Best Outdoor Survival Shows to Get a Taste of Extreme Wilderness From Your Living Room

by Madison Miller

For outdoor enthusiasts, it goes beyond just experiencing the world out there first-hand. Watching or experiencing others in their battles for survival can be just as entertaining.

Instead, it becomes about living through other people’s experiences as well. Whether this is following famous explorers on Twitter and Instagram and liking their awe-worthy photos while you’re stuck at the 9-5. Or maybe it’s reading accounts of other people’s explorations like “To Shake the Sleeping Self: A Journey from Oregon to Patagonia, and a Quest for a Life with No Regret.”

For many people in 2020, in between isolated hiking and camping trips, most of our time was inside, sitting on that old love seat in front of the TV. You can be an Outsider and be inside.

In 2020, TVs and movies became a life force for people’s entertainment. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, check out this list of some outdoor survival shows. They’ll bring you to the remote ends of the world, with drama and suspense, without leaving the edge of your couch.

‘Man Vs Wild’

For most people the name Bear Grylls is infamous. It is especially infamous for those who tuned into his Discovery Channel show, “Man Vs Wild.”

Bear Grylls has become one of the few household survivalists. He went from a former British SAS member to an international TV superstar.

He brings a small camera crew to some of the harshest places on Earth and tries to survive alone (theoretically). His goal at the end is to evacuate and be rescued.

To survive, the man has done some crazy things. Even for the most outdoor-driven people, the thought brings a bit of a cringe-worthy reaction. Notably, while he was in Australia Grylls drank his own urine because he was dehydrated and it is 100% safe to do. Viewers watched him lift his yellow urine to his mouth, take a sip, and say, “It’s warm, and it’s salty. Not my favorite.”

At the same time, it was a learning moment. Now, countless people know that in dire circumstances, however gross it may be, drinking your own urine can be the difference between life and death.

In addition to the urine situation, he also drank elephant dung juice, ate a live snake, sought refuge inside of a dead camel, and did some hardcore skinny-dipping in -90 degree weather.

There’s no replicating a guy like Bear Grylls. There’s definitely no replication of the feeling viewers got every time he did something even more hardcore than last time.


The outdoor show, “Alone” is a new addition to the TV survivalist genre that has recently picked up popularity.

The show has 10 contestants dropped off in a remote area. They are separated and given just a small camera crew. They have filmed in locations like Vancouver Island, Patagonia, and Mongolia.

Contestants are able to tap-out at any moment. The person who lasts the longest, alone in extreme conditions, wins $500,000. As long as medical doesn’t take them out first, which is a common occurrence. The goal is not to just survive, but to do so in a way that won’t be detrimental to their health.

Some claim that this is TV’s harshest, yet most beautiful reality competition. With no crew standing with shotguns on the sidelines, the risk of injury or even death is very real.

‘Life Below Zero’

This show goes against the grain of some other survival-type shows. This is because it showcases a very real group of people living their normal lives.

Except, for them, their normal is living totally off the grid in Alaska, just above the Arctic Circle.

The show focuses on a group of people as they conquer day-to-day life. They discuss why it is they wanted to completely leave behind normal civilization to instead live off the arctic terrain.

The National Geographic show follows eight different characters. One of which is Sue Aikens, a 57-year-old woman who lives in Northern Alaska. Her famous motto on the show is “If it hurts, don’t think about it.”

Truly, the quote of a survivalist.

Others include Chip and Agnes Hailstone, who live with their seven children on the Kobuk River. The documentary-style show is a fascinating look at people choosing to create their own path.

‘Naked and Afraid’

If you’re looking for a bit of a giggle mixed in with people trying to survive, “Naked and Afraid” is your friend.

Contestants are placed in the middle of the wilderness. However, they are given no gear. They don’t even have the shirts on their backs. Instead, they are fittingly left naked and afraid in the wild.

Episodes feature a man and a woman that does not know each other. They get one item that they choose (no one ever chooses underwear, unfortunately). They then must survive for weeks on their own.

Along the way, the pair learns their land and how to live off it with whatever survival skills they have.

‘Running Wild with Bear Grylls’

So Bear Grylls is on this list twice. He drank his own urine and elephant dung juice, he earned it. Due to the wild success and image he created for himself, Grylls created “Running Wild with Bear Grylls.”

This time, however, he is not alone. Instead, he is joined by different celebrities. Along the way, he teaches them everything there is to know about surviving wherever they are.

The show offers an entirely different element of entertainment that “Man Vs. Wild.” Grylls is actively showing someone, most of which have no survival skills, how to make it in the wild. With entertaining guests like Kate Winslet, Zac Efron, Ben Stiller, Channing Tatum, and even President Barack Obama, the show mixes survival with extremely watchable entertainment.

There’s nothing quite like watching President Barack Obama eat salmon half consumed by a bear. Even Bear Grylls knows there’s no better television than Zac Efron ripping his shirt off to repel down a cliff.

Ray Mears’ Survival Shows

Ray Mears is another name that is quite popular in the outdoor survival world.

He has three shows: “Survival with Ray Mears,” “Extreme Survival,” and “Ray Mears Northern Wilderness.”

These late ’90s and early 2000s shows feature a very educational look at survival. The shows feature Mears teaching audiences techniques and lessons he learned in the wilderness, as well as funny stories.

He goes anywhere from Costa Rica to Alaska. “Ray Mears Northern Wilderness” is all about surviving in the middle of Canada.


This Canadian show centers around survival expert Les Stroud. He uses his survival skills to survive alone for up to ten days.

Stroud scopes out a location, where he plans with his team and natives, then secludes himself. He goes with little to no water, food, and equipment.

The big difference from other shows is he does not have a camera crew with him. Instead, Stroud films each episode himself while also having to deal with the challenges of surviving at the same time.

“Survivorman” is raw, emotional, and connects you to Stroud through the screen in ways other shows have struggled to do. The show’s last season was filmed in 2015.

‘Dual Survivor’

At least in the show “Dual Survivor,” there are two people trying to stay alive together. The Discovery Channel show focuses on two survival experts who are thrown into different scenarios and must learn to survive together.

The twist is, the two people could not be more different. In the first two seasons, Cody Lundin and Dave Canterbury are the two survivalists. Lundin is a naturalist and primitive-skills expert. Canterbury, on the other hand, is a military-trained survivalist.

Lundin and Canterbury are filmed out on a desert island, in a jungle, or stranded on a hot desert. Their differences become clear in moments where Lundin doesn’t wear shoes or pants, despite how irritating that is for Canterbury. Lundin was actually fired before season three because of safety and health concerns.

With two very different approaches to survival, the two must come together.

For the other remaining seasons, up until their last with season 9, different survivalists were swapped around. The result is an ever-changing experience for viewers to learn and realize what it would be like to survive with a stranger.

‘Dude, You’re Screwed’

This survival-themed show is also a reality show and (dude) it’s entertaining. The premise of the show is that different survival experts take turns dropping each other off in dangerous areas all around the world.

The goal is simple: find civilization in 100 hours.

The competitors get one survival kit and can also sneak something in with them. All the while, the other people are watching how the one in seclusion manages to survive. The commentary adds a lot of knowledge as well as entertainment to the situation.

Even with a survival kit and other items, these individuals must survive remote places in Iceland, Alaska, Chile, and the Arctic Circle. They have anyone from primitive skills specialists to U.S. Navy Seals to pathfinders to world-class trackers.

The show has drama and entertainment mixed into survival. While parts seem to be staged, the beautiful locations, the funny interactions between the guys, and an interesting premise make up for it. One guy even shows how to start a fire with lipstick.