Friday, June 19, 2015

History Channel's ALONE- Season 1 Episode 1 Thoughts and Review

The History Channel's series premier of Alone was last night and I thought I would do a post about my thoughts on the series, provide you with a link where you can watch it online and maybe talk about the items I would have picked to take with me if I did the trip. This is going to be a no judgment zone, I will provide some lessons learned but please bear in mind that until you are put into that specific situation you will never know how you will react.This is a little bit of a long article but this episode had alot going on and going over my personal gear selection takes a good bit of time to dig into. If you missed the show you can watch it online for free here (Link). ***Going Forward there will be a few spoilers so reader beware!
So lets set the background of the show for those of you who may have missed the show. Ten "Survival & Outdoor Experts" from across the United States and Canada were interviewed and selected to take part in a contest where the last remaining survivor would win $500,000.00 USD. Each participant would be able to select a ten piece kit from a list of items provided by the network and they would be dropped off a few miles from each other on Vancouver Island (For those of you pulling out your maps it is just north of Washington State in Canada). Vancouver Island is essentially a predator dense rain forest. The island sports the highest amount of Cougar attacks on humans even with a very low human population (the population of cougars is quite dense for the square mileage as there are over 1000 on the island). In addition to cougars there is a healthy bear and wolf population (don't think timber wolf think more along the lines of coyote size and aggressiveness).

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So lets start off with their kit as gathered from the History channel bio of each individual here is what the participants were allowed to carry and how many actually did in parentheses:
1. Axe (10/10)
2. Sleeping Bag (all10/0)
3. 2 Qt Pot (10/10)
4. Ferro Rod (10/10)
5. 25 piece Fishing Kit with Line (10/10)
6. Knife (9/10...Josh Chevez elected not to take a knife and was the first to leave- no correlation)
7. 12x12 Tarp (6/10)
8. Saw (6/10)
9. Paracord (5/10)
10. Bow & 6 Arrows (4/10)
11. Gill Net (4/10)
12. Emergency Rations (3/10)
13. Canteen/Waterbottle (3/10)
14. Leathermen Multi-tool (2/10)
15. Bivy Bag (2/10)
16. Sling Shot (2/10)
17. Sharpening Stone (2/10)
18. Wire (1/10)
19. Extra Tarp (1/10)
*Each participant was also allowed to choose their own clothing!*

So from the list above what would I pick to take and why? 
1)  Axe- Full Size Axe:  This is a boreal forest in part from what I can see on the show which means a ton of evergreen trees. I would want to put those trees to work for a long-term shelter location, food supply (inner bark bacon, pine nuts, needle tea) and bedding (plan would be to get 10" of insulation in a debris bed of pine). A large felling axe would allow me to accomplish this task in an efficient manner. 
2) 24" + Take down Saw: In a rain forest where the weather isn't tropical and you are not the alpha predator fire is going to be a prime issue.... this tool will allow you to rapidly process a great deal of firewood and logs for your shelter in a rapid manner.
3) Knife- BHK PLSK1: I'm a creature of habit, I use my PLSK1 for nearly every camp task when it is on my hip during the various hunting and trapping seasons so I would in a sense feel naked without it... I could sacrifice this for item for a bow or emergency rations to ensure I have the energy to get my shelter up in a rapid manner but the gill net is my go to for that along with the pine inner bark and looking for shellfish along the beach at low tide.
4) Ferro Rod- 1/2" x 6" Rod:Best ferro rods I own come from I would ideally like to have my bhk short trail with its ferro rod as a backup but such is life that the rules wont let my old friend come along.
5) 2 Qt. Pot (Pathfinder Bushpot): Boiling and cooking in a bomb proof metal container not much more to say here. This would be the primary mean of purifying water for drinking and cooking.
6) Canteen/Waterbottle: While I would normally carry the pathfinder bottle here I would have to take the Pathfinder Canteen just because of the additional capacity or the largest Kleen Canteen which ever had the largest water capacity. Why do I want this in addition to the bushpot? After my base camp is in place I don't plant to be in camp all day. I would be collecting water, looking for food, checking water based traps, fishing, scavenging the beach for usable trash, and of course collecting and processing firewood and more firewood and more firewood..... and even more fire wood (Be sure to check out my article Campfire vs. Survival Fire vs. Cooking Fire to see the struggle for fire wood- LINK HERE). If you read that article take a look at the pile of wood. I ended up with one of those piles on each side of the fire plus a smaller pile by my sleeping area to make it easier to feed the fire. To contract the fire wood needs I would eventually like to build either a clay or rock "wood stove" or a large Dakota fire pit with a log roller feeding it for an all night efficient fire.
7) Paracord- Would prefer a roll of #36 bank line if allowed: This would be a great help when setting my initial shelter and cordage can be used for traps and other camp tasks as needed. Both types of cordage can be taken down to smaller parts but bankline would last longer for building traps, nets and shelters.
8) 12'x12' Tarp- Would prefer Oil Skin If Allowed: This is the initial shelter for the first couple nights until a trapper shack is built. After that it can be used as a container for collecting firewood, a makeshift pack and much more.
9) 25 piece Fishing Kit with Line: Its an island.... of course a fishing kit will be in my gear. I would like to hedge my bets on finding some along the beach of the island but when you do that you make fishing a much more difficult task.
10) Gill Net: This would hopefully be my bread and butter for calories. These things work slick and are a passive means by which to gather fish. I would pair this with a few fish traps (hope to catch a few crab or lobster) as time goes on and I have time to add them.
11) Clothing: You will notice I would be in the vast minority as I would have been the only person not to select a sleeping bag. If you have followed this blog much you probably will notice that I usually go very light on shelter even in the winter in favor of dressing for the weather. I would personally select the following clothing to take/wear- Lester River Bushcraft Boreal Jacket, wool top and bottom base layer, wicking dry gear boxers, wicking dry gear t-shirt, four season fleece pants (you will see them in about every winter or hunting post I have done), Muk Boots, heat gear socks, and two layers of wool socks, wool cap, gloves and work gloves, shemagh and a few cotton squares for hygine if allowed. Outer layer would be the PSS Poncho (I need to get one of these things to show you guys the versatility, it is a poncho, tarp, camp chair and hammock all in one) as it is the most multi-functional outer layer I could think of. If this wouldn't be allowed I would go with a canvas anorak. The grey wool pullover and the lester river bushcraft in the video below are two of the clothing items I would take without fail!
Survival Notes From the Show:
-Camp Placement: Generally camp off of game trails and away from the know habitat of predators. Several individuals camped right on top of game trails and by a bear den. Granted this is a predator dense area so this may not be entirely possible but if you have to make camp here make sure you have a fire 24/7 and preferably a substantial log structure.
-Fatwood Use: I'm not sure who was using the fatwood to make a fire but just a few notes on using fatwood (See one of my posts here-LINK). 1) Chunks are hard to get to light when its marginal fat wood, 2) Feather sticking or a wrist pile of shavings are the 2nd best bet for lighting a fire, 3) Whenever the fatwood is really marginal make tinder dust by using the 90 degree spine of your knife, when doing this I like to make a pile about the size of my thumb and use it in conjunction with the shavings.
-Water Procurement: For long-term survival this is always my #1 priority and some got lucky and have a fresh water spring in their shelters back yard while others have access to what they think may be sea water. 
-Predators: Fire, Fire, Fire....... Get it and keep it with a torch or two made and at the ready when needed in the middle of the night. I've seen several people bad mouthing Josh from OH about bailing on the second day of the competition. First let me say until you have been woken up by a predator don't judge! I have been woke up by bears (they usually run off with a little noise) and Coyotes and the coyotes were by far one of the scariest ways to wake up from a dead sleep. It was the first week of Muzzle loader season in WV and I was tarp camping waiting for a little before daybreak to reach my hunting grounds. About three hours before daybreak I woke up to a deer snorting about three hills over and then the yotes start singing their song of the night...... and then the deer runs by camp and I hear around 3 yotes in tow. I couldn't get to my 45 acp fast enough! Granted when I placed my weapon light on the two closest coyotes they ran in the opposite direction it was still a close call and I can sympathize with that feeling that comes over you when something comes at you in the dark. If you haven't experienced this type of encounter before you don't know how you will react. I was able to get back to sleep for a couple hours but that experience has changed my side arm placement while I sleep in the woods!

The History Channel, in my opinion hit a home run with Alone. While it isn't the "Greatest Survival Attempt in history" as stated in some of their advertisements it is one of the most aggressive formats in the survival genre because in theory this show could go on for months of years. I look forward to seeing how these individuals handle the new environment and being in predator country without a firearm (I would have separation anxiety from my handgun), several of them have YouTube channels and Facebook profiles (check my friends list and you should find about half of the participants) so be sure to check them out. I look forward to hearing what items you would take with you and your thoughts on the show in general!
Have something outdoor/bushcraft/trapping/preparedness/hiking/camping/fishing/hunting related you want me to make a post about? Leave me a comment and I will see what I can do! As always feel free to leave your questions and comment below! Also if you enjoy the blog please vote for us on the following websites to help us reach a wider audience:
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  1. I noticed none of the contestants are from the Pacific Northwest. Out here we call what they are doing as "Camping". Show cracked me up.....

    1. The Coast Satish people have survived and thrived here for thousands of years with the highest standard of living in North america!

    2. I wish this blog had a 'like' button. :) I'm from the North Island. Living in the UK now, it always makes my laugh my off when I see how much people build up this expectation that they will be stalked by wild predators the moment they step into the Canadian woods (yes, this is a direct jab at Bear Grylls - ManVSwild Ep1 12mins - when he decides to run away from his camp in the middle of the night because he thinks he MIGHT have heard a bear outside - lmao). It's like going to Africa and assuming the lions are waiting for you when you get off the plane... media-fed paranoia - hah.

  2. when i lived in Colorado a friend and i went camping we had the company of a a bear think god we sleep in trees... the bear did not see us... i now sleep tied up in the canape of a tree in the wilderness i know i cant always do it but its ok... i do have one thing.. I'm confused by some of the gear. isn't it that idea of survival? you may not always have half of it then what?

  3. did anybody notice they screwed up tonight? they are supposed to be alone filming themselves but tonight the cameraman talked to the guy who built the canoe

    1. Apparently they got checked weekly to make sure they were physically ok

    2. They were interviewed apparently after the show ended. Remember, the show started late fall/early winter and I'm sure besides the specials talking to the last survivors as well as those who tapped out, and the hundreds of hours of taped footage that had to be edited before the show aired, took at least a month or two to put together.

  4. We're truly enjoying the show. The last four survivalists are really interesting in how they're handling the solitude. I presume they'll tell the last one standing he's the winner. Anyone know what the plan for that is?