A Look at Naked and Afraid


Naked and Afraid is a new reality television show that puts two people, one male and one female, out in to the wild to try and survive for twenty one days. They are thrown out there with no clothing, and are forced to build their own shelter, catch their own food, etc. in order to make it from day to day. The show does have a lot of positive things it shows, but it also has some inconsistencies. Through this article I will be looking at the show, a run down of what happens through it, and why some of the ideas behind it just do not make sense.

A Brief Overview

Each episode of the show starts with different people. It always includes one male and one female, of which are both determined prior to the show as being survival experts. We learn a little later through some of the episodes that different people infer “survival expert” as being different than others, but that is what the determination is made on.

Once the show starts, the male and female are taken out to an area where they must live for three weeks on their own. Prior to starting their journey, they are stripped down completely naked. Then they are sent off on their way. Soon after they get started, they come across a map and a satchel with a single item in it; each person was able to choose their “must have” survival item before the show, and that is the only thing they get given to them on their journey. Past that, it is up to them to figure out how to make things work.

The map itself is drawn out and helps better understand the terrain, although it is not as helpful as you might think. It is more or less just drawn to help figure out where the extraction point is, which is where the couple must make it on the final day.

The couple is given their own cameras to document their adventures, and there is also a separate camera crew that is sent with them, although the crew is tasked with doing nothing but recording. The only time they are able to get involved is if there is a life or death situation (which is probably because of the fear of lawsuits if they were to not step in under these circumstances). At night the crew heads back to their camp and leaves the couple alone, where the only recording that goes on is with their own cameras (on one of the episodes the crew was stated as having to make a forty minute trek back and forth each day for the recording, to help give an idea of how far away they are).

Through the episodes, the survivalists usually go through a lot of details on why they make the decisions they do, to help the viewer better understand what it is like. For example, they may show how to determine whether or not water is safe, or explain how to kill poisonous snakes or even things like how to cook water to help purify it. These things go a long way towards learning from watching, and they help get a feel for what is going on out there through immersion.

At the end of the journey, the couple has to make their way to the extraction point, which is sometimes far away and may be hard to travel to (after all, they are being guided by the sun, rather than a compass or GPS). Once they make it to the extraction point they are picked up and they go through a survivalist rating to see how much they improved between their first day and last day on their journey.

The Immersion Aspect

I find Naked and Afraid to be very immersive. Through the show it is not like you are just watching what is going on. Instead, the people actually explain what they are doing, as well as share reasons as to why they made those decisions. As an example of this, at one point a man has to kill a poisonous snake. Rather than just sit there watching while he does it, he asks the camera crew to back up (just in case he misses the snake, as it will likely become enraged and go after someone) and then gives a small talk on what his plan is: pinning the neck down so it can not get away and then dealing with the killing part. He ends up being lucky and getting it snagged on the first try, and then talks about the venom being sprayed all around. It is small details like this that really add on to the understanding (I, for example, did not know that you had to worry about venom spraying if you were holding the reptile down). There were also some other things mentioned like that a poisonous animal can still affect you with its venom even days after it has died. This is an awesome thing to know about as you may otherwise think you are in a safe position already!

The cameras that the survivalists carry with them also add in to the immersion aspect. They actively document most of the things that are going on so that you can see everything from their point of view, rather than just from the camera crew's. You get to see all of the good things that happen, as well as the bad. While the bad things are likely added in to help show how dangerous the situation is and bring some anticipation in seeing what is going to happen next, it also has merit; after all, the two people are living out in the wild with only what they find to protect them and nourish them. It is a tough world out there compared to what we are used to, and the show helps see that!

Flaw: What is “Living” in the wild?

The first flaw I want to bring up is what is classified as “living” when out in the wild. So far, from what I have seen the groups barely eat. They end up going through malnutrition and often sickness due to not eating very much. For example, they usually have meat maybe once or twice the entire time, and fill in the rest of the time with small things here and there as they can scavenge for them. Really, this is not “living” because if they were to continue their lives out there under the same conditions for much longer periods of time, they would likely not make it. This is only considering the food and water aspect, too. This does not even take in to consideration things like weather or predatory animals.

As an example of the weather problem, with some of the locations it gets to near freezing temperatures. The people have no clothing and no real shelter (other than what they are able to build); just fire. What happens when the winter comes and starts really freezing all day and night? You can live with the fire but you can not stay with it all day and keep it burning without going out to forage for more wood. And if you are out there going for wood, you are in the freezing temperatures with no clothes. While none of the groups has had to face these types of situations yet (at least not to their full extent), they are important things to consider. There are also other problems like forest fires, tornadoes, earthquakes and droughts. Each of these things makes living in the areas that much more difficult. If we have enough problems living through a lot of these things in our modern society, I do not see how the couples would be able to live through them with absolutely nothing to protect them.

When it comes to the animals, through the episodes I have already seen there have been some pretty vicious ones, from lions and hyenas to poisonous snakes and other creatures. The important thing to realize when watching is that the people are out in the wild; they can not simply go in to a tent to hide, or run in to a vehicle for protection. They are bound to only the type of shelter they can find or create (which usually revolves around some sticks that are elevated above the ground). This opens them up to pretty much any deadly animal that is found, because they have no real way to hide. Furthermore, since they have to sleep at night, they are even more susceptible to what is out there. Even if one person was to sleep during the day and another at night, it would be nearly impossible to keep up with every threat and still be able to go from day to day dealing with the various activities that need done (like hunting for food and finding more food for the fire). Because of this, while they may be able to continue for the short term, I do not believe that they would make it for the long term.

Flaw: Success Even When Medical Attention is Needed

This is not an attack on anyone who is on the show that ends up needing medical attention. I fully understand that things happen. For example, one person gets a thorn in his foot that after a week or two becomes so infected that the producer of the show requires him to go to a medical professional to get it treated (as he would otherwise risk losing his foot, leg or life). Even with the pain he was in and knowing the effects it could have were it not to be treated, he still wanted to stay on the show because it was close to the end of the twenty one days. Regardless, he was not given a choice. Lucky for him, though, once the medical attention was received he was granted permission to return to the wild to complete his journey, and he does.

This leads to the question as to whether or not he was actually successful and whether or not he would be able to sustain life out in the wild. In both of these cases, I would say no. The reason why I do not see him as successful is because if it were not for the emergency medical attention, he may not have made it. Even if he did, he might not have lived much longer than the end of the journey. And how would he be able to make the trek to the evacuation spot when he was not even really able to move due to his foot? It is not like they were already near the evacuation area to begin with. It would have been a long, tough journey and I do not believe that they would have made it on time even if they tried.

As for why I do not believe he could live in the wild for the long term, that is because of the medical attention needed. What would happen if they were out there alone, without anyone watching over them and with no medical professionals around to ensure that they were not going to lose limbs or life over things like infections? There is a pretty low chance that the couple would have been able to push through it and handle the infection on their own, considering they let it go for so long and did not show their skill by dealing with it. This would have brought about other possible scenarios as well. What if they were asleep and were bitten by poisonous snakes or spiders? What if they got some kind of stomach infection that required antibiotics? All of these things were and are real risks out in the wild, but they are not equipped well enough to handle any of them. Because of this, they would not be able to live out in the wild long term.

To me, while twenty one days is a somewhat long period of time (that is three weeks, after all), it is not too representative of their ability to sustain their livelihood. Prior to going out in to the wild they are well nourished. I am sure they were eating well and drinking well to stay hydrated prior to their trip. This gives a pretty long time in which they can go without food, and a little bit of time without water before they start to feel the effects. Because of this, their trip, while it is almost a month long, is (in the sense of nourishment) significantly shorter than that. A better representation would be no water or food the night before the trip, and a normal diet prior to that (instead of possibly carbing up). This would put them on an equal footing to where they may be if they were actually stranded, and we would be able to see the effects on their ability to think, plan and sustain their new home much better. Based on how most of the people start reacting within just a few days, I do not think it would take long before the effects would start showing and things would start to go downhill.

Flaw: Allowing Each Person to Choose an Item

Each person is able to bring one item with them on the journey. This is a pretty big deal because if they plan it right, they will go for the two most important things: a flint (or other item for creating fire) and a pot of some type for boiling water and cooking food. These two things were actually taken in one of the episodes, and they bring a very unfair advantage. For example, the flint will not last forever. It can end up getting lost or taken off by animals, for example. If this happened (try keeping up with something for a year or two out in the wild) they would be back to square one: trying to start fires using a couple sticks. You could argue that they would eventually get pretty good at doing that, of course, but the point stands that allowing things like flints creates another rift between surviving “on their own” and not.

Being able to take a pot is an even bigger deal. This is something that you simply can not make out in the wild, at least to the same effect of the ones we create today. You would have to be able to find metal that you can bend in to the proper shape and then create a handle somehow, otherwise you would end up burning yourself. All of this would be pretty much nonexistent out in the wild, unless you were lucky enough to find one that someone left (which begs the question as to why they would do that in the first place). Because there would be no pots out there (or the likelihood is at least so small it would not matter) there would be no safe way to purify the water. Iodine and chemicals we would normally use would not be accessible, so the chances of people getting sick while out there drinking the possibly contaminated water day after day increases.

There is another item that is often taken that also creates a big advantage, which is a knife. Trying to create a knife from scratch would be very difficult, and there are a lot of times that people have to rely on their knives to either protect themselves or to cut things to create new items. For example, think about trying to skin a snake or eat a turtle using a stick, rather than being able to use the knife to cut through them. This would make eating (and hunting) very difficult. It would also lead to much more danger out in the wild, as a knife is a wonderful weapon used for protection from wild beasts.

Flaw: Each Team is Given a Map

This is a huge advantage to anyone that is put in to a situation where they are out in the wild. The map gives locations of important things like water and major landmarks. Without it, you could be wandering for days without water, not even knowing if you are going the right way or not. Through being given the maps, the teams are able to easily navigate their way to where they need to set up camp. This is another way that the show takes away the “living in the wild” part, as the real wild does not give you maps as to where important things are; you have to explore on your own and try to figure it out. Add on the fact that things like water are needed pretty quick or you start to go through dehydration, and it would be a very difficult journey without one. Even with a map some of the teams have some problems trying to find their way around; imagine if they were out there with absolutely nothing!

It is understandable, to a point, why people on the show would want a map, but that takes away from the reality of it a bit. Even without having the ability to pick one item each to bring with them, the map in itself would be enough of a benefit to really sway what could be a failed trip in to a successful one. A much better option would be to allow the survivalists to do what people would have to do if they were truly trapped in the wild: attempt to use their tracking skills to find sources of water and food. This is a lot better than, for all intents and purposes, handing it to them.

Pro: Things Appear to Be Legitimate

While I think there are a lot of flaws with the show, there is one thing that helps bring it up in my eyes: it really does appear to be legitimate. It is hard to tell what would happen in situations where the camera crew was not around, though. For example, in one episode there was a fire that engulfed a camp, while one of the members was inside it. He made it out alive and they were able to contain the fire, but it makes me wonder what would have happened if the other member was not to get there in time; would he have actually died from burning up, or would the crew have jumped in (somehow – they are not supposed to be around at that time) to save him? There was a statement on that episode that the team did call in for assistance but they called it off after they got the fire contained. Regardless, I do not know if the help could even arrive in time to make a difference, considering the only person that knew about the fire originally was the one that was trapped in it.

Another situation that seems to be pretty real is the weather. At times, the people appear to be very cold, shivering at night and with no real shelter. There is a bit of talk about going in to hypothermia, although it makes me question whether or not it would be considered as a “medical emergency” prior to hitting that point, where the medics would have to go in and intervene. If they did not, there would be a chance of severe sickness or death. But how would they determine when that point kicks in, anyways?

At one point we were able to hear the sound of hyenas. The plan was to fend them off using fire (or at least hope that they would not go near the fire and it would basically be a deterrent), but there was a chance this would not work. It got especially frightful at night, when the survivalists had to sleep, as they can not defend themselves while asleep. The only alternative would be for one person to sleep, but then only one person would be dealing with everything the next day and that would not be efficient enough (although this was somewhat seen anyways, since one of the people was pretty much out of commission).

Things like this make me question how far the producer is willing to let things go before forcefully stepping in. We saw the situation with the thorn in the foot, but some others that seemed to possibly be even more fatal were left alone. There has to be some sort of line between what they will and will not allow to happen.

Things I Have Learned From the Show

There are many different things I have learned from the show. These are each very important, and I think they will prove to be helpful even in situations that are not related to trying to get by in the wild. My hope is that you can learn from them as well!

Hindsight is 20/20

You have probably heard this expression a lot, and it is something I experience all the time while watching Naked and Afraid. As I go through each episode, I often question “why would you do something so stupid?” I really do not even think I can count the number of times I have thought that. For example, drinking water without purifying it, especially when it is stagnant. This has always been what I felt was basic knowledge, but apparently some others do not know that yet. Of course, I later had to ask what I would do in the same situation. For example, if I had gone without water for days and I felt like I was literally going to die of thirst, would I have gone ahead and drank whatever I could get inside me? It is definitely possible. I think it could really be related to the concept that most people would eat anything they could get their hands on (like bugs) if they were hungry enough. Does this mean you would not have any regrets about it later? Of course not. But when you are in the heat of the moment, the brain does not always think clearly or make rational decisions. We try to do what we can to survive, and in this case that is to drink liquid to keep hydrated. It would be easy enough to say that we would not be drinking the water that they are told not to, but when we are not in the same situation it is hard to really know what our reaction would be. Maybe we would end up making the right choice, and maybe we would not. Because of this I find it a little hard to judge their choices (although when I watch the show I definitely do, and I am sure I am not the only person that does it).

I think that if the contestants end up watching their show after they are on it, they could use that to help better evaluate their own decisions. Actually being part of it helps to train yourself on right and wrong decisions, and that is something the show allows them to do. For example, since most of them are in the job of training other people on how to properly react to situations and how to survive out in the wild, they can use the show and their choices within it (whether they were good or bad ones) to help teach others how to better prepare themselves for what they may end up facing if they end up put out in to a similar situation.

”Why Does it Matter? This is Not Going to Happen to Me”

This is something I think people need to really break out of the mindset of. The truth is we have no idea what is going to happen from day to day. We can sit around thinking that things are going to continue the way that they are right now, but the fact is that we have no idea. For example, you could be in a car driving somewhere and end up getting stranded in the middle of nowhere, with absolutely nobody that can help you. Maybe driving off in to the woods or something instead of breaking down on the road. There are many situations that can lead to similar events, and being prepared for what may happen can easily be the difference between life and death. While I completely agree that this is not something people really want to think about (I do not either), when it really comes down to it there are situations like this that happen often. For example, there were people that were trapped in the snow capped mountains and ended up becoming cannibals because they had no other way to survive up there. Is this a positive thing to think about? Definitely not. But what if that was you or I? Knowing how to respond in these situations is important, and that is something Naked and Afraid helps condition ourselves to.

Teamwork is Crucial

The biggest problem that the teams face is that of teamwork. Different people have different ideas on how things should be done, and it often causes them to clash. While this is something that we see often as it is (we do not always get along with family or significant others, for example), in situations where teamwork matters it can make the difference between being successful and failing. For example, the teams trying to keep up their livelihood is an all day and night job that consists of both people working together. If one of them ends up slacking off so that the other person has to do absolutely everything, it leads to even faster fatigue and other problems that end up putting the two both in a bad mood and in a state of danger. For example, without fire, food, water and shelter, they are at a major disadvantage. This makes working together and trying to get along even more important than in other situations.

You Do Not Know Everything

This is something that we can often find hard to admit. When we have expertise in something, we often start to discount the input that others would have. For example, someone may be a professional on birds. When someone else comes by that makes a statement that they disagree with, they often shut out the idea entirely. While this may have some merit (in that they may absolutely know that the other person is incorrect), it is amazing how often we think wrong on things. We often shut people out on things that we “know” better about when in actuality the other person was right.

To bring up an example of this, there was the situation of one episode of Naked and Afraid having a woman who kept stopping to pick up various plants that have different purposes (such as medicinal ones). The person with her kept rushing her to move on so they could find water, rather than wasting time with the plant gathering. Which one of them was right, though? Really, both of them were. Water is important and finding it quickly helps ensure that they have access to it before it becomes an emergency and they risk not being able to make it. On the other hand, grabbing various plants and herbs helps keep up with their vitality and strength. As a result, their clash caused some problems, because they both had their own idea as to what was the most important at the time. These clashes not only caused them to miss out on the plants and such, but it also caused them to start off their journey with a bit of hesitation towards trusting one another. After all, if they both feel the other is making the wrong choices, that makes it even harder to trust them with future decisions.

I personally learned long ago that we need to be open to other ideas people have. Even if you do not agree with what they are saying, keep an open mind. You never know when you may end up learning something new, or finding out that your previous knowledge about something was wrong. By paying attention (even if you do not believe in something) to someone you can learn a lot about yourself!

Our Medications Are Important

Until it came to Naked and Afraid, I did not realize the true importance of all the medications we have available to us. I think that we take a lot of them for granted just because we are so used to them that we do not even take in to consideration what life would be without them. After watching situations like people getting stomach infections (or at least upset stomachs due to stale water), foot infections and food poisoning, it has helped put in to perspective how dangerous and uncomfortable our lives would be if we were out in the wild without any of these medications. I had heard about back in history when the pilgrims were on ships and if someone got stick they would be thrown overboard (to die, pretty much) because there were no cures for most diseases and they did not want to risk others getting stick as a result as well, but being that we no longer do things like this it is hard to imagine what that was like. Through Naked and Afraid, while it has not had anything nearly that bad (nor any situations that ended up with the same results) it does help better understand that mentality. Because of this, the show, in a sense, also teaches us a little about history and why decisions were made.

The Wild is a Dangerous Place

This is something that we think about to a point, although we do not really consider what it means. We go out camping and think about things like bears and rabid animals attacking, but we usually do not think about the smaller things like snakes, scorpions, poisonous spiders and various other creatures that can pose a threat to our lives. Along with this, we sleep in the protection of our tents, which help keep these things out.

Imagine being out camping with absolutely nothing to protect yourself. You are sleeping wide out in the open; if a spider comes, you will not even know because you are asleep and vulnerable. This means you could wake up (or not even wake up again) with major infections that lead to death or other major problems. Thinking about living with these fears constantly is tough; we do not even like to deal with these situations when they are pretty rare because of the fear they bring. Living with them all the time would be even harder both physically and mentally.

Watching the couples while they are awake and are seeing and hearing different things is hard enough as it is. I do not even understand how they are able to sleep, knowing that if these things are out there in the day, there are probably worse things at night. And the amount of protection the couples end up having is pretty minimal; really all they have is fire, which does no good if they have to run from their camp or are attacked by something they are not even able to see or that they do not know about (insects).


Naked and Afraid is an awesome reality television show and is one of the very few I have actually watched and enjoyed. Usually the shows are so filled up with fake scenarios and things just to keep people watching that they are essentially worthless, but this one helps show real world scenarios. It also helps learn along the way, which provides education; instead of just watching the show, you are experiencing it. The amount of detail the videos go in to and the somewhat thorough nature of the journey they take helps get a stronger grasp of what is happening and why.

If there were one request I would make, it would be to have multiple episodes online for following each group. For example, if you wanted to see what happened with the first group because you loved their style and how they got along, you could view their entire journey (or at least a lot more of it) online. I can understand that this would not be feasible for television itself since they are limited on air time, but having around forty minutes to document twenty one days leaves only two minutes per day to get out as much detail as possible. This leaves many questions unanswered (it is even possible that some of the flaws I listed through this article may be clarified behind the scenes) and does retract from the experience to a point. Even so, the system that they have right now does a great job for the time they have, and I enjoy watching every episode.


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