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7 Best Survival TV Shows That Will Actually Teach You Something

7 Best Survival TV Shows That Will Actually Teach You Something

What do you think, are survival TV shows just drama, or can we learn anything from them? Or are they purely for our entertainment? Believe it or not, many survival TV shows actually teach us something. We’ve got seven of some of the best ones listed for you here.

What Are Survival TV Shows?

Survival TV shows are reality shows that demonstrate skills used outside of urban environments, such as building a natural shelter or starting a fire. They may also demonstrate filtering water or foraging for food. And while some survival TV shows will focus on teaching these skills, many of them are also meant for entertainment. You may watch competitions, races, or extreme survival shows. With this wide range, many may be less helpful if you want to learn something.

Man drinking water from creek in wilderness.
Survival TV shows can teach people useful skills to use in the wilderness.

Pro Tip: Become a survival pro with these 5 Ways to Purify Water for Survival in the Wilderness.

What Is the Most Realistic Survival Show?

Think about it. What survival TV shows are you most drawn to? The ones that educate or the ones that offer drama and excitement. The latter makes you wonder if the reality stars can survive whatever ordeal the producers have put them through. There are always a few contestants that talk a big game, but then tap out as soon as the going gets rough. This option probably draws most of us in and creates higher ratings for the networks.

However, some of the best survival TV shows out there combine both an educational component with reality and a bit of drama. On that note, one of the most realistic survival TV shows ever aired is Les Stroud’s “Survivorman.” 

The drama stems from actual events. Additionally, Les Stroud films the whole show himself without a camera crew. This is a survival show in its rawest form, with no other people than the survivor himself. He has no one to talk to, ask for advice from, or any place to take a break from the situations that he has put himself into.

Woman survivalist building fire from skills she learned on survival TV shows.
Survival TV shows might mostly be drama, but you can learn a lot from them.

Are There Any Survival Shows on Netflix?

Netflix has several survival TV shows, some obscure, some quite popular. Shows like “Southern Survival” are even Netflix originals. Others include “Alone,” “Dual Survival,” “You VS Wild,” “Outlast,” and “Survivor.”

You may come across reality survival TV shows. But if you want to get a little far-reaching, some might call shows like “The Walking Dead,” “Zoo,” or “Vikings Valhalla” survival shows, as well. While series like these are fictional, they do highlight a society in which people learn to survive in amazing conditions. And while some of the skills showcased in these fictional movies and series may not be useful in today’s world, they can serve a purpose in understanding how we might react in the face of a world tragedy.

But for now, we’ll stick with the reality shows that highlight survival skills. And while yes, reality can get skewed on television, and the television producers are going to edit in the most dramatic parts, it is possible to grasp the real danger and challenge of bushcraft. At least we’re safe on our couches while beginning our survival journey.

Man posing at the top of a mountain
Travel around the world from the comfort of your home by watching survival TV shows.

7 Best Survival TV Shows That Will Actually Teach You Something

While we may not like to admit it, some of our favorite survival TV shows (and some of the most well-known ones) probably didn’t make it to this list of seven of the best. Why? Because the TV shows listed below could actually teach us something about survival. 

Shows like “Alone,”  “Life Below Zero,” or “Frontier House” may not be as popular as “Naked and Afraid” or “Survivor,”  but those are the survival TV shows that we really should be watching to learn from. Read on to learn about which of these series can teach us something useful.

Man and woman hiking together in survivalist situation
Even if you aren’t a survivalist, survival TV shows are still entertaining to watch.

1. Alone

About: If you’re a fan of survival TV shows, then you’ll love History Channel’s (now Netflix’s) “Alone.” The premise is simple: 10 participants get stranded in remote locations, each different from the other. All alone with only 10 items each, the goal is to see who can survive the longest. The last man standing receives $500,000. Oh, and no camera crews follow them, so they also must film all that they do with no other humans around.

What Can You Learn From It: With nine full seasons under its belt (and Season 10 is underway as of the writing of this article), this survival TV show has many lessons to teach you. You can learn how to survive in the remote, harsh conditions of the very remote wilderness, how to build different types of shelters, and how to live on limited resources. But perhaps the biggest skill learned from this show is how to do it all alone. Being totally isolated with nothing by a camera to talk to, contestants have to survive both the elements and the mental toll of loneliness.

Where Can You Watch It: Alone was originally produced by the history channel and many of those episodes have been syndicated to other platforms. The latest episodes however have been produced by Netflix. You can watch “Alone” on the History Channel, Amazon Prime Video, Microsoft Store, Vudu, iTunes, YouTube, and Google Play. While not all seasons are yet available, you can watch some seasons on Discovery+, Hulu, Netflix, Hoopla, and Philo.

Alone: First Look | History

2. Frontier House

About: The PBS series “Frontier House” is about living life before modern technologies. Going back in time to Montana in the 1880s, three families learn what pioneering life is all about in this six-part series created in 2002.

What Can You Learn From It: Following three families as they struggle to prepare for winter in the harsh realities of the Montana wilderness will help give you a glimpse into life before technology. 

You’ll learn how to prepare food, cut wood, prep a cabin for storms, and much more. Watching this, you might feel inspired to move to Montana and live off the land. Or you might feel like buying more technology and material comforts of the 21st century. Either way, it’s informative and offers plenty of history lessons along the way.

Where Can You Watch It: “Frontier House” is currently unavailable for streaming on most platforms. However, you can find it on THIRTEEN PBS.

Frontier House: The Craziest Reality Show You've Never Heard Of (RETROSPECTIVE)

3. Survivorman

About:Survivorman,” a Canadian-produced series, originally aired on the Outdoor Life Network and has eight seasons. It debuted in 2004, with each episode focusing on different remote areas where world-renowned outdoor enthusiast, educator, producer, and musician, Les Stroud, must survive on his own with nothing but the clothes on his back. There are 8 total seasons available of this survivalist show.

What Can You Learn From It: If you’re truly interested in learning basic survival skills, this is the show to watch. Survivalist Les Stroud worked as a wilderness guide and a survival instructor before the show. On “Survivorman,” you’ll learn shelter building, primitive fire, what and when to eat, how to find water, and much more. If you ever head into the backcountry and want to learn how to survive if you get lost, watch this show.

Where Can You Watch It: You can watch many of the show’s 51 episodes on fubuTV, Discovery+, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Google Play, and Vudu.

Survivorman - Trailer new season

Pro Tip: Learn these important basic survival skills everyone should know from watching survival TV shows.

4. Man vs. Wild

About: Hosted by survivalist Bear Grylls, “Man vs. Wild” premiered on the Discovery Channel in 2006 and ran until 2012. Grylls had some forethought with a film team and some serious reconnaissance beforehand. But he does find himself in some remote and even urban situations that warrant some survival skills.

What Can You Learn From It: In remote areas, you can run into many harrowing situations, and Grylls hopes to teach you how to deal with whatever those might be. And often, you’ll learn what atrocities you can eat without getting sick on this survival TV show. And while food may fall last on what you’ll need in an actual survival situation, you’ll at least have fun learning about all the weird edible things on this planet.

Where Can You Watch It: You can watch all seven seasons on fubuTV, Discovery+, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, and Google Play. 

Man vs. Wild - New Trailer

5. I Shouldn’t Be Alive

About: Survival TV shows don’t just teach about surviving in the wilderness. “I Shouldn’t Be Alive” focuses on events that have happened to real people, such as being stranded on a deserted island or in a cave. 

You’ll learn how some people survived being crushed under an off-roading vehicle with nobody else around or trapped in blizzards, avalanches, and extreme heat. The show captures all the drama, frenzy, decisions, and more through reenactments. It premiered on the Discovery Channel in 2005 and has six seasons.

What Can You Learn From It: Accidents happen all the time, but in extreme conditions, accidents can very quickly become a matter of life or death. While watching others struggle through challenging situations, moral choices, and decisions that could keep you alive or kill you, you may learn what you might do if ever faced with a similar scenario.

Where Can You Watch It: You can view some seasons on Pluto, Tubi, Amazon Prime, and Google Play.

I Shouldn't Be Alive | Viewer's Choice Top 20

Pro Tip: Being prepared is essential to survival. Discover How a Gill Net Could Save Your Life.

6. Ultimate Survival Alaska

About: Ultimate Survival Alaska” is a competitive survival series where four teams compete against each other and nature to survive in the Alaskan wilderness. With only a pack and no cell phones or GPS, they have 60 hours to complete each challenge. And the prize? This isn’t about money. This is about endurance and pushing human limits for the title of the Ultimate Alaskan Survivor.

This three-season series aired in 2013 and ran on the National Geographic Channel.

What Can You Learn From It: While you may learn how to cross raging rivers, ice fields, and vast wilderness, what you’ll really take away is how to summon your inner strength to push past limits and persevere against all odds. Even if those odds mean grizzlies, glaciers, or great peaks, you’ll learn all of this from the comfort of your armchair.

Where Can You Watch It: You can stream all three seasons on Google Play, Vudu, and Amazon Instant Video. Two seasons are available on iTunes.

Ultimate Survival Alaska | National Geographic

7. Life Below Zero

About: Welcome to the Arctic. “Life Below Zero” introduces you to several families that live in the remote corners of Alaska. You’ll follow them as they work to survive the harsh environment that they live in. With 20 seasons, this National Geographic show continues to draw an audience of all ages.

What Can You Learn From It: This isn’t your typical survival TV show. This is about the everyday struggles of life in some of the most remote areas of Alaska. These families battle daily life decisions and nature’s raw and unforgiving beauty. If you’ve ever dreamed of running away from the world and surviving in the wilderness, this might just be the show that gets the wheels in motion to turn your dreams into a reality.

Where Can You Watch It: You can watch most seasons on fubuTV, Disney+, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, and Google Play.

Life Below Zero - Trailer | Life Below Zero

Are Survival TV Shows Worth It?

Most survival TV shows only serve as entertainment rather than an education. However, these survival TV shows are still worth it. Whether you watch for fun or information, you can come out with a few lessons. If you ever get stuck in an actual survival situation, we can only hope that your skills come from more than just a TV show, though. But at least you’ll have some entertainment.

Looking for a show that’s a little more tame but equally entertaining? “Go North” follows our epic journey to the Arctic Ocean. You’ll learn about truck camper life, remote travel, and more! Watch the full series on YouTube and Amazon Prime.

go north amazon cover

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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