Camping & Survival

5 Survival Television Shows You Need to Check Out

clicking tv remote, best survival shows

If you’re the survivalist type, you probably resent the idea of being trapped inside.

You’re likely dreaming of your next trek into the wilderness — roughing it under the stars, cooking over a campfire and getting away from society for a little while.

Given the current situation, you may have to compromise.

The next best thing to heading into the wild yourself? Living vicariously through the lens of someone else. Fortunately, you have a host of survival shows to choose from.

Whether you prefer competition or a documentary-style program, the following five survival shows are a great place to start.

1. I Shouldn’t Be Alive

“I Shouldn’t Be Alive” follows the adventures of everyday individuals who find themselves in dangerous scenarios far from civilization.

Some prior episodes have featured those trapped by avalanches, lost in the Amazon rainforest or attacked by sharks. The program combines first-person narration of these harrowing experiences with graphic reenactments.

Unlike many so-called reality TV series, some of the individuals depicted actually die. While you might think it sounds morbid, it highlights the severity of these wilderness circumstances.

It’s a sobering reminder that your primary goal when outdoors is avoiding getting yourself in danger.

Would you know what to do if you found yourself shipwrecked or pinned underneath a boulder far from shouting distance? Just as vitally, are you aware of what you should avoid?

This program offers an inside look at what you should and shouldn’t do when faced with scenarios few enjoy contemplating. Forewarned is forearmed.

mist on treetops

2. Man vs. Wild

Have you heard of Bear Grylls? No, we’re not referring to a newfangled barbecue, but a rugged individual who’s traveled to some of the most dangerous environments on Earth.

His mission is to teach people how to survive in worst-case scenarios.

Grylls began his career as a territorial army reservist for the British Special Air Service. At age 23, he became one of the youngest climbers to scale Mt. Everest.

His exploits gained him media attention, and he went on to create several shows. “Man vs. Wild” goes by the name “Born Survivor” in England and “Ultimate Survival” elsewhere.

If you never had the opportunity to learn military survivalist insight, you should tune in.

Although the show gained early critics by suggesting Grylls was alone in the wilderness when he had a crew, Discovery Channel has since edited the controversial episodes.

They now indicate when he is intentionally putting himself in danger to demonstrate specific techniques. Of course, if you’re out in the wilderness, it’s up to you to practice the proper safety techniques as well.

Whether you’re on the water or in the woods, study up on the protocol.

3. Surviving Disaster

It’s vital to know how to fend off an attacking alligator, but what should you do if you find yourself amid civilization — and a bank robbery?

Navy SEAL Cade Courtley made it his mission to teach you how to live through such scenarios in “Surviving Disaster.” Watching this show could potentially save your life if someone hijacks your airplane.

Cade doesn’t act alone — he typically enters scenarios with five others. Occasionally, one or more of these folks fail to heed instruction, which makes survival more problematic.

The show also features interviews with experts and survivors of similar disasters, and often covers various circumstances you may encounter.

For example, what should you do if obedience with orders doesn’t stop a violent individual?

waves and storm crashing boats

4. Survivorman

While Bear Grylls openly admits to the support of a crew, Les Stroud, aka “Survivorman,” flies solo for the filming of each seven-day episode.

Before heading into the wild, he consults with local experts on the plants and animals indigenous to the region and brushes up on area survival techniques.

What makes this show unique is that you experience how Stroud copes with the physical and psychological impact of poor decision-making.

With no crew to bail him out, he must battle exhaustion and isolation along with the elements. He also emphasizes the critical nature of staying calm in a crisis.

5. Man, Woman, Wild

When you read this list, you might be thinking, “Are you saying women can’t hack it in the wild?” You don’t need a degree in evolutionary biology to understand the absurdity of that idea.

Someone had to live long enough to perpetuate the species, and she probably fought off a few bears while pregnant.

“Man, Woman, Wild” features Ruth England and Mykel Hawke Pierce to balance the XY influence on the genre.

Although the final episode of the original series aired in 2010, the Discovery Channel resurrected the series. It now features a variety of couples in harrowing situations.

If you’re planning an extended backpacking trip with your sweetie, tune in to learn how to cooperate in desperate situations.

coffee on table with tv with netflix logo

Bonus (Reader Addition): Alone

As suggested by our readers, the show Alone on the History Channel is an enjoyable, intense survival thrill ride. It’s touted as one of the most difficult survival series on the television and features a number of twists.

Participants take on a 100-day survival test for the chance to win one million dollars. Currently, no one in the past six seasons has been able to accomplish this task.

Survivalists are forces to contend with the harsh conditions and fierce predators of the arctic. This is certainly one show that displays some of the harsh realities of survival and emphasizes some real-world dangers.

Conclusion: Survival Shows

After watching these shows, how do you think you’d do in the wild? Few would recommend going extreme. However, if you feel inspired, why not test your mettle on a camping trip?

Pack essentials, like a few meals-ready-to-eat, just in case you aren’t successful at starting a fire without matches. Have fun testing your limits and applying the knowledge you’ve gained.

Do you have any favorite survival shows? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author:

Dylan Bartlett

Dylan Bartlett, aka, “The Regular Guide,” writes about the outdoors, survivalism and similar topics on his blog. He's an avid hiker and enjoys roughing it in unfamiliar territory. Check out Just a Regular Guide to read more of his work, or follow him on Twitter @theregularguide for updates.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (8)

  1. Not to beat a dead horse, but the only real survival show on TV is “Alone”. Other than regular health checks, contestants are ALONE — unlike all of the others that I have seen that have at least camera operators who are able to help if needed. In Alone, they have a way to ask for help but it is too far away if you really have an emergency. In this program, the contestants do all of the filming and they stay out there until there is only one left — recent ones lasted over 3 months if my memory serves.

  2. what about naked and afraid, (yes privet parts are blurred out) you don’t realize how much benefit having clothes and shoes on.

  3. How could you ignore “Alone”? In my opinion, it’s the only true survival show on TV. These guys are out there by themselves, about 5 miles apart, for as long as they can stand it. Great show.

  4. “Dude,you’re screwed” is the best, most entertaining. Special forces survival experts kidnap each other and drop them all over the world!

  5. Agree with exsoldier, Alone is the absolute best for the genre of outdoor survival.
    Although, i really like Survivorman. Les thinks his way through and shows where staying calm shines.
    Also, thank you for not mentioning Dual Survival. It was like the Lifetime movie of the survival shows.

  6. What an apropos short article, For 5 years ago. I don’t believe any of the listed shows are making new ones for several years not. Les Stroud’s Surivivorman stopped producing new shows, as has “I shouldn’t” be alive.”

    “Man v. Wild,” was a good show, and few could seriously question Grylls credibility. However, there have been valid criticisms that many of the chances Grylls takes would likely seriously injure or kill an untrained and out of shape person.

    Each show has it’s own unique biases and problems. All are of course shot with a production team nearby, and of course the star or stars generally have a working walkie talkie or Satellite phone if needed. Something a person in such a real situation does not.

    “I survived” is probably the best offering as it offers psychological insight into the real survivors, something the other shows don’t.

    In short, Most all of the survivor shows could be replaced by a survival hacks book and a bit of ernest but honest practice in making fire, or finding water.

  7. I don’t know if y’all have ever seen Alone, but it’s definitely worth checking out. There’s 1 season on Netflix and that same season plus 3 more on Hulu.

  8. I’m surprised you didn’t mention the History Channel show of ALONE. Also, Bear Grylls has a show on a major network where he takes a celebrity along on a little survival jaunt. Not real far but usually overnight and several elements of risk, including sometimes having said celebrity free fall parachute into the Area of Operations. Or jump from a hovering Helo into water and swim ashore. It’s great. But ALONE definitely outshines the others.

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