the bush, in a SHTF scenario, I’d rather do it with Les than any of the others.

  • Dave from San Antonio April 22, 2014, 5:18 am

    “Naked and Afraid”…don’t waste your time. Oh…and you are NOT going to ‘see’ anything, either…;)
    Most survival shows just have a gimmick to get you to watch for ratings…IMHO.

  • Chuck Findlay April 22, 2014, 2:17 pm

    Dave Canterbury has a U-Tube channel with lots of videos on it. While the videos on his channel are not done with the production and smoothness that Duel Survival was done with. The information on his channel is worth watching.

    I watched a few of the Duel Survival shows with the new guy after Dave got let go and the show was not nearly as good. Joe (the new guy) just doesn’t have what it takes to keep me interested. And Cody seems the fool that is not smart enough to know that mankind invented shoes to protect ourselves from the elements. What kind of fool goes barefoot in 3-feet of snow?


  • Ray April 22, 2014, 6:51 pm

    TV is about entertainment NOT survival. You get the same benefit watching this that you get from “Survivor” . Real “survival” is being dumped in the bush and getting home on your wits. You can learn as much about surviving from reruns of “Firefly” as you’ll get from any network “target audience” crap.

  • Chuck Findlay April 22, 2014, 7:46 pm

    Gilligan’s Island had more to do with survival then Survivor did…

    • Chuck Findlay April 22, 2014, 9:58 pm

      Firefly was one of the best TV shows ever. I have it and Serenity on DVD. Fox network has a habit of cutting shows way too fast, so fast they don’t have the ability to build a following.

  • mike April 23, 2014, 12:22 pm

    out of the wild Alaska and Venezuela. great shows both.

  • Chuck Findlay April 23, 2014, 9:33 pm

    In order for Serenity to really make sense and get the most out of it you should watch all 14 Firefly shows. They are worth having.

  • child of Odin April 27, 2014, 12:02 am

    The Colony, on netflix, is a good one for urban survival and WROL scenarios. Only 2 seasons, but gives you loads to think about.

  • child of Odin April 27, 2014, 12:10 am

    Oh, and Dave C. Best YouTube vids on survival. He is thorough. And if he comes across something he doesn’t know, he has to figure it out and share it. Don’t like Joe teti and Lundin I can only admire for his fire making skills


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