3 Profound Truths From History Channel’s Survival Show ‘Alone’

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3 Profound Truths From History Channel's Survival Show ‘Alone’It’s been a long time since Bear Grylls commercialized the arts of wilderness survival. But if there were one primary reason why the show eventually lost popular interest, it probably had something to do with the weakness that had been embedded in the show from the very start: the ever-present camera crew.

But that’s particularly where History Channel’s Alone shows us the true nature of what it takes, stripping away the glitz and glam, leaving only the average modern human to adapt to the harshness of the wild. There’s no camera crew.

Here are three lessons to glean from such a unique and thought-provoking gem of a television show:

No. 3 — Systems depend on systems (that depend on circadian systems).

While watching Alone, I was left with the distinct impression on how each contestant’s performances progressed from Day 1. If a contestant was not able to sustain a regular sleep pattern, then that contestant’s ability to function, critically think and maintain emotional toughness decreased significantly. Thus, shelter, bedding and warmth became a make-or-break aspect of their ability to continue.

Which leads us to the circadian rhythm. According to Psychology Today, this is how the circadian rhythm is best defined: “Often referred to as the ‘body clock,’ the circadian rhythm is a cycle that tells our bodies when to sleep, rise, eat — regulating many physiological processes.”

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PT also notes that when the circadian rhythm is disturbed, depression and bipolar disorder even can arise. However, the psychological detriment doesn’t stop there, because the longer the body is subject to sleep deprivation, the more the mind becomes unravelled. The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, says:

In addition to these normal fluctuations, not getting enough sleep — whether for just one night or over the course of weeks to months — has a significant effect on our ability to function. Sleep deprivation negatively impacts our mood, our ability to focus, and our ability to access higher-level cognitive functions.

No. 2 — Physical fitness is a game-changer.

We, modern humans, have become poorly adapted to wilderness environments. Even though we may devote ourselves to living a healthy life, our muscles, joints, tendons and even equilibrium are not accustomed to some very fundamental factors. Simply put, flat and level ground puts strain on the unadapted body over time — and unless you take the time to construct them, furniture is a modern luxury that doesn’t exist out there.

Alan Kay, the winner of Season 1, knew he was getting a run for his money within minutes of starting the race [1]:

The thing that stood out to me was how hard it was to even walk in that environment. Everything is so wet and so thick that you’re burning massive amounts of energy.

By the end of the season, Kay had lost 60 pounds.

No. 1 — To break the body, break the mind.

It’s no wonder why we weren’t exactly seeing Bear Grylls as someone who accurately demonstrates the true nature of wilderness survival. Sure, even though one may have knowledge and skill, it’s the accumulation of many small stressers that leads to bigger stressers. Ultimately, Alone shows us that the greatest toll taken is on the mind, and its ability to endure sleeplessness, physical fatigue, and the vast mental abyss of total isolation.

It’s not terribly difficult to become physically fit and knowledgeable about how to survive in such environments. Instead, all of those varying stresses accumulate against that which is the most critical component in a survival situation: the mind — and more importantly, the ideas that permeate it. Once the mind believes it has finally reached a maximum stress point and begins to sustain fatal errors (such having given up hope), then the body is soon to follow.

It’s no secret that isolation can be uncomfortable, but over the course of days, weeks, months and years, the psychological toll becomes more and more severe. It even may devolve into outright hallucinations, according to an article from the BBC that discussed a woman who had endured 10,000 hours of total isolation in an Iranian prison cell. Wired Magazine also published an article discussing the effects of solitary confinement on the U.S. prison population, telling of symptoms that they describe as “universal”:

Consistent patterns emerge, centering around the aforementioned extreme anxiety, anger, hallucinations, mood swings and flatness, and loss of impulse control.

Alan Kay: A Remarkable Mind

Thus, it’s also no wonder why Alan Kay won the first round of Alone. Out of his fellow contestants, the man wasn’t exactly the most skilled, nor was he the most fit. But what most certainly separated him from the pack was that he took good care of his mind. He kept his brain active, his ego at bay, and he regularly reminded himself of the truly simple and rather beautiful things that are common to all biological life.

A tough mind is a well-ordered mind, recognizing that true adaptation is an active state of negotiation between the man and his environment. To survive is not an act of war; it’s an act of humility and harmony, trading with — and learning from — that complex ecosystem of trees, fish, weeds, bugs, critters and morning mist they all commonly share. Alone seemed to prove that survival begins with the toughness of the mind, reinforced by the pure and simple truths that it keeps within.

[1] http://people.com/tv/alone-winner-alan-kay-shares-his-wilderness-survival-tips-ask-whats-going-to-kill-me-first-and-whats-going-to-kill-me-next/

Have you ever watched Alone? What did you think? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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Knife review: The L.T. Wright Genesis is a Kephart-style workhorse

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The biggest endorsement for a knife is to use it constantly. So this one comes highly recommended.

by Leon Pantenburg

Kniveshipfree.com is a Survivalcommonsense.com sponsor. I did not get a free knife for this review, and neither KSF or L.T. Wright Custom Knives had any input in this review.

For nearly 20 years, my Cold Steel SRK did most of my hunting/bushcrafting work. An inexpensive fixed blade, it fit my budget and knife needs for backcountry big game hunting.

Horace Kephart

But knife people never cease looking for that perfect, do-it-all blade. Along the way, I read books by Horace Kephart, and liked his go-to knife. And that is what first attracted me to the L.T. Wright Genesis. The Genesis is a Kephart-design workhorse.

Kephart was a prolific writer and one of the pioneers of camping/outdoor skills. His outdoor writings were published regularly in national publications such as Field and Stream. Kephart’s first edition of Camping and Woodcraft was published in 1906. In it, Kephart described his EDC knife:

“Its blade and handle are each 4-1/4 inches long, the blade being 1 inch wide, 1/8 inch thick on the back, broad pointed, and continued through the handle as a hasp and riveted to it. It is tempered hard enough to cut green hardwood sticks, but soft enough so that when it strikes a knot or bone it will, if anything, turn rather than nick; then a whetstone soon puts it in order.”

Horace Kephart's original knife.

Horace Kephart’s original knife.

“The handle of this knife is of oval cross-section, long enough to give a good grip for the whole hand, and with no sharp edges to blister one’s hand. The handle is of light but hard wood, 3/4 inch thick at the butt and tapering to 1/2 inch forward, so as to enter the sheath easily and grip it tightly.”

Here are the Genesis specs:

  • Overall Length: 9″
  • Sharpened Edge: 4.25″
  • Steel: 1/8″ A2
  • Grind: Flat Ground
  • Other Features: Thumb scallops, 90° Spine

 I got a Genesis about two years ago and put it to work. It has received constant use, doing everything from wood carving to cleaning fish, to cutting sod and sprinkler irrigation PVC pipe to slicing up an apple pie and shredding tinder.

Here’s my thoughts.

The handle is designed for a working tool.

The handle is designed for a working tool.

Handle: The Genesis has a generous, oval cross section handle, that a working tool should have.

My 22-ounce framing hammer, hatchet, shovel, machete and axe all have similar handle designs, and that is proven to be the best for hard work. Slim, ergonomically-designed handles are all well and good on some blades. And they look nice.

But a handle that fills your hand won’t give you blisters. It’s also easier to grip, meaning it takes less effort. This reduces fatigue while using.

Handle length is 4.75 inches. This is big enough for those of us with working man hands to use comfortably and safely. If you have to wear gloves while using the knife, you’ll appreciate the length.

The handle features thumb scallops on each side, providing more more comfortable control during close up work. I got my Genesis handle in green, blasted micarta, because the material resembles the weathered wooden pilings on the Mississippi River. The handle is also available in ironwood.

The epoxy isn’t just on the scales, but around every bit of the hardware, according to the KSF catalogue, including the threads of the brass nut, to ensure a completely sealed scale set.

The Spear point is a good choice for a working knife.

The Spear point is a good choice for a working knife.

Point: My favorite point depends on the job the knife will be used for. On an all-around knife, a spear point may be the best choice. (Here’s how to choose a knife point.)

The spear point works well for drilling in wood, and the belly makes it useful for gutting big game or cleaning fish.

In fact, the first job I used my Genesis for was gutting a bass that had swallowed a hook and couldn’t be released. The Genesis would not be my first choice for a specialty fishing or  hunting knife, but it can certainly do the job.

The Genesis, top and GNS are both top choices for a workkhorse knife.

The Genesis, top and GNS are both top choices for a workhorse knife.

Grind: The Genesis comes with a scandi or flat grind. I opted for the flat grind, because I like the increased slicing ability. This becomes important if you’re looking for a blade that might end up doing big game processing.

My GNS is in scandi grind, because I anticipated using it mainly for bushcrafting.  As a bushcraft knife, it would be hard to improve on the GNS.

Spine: A bushcraft knife, or one that may end up being used for one should have a 90-degree spine. This becomes very useful for shredding tinder and scraping a ferro rod, and saves the sharp edge. I’ve done extensive wood carving, using my thumb on the spine, and didn’t find the edge to be uncomfortable.

This Bark River leather sheat was wet formed to make a more authentic-looking sheath.

This Bark River leather sheath was wet formed to make a more authentic-looking sheath.

Sheath: The Genesis comes with an excellent leather dangler sheath. I have several, use them frequently and really like them. But I decided to convert one of my Bark River sheaths into a dangler, so one-handed use would be easier. I wet-formed the sheath and added a D ring, and now I have a dangler that more closely resembles the original Kephart sheath.

Lanyard hole: Use a lanyard to attach your knife to your belt, button hole or pack.

Drop a knife in deep snow or water, and chances are it’s gone. The Genesis has a lanyard hole, and mine has a piece of fluorescent orange paracord in it.

Steel: My Genesis is in A2. This tool steel is easy to sharpen and maintain the edge of. It is also reasonably priced. Recent additions to the L.T. Wright line include a Genesis in CPM 3V.

A2 will develop a patina after extended use, and that’s fine with me. I like seeing a knife that shows some honest wear and use. After noticing some uneven staining on my Genesis and GNS, I used a vinegar and lemon mixture to force a patina. It worked just fine.

The most recent patina on my Genesis came from when I was moving a few weeks back. The blade was being used for everything from breaking down boxes to cutting rope to whatever else was needed. My wife borrowed it to cut an apple pie for lunch, and the knife was left in the sink while we hauled another load. Several hours later, it had a new pattern.

Blade length: A four-to-five-inch blade is perfect for a working knife. Given my druthers, I’ll take a five-inch blade for just about everything. At 4.25-inches, the blade length is just about right for this design.

Made in the USA: All L.T. Wright knives are made in Ohio. Call the factory, and you can talk to a Midwesterner. The craftspeople make a living wage, pay local, state and federal taxes, and contribute to the local economy. Buy local, buy American!

Do you need a Genesis?

I have a lot of knives, and several in my collection could do the same jobs that a Genesis does. But if you’re starting out and want a user, the Genesis would be a solid choice.

A couple years ago, I was teaching firemaking to a group of ladies participating the “Women in the Outdoors” project in Redmond, Oregon. Several of my knives were available to use for processing tinder, whittling etc. (Part of the seminar was to help ladies choose their hunting/survival knife.) The Genesis proved to be one of the most popular tools, even for women with small hands.

So far, there have been three Genesis’s on Alone. Carleigh Fairchild’s Genesis looks like it is a flat ground A2 blade. One was carried by a Chris Weatherman in Season 1, as well as by last season’s runner-up, Larry Roberts.

And my Genesis gets regular use, despite the plethora and variety of knives I own, test and review.

So do you need a Genesis? Well, I think so.

Check out the rest of our L.T. Wright knife reviews.

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Larry Roberts: After Alone on History Channel

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Larry Roberts: After Alone on History Channel Karen “Lil’ Suburban Homestead” This show in player below! Lil’ Suburban Homestead interviews Larry Roberts Primitive Skills expert and Outdoorsmen, Contestant on History’s Alone, and an Instructor at the Pathfinder School. Karen previously interviewed Larry for her Primitive Skills show on the Prepper Broadcasting Network. To take a listen … Continue reading Larry Roberts: After Alone on History Channel

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Alan Kay Season One Winner “Alone”

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Alan Kay Season One Winner  “Alone” Forrest & Kyle “The Prepping Academy” Listen in player below! Join Forrest and Kyle on this special show with an amazing guest. We skipped Kyle’s Conspiracy of the Week to maximize the interview. During a recent trip to Prepper Camp, Forrest was able to meet a lot of interesting folks. And he even … Continue reading Alan Kay Season One Winner “Alone”

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Justin Vititoe from History Channels Alone!

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Justin Vititoe from History Channels Alone Josh “7P’s of Survival” This week we will have Justin Vititoe from History Channels Alone on the show and we will be talking about his life’s journey leading up to his choice to take part in ALONE. Once we learn a little about his background we will dig into … Continue reading Justin Vititoe from History Channels Alone!

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Jose From History Channel Alone!

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Jose From History Channel Alone  Josh “7P’s of Survival” This week we will have Jose Martinez Amoedo from History Channel Alone on the show and we will be talking about his life’s journey leading up to his choice to take part in ALONE on The History Chanel. Once we learn a little about his background we … Continue reading Jose From History Channel Alone!

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Nicole Apelian from History Channels Alone!

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Nicole Apelian from History Channels Alone Josh “7P’s of Survival” This week we will have Nicole Apelian from History Channels Alone on the show and we will be talking about her life’s journey leading up to her choice to take part in ALONE. Once we learn a little about her background we will dig into … Continue reading Nicole Apelian from History Channels Alone!

History Channel “Alone” Randy Champagne

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History Channel “Alone” Randy Champagne Josh “7P’s of Survival” This week we will have Randy Champagne from History Channel Alone on the show and we will be talking about his life’s journey leading up to his choice to take part in ALONE. Once we learn a little about his background we will dig into what … Continue reading History Channel “Alone” Randy Champagne

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David McIntyre from History Channels Alone

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David McIntyre from History Channels Alone Josh “The 7P’s of survival” This episode we  have David McIntyre from History Channels Alone on the show and we talk about his life’s journey leading up to his choice to take part in ALONE. Once we learn a little about his background we dig into what he decided to … Continue reading David McIntyre from History Channels Alone

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Larry Roberts From History’s ALONE!

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Larry Roberts From History’s ALONE Josh “The 7P’s of Survival” We have Larry Roberts from History Channels Alone on the show and we talk about his life’s journey leading up to his choice to take part in ALONE. Once we learned a little about his background we dig into what he decided to take on the … Continue reading Larry Roberts From History’s ALONE!

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Mike Lowe From History’s ALONE

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Mike Lowe From History’s ALONE Josh “The 7P’s of Survival” On this program we have Mike Lowe from History Channels Alone on the show and we talk about his life’s journey leading up to his choice to take part in ALONE. Once we learn a little about his background we dig into what he decided to … Continue reading Mike Lowe From History’s ALONE

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Off-Grid making millions for some

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Discovery TV's Naked And Afraid: Is it cynical to call this exploitation?

Is it cynical to call this exploitation?

The hottest shows on cable TV these days are about people who have no TV.

As the TV industry wakes up to this, expect plenty more shows about off-grid living.

Take Discovery Channel’s Alaskan Bush People, in which a character shows how to properly prepare grasshoppers by pulling their heads off and allowing the guts to leak out before laying them out in the sun to dry. Add a little salt and pepper, and dinner is served.

Not hungry? Viewers are lapping up the year-old show, as well as other offgrid reality series that have become very appetizing.

Shows like Alaskan Bush People, History Channel’s Mountain Men Home page, FYI’s Unplugged Nation and Animal Planet’s The Last Alaskans — as well as rugged competition reality shows, such as Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid and History Channel’s series Alone — are providing viewers with an aspirational look at an alternative lifestyle that eschews modern technology for life off the beaten path.

Some of the characters in these reality shows are hardcore naturalists who have no need for civilization; others are average people who are seeking the simple life. Some are new at it; others have been doing it for generations.

On these shows, hunting knives are more valuable than smartphones, and cable-network programmers say it’s the fantasy of unplugging from civilization that draws viewers in droves.

Offthegrid shows comprised nearly half of the 10 most-watched reality shows during the third quarter of 2015, according to Nielsen. Alaskan Bush People, which profiles a family born and raised in the Alaskan wilderness, was the most popular reality show of the period, averaging 3.6 million viewers.

TAKEAWAY

Reality-show aficionados are finding a refuge from modern living in the programs.

“There’s an aspirational element to the show that really communicates with people — we’ve always had that as a backbone to the program,” Russ McCarroll, senior vice president of development and programming for History Channel, said. “These ideas of managing to live and doing hard work in places that are beautiful are what appeal to viewers.”

WILDERNESS ESCAPISM

During times frought with threats of cyber-terrorism, economic difficulties and military conflicts, History’s Mountain Men — which follows the real-life challenges of six guys who use their survival skills to live in desolate mountain areas across the country — attracts both male and female viewers with escapist content that focuses on a simpler life where people control where and how they live, McCarroll said.

Mountain Men averaged more than 3 million viewers during its fourth and most recent season, which concluded last week.

“There’s a lot of doom and gloom stories out there, whether it’s the breakdown of the economy or the environment changing, so there’s a great appeal as to whether to sustain one’s self and to fi nd out, if everything really did go the wrong way, could I survive on my own?” McCarroll said. “You even see that in pop culture, with the success of series like [AMC’s scripted zombie dramas] The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead. These shows appeal to the same type of thing but in a very diff erent way.”

Animal Planet vice president of development Kurt Tondorf said a bit of romanticism surrounds the idea of men and women living off the land and killing or growing the food they eat, rather than going to the local grocery store to buy a salad or to a fast-food restaurant to purchase rotisserie chicken.

The network’s freshman series The Last Alaskans follows a handful of families allowed to live in a now banned Artic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Unlike other reality shows in the genre, Tondorf said, The Last Alaskans — which has been renewed for a second season — features no narration, allowing the characters in the series to literally speak for themselves and for their lifestyles.

“People feel a lack of connectedness to the wilderness, and a great curiosity for those who want to live in such close connection to it,” Tondorf said. “We’re always striving to fi nd those kinds of authentic individuals who live lives that almost refl ect the great pioneering spirit that as children we all read about.”

FYI’s Unplugged Nation puts city dwellers into an environment where they must choose whether to return to civilization or transition to a more self-sufficient way of life.

The choice for urbanites to escape the concrete jungle of corporate America for a simpler existence in a beautiful, natural environment has resonated with FYI’s core 18-to-49-year-old audience, said Gena McCarthy senior vice president of programming and development.

Unplugged Nation averaged 230,000 viewers during its summer run, above the network’s 178,000 viewers for the third quarter, according to Nielsen.

“Unplugged living is a genuine alternative lifestyle movement,” McCarthy said. “Many people are passionate about raising their families this way as an aspira-tional goal. There’s a play-along factor for viewers who can fantasize about whether they could hack it in the situations and the variety of homes we share with them in the show.”

DIY Network began exploring the theme “Building Off the Grid” with one-off specials that have grown into a franchise. Episodes have covered creating cabins in wilderness areas of Alaska, using cargo bikes to haul material for a new retreat in the Rocky Mountains, building mud-and-straw homes in Washington State and constructing a 30-foot-tall yurt in rural Montana (Yurts So Good).

The Scripps Networks Interactive outlet recently picked up the six-episode series Jon & Etta Go Off the Grid, now in pre-production, which will see Jon and Etta Sepp (and their 1-year-old daughter) create an offthegrid bison ranch on the open range in Hot Springs, Mont.

CROSS-GENDER APPEAL

Allison Page, general manager of Scripps’s DIY, HGTV (whose mainstay House Hunters franchise has also gone off the grid) and Great American Country, said DIY’s “BOTG” specials had the pleasantly surprising eff ect of drawing more women than expected, given the male-skewing topic.

Going off the grid fi ts into DIY’s and HGTV’s growing number of “fantasy” shows, featuring enticing scenarios such as building a dream home on the beach, Page said. “There are ideas that have a romantic chord to them that you dreamed of as a child, or that you wish life could be simpler in a tiny home. They are all diff erent manifestations of what people dream of living.

“I think viewers like seeing something where they can envision themselves,” she said. “It’s that aspirational-attainable balance. I might or might not do it, but I’m seeing someone who is, that could be me.”

For viewers who want a more edgy and exhilarating dive into the genre, competition shows like Discovery’s Naked and Afraid — where two contestants, a man and a woman, are challenged to live in a harsh environment with no tools or clothes — and History’s Alone, where contestants are literally left alone, with no camera crews following them, to survive by themselves in an unforgiving terrain for as long as they can, provided plenty of thrills for viewers and high ratings for networks.

Naked and Afraid and spinoff Naked and Afraid XL drew a combined 5 million viewers this past summer, while Alone garnered 2 million viewers, according to Nielsen.

History’s McCarroll said he believes that the offthegrid genre of programming will continue to thrive on television as technology continues to encroach on our everyday lives and people look for an escape to a simpler life.

‘There are a lot of people who go to work in an office or go to work in a cubicle, when in reality they’d rather be someplace that’s a little more inspiring,” he said. “We can take them there.”

Added Tondorf: “All of us get home after a hard day, and we can turn on the set to see these people who have marched to a diff erent drummer all of their lives — there’s something about that kind of willingness to live a life that way that plays into a universal yearning that we all have.”

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