Saturday, July 11, 2020

Lessons Learned: Alone TV Show

In our Lessons Learned series, we learn to expect the unexpected, to be self reliant, to depend on ourselves, and more importantly, to learn from the mistakes of others.

History Channel's Alone survival show is the best on TV, with the winner getting $500,000 by outlasting the other nine Survivalist.  Each competitor gets to carry 10 things in their back pack.  Below are links to to what each survivalists carried, what the winners carried, and a Plan to survive as long as possible.  From this show, we see that despite Homo Sapiens (Humans) rising to the top of the food chain through our intelligence & technology, we have clearly lost the ability to survive alone for very long in the wilderness.  But there are some things we learn that help us survive longer.

  1. A Bow & Arrows has been a top source of food, especially when including the 500 to 600 lbs of moose that won the game for Jordan in Season 6, and the 800 lb musk ox in Season 7 (Roland).  This would make a Bow & Arrows, and the skill to use it, essential.  If you don't have the skill to use it, don't bring it. More importantly having it with you at all times is key.  In season 7, Kielyn has a moose walk within 20 yards, but didn't have her bow; bagging a moose would likely mean winning $1,000,000, making this the most expensive mistake.
  2. With the tremendous amount of fish harvested using a Gill Net, it is clearly a serious mistake not carrying one, especially so for those not skilled with a Bow. In fact, some build gill nets from Para Cord, so also carrying Para Cord and making a second Gill Net to set in a different area to increase the harvest and reduce the risk of over harvesting one area, might be prudent.  Some Survival Fishing knowledge is also helpful.
  3. Snare wire, along with the experience to use them is an obvious plus for an contestant. It is also often used for binding things
  4. Shelter design and more importantly the camp location has proven to be an important factor in many cases.  Spending a lot of time and calories building a shelter to only move it later due to wind, water run off, or poor fishing is a mistake that the winners have avoided. This suggest establishing a temporary shelter for a few days to allow exploring to find the best camp site, before investing a lot of time & energy in to building a longer term shelter.  That leads us to shelter design.
  5. I can't think of a single case where the shelter design was a key reason for winning the competition.  There are cases where it may have been a factor in losing, such as catching on fire, flooding with water or collapsing.  This might suggest a minimalist shelter, possibly even a Nomadic Strategy, to avoid rapidly depleting the area food supply, which seems to always happen. 
  6. Not having a Ferro Rod, or loosing it, has been cause for Tapping Out, because Fire is critical for cooking, treating water, staying warm, having light, and security by deterring animals. Even if you are good a friction fire, having a Ferro Rod is highly recommended.  Bottom line is you only get 10 tools so don't loose them. 
  7. Knowledge of the regional edible wild plants is a huge plus for nutrition and diversity of diet. Eating the same foods over and over is likely to cause digestive issues. Knowing plants that can be dried and preserved for future consumption is especially helpful.  
  8. Don’t spend any more time & calories videoing than necessary.  I'm sure there are rules that must be followed, but just do the minimum.
  9. Don’t use up all your arrows before your big opportunity arises, and make a few more when possible.  Season 7, episode 6, Roland had to jump on a standing wounded musk ox to finish him off, because he was out of arrows.
  10. Avoid wasting time & calories on building boats; every contestant that has tried, failed to harvest any food from their boat, and one fell in and had to tap out.  Making floats with baited hooks suspended, that float out to deep water has more potential with less effort. 
  11. Storing your food cache up on a platform, nor suspended with a string, is not effective against bears, nor wolverines.  Everyone that has tried, lost their food during the night.  Instead, keep it up high within sight of your Shelter as bait, and use a trip wire & / or cans, stick, anything that will make noise to alert you when predators are present, and shoot them for food.
  12. Before the snow, gill nets delivered 7.8 lbs of meat per day total on Season 7 and snare traps were generating about 1.5 lbs of meat per day total, with 10 contestants.  After the snow, gill nets dropped to zero per day and snare traps jumped to 12 lbs per day with only 6 contestants left.  Why? A blanket of snow makes it much easier to see animal tracks and good places to set your snare traps.  Lesson:  Focus on Gill nets before the snow, and Snare traps after the snow covers the ground, but also other methods for diversity of diet. 
  13. Once the water froze over so contestants could Ice Fish, fishing once again became a good source of food, as it allowed them to reach untapped areas.  Because of the need for fat, this was especially important, where as snare traps caught mostly rabbits which do not have enough fat to be sustainable.
  14. With the ground being covered by fresh snow, easily tracking animals can increase your hunting chances as well as your ability to Snare Trap.  So after each fresh snow, begin by circling your camp in larger and larger concentric rings to pick up tracks in the snow.
  15. When ICE Fishing, try more than one hole as fish are territorial and productivity may decline after catching a few.  Also different fishing spots, may be more productive than others.  Using tools like "Tip Ups" or some type of spring tension (tree limb) will help. 
  16. In the Season 7 Arctic, the cold became a problem, so having warm cloths and footing can be critical, along building up sufficient firewood & food supplies before you get snowed in for several days. 
  17. Season 8, food availability was extremely challenging, demonstrating the need to bring only 8 or 9 items and 5 or 10 pounds of food.  This would be more than any contestant harvested for over 3 weeks and more than many harvested their entire time on this show.
  18. Wear a belt with multiple buckle holes, like Rose wore in Season 8, so that you can continue to tighten up your belt as you loose weight.  
  19. Eating Charcoal off a burned stick for possible toxic foods or stomach problems can help absorb them, like Michelle did in Season 8.
  20. Roasting fish bones on a fire and eating them was a unique idea that Matt did in Season 8.
  21. Make tools like Biko did in season 8 when he found a large nail and forged a knife. 
  22. When constructing your shelter and using a tarp roof, design it to also catch fresh water and drain it into a corner or container. 
  23. When berries are plentiful, harvest them, and cook them down to make fruit leather which will extend the shelf life for several months. 
  24. In Season 9, we see that with limited food to consume, stomach acid can build up and cause problems.  Consuming charcoal periodically can help absorb this and possibly prevent more severe stomach problems.
  25. In Season 9, Juan Pablo sees fish activity in deep water that he cannot reach.  He builds a Pier that extends out into the river and immediately begins catching fish when no other are catching anything.  Fish move to deeper water in cold weather so gaining access to deep water may be an important consideration. 
  26. After not eating for an extended period, it may be hard to resume eating or to not over eat.  Consuming small amounts over time is likely a better approach to either scenario. 
  27. One contestant, 40+ days in to the event finds another major body of water with beaver and potentially fish.  He should have explored his surroundings better, to fully know what resources were available to him.  Using concentric rings, or loop routes should be considered. 
  28. After throwing up, consuming fluids should be done in small sips over time as opposed to immediately tanking up.  
  29. Episode 10, Cade looses his arrow quill while hiking, and all his arrows with it.  In hindsight, he should have divided his arrows and saved a few back at camp. 

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  1. the bow is quite inferior to a slingbwo, with take down arrows for big game and treed porcupines and baked clay balls for small game. The gillnet and paracord are wasted picks. instead, take a 2 person rope hammock, $60 from Amazonon. It will let you make 6x as much cordage and netting as those two items and save you one pick. They are not allowed to have barbed hooks on Great slave lake, but they COULD cut big hooks in half, reforge the ends, and bind the resulting 48 hooks into 16 treblehooks, using the fishline. Put your line thru all 3 of the "eyes". Then the hooks can serve as trotlnes. Barbless single hooks are worthless as trotlines. the treblehooks, snares (8-strand wire cables to drag logs) and spring pole kill traps, all baited, will serve to protect your food cache. Keep the cache within 10m of your shelter. Then the animal noises will awaken you and you can go arrow whatever is trying to steal your food. ]]]

    With a low temp sleeping bag and a decent shelter, you have no need of a warming fire. A single thickness tarp shelter will fuffice for at least a month. Then make some wooden molds and use them to make frozen mud blocks to lay upon a pole A frame, fill the cracks with more frozen mud, and stuff the 9x5x5 ft shelter with dry debris.

    You can make 2400 sq ft of 3" mesh netting out of the rope hammock in 8 days. Every day, put the previous day's net production into the water. After you've caught all of the big fish in your area, overlap and offset the segments of netting, stitch thru them every other mesh, transforming the mesh size to 1.5"

    Make a pontoon outrigger raft in a day. It's vital, and easily done. Nearly all of this work can be done by firelight,so dont waste precious daylight doing so

  2. the plant food sources are gone by the time you get there. Try to swiftly make net weir for watefowl, YOu'll have 1-2 weeks in which to bait them into such a trap, using pieces of fish and shredded, boiled, then roasted cambium as bait.

    If you need a ferrorod to reliably get fire, you dont belong on this show. There's 5 easy ways to get fire, and no, I dont mean a bow drill as ANY of them, either. bury your coals in your ashes and you can keep a fire alive for 12+ hours. So you will need to start vERY few fires "from scratch" if you know anything at all. Snare BIG game via 8 strand wire cables to foot snares and 150 lbs of drag logs. Set springpole kill traps for big animals, baited with salted cambium and getting their heads right where a stake can be driven into the back of their skulls or spine, by using narrow 'vs" of brushpiles, staked to the ground so that the animals cant move them. Set baited treblehooks along your big game trapline, so as to remove predators. Ditto set snares for small game, and netting wrapped wooden frame "boxtraps" for birds and rabbits. Make a tarp and tape vine-basket 'bucket", half full of water, with baited ramps and roller logs across the top of the bucket to trap mice. make a net "ladder trap" for small birds. Use live mice or birds to bait springpole/net traps for raptors. I think that Rowland had other arrows at camp, but was too lazy to carry them, or to trot the 10 minutes back to camp to get more. In any case, he could have had some cordage with him, made a bola out of rocks and the cordage, entangled the ox's legs, and used his spear to finish it off. Simply tie the knife to a pole that he batoned the knife to cut down. That asshole made that animal suffer for 5 hours! He should have been kicked off the show for that! He wasted all of his time and calories on that stupid rock shelter, which just sucked all the heat out of his fire, and then couldn't make a proper stalk. So he shot the ox in the ass, like the jerk that he IS. If your shelter needs a warming fire, even at -30F, with a heavy duty sleeping bag,your shelter SUCKS, dude. They can make 1 ft square wooden molds, 2 per hour, and use them to make frozen mud/grass building blocks. if they cant dig anywhere in their area. Stuff the 9x5x5 A frame pole and mud-block set up with debris. A foot thick layer of compressed dry grass around you, along with a real-deal -40F sleeping bag and you're going to be fine, as long as you've gathered 200,000 calories in the first 50 days. You can just hole up and wait it out.

  3. no, ice fishing was not a good source of food, cause they only had barbless hooks. That's why they didnt make tipups. Barbless hooks are worthless as trotlines They caught very few fish thru the ice. Not enough to make up for the calories that the dummmies LOST by not having a chunk of the 20x20 tarp and their sleeping bags around them as they waited for a bite. I'd have made 16 treblehooks, set them as tip ups and had my shelter right there on the ice, if I lacked the 200,000 calories needed to win. I'd have a rectangular net pen under the ice, thru slits in the ice, Cover the holes and slits with boughs and snow, and you'll only have to break 1/2" of ice once every 4 hours. When you're making your baked clay pots and balls for the slingbow, also make a sieve/ladle. Add a 5 ft long wooden handle to the ladle, so you can remove ice shards without getting wet. This will delay the re-forming of the ice by an hour or more. Set up the net pen with a 1.5" seine to be moved across the opening of the pen, out in the lake. Can't cut slits all around the rectangular ice chunk, or it might break loose. So at the corners and in the middle of the 20 ft wide opening, you'll have to leave pillars of ice, and net around them. The shoreline is the other end of the pen. Make the nets taper to match their width to the depth of the water, and have the 3" mesh net inside of the 1.5" mesh. You'll have no way to move the seine, cause if it get snagged under the ice, yoiu'lll be unable to dive down and free it. So the nets have to be gillnets. Gillnets can't catch fish that are too big or too small for the mesh, other than by lucky fluke catches. You can bank on the ice with the 5 ft long handle in the Cold Steel shovel, and wave it around in the fishing holes, scaring the fish into the gillnets.

    1. Thanks for your excellent, and well thought out comments. Please keep them coming. I'd also like to invite you to write a post for this blog.


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