Monday, July 27, 2015

ALONE Recap & Lessons Learned From Last Few Weeks

I haven't done any updates on the History channel's new survival series ALONE since just after the first episode when I posted this article (LINK-HERE). I thought now was a good time to update you on how the show has gone, new information we have found out, lessons learned and much more. So where do we stand at this point? After just under two weeks we are down to 4/10 participants.   Sorry this is going to be a bit of a long post as a ton of stuff has been covered since I last talked about the show.
So what have we learned about the items included in the safety kit provided by History to each participant? In watching the show after the last few weeks I have seen contestants use or talk about the following kit items: 1) Four Cameras weighing 45lbs in Pelican Weather Proof Case; 2) Trail camera; 3) IFAK with a Military Application Tourniquet (one person had the MAT affixed to a water bottle sling); 4) Satellite phone; 5) GPS tracking device; 6) Bear spray; 7) Signal flare gun; 8) Dry Bag; 9) life vest and 10) Head lamp (meant for changing camera batteries but several people have been using them for other purposes). I still can't believe that more people haven't been using that dry bag to collect more rain water or put to use as a bear bag to date.

Ready To Test Your Skills On ALONE? Try These Tools

Notes From Episode 2:
 Mitch made a textbook tarp raft with cordage a tarp and debris that worked out quite well for his move around the island (granted he had to make multiple trips to move his gear, safety gear and cameras). This was a much faster method than a burnt out log canoe or the other canoe made later on in the show but lacked in the ability to carry much of a load. This episode made me think about the possibility of adding a pack raft to a kit. This would provide you with a comfortable mattress, a dry bag (also used for filling the raft), a rapid shelter element and much more more. Granted its limited in its usefulness but a good nights sleep is hard to deny and many pack rafts are extremely comfortable to sleep in riverside. While I don't think I would go this route personally, especially since they were provided with a dry bag, but if I were I would my take down saw would most likely get bumped from the kit.

Lucus has a setup like I often use in the woods with a dual tripod shelter frame connected with a long stick between the two tripods. I then place an elevated bed between the two tripods with green bedding on top of that bed. One tripod becomes a three level water filter with a small table over the bed and the other becomes a camp chair. I'm not sure why he didn't go the elevated bed route in a rain forest, but to each his own. While this wouldn't be my quasi permanent shelter in predator country without a gun I too would likely go the same route he is planning and attempt to build a small cabin to quasi keep the predators at bay.
A few notes from Wayne's time on the beach: 1) When lighting shavings or feather sticks it is much easier to make a small pile of shavings (as thin as possible) then place your ferro rod into the shavings pile and scrape down into it instead of holding the ferro rod above and hoping it works out OK. 2) When taking water from a source try to leave the lid on your container and only take it off underwater to get less contaminants. If you have a t-shirt or cotton bandanna place it over your bottle opening, place the lid securely on top of that and then open bottle underwater using the cotton as a makeshift filter.

FINALLY! Someone starts taking advantage of being in a rain forest in a big way. Sam hollowed out a large log to act as a rain catchment device. I can't believe all of the others are not taking advantage of their tarps + pan or dry bag to make a rain catchment device. You can easily catch enough water for a full day from your tarp when it rains that much. My Hennessy Hammock setup with two catchment setups will easily fill two 12 oz water bottles in an overnight light rain. You add a much larger tarp and bigger container and your success can be exponentially improved. I just don't understand everyone's water problems, granted I'm not there but all is see is rain and in the woods there is moss everywhere! ring that moss out and you could have a massive water supply laying in the woods all around you, granted it's  not a sustainable source like a river or a spring but it is enough to get by with for awhile. Also every concave portion of every rock will likely be full of fresh water if things get really desperate.

The episode ends with Joe being unable to find his ferro rod on the beach. After he made his fire he set his ferro rod on his jacket then later put on his jacket forgetting about the ferro rod allowing it to fall off into a tidal area where the tide potentially took it. I can't really fault Joe for this as I lost my ferro rod last hunting/trapping season after a slide down a hill, fortunately I had a backup (well several backups) and I like to dress so I'm not fire dependent. Lesson learned- ALWAYS put your ferro rod back into its sheath and have a retention method. Now this isn't anything against Joe as the cordage to secure a ferro rod would have counted as another item, but he could have potentially made a retention strap after he made his initial camp.

Notes From Episode 3:
Alan- I was really impressed with Alan's mental attitude during this episode. He was talking about fitting into the flow of nature and and not trying to bend nature to your will. I think that is the perfect philosophy, as once you have learned from nature and how to coexist with nature then you have truly found a self-reliant way of life. He also has the most substantial natural shelter thus far (well it close between him and Lucus). I do like that he is thinking about making a full cooking camp where many of the others just seem to eat in camp or just make a fire for the cook camp. I think a lean-to to keep your fire wood covered and give you a little cover when raining is essential. Make a few utensils, set up a bear bag, dig a Dakota fire hole and your are golden! Those who are eating in camp, cooking in camp and sleeping in clothing they are eating in are just begging for a bear, cougar or wolf to turn them into a soft taco. He also seems to love his kelp and limpets, while I do like the few limpets I have tried on trips to the coast I haven't had a chance to try kelp, maybe I will get a chance at the Pathfinder coastal survival class next year.

Lucas-  has a plan to build a cabin with an interior fire place, Great idea for staying warm and keeping predators at bay. Then he decides to get into his own head and stop the build process just because he cant use the clay source he found to aid in making a fire. I just don't understand this at all, why not use rocks or just make the wood burner from wood and dirt.  As far as using this as a cooking medium I just don't see that being a good idea as a bear will tear apart any make shift shelter in a matter of minutes just to get at the smell of food. Without a firearm I just couldn't justify cooking where I eat, even with one it's not something I do very often.

Joe- I had high hopes for Joe from watching a few of his YouTube videos prior the show starting but was more than surprised when he tapped out at the loss of his ferro rod on the beach on day three. He said he had two options 1) go home or 2) go without fire. I just don't understand that rational, as he had fire when all of this happened. Why not keep that fire going as long as humanly possible, char some natural materials (and cotton if he is wearing any that he can spare), find some flint and if his fire goes out he would have the ability to create fire via flint and steel (using his blade assuming it was high carbon steel).  At a minimum he could have stayed until the fire went out and he couldn't get another fire started or until the fire went out and he ran out of clean water. I don't know if it was the mental wear and tear of the being in a new environment or what it was but it is what it is, he made the best decision for him and his family.
Wayne- I didn't see him get charged by the bear but saw what looked like he was out wondering around after dark and ran into a bear by mistake.He then say hey bear and backed away. When you have bear spray and multiple weapons why not get as big as possible and much louder to scare him away from your base of operations? He then gets back into his tarp shelter and taps out which starts the "dramatic rescue" footage by the safety crew.

Sam- Wasn't featured in this episode very much (I have a feeling because he will be around a good bit, much like Mitch, Alan and Lucus). Sam was the first to be featured doing any kind of tool maintenance so good for him! With all of the down time tool maintenance, firewood collection/processing, food collection, improving shelter and crafting tools show be about all you do.

Bryant- Believes he is drinking sea water or at a minimum brackish water. I'm not sure how you can't tell that there is salt in the water but I guess a lack of sleep and dehydration added together and crazier things have happened. Best thing to remember is if there is a possibility of the water being salty avoid it at all costs as it can cause greater dehydration, hallucinations and a wide variety sever medical conditions.

Notes From Episode 4 - 6 Men Remain:
So a few people stole their wife's 2 quart pots to take onto the show. While I understand a pot is a pot for the most part, but I personally would prefer my 2 qt. Pathfinder bush pot for long-term self-reliance as it is 100% stainless steel construction, has additional features that would prove beneficial for long-term survival. To each their own, but if I'm volunteering to go into the wilderness and live long-term then its going to be with gear I know I can trust.
Mitch-  Finally someone started using a gill net! Mitch places his net out in a nearby potential salmon stream in an attempt to secure salmon, fish and crab. After less than a 12 hour soak his net yields a large salmon (5lbs+) but this catch came at an in opportune time as it was the middle of the night. This is where the first headlamp was introduced into the show (I have since learned that these were provided as part of the "safety/camera kit" and were to be used for changing camera batteries). I understand that he has to check his nets at low tide but wouldn't 12 hours from then during daylight hours be a better time to check whenever predators are less active. So first the high notes from this whole catching fish portion of the show: 1) you caught a big fish that can provide meat for several days; 2) you made one very nice fish cooker; 3) you were the first to have a substantial meal. Now for the not so great points from all of this fish catching footage: 1) you collected your net and said i care about the fish not the net..... take care of your gear and it will take care of you with more and more fish; 2) SEPARATE COOKING CAMP! Don't start cooking in your sleeping camp and then wonder why you see a cougar coming in on you. That 200lbs woods ninja will tear you limb from limb and make you dinner faster than you can blink. I mean I would advocate wearing different clothing than what you sleep in even. Sleeping with a flare gun and knife is good but why not have a spear, you're several days in why not make one by now.

Mitch's fire craft- he said he has made over 100 strikes for fires over the last five days and its taking anywhere from 10-20+ strikes per fire so his Coughlins ferro rod is showing considerable wear. When I saw he brought that tiny Coughlins ferro rod I was completely shocked! When you can choose any ferro rod on the market for long-term self reliance then why would you not choose the largest ferro rod with a reasonably high magnesium content? I wouldn't think of going into a long-term self-reliance situation without a 6"x1/2" ferro rod, but like I've said a few times above to each their own and go with what you trust and have experience with and trust in. I was glad to see someone finally charred some natural materials (using the fishing kit container as a charring container is a great addition to the kit). Having charred material in such a wet environment should make fire craft 1000x easier even with very marginal tinder material! Good job Mitch, I'm glad someone finally decided to char something!
Dustin- Seems to be in love with the taste of bull kelp like everyone else. I personally haven't had a chance to try any before as I'm not in a coastal region but it seems to be quasi appetizing. He describes it as having the consistency of celery, skin like a carrot and eat it basically tastes like crunchy sea water. It is apparently low in calories but high in calcium. So what else is going on with him? 5 days in and still no fire? He has a whole beach full of drift wood that is prime shelter and fire material I just don't understand why everyone is still under a trap with only a few having a fire at this point, it literally shocks me.
Bryant- Is having severe stomach cramps and thinks he is dehydrated/drank salt water which is causing hallucinations. He has been drinking brackish water (salt/fresh mix) and is the only participant thus far to have a medical issue. He calls for a medic and is evacuated . Admits that he is more of an E&E survival expert from his time in the military, says he has survived everywhere but there is no surviving here much less thriving. Also says he is not a bushcrafter, which is what one needs to be to thrive here! This takes the competition down to 5 at this point.I found it interesting that he believes a bushcrafter/woodcrafter is what is needed to thrive here as he is 100% correct! Anyone that wants to thrive long-term in a woodland environment must have a woodcrafter mentality and must be able to work with the environment and not fight it as a survivalist would.
It was revealed tonight that there was a deadly cougar attack on a human just two weeks before the show started shooting. With this at the top of my mind I would darn sure be making a spear the second I got off on my own. Predators are no joke and if you don't respect them then you're a fool and most likely lunch!

Allan- At this point he has one of the better shelters on the show and is in one of the best daily routines I have seen (scavenge, firewood,food, improve shelter, purify water, sleep then repeat). He is also beginning to win me over with his wilderness philosophy, he has alot of good points and I really liked his statement that if you spend a lot of time in the woods you better like yourself. I also liked his phrase "Don’t fight nature become part of it!"

Lucas- He found a huge haul of mushrooms and it reminds me I really need to work on learning mushrooms a little better I have been putting that off for years just because I don’t generally like their taste, but as you can see here they can become a major advantage if you know how to incorporate them into your diet. If you're planning on learning mushrooms as well then I highly recommend you don't just use a book and consult an expert as these wild edibles can be some of the most deadly in nature.

Notes From Episode 5:
Mitch- I really don't understand zipping up your MSS when you're worried about a potential cougar attack. If you have a cougar stalking your camp for the fish you just cooked wouldn't you want to be able to fight in a rapid manner instead of being a soft taco? Granted the fire will keep the cougar at bay for the most part but if it dies down he will surely get a little more adventurous. I don't know if I just have a different view of predators or what it is but I guess I prefer to go out with a fight and if I'm taken out I want it to be fighting to the death and not in my sleep.

Dustin-  Seeing lots of good opportunities on the beach where he is located. Tons of driftwood and rope washing up on shore, resources galore on the beach this just shows how much you can get by using a possum mentality and collecting every possible resource that presents it's self to you. The pallet could be an amazing raised bed, shelter wall and much more, so many possibilities in that item. He did have a fairly decent rear wall to his shelter built, but it seems like after he got three walls around him he just gave up on improving his shelter. He then decides to tap out after a rain storm due to cracking and breaking branches. Why not move into a more open area instead of tapping out?
Allan- This guy is my new favorite to win the entire competition. He has the mental attitude to succeed and obviously has not only the skill set but also is in a groove that is successful! I have to say he is one of the best at keeping up with firewood, especially before a pending storm. He is also adjusting his schedule to the availability of food and goes out whenever there is a low tide so he can continue his hunter/gather lifestyle. 
Sam- Seemed very caught off guard by the storm and didn't have much in the way of preparedness for any adverse weather. He along with Alan and Mitch were the ones I pegged to win from the beginning but he seems like he isn't doing much to improve his situation. I have a feeling that this may be editing at its finest as he has less air time than most (probably because he is going to be around awhile) and most of his day-to-day stuff is mundane. Great job with the crabs! This was his first big food effort and he was able to score 33 small crabs, that is one heck of a seafood boil! He does suffer a bit of a mental breakdown at the end of the episode, which everyone can have, but how one can push through it is all that matters and what we see from him next episode could determine his future on the show. Will he let emotions get the best of him or will he be able to push through it.

Lucas- The more I see of Lucus the more I believe in him and the more I shake my head. He reminds me of several of my hippy friends who love the woods and I see their strengths and weaknesses in him. If he is like them, emotions may get the best of him. So with that said he has a ton of firewood, one of the best camps (I may be a little bias as its a good bit like my trapper shack each year). He undertakes lots of projects and that could be a major downfall if a lack of success gets him down on himself. The canoe is a great concept (I'm still feeling that a pack raft might be a great idea) and a huge undertaking, I hope it works great for him. After seeing his finished product and his paddle I absolutely want to try to make a raft in this manner and test it! His complaints about tracking are valid, but I have been in several commercial rafts and canoes that tracked worse than his DIY boat, you just have to power through the current sometime and get a feel for your stroke as you paddle on each side. I believe he has the best woodcraft skills of all the contestants on the show as his shelter, camp setup, tools built, boat, natural splitting wedge and much more show his ability to use nature to effect his survivability. His skill set can pull him through this competition for sure!

*** Just a few notes on shelter we are up to 11 days into this adventure at this point and I didn't see a fire reflector in any camp and was extremely surprised by the lack of progression on each of the shelters. Each of the remaining four has had a breakdown and a healthy cry at some point and most have rebounded quite well after their emotional issues.

Notes On Episode 6:

We have skipped upto day 15 and it has rained 13/15 days (odd in WV it has rained 13/15 days as well- granted the amount may be a bit different). The island also experienced 220 days of rain in 2014. 

Alan- He is still upbeat and entertaining himself with Edger Allen Poe poems and has become a general wilderness philosopher. In doing his scouting runs he found a place for a cooking camp and also setup his gill net for the first time. He made a nice little lean-to for his cooking camp (exactly what was needed- nice and tall with an awning – great job!) and I have to say it is essentially what I would have made. I may have incorporated a tripod water filter and a small table off that filter but aside from that we are on the same page. His soup spoon has a nice hanging hole, I've never made one like that but man that's a great idea and I'm going to have to try that next time! He struck out with his gill net first day, on day two he gets a crab and a fish. This is the first mistake I have seen him make ripping his gill net in his haste to remove the crab and fish. Treat your equipment well and it will take care of you! Then I hear I'm going to use sea water to make this seafood stew.... I then start shaking my head, why make stew if you are going to use water that you cant drink up all those nutrients that are being cooked into the water? I was extremely happy to see him cover his track with the shell fish by throwing them back into the water. Great job to keep the predators at bay. The storm seems to give him focus as he is singing and talking to himself... he comes with another one liner that is great! "Something is wrong when all you do all day is look at a screen and push a button. Life needs balance."

Lucus- His canoe is going strong and he found a clam beach. He is out scouting for resources which has been one of the most proactive things I have seen so far in this show. He ends up digging for clams and does a great job finding 10-15 lbs of shell fish. As soon as I saw this part of the episode all I could think was I hope he does his due diligence before eating as I love shell fish and I know how sick bad shellfish can make you. 

Then I hear him saying he is cold out on the water, yet see him wearing about six layers of clothing.... I would be having a heat stroke, but I have to say he did a decent job of layering. He keeps saying he can't make the current as its just too strong, power down deep and paddle through it! That may be the swift water rescue technician in me but that's the mindset I usually bring to paddling. He got the boat to shore in quasi the right area so that is a victory. Why oh why does everyone but Alan seem to be cooking in camp?  I did notice he is the only one who has an elevated wood drying station over his fire area- GREAT JOB! Then to close the show he is having some severe GI issues due to his shellfish ingestion. I was worried about it from the beginning as I have seen shellfish take a ton of people out of good health, the shellfish and mushrooms are two of the most likely means of taking you out and he tried them both. Risk vs. reward but remember rely on all of your skills when dealing with those two items and make sure that you are 100% sure about everything before you eat. First person so far to take advantage of wood ash for taking a bath washing clothing- great job.

Mitch- He has mold all over everything. I think its time to take a day just to make some strong wood ash water and soak your clothing and gear then wash them in the creek and then smoke dry them over the fire to help with sanitation. Mold is nasty stuff, you have to kill it and kill it quick or else you can get some really bad skin issues along with nasty respiratory infections. 
Sam- Impressive is all I can say Sam! You just straight up channeled your inner Jeremiah Johnson and caught a great looking salmon with your bear hands. Not many people out there are able to catch a fish like that, let alone that big of a fish. Great skills man!

***During that rain storm three of the camps viably had three different tarps.... how in the heck do they have 3 tarps when most of them didn't even take two? I guess there was a tarp in the safety kit as well or something. At the end of this episode we are up to day 22! Not much has changed when looking at their camps but we are down to four strong competitors and I wonder how much longer they will each hold out, I'm betting one will tap out after the storm at some point. 
A Few More Self-Reliance Tools To Test Your Skills With:

This show is polarizing in nature much like other survival shows. I have had very high hopes for this show from the beginning as it had several familiar faces on the show and is self filmed much like the Survivor Man series I have so much respect for as it adds one more element to survival and takes away that crutch of human interaction out of the picture. My thoughts were this would be a relatively drama free show as everyone does their own filming and thus can cut out the drama, but editing post filming can blow flame to any dramatic flame. I have been a little disappointed that there isn't more thriving in general 22 days into the show. While many have settled into a groove, very few have made significant improvements in their station in life and at this point it becomes harder and harder with each passing day to make those improvements as you loose energy the longer you are out there until your body adjusts to its new diet and you find a means to supplement it with the needed nutrients. Overall I still love the show and believe there is a ton you can learn from survival TV if you know what to look for and take it as a means of self evaluation instead of self teaching. If you see someone else struggling with a skill set are you confident that your bag of tricks is better suited than theirs. My self reflection via watching this show has led me to believe I need to practice with my wild edibles a little more, specifically mushrooms. I also have been slacking on my practice making watercraft, I have had plans to make a burnt out canoe for over a year but have yet to fall a tree and try this skill out. Maybe this will be the motivation I need to practice these skills that I have had on the back burner and if that is the case then this show has done more good for me than anyone could imagine.

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