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HomeOff Grid & Self SufficiencyBare and Afraid: The Bare Reality

Bare and Afraid: The Bare Reality


Compared to most animals, people are extraordinarily fragile. We don’t have sharp claws and enamel for searching, and we lack the highly effective sense of odor and ultra-precise eyesight different apex predators are geared up with. Most significantly, whenever you strip away the insulated materials and sturdy footwear we’ve spent hundreds of years growing, we will’t depend on powerful conceal or heat fur.

Our uncovered our bodies are nearly defenseless towards environmental elements comparable to wind, rain, cuts and scratches, and bug pests.

Even essentially the most skilled survivalists shudder on the considered being stranded within the wilderness with no clothes and minimal instruments. This idea led to the event of Discovery’s survival TV sequence Bare and Afraid, which has aired 15 seasons during the last 10 years. On the present, every contestant is paired up with a stranger and dropped off in a difficult atmosphere for 21 days (or 40 for the spinoff Bare and Afraid XL).

Places have included each continent besides Antarctica, starting from swamps to grasslands and from deserts to rainforests. Though a digicam crew is current through the day, they’re not allowed to intervene until there’s a medical emergency; at night time, the contestants should movie themselves utilizing a offered digicam.

With the intention to study extra in regards to the precise actuality behind this “actuality TV” survival sequence, we spoke with three former contestants: Zach Benton, Hakim Isler, and Melissa Miller. Learn on as they talk about their experiences, struggles, and classes realized from Bare and Afraid.

Zachary Benton

Portrait photo of Naked and Afraid contestant Zach Benton.

Above: Zach throughout his Bare and Afraid problem in Colombia.

Age: 38

Hometown: Jarrell, Texas

What season(s) did you take part in? The place did you go?

I used to be on Season 14, Episode 2, “Haunted and Hungry.” It happened in Cartagena, Colombia.

Inform us just a little about your survival expertise background going into the present.

I grew up on a 3,300-acre cattle ranch taking part in mountain man and Boy Scout as a child. I realized quite a bit about fieldcraft and autonomy in nature as a Scout Sniper within the Marine Corps. Wilderness survival grew to become a favourite subject of examine as an grownup chasing journey, and when the chance to do the NAA problem got here up, I learn 18 books in three months to arrange.

We perceive every contestant was allowed to carry one merchandise. What did you carry, and why?

For this season, every contestant was required to carry 4 objects. We handed them over after we arrived in Colombia, and the producers picked what my accomplice and I might get for our problem. I took a tarp, knife, pot, and ferrocerium fire-starter. What they ended up giving us was a mosquito web, pot, knife, and fire-starter.

Publicity is a severe risk in any out of doors setting, and nudity is the last word type of publicity. What challenges did being bare pose?

The first problem with being bare within the jungle is the bugs. I used to be there in August, and the temperatures had been solely low through the massive rainstorms, so sustaining core temperature wasn’t too troublesome. The opposite massive drawback was my ft. The jungle is blanketed in a layer of thorns, and my ft had been swollen, sore, and stuffed with edema.

One of many books I learn main as much as the journey was Native American basket weaving, so on day eight I wove a pair of sneakers out of grass and tree bark. To have the ability to stroll usually lifted an enormous weight off the psychological facet of the problem.

Photo of Zach Benton's primitive sandal build.

Above: Previous to the problem, Zach learn greater than a dozen books on survival expertise, together with one about Native American basket weaving. He used the information to weave this pair of sandals from grass and bark.

It’s within the identify, so we’ve acquired to ask. Had been you afraid on the market? Inform us in regards to the psychological influence of the situation you confronted and the way you handled it.

I by no means felt like I used to be in any direct hazard. I might hear the caiman within the swamp and the howler monkeys swung by way of the treetops round my camp, screaming each morning and night, however I by no means felt afraid. Being alone at night time within the jungle, bare, with nothing however a knife definitely offered all the explanations I wanted if I needed to freak out, however I managed to regulate my ideas sufficient to not let it devour me.

The psychological problem for me was my private life. I had simply acquired residence from Kabul a month prior. Earlier than I left once more for Colombia, my 3-year-old crawled into my lap and thanked me for coming to go to him. I’d been deploying abroad backwards and forwards all his life, so he didn’t perceive that I lived there. It was a heavy thought to hold into the jungle and sit with for 21 days, 17 of them solo.

What had been your survival priorities going into the present? How did they alter when you had been out within the subject?

Priorities getting into had been fireplace, water, shelter, meals, safety. The order didn’t actually change but it surely took me manner longer than I anticipated to resolve fireplace, water, and shelter. Meals and safety took a backseat, which is why I misplaced 30 kilos. The jungle was stuffed with wood-eating ants and so each lifeless stick I discovered — whether or not off the bottom or within the bushes — was fully eaten from inside.

I might burn it, but it surely gave me no coals, simply ash, and solely lasted 20 minutes. This dilemma saved me shackled to camp for almost all of the primary 10 days as a result of with out fireplace I couldn’t sterilize the water and with out water, effectively…

With each actuality TV present, we all the time marvel if occasions are scripted or if producers intervene to make the present extra thrilling. Did you expertise something like that?

No, it’s undoubtedly not scripted, not for me anyway. The one issues a viewer that has an eye fixed for manufacturing may discover are pictures on the insertion or extraction as a result of they’ll request your cooperation on the hike to allow them to get cool-looking footage.

Photo of Naked and Afraid's Zach Benton's everyday carry items on display.

Above: Zach’s knife of alternative is a personalized TOPS Knives SXB mounted blade initially designed by fellow Bare and Afraid contestant EJ Snyder, who we interviewed in RECOIL OFFGRID Problem 24.

What was it like making an attempt to outlive alongside a accomplice you had by no means met earlier than?

My accomplice was very good, however she didn’t keep very lengthy. We labored collectively fairly effectively however she acquired sick on day two and left at dawn on day 4. The remaining 17 days I accomplished alone. I’m grateful for that have. I might have spent the remainder of my life desirous to know if I might do it alone, however it might have been far more fulfilling to have had somebody to share it with.

How did your time on the present finish, and what survival classes did you stroll away with?

My previous few days had been a transition from grinding every day to maximise productiveness to managing the naked requirements in an effort to not get harm. The shortage of meals and muscular atrophy had me stumbling round, and my knife flew out of my hand various occasions chopping wooden. It grew to become a difficulty of threat mitigation to ensure I made it to 21 days with out one thing silly occurring on the finish.

Photo of Zach Benton without a shirt.

Above: After 21 days bare within the jungle, Zach was caked in filth from head to toe and had misplaced 30 kilos.

Please inform us about your newest tasks and the place we will comply with you on-line.

My newest tasks embrace the FTW Ranch Podcast. I’m a precision rifle and searching teacher on the FTW Ranch, a 12,000-acre fortress in Barksdale, Texas, with 36 capturing ranges scattered by way of deep canyons within the hill nation, jungle/safari searching programs with charging buffalo, elephants, plains sport, and a most of two miles of vary.

We host the whole lot from Tier 1 sniper coaching to some new hunter courses with unique sport to hunt and an expert chef to show the preparation.

I’ve one other podcast internet hosting alternative for Zero Foxtrot within the works to inform superb tales of moments that required full dedication, the place zero f*cks could possibly be given, within the face of triumph or defeat.

Lastly, in December, I partnered with a director who has rewritten a e book of mine right into a film. Oddly, I by no means completed writing the e book, but it surely has been an journey to be part of that course of and an honor to have a crew of individuals serving to me make it occur.

Hakim Isler

Photo of Hakim Isler sitting next to a waterfall.

Above: As soon as he headed into the wilderness, Hakim says his priorities rapidly diverged from his expectations. Adaptability grew to become an necessary a part of his survival skillset.

Age: 46

Hometown: I grew up in Newark, New Jersey. I at present stay in Fayetteville, North Carolina, simply outdoors Fort Bragg (now Fort Liberty).

What season(s) did you take part in? The place did you go?

I participated in two seasons of Bare and Afraid. I went to the Himalayan Mountains in India on Season 3, after which I used to be on the primary 40-day problem within the Colombian jungle.

Inform us just a little about your survival expertise background going into the present.

I didn’t have any actual background rising up in New Jersey — I come from the concrete jungle, not the true jungle [laughs]. After I moved to Ohio, I moved particularly to coach in ninja martial arts below Stephen Okay. Hayes, who introduced ninjutsu to America. Whereas I used to be there, we did out of doors and wilderness experiential coaching based mostly on our lineage. That was the place I acquired my first style of out of doors coaching.

Then, I joined the Military and commenced with land navigation and issues of that nature. I went to SERE college and realized extra about wilderness survival from a tactical perspective, in addition to simply survival normally. After I acquired out of the navy, a good friend of mine had a survival college, and I labored there for a short time, serving to out and studying from them. Then, the Bare and Afraid alternative got here up, and I jumped into that.

We perceive every contestant was allowed to carry one merchandise. What did you carry, and why?

That’s a really fascinating query. I had designed an ax referred to as the Tengu. The tengu is a mythological, benevolent creature — like half man, half crow — that was believed to stay within the wilderness of Japan. Some legends have it that they taught the ninjas in these villages expertise associated to find out how to use nature to their benefit. I assumed it was becoming to call this ax the Tengu, because it was going to be with me on this journey of changing into one with nature.

The Tengu ax had a number of surfaces and options added to it — a skinning knife on high, a notch-maker, a slicing floor, and a hooking floor to select up logs and look below them with out placing your hand below them. That was most likely the best alternative I’ve made, as a result of we lower, skinned, chopped, scraped, the whole lot with it. I needed one thing versatile, in order that’s why I designed it.

Publicity is a severe risk in any out of doors setting, and nudity is the last word type of publicity. What challenges did being bare pose?

They had been extraordinarily vital. In line with the “regulation of threes,” you possibly can solely deal with three hours of maximum publicity earlier than you’re both lifeless or dying. So, being in an atmosphere just like the Himalayas that was within the 30s at night time and 60s through the day, that was very intense. It created challenges like not wanting to maneuver, as a result of even a small breeze would end in shivering.

Then, there was the truth that we didn’t have sneakers on, so fixed strolling round and getting stabbed on the underside of our ft over lengthy durations of time was overwhelming. It additionally compelled us to maneuver slowly. Having bugs land throughout us and on our non-public areas and never with the ability to do something about it was additionally very troublesome.

Folks say on a regular basis, “Properly, why didn’t you make garments?” As a result of the atmosphere was so harsh, making garments was the low factor on the totem pole. Simply to make it by way of the night time, garments weren’t going to do it — we wanted fireplace. I needed to be gathering firewood all day — sufficient for 13 nighttimes — and in between I needed to take water breaks to ensure I used to be hydrated (that was a process in itself). It was not a simple process.

It’s within the identify, so we’ve acquired to ask. Had been you afraid on the market? Inform us in regards to the psychological influence of the situation you confronted and the way you handled it.

I don’t suppose I used to be essentially afraid of creatures or the atmosphere or something like that, the problem of worry was simply “Am I going to have the ability to make it? Am I going to have the ability to survive? What if I get sick? What if I get injured?” All these issues weigh on you psychologically, as a result of you understand you could have a lot to do. I simply tried to do one of the best I might and ensure I didn’t make an fool out of myself on nationwide TV. [Laughs]

Portrait photo of Hakim Isler.

Above: Hakim designed this Tengu ax and introduced it with him on Bare and Afraid. Its versatile design and a number of slicing surfaces helped with a wide range of survival duties.

What had been your survival priorities going into the present? How did they alter when you had been out within the subject?

That’s a gorgeous query, as a result of I had all the priorities, and I had all of it discovered. I had practiced at residence by myself within the wilderness. I used to be like, “OK, day one, I do know I’m going to be hydrated and full, so all I’ve to fret about is ensuring I discover a spot to construct a pleasant shelter. Day two, I’m going to search out some water, as a result of I do know that’s going to be the following necessary factor on the checklist.

Day three, I’m going to construct some sneakers so I can transfer round rapidly. Day 4, I’m going to start out in search of some sources of meals whereas fascinated with what I can use for some form of clothes.” None of that occurred.

On the primary day, we had little or no daylight left by the point we acquired to our vacation spot. We needed to pull collectively a shelter and a hearth as quickly as attainable so we might make it by way of the night time. After which it was simply catch-up from there. As soon as we felt how chilly it was that first night time, we needed to actually reinforce our shelter. My accomplice was sick with a abdomen virus from some water she drank, so we needed to take care of that.

Then, we needed to discover drinkable water, as a result of we had been at excessive altitude and had been shifting quite a bit, and that affected us greater than we thought. After which like I mentioned, looking for firewood and maintain ourselves heat was the key precedence, particularly as soon as we realized there wasn’t a whole lot of meals on the market and it was so chilly.

With each actuality TV present, we all the time marvel if occasions are scripted or if producers intervene to make the present extra thrilling. Did you expertise something like that?

There wasn’t a whole lot of intervention. Nonetheless, the producers do come out and ask you questions. A few of these questions could be a little guiding, as in the event that they’re attempting to see if there’s any rigidity. They’re attempting to drag that out. So, there’s just a little little bit of that manipulation. However I didn’t personally really feel just like the producers had been attempting to create something that wasn’t there.

That was my expertise again then, however in fact they’re on season 15 or 16 now. It’s an entire totally different world now, so I don’t know what it might be like at the moment.

What was it like making an attempt to outlive alongside a accomplice you had by no means met earlier than?

That was one of many hardest issues. You’ve acquired two individuals who’ve by no means met one another, who don’t know what one another’s personalities are, attempting to outlive this actually chaotic scenario. It was past difficult. We ended up pulling it collectively, however in these first few days, it was actually troublesome. She was sick, coping with these points. I used to be attempting to take care of her being sick, and in addition take care of my very own problems with attempting to make a plan and get it carried out.

How did your time on the present finish, and what survival classes did you stroll away with?

My occasions on the present ended effectively. Properly, I had a tough time with the second in Colombia, however the first one within the Himalayas I feel I did good. However each modified my total life. They taught me what was actually necessary, and adjusted the trajectory of who I’m. Additionally they prompted me to wish to begin this factor referred to as the Soil Basis, which is a nonprofit group.

I personal 100 acres of land in North Carolina, and I’ve been taking individuals out and giving them wilderness experiences. In the end, I wish to do extra experiential coaching out on the property. We’re capable of present getaways for individuals to discover their deeper inside self, in order that they’ll awaken to a number of the issues that they could have been hiding from themselves resulting from all of the distractions we’ve in our society.

That was most likely the best survival talent — recognizing who I’m deep down. Folks have to know that in the event that they’re going to outlive any kind of actual hardship.

Please inform us about your newest tasks and the place we will comply with you on-line.

I’ve two superior tasks. Like I mentioned, I created the Soil Basis. It’s a wilderness remedy group the place we specialise in offering out of doors wilderness experiential retreats to assist individuals discover out issues about themselves and are available to phrases with issues, and hopefully heal from any previous trauma in that course of. We’re additionally attempting to boost cash for a convention heart and occasion house made out of transport containers.

For those who’d like to help with that or donate, you possibly can go to our web site, thesoilfoundation.org.

The following factor is Survive College, my on-line survival platform. It offers with the whole lot from find out how to survive based mostly on funds, find out how to survive based mostly on emotion and psychology, and find out how to survive based mostly on physicality — wilderness and bushcraft issues in addition to self-defense. That’s at surviveuniversity.com.

You may as well discover me at hakim-isler.com.

Melissa Miller

Photo of Naked and Afraid contestant Melissa Miller holding a primitive bow.

Above: Publicity picture previous to the 40-day problem in Africa (Picture courtesy of David E. West).

Age: 34

Hometown: Fenton, MI

What season(s) did you take part in? The place did you go?

Season 7 (21 days): Ecuador, Amazon Rainforest; Season 4 Bare and Afraid XL (40 days): South Africa; and Season 10 (21 days): Florida Swamplands

Inform us just a little about your survival expertise background going into the present.

Rising up, I used to be all the time outdoor and that adopted me into maturity. A variety of my life was spent on a lake the place I realized find out how to fish. After graduating school, I taught out of doors schooling and wilderness survival courses at a nature protect for a number of years. I acquired actually enthusiastic about primitive survival, which coincided with me making use of for the present.

We perceive every contestant was allowed to carry one merchandise. What did you carry, and why?

An inside truth about Bare and Afraid is that the producers truly requested us to carry 4 objects to location. They in the end selected which one went on the present with us.  Manufacturing additionally offers one merchandise relying on what objects the survivalists are given.

In Ecuador, I had my hand-fishing line. The fish are plentiful there, and it fed us effectively all through the three weeks we had been on location. I ate a number of red-bellied piranha.

In South Africa, I introduced my bow. It was a classic Bear Archery Kodiak Hunter. I went with the intention of searching massive sport, but it surely ended up offering us meals otherwise — catfish. I’d take day by day walks to a watering gap with it and bow fish catfish there. On this problem, we had been additionally allowed a knife, and I introduced my TOPS Knives B.O.B Fieldcraft knife.

Within the Everglades, each objects on the market ended up being mine. I truly discovered who my accomplice was going to be forward of time, and I gave him my Nepalese Khukuri earlier than we went on location. I introduced my fire-starter.

Photo of Melissa Miller smiling while a giant bug crawls up her face.

Above: Melissa taking part in with critters within the Amazon earlier than her first problem.

Publicity is a severe risk in any out of doors setting, and nudity is the last word type of publicity. What challenges did being bare pose?

Being bare is what separates this present from another survival problem. It’s indescribably depressing. Each inch of your physique is at fixed publicity to moisture, chilly temperatures, and bugs. In environments just like the Amazon rainforest, I used to be a meals supply for numerous mosquitoes. Leafcutter ants are all over the place there and are fast to chunk something of their path.

In South Africa, each different step is a thorn within the foot. There have been some very chilly nights there by which having companions to share physique warmth with saved me.

Within the Everglades, I used to be coated in poison ivy. The mosquitoes sucked there too (no pun supposed).

It’s within the identify, so we’ve acquired to ask. Had been you afraid on the market? Inform us in regards to the psychological influence of the situation you confronted and the way you handled it.

Psychologically, essentially the most troublesome issues for me had been the boredom and the rain. At some point appears like every week on the market — I actually can not emphasize how slowly time goes by. With out distractions, you in a short time understand what and who’s necessary in your life.

My greatest worry on the market was by no means the animals; it was the rain. Rain threatens your fireplace, your shelter’s integrity, and your core physique temperature. A very wet atmosphere is, in my expertise, essentially the most troublesome and depressing atmosphere to outlive in.

What had been your survival priorities going into the present? How did they alter when you had been out within the subject?

My priorities had been to ascertain an excellent shelter, get a sustainable fireplace arrange, and to not get sick or contaminated with parasites. Sustaining fireplace on the market was a precedence and an sudden obsession, particularly within the rainforest the place it’s so laborious to start out a hearth. Holding a hearth offered heat, meals, consolation, leisure, water, and safety from bugs and animals.

Photo of the bottom of Melissa Millers foot which has been aggressively bitten by insects.

Above: “After Ecuador, tons of of thorns had been embedded in my ft. My palms had been burnt, callused, and rising nail fungus.”

With each actuality TV present, we all the time marvel if occasions are scripted or if producers intervene to make the present extra thrilling. Did you expertise something like that?

Interplay with manufacturing and crew could be very restricted. There have been occasions the place producers may ask us to go on a hunt or do one thing entertaining for that day. And naturally, they could attempt to facilitate some form of drama with their interview questions. Once we did the 40-day problem, the enhancing made it appear to be there was some form of deep inner tribe battle (there wasn’t).

At occasions I used to be dissatisfied to see a lot of the enhancing went towards drama and battle slightly than survival. However I perceive it’s TV, and drama/battle is entertaining.

What was it like making an attempt to outlive alongside a accomplice you had by no means met earlier than?

You might be positioned in a particularly annoying survival scenario and attempting to work by way of it with a complete stranger. The primary day is admittedly tough — you solely have a number of hours to (hopefully) set up shelter and fireplace earlier than dusk, and you could make all of those actually quick selections and execute them as a cooperative crew, otherwise you’re screwed.

In my first problem, it was actually troublesome at first as a result of we had completely totally different approaches to survival. My accomplice’s background was within the navy and mine was in primitive survival/bushcraft. By the top, we discovered find out how to work effectively collectively and have become lifelong buddies after the present. I keep in contact with all of my earlier companions to today.

Photo of Melissa Miller fishing from a boat on a lake, holding up a fish she caught.

Above: “Rising up on a lake helped me study fishing from a younger age. This data offered an enormous a part of my meals provide through the survival challenges.”

How did your time on the present finish, and what survival classes did you stroll away with?

I accomplished all my challenges efficiently and realized quite a bit. Just a few issues that basically stick out:

  • A water-proof shelter the place you reside may not be waterproof within the Amazon rainforest.
  • Most of your power doesn’t go towards thrilling issues like searching; it goes towards getting firewood.
  • Primitive survival is a lot trial and error. It’s tedious, time-consuming, irritating, and annoying, however extraordinarily rewarding when you get it proper.
  • Your physique can nearly all the time push additional than you suppose it might probably.

Selfie of Naked and Afraid's Melissa Miller.

Above: Returning to the resort after 40 days in Africa. “I felt like a wild animal.”

Please inform us about your newest tasks and the place we will comply with you on-line.

I work for the World’s Largest Knife Present, BLADE Present alongside BLADE Journal doing social media and digital advertising and marketing. I’m additionally on YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and Fb as @MelissaBackwoods the place I’m actively reviewing knives and survival gear day by day.

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