alone tv series
Alone is a wilderness survival competition on the History channel. It’s one of my favorite series ever. I recently watched season 8.
Ten contestants are dropped in mid-September in intense wilderness locations. They carry very few resources and try to make it as long as possible. The winners end up staying 60+ days.
I take notes when I watch the show because the contestants have a ton of bushcraft skill. Without spoiling anything I wanted to share 3 short notes from season 8.
Thermal insulation. Heat comes from fat on your body and fire wood. Both of those heat sources are better conserved if you have a great shelter.
I really like pit shelters because of their efficiency at retaining heat. Digging down next to a mound or a large tree puts earth walls around you. Loose soil is an opportunity. It is difficult to dig and relocate large rocks and logs. Additional insulation and protection from wind and predators makes for a better place to rest.
The conflict is that it’s easier to move dirt before you put up walls, architecturally and because the soil is warmer, but you don’t necessarily need the depth until winter. You don’t see many contestants dig because they prefer to focus on gathering. If you’re successful at accumulating food, you can leverage that energy to improve your shelter later when the weather gets colder; but probably not by digging inside.
The shore line is sketchy. In Alone each contestant has a stretch of lake-front. Everybody tries to fish, and for good reason: fat. Standing with a line out or leaving a net in the water isn’t terribly hard work. But you still have to make fishing equipment and attend to it regularly.
A freezing cold lake isn’t a good place to be. Predators patrol the shores. In season 8 local hunting restrictions forbid hunting bears. There wasn’t any upside to bumping into them except the thrill of it. Weather and waves beat up nets and traps, made it impossible to cast a line out, and made the ground slippery.
Clever and persistent efforts under-delivered. One guy built a boat, one built a pier, and another guy built a pulley system for retrieving his gill net. One key thing is if you do get a fish on you really need to land it. Losing a fish in the last couple feet before you have it in-hand is brutal. I would make a landing net or a stick with a spike on it, i.e. a gaff, before going out. But I would be reluctant to invest in fishing.
Trails before camp sites. When you on-sighta wilderness area there are a lot of unknowns that make it difficult to choose a camp site quickly. It takes adventuring around to learn how resources in the area are spread out.
You can figure out sun light and wind within a day or two. You want sun light to warm up your shelter as much as possible while exposing little surface area to prevailing winds. It takes several days to find creek beds and watering holes, and then more days or weeks to acquire knowledge of animal patterns.
In early fall it’s reasonable to expect to use more than one location for camp. But you want to avoid putting time and energy into gathering materials and construction if a site will not be your primary spot. If there isn’t an immediate favorite spot to establish camp, I would focus on developing a trail system and gather resources along the trail.
When it gets cold and snow accumulates and your body fat is low, leaving your warm shelter is not appealing. That is especially true if you have a long walk and you don’t know what hazards are burried under the snow. I would make it an early focus to establish trails that are comfortable to walk and that are promising for hunting and trapping.
The longest anyone has stayed is 100 days.
To “on-sight” a hunt or rock-climbing route means to go do it without having seen the location before.
Having your fireplace and chimney close to your sleeping spot is necessary but risky. For smoke ventilation, it should be on the downwind side of the shelter, but adjustments can be made to walls and the roof to change air flow if night time winds are tricky.
The caveat is predators might pattern your movement. Your trail might get stalked. Smaller predators might follow your trap line and steal snared game.