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Learn A Thing Or Two From Survival Shows

June 13, 2011 by  

Learn A Thing Or Two From Survival Shows

This week, we’re going to take a break and have some fun. Specifically, we’re going to talk about TV shows that actually might have survival lessons included. In recent years, there have been several survival shows that have come onto the market, and it looks like several of them are going to be regular features.

Now, don’t think that watching a survival TV show for 42 minutes a week is going to make you a survivalist. That’s about as ridiculous as thinking that watching UFC fights is going to make you a fighter. They are both entertaining, and you will probably learn some new skills and tactics, but you really need to practice the skills to become proficient.

So, let me go over some of the survivor shows that are on TV. I’ll tell you what they cover and whether my wife and I consider them being worth the time to watch to help you get more prepared for surviving disasters.

I’ll start with the better-known ones, but the better shows are actually at the end of the list.

Survivor on CBS: This series is one of the grandfathers of reality survival TV, and I’m thankful for it because of that. But there are few, if any, survival lessons to be learned from it. There have been some interesting political and human-interaction lessons from it; but for the most part, it’s become a glorified soap opera. Even though the series has a great name, we don’t watch it.

Survivorman on Discovery Channel: This series ran in 2004, 2007 and 2008 and featured Les Stroud in the wilderness facing various survival situations without support. In fact, he carried all of his own camera equipment. The shows emphasized focus on the basics and how little time there is to focus on anything other than the basics in a survival situation. I don’t know Stroud, but we have a common acquaintance. He’s the real deal. He’s not superman, but he is willing to stake his survival on how well he performs in survival situations. I’m not a fan of his new series, but I do still watch Survivorman repeats occasionally.

Man vs. Wild on Discovery Channel: This is a very entertaining survival show and there are usually one or two good tips or tactics in each episode. Bear Grylls knows his stuff, but he is supported by a crew. And in order to make things more interesting, he takes a lot of risks that are unnecessary in a true solo survival situation. It does make good TV, but you really need to keep in mind the fact that a lot of Grylls’ stunts would be foolish to do without a support crew standing by to pick up the pieces.

Worst-Case Scenario on Discovery Channel: These are also very entertaining and well-filmed survival shows. Bear Grylls is the main expert in this one as well. The episodes I watched were primarily entertainment, but there were some good points. Grylls was one of the first survival experts to do shows on survival strategies in urban environments, and most of this series is set in urban areas. I disagree with his willingness to take unnecessary risks and his approach on self-defense — especially his emphasis on techniques that take a lot of skill and practice to use successfully. But, like in Man vs. Wild, it does make good TV.

Out Of the Wild on Discovery Channel: The first season ran in 2009 and followed several small groups of people surviving in the Alaskan wilderness. This series emphasized just how much effort it can take to simply cover your most basic needs in a survival situation. It clearly showed how important attitude, fire, shelter, water, food and sleep are. I don’t think you can appreciate how hungry, thirsty and tired you can get until you’ve gone a day or two in a survival situation without a good meal or clean water, but this series showed how various people break down in survival situations. I really enjoyed this series. There aren’t very many hard skills taught, but the human interaction and psychological lessons make it worth watching.

The second season, which was filmed in Venezuela, was a great look into how starvation, dehydration and exhaustion can wipe out people, place group dynamics under stress and dramatically change a person’s psychology in a matter of days. I really liked this series and strongly recommend catching a rerun or buying the DVD.

Dual Survival on Discovery Channel: This series is currently running again on Discovery. I originally recorded it because of my appreciation of Cody Lundin. I kept watching because of the vastly different approaches Lundin and Dave Canterbury take to wilderness-survival situations. Every episode follows the same script, much like real wilderness survival: Figure out shelter, fire, water, food and navigation, and get out. The neat part about this is that Lundin is a self-reliant, shoeless hippie and Canterbury is a former U.S. Army sniper/scout. In every challenge they face, I find myself relating to one or the other of their approaches.

Man, Woman, Wild on Discovery Channel: This is one of our favorite survival shows simply because there is a woman on the show whom my wife can relate to. In the show, Special Forces survival expert Mykel Hawke and his wife Ruth England take on various wilderness-survival scenarios starting with only knives and clothes. There are some how-to components to the show, but it mostly highlights the dynamics of two people being in a survival situation with only one of the two being a survival expert. And I can’t emphasize this enough: My wife likes this show way more than the all-man survival shows.

The Colony on Discovery Channel: This is urban-survival reality TV. The premise for season one was that a pandemic killed off the majority of the population and a mismatched group of people found each other and decided to work together. There were some bad pieces of advice — for example, using a bank of car batteries to power appliances — but it was a great series with at least a half-dozen solid urban survival lessons in each episode. Season two was a combination of a few good lessons and a lot of hair-pulling. That being said, it is a great tool to use to come up with scenarios to contemplate — especially figuring out how you would deal with being forced to survive with people who have very different skill and motivation levels.

MidwayUSA’s The Best Defense: Survival! on Outdoor Channel: This top-notch series was developed by three friends of mine: Michael Bane, Mike Janich and Rob Pincus. We have been trying to figure out how to best tie in my Urban Survival Course with this series. Hopefully, we will get it figured out in time for the season three launch in early 2012. This series is all meat and how-to. The Outdoor Channel let Bane, Janich and Pincus take off the gloves for season two, and they knocked it out of the park. They covered survival rooms, food, water, medical, bugging out, surviving in place and more.

The important thing about all of these shows is that the skills they teach are next to useless until you take ownership of them, practice them and make them your own. There are occasional stories about how people survive disasters by doing something that they saw on TV, but the reason those stories make the news is because they are so rare. Someone who learns skills, practices them and successfully applies them under stress is normal and not newsworthy.

Do you have any favorite survival or preparedness TV shows or movies you like? Do you have any thoughts on the series I mentioned? When you watch a show that demonstrates survival skills, do you go out and practice it afterword? Share your thoughts by commenting below.

Dr. David Eifrig Jr.

is the editor of two of Stansberry's best advisory services. One of his advisories, Retirement Millionaire, is a monthly letter showing readers how to live a millionaire lifestyle on less than you'd imagine possible. He travels around the U.S. looking for bargains, deals and great investment ideas. Already his average reader has saved $2,793 since 2008 (documented in each Retirement Millionaire issue). He also writes Retirement Trader, a bi-monthly advisory that explains simple techniques to make large, but very safe, gains in the stock and bond markets. This is a pure finance play and the reason Porter Stansberry loves having "Doc" on the team. Doc holds an MBA from Kellogg and has worked in arbitrage and trading groups with major Wall Street investment banks (Goldman Sachs). In 1995, he retired from the "Street," went to UNC-Chapel Hill for medical school and became an ophthalmologist. Now, in his latest "retirement," he joined Stansberry & Associates full-time to share with readers his experiences and ideas.

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  • Michael J.

    Man, Woman, Wild is especialy interesting to me. Exotic locations and their incite into self reliance techniques is impressive. The most impressive things to me however, are not only Mike’s ability to cleve large tree limbs in two with nothing but a knife, but also can’t help admiring Ruth’s clevage as well.

  • dqfreemind

    They ought to have a survival show featuring an average American struggling against high food prices, high gas prices, no jobs, and a corrupt government bent on destroying man’s right to live freely and securely from government control. Now that would be a survival show worth watching.

    • angelhelp reiki

      I couldn’t agree more with dqfreemind’s choice. Too many of us are out here struggling to survive already. Making it out of the woods/mountains/desert/swamp intact isn’t the problem most of us will encounter. Increasingly limited choices due to financial pressures are the norm, not the exception. Time was that you could pack up, sell your house, and move somewhere cheaper with a reasonable expectation of finding a job with wages sufficient for sustenance. Not so anymore, alas. Thank God my children are grown, but what about all the folks stuck under a mountain of debt created, say, from an uninsured medical expense? Even if they did everything “right”, they’ll always be under that pressure. This is the new reality.

      • granny mae

        angelhelp reiki,

        I agree with you. We seem to think that all our problems will be solved by hiding in the woods or the mountains, but I doubt it. All this is not going to happen over night or in one day, it is already happening ! People are loosing their jobs in record numbers every day. People that are single, people with families, people with age problems. Once you hit 40 your hireability goes down hill and you will have a more difficult time finding a job. Now I am seeing an addition to this problem; Gas prices have gone up to where you have to make a certain wage or you can’t afford to drive back and forth to work. For instance, people working at rest areas along our major interstates. These places are not easy to get to and require the worker to drive sometimes several miles out of his way just to turn around and head back to the facility on the other side of the road. Can’t use the service drives as they are for emergency personal only and believe it or not they are watched. So these employees must drive extra miles to get to and from work, and they only get paid minimum wage ! Now it is pretty good when they have to spend over a hundred dollars for gas to get to a job that is only going to net them a hundred dollars to live on after gas cost ! Not to mention up-keep on the car or insurance, tags and so on ! You wonder why people want to stay on unemployment ? It puts an extra hundred dollars in their pocket to pay the light bill or by johnny a new pair of shoes! What we reall need is to set up programs with our churches to help out our people. We set up programs for drug abusers and alcoholics but not much for the family that is becoming homeless and destitute! Neighbors should be reaching out to change the things they can change and help their fellow neighbor, not turning your back on them and running off to hide in the woods or the mountains some place. The thing is to prevent the anarchy before it starts, not let it begin and then run away from it. Once it becomes to that point the bad situation is so bad that there is no safety for anyone anywhere. Educate people as to what is available to them and where to go to find the help. I know there are a lot of people that could have put food away and planned for this but they didn’t and there will always be people like that. People that will not believe until it is too late. I am married to one of those people. He is a good person but all his life it has been, “If I had known a long time ago I wouldhave done such and such”. The problem is he did know a long time ago but just couldn’t see it until it hit him in the face ! One for instance= We had an old refrigerator . It still worked fine but I knew it was running our electric bill up something fearce; I begged and pleaded with him to buy a new one, with an ice maker and all, but he refused. As long as this one was working it was good enough ! Finally one day I made sure the darn thing never worked again ! We went down and got a new fridg! The following month the electric bill was way down and there was no denying it; it was because of the new fridg. He was shocked ! First words out of his mouth? “If I had known it was going to make that much difference I would have bought a new one a long time ago!” I saw this ahead of time but he did not ! He is always like this. He just doesn’t see it! Many people are like that. Good people, but people that just think others are over reacting. They have no reference point to work from and they seem to need one to be able to see ahead. We who see, have to work to assist them when the SHTF ! We will be a lot better off than they are, but we must work to at least help them survive. If we don’t they will survive in any way they can and that may be a way that is not to our well being or benefit ! Some will run off and hide but most will not be able to afford to. We must do things now in this area, before it is too late !

        • granny mae

          When I say they have no reference point I mean that most of them have never had to experience hard times to fear ever having to go through one again. It is that fear that is their reference point. For instance our parents having gone through the depression or the war! Most of those people that had that bad experience developed a mind set that they would never go through something like that again and they saved and stockpiled everything from food to tools and nuts and bolts and pieces parts, so they could have a way of getting by the next time ! My grandmother saved her aluminum foil and washed it so she could reuse it again. Mom did the same thing with plastic storage bags. Grandma saved all the old cloths from everyone so she could take them apart and make cloths for the little ones or quilts for the beds. They wasted nothing and preserved everything. Today most people grew up where they took the extra food off their plate and just threw it away, when they could have taken less the first time and then gone back for seconds if they were still hungry. The left overs were what mom used to make another meal with later in the week ! A couple of spoonfulls of this or a spoonful of that was enough to feed the baby not the trash ! Sour milk was never thrown out, it was used in pancakes or bisquits or maybe if we were lucky it was used to make a delicious chocolate cake ! Instead of throwing away look for ways to use up ! Sour milk also works fine in scollope potatoes with cheese sauce. You will never know it is sour. And it is good for you. Puts friendly acteria in your gut to help with digestion !

          • granny mae

            bacteria !

    • David Schantz

      Great idea, I’d even watch that one and I don’t watch much TV. Most of what is on TV will put me to sleep in about 5 minutes.

      God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

    • Old Henry

      Well folks, if you voted for Obama in ’08 to prove you are not a racist vote for someone else in ’12 to prove you are not an idiot.

      • granny mae

        Excellant advise !

  • rob smith

    best defence is usaully hte best only because it civers a lot of different situations , in the urban jungle things can and will be very ugly and tough man can be the worst animal of all

  • David

    One of the good things about Man, Woman, Wild is they also show failures. It shows that it is really possible that you may die in a survival situation. I remember the episode in the Mexican desert when he called in help for Ruth because he knew that she was in bad shape.

  • RWB

    A good friend of mine turned me on to Dual Survival in late April. I now record them on DVR. Indeed I find myself having a survival epiphany or two with each show. I’ve even added some of their various items to my BOB like mylar blankets, 9V battery and steel wool, 550 paracord and a metal canteen.

    I guess I may have to upgrade my U-Verse subscription because I can’t get the Outdoor Channel right now. I miss “Wednesday night at the range” and was unaware of MidwayUSA’s show.

  • Joe Wilkerson

    Please just use first name. While all of us hope this will never happen, it will. These several shows are great an I watch all that I can. My wife and I live in a small town, but larger cities are only a couple of hours away. We are as prepared as we are able, but there is only so much one can do. We trust in God to help in such a situation who will help you and if you don’t believe it, just get caught up in a war (VN) and you will learn to believe it. Get lots of dried foods, water purification things, and simple med supplies. Dried things use water so you have food and water at same time.Med supplies, alcohol, disinfectant creams, bandages of all kinds ect. Alcohol can also be used for fire. If you are able to stick close to home, get several containers of propane and a single burner, gas will last longer. Get a good 22 cal. rifle and pistol. You can carry lots of 22 ammo.

  • Richard Barrow







    • TIME

      I take you know that Barry Soetoro is going to give Greece over $400 Billion US Tax Payer dollars by way of the IMF.

      Folks survival in the wild is hard, but survival after a massive collapse of any major or minor government will make everything you know fall by the way side. I was in Rhodesia when its civil war was near the end you can’t fathom what went on in your worst nightmares.

  • TIME


    A fun Blog.

  • Texan

    For a real,non-hypothetical look at urban survival after an economic collapse, read Ferfal’s blog on what has/is happening in Argentina since their problems started in 2001.His book is very good and well worth the money!He needs his own TV show!!!!

  • LEE


  • chuckb

    time, few people have taken the trouble to pay attention to what happened to south africa and rhodesia. the destruction of two countries who were self sufficient and now in chaos.
    we are heading that same way, with the mentality of barry soetoro leading the mass.
    you better have some survival skills, you may need them, surviving in the cities may become more of a nightmare than the jungle.

  • granny mae


    I have recently come across a situation that I feel needs to be addressed. That is shock and depression at first finding you have lost your job! I came across a person that lost his job and became homeless so e gave away his food storage because he didn’t have a place to keep it! I’m thinking this was caused because he was in shock and depressed and just couldn’t think clearly. He said he was very active in his church but I questioned why his church didn’t come to his rescue? Perhaps he didn’t tell them. All I know is he is homeless and now has a job that doesn’t pay him sufficiently. People need to realise they may very well be in shock and depression at first and it would be wise to stop and take a deep breath and try to think of safe and secure measures to take to get back on your feet. I told him I felt he should have asked to see if he could store his food storage with a friend or family member. That being said I also think it is time for all of us to consider our families. When it comes to things like this we need to offer a little assistance. Perhaps in dirrecting the family member to places that can help with housing or even if it comes to it pitching a tent temporarily on their property or paying for a spot in a camp grounds. If they have had the forethought to acquire a food storage program then surely they need to have our help when the shock comes. The more we can help others with info on where to goto get the help they need the better off we ourselves will be. Anyway, that is just my opinion. For some no matter how prepared they are there is going to be shock at their situation. This is something they have never dealt with before. Anyway they don’t think they have. They will need to dig down deep and remember those times when they may have gone camping with a neighbor or a family member as a kid. Sometimes it is just a matter of thinking out of the box but when you are in shock or depression you just need a boost to get started. I see things getting closer and I feel that a lot of people out there might think about practicing how to do some of the things ahead of time. Look around and find out what kinds of help is available for people that are not quite up to par. Most communities have food programs, housing programs or assistance, and even work programs, even if it is a days work for a days pay. Sharring this knowledge with others could help them and keep them away from your stash . Those of you that belong to a church make sure that your church is prepared to help it’s members and that it’s members are not afraid or ashamed to ask for the help. It is going to be a long hard row to hoe but together we can make it.

  • BigM

    Why are we retreating like rats. People, this country belongs to us. Our fore fathers paid for it with their blood. It’s time to go on offense.

    Read “Common Sense 3.1” at ( )

    We don’t have to live like this anymore. “Spread the News”

    • Old Henry


      Thanks for the link. It looks interesting on the surface. I will delve into it further. I also sent the link to several people.

  • bob wire

    Hmm? ~I don’t know exactly how to respond to that BigM. ~ I hate to hear you are not faring well. ~

    There has been many years I did either. In fact, the first 55 were tough. But the truth is, in spite of the luck of the draw, much of it was my fault, I make poor choices, bad decisions,ran with the wrong crowd,listened to the wrong people (like dad), not thinking things completely through. My values and priorities needed adjustment.

    I had to get passed my raising, and that was really a tough thing to do. My biggest problem was that I didn’t believe that I had one. Everyone else had problems, but not me.

    I did finally graduate from the school of Hard Knocks. Holding a Masters Degree in Mistakes. But I choose to stay humble and remember the road I walked to get to where I’m at today. The roads less traveled and all the people I’ve met along the way. Many are dead, some crippled and can hardly get about, some are in prison. All my old buddies are gone,somewhere~ but I’ve found new ones and I still have girlfriends I met 30 years ago, some are with their 2nd and 3rd husband or single again. They are now the sisters I never had as you don’t back up with women, it’s always forward.

    I admit, I don’t have the fun I use to have ~ The women are not quite as firm and pretty but I have peace of mind, little money in the bank and I enjoy each day. I’ve learned to be happy with what I do have and learned to control myself at the thought level.

    I have the freedom to waste an hour, a day or week if I wish and can afford it. I’m not like wealthy people,that take off the month of December and not reappear until January 10th. But I wouldn’t want to.

    Explain your personal present struggle so we might know what it is that has you talking so. I’m not being treated like a rat ~ but more like a cash crop. I was treated like a rat in the Army, a maggot actually but so was my buddies so who am I? ~ Hell! I volunteered for the duty and it was one decisions I don’t regret. The experience taught me just how bad, bad could be. The experience just took 2 years but the understanding it took 30.

    That’s the way education seem to work, it takes a while to soak in for you to understand what you learned.

    Fight the fights you can win, spend time developing your attack, plan your strategic retreat with gains in mind.

    and find good counsel and don’t depend on good luck but bad luck

  • bob wire

    I enjoy these survivor shows but as far as teaching me anything, I can’t say that they do.

    But they do verify my belief in the need for people skills for success.

    I believe everyone needs to take 101 Human Relations ~

    I was amazed to learn, that the academic community knows why we do and think as we do. It’s not a mystery. There is only 5 reasons why anyone gets angry.

    Do you know what they are?

    The quality of your life depends on your people skills. The better grasp you have of these skills the higher quality of life you will have.

    We don’t have to know everything and be “everything” ~ you find these skills and answers in others. You only need to understand how to bring it out and use it. People like to feel useful and needed, see that they are and you have filled one of their needs as a human.

    Some will be smarter then you ~ but they will still have needs and they are less without you.

    • RabidAmerican

      bob wire
      OK, I’ll bite. What are the 5 reasons why anyone gets angry?

  • http://deleted Claire

    I was born with nothing and I will die with nothing. You can’t take it with you anyway. We never had air conditioning, running water, electricity when I was young. Poor as hell. I could survive without a doubt. Material things and the “comforts” of life are nothing if you don’t have your health and a strong outlook on life.

  • Adair Kaiser

    A new project is looking for families who are extremely prepared for disasters of all types to put their readiness to the test. We will send an expert to test just how ready you really are. The family chosen for the project will be paid and receive valuable information that just might save your life. We request a summary of your readiness.


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