Best Wilderness Shows On Netflix

Brent Mccoy
• Saturday, 07 November, 2020
• 7 min read

From the more ridiculous and game-show style (think Survivor) to the serious (anything by Bear Grills or legitimate survivalists); or to those that are aimed at people who think we’re on the precipice of the end of global order; there are a lot of shows that you can find to help scratch your itch for the latest in crazy survival ideas and scenarios. Keep in mind that Netflix is continuously evolving their lineup, so there is always the chance that a few of these titles may not be available if you’re looking for them too long after publication of this post.

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Bear Grills is also somewhat famous for his constant use of his own urine for hydration and other needs(which is a legitimate survival skill, sure, but not necessarily one you want to resort to right away). His show has him surviving in some of the most unforgiving climates in the world, as well as some that you might actually encounter (like a bog in Ireland, for example).

His show also has some ridiculous survival tricks that, though workable (like the ‘sleeping bag’ in Ireland), most people will never use. The show is heavily staged, it takes place in areas that are carefully selected and are made safe from outside intrusion, and the real lesson to be learned from this show (or the one I learned, anyway) is that if you take a bunch of people and stick them on an island, they will absolutely undermine each other if there is a promise of money at the end.

Trust me, I’ve watched Mad Max (all three) and series of shows about the apocalypse, and it always happens. All kidding aside, if you’re in a survival situation because society has crumbled, chances are that one of the biggest threats to your wellbeing are going to be people around you who have ill intent.

This is a great show for people who think that, if everything goes wrong, they’re going to be John Rambo out there, mowing down communists with an M-60 as they move to a safe place. The people in this show are almost all ex-soldiers, many of whom were involved in these fights, and the battles discussed are generally ones that did necessarily go perfectly.

Surviving such a battle is the kind of thing that is a Herculean feat, on par with the Spartans who held back the might of the Persian war machine. Black Hawk Down is a film retelling just such a story, based on a heavily-researched book by Mark Bowden, telling the tale of Task Force Ranger and their fight against what seems like the entire city of Mogadishu, Somalia.

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Less than two hundred Rangers, Delta Force operators, and various other Special Operations' personnel from the Navy and Air Force CSAR, along with the Night Stalkers of the Special Operations Aviation Regiment set out on a simple snatch and grab mission to pick up high-level leaders of a local warlord, and found themselves having to deal with two downed helicopters and massive casualties. If nothing else, this film about the Battle of Mogadishu (also known as the Battle of the Black Sea) is a modern example of just how wrong a fairly simple operation can go, and of how the most modern and elite fighting force on Earth can face a hard fight with a local populace.

What will become of the carefully manicured lawns of suburbia, the giant concrete monoliths of the urban metropolises, the grocery store where the clerk was incapable of ringing up your food in a decent timeframe? The premise is that mankind has suddenly vanished, and all our great works are left behind like the Ozymandias of fable.

The two-hour special is a good indicator of what the rest of the series is like, as it talks about Pripyat, the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which has since become an irradiated no-man’s land. It’s definitely an interesting take on what the world might look like if society and civilization ever falls and humanity cannot figure out how to rebuild or restart.

I Shouldn’t Be Alive is a UK-produced show that tells stories (along with a dramatic reenactment, of course) of people who found themselves in dangerous and terrifying circumstances outside of civilization, things that they somehow survived. Some of my favorites were the story of a British Army office captured in Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge, a man who survives being shipwrecked for two and a half months, and the man lost in the jungle near the Mayan ruins for nineteen days with nothing more than the usual tourist equipment.

Special Forces soldiers spend a long time learning survival skills that will keep them alive anywhere in the world, and Make Hawks has a lot of great advice to give. The first season spends a lot of time talking about surviving in particular places, like Botswana or Mexico or even the Smoky Mountains, while the second season concentrates partly on specific situations, such as a bear encounter, or having to live off of roots in Kentucky.

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Its host, biologist and ‘extreme angler’ Jeremy Wade, travels the globe, looking for freshwater creatures that have taken a life or threatened the local populace or things like that. If you’re looking for tips on angling, for some information about fish and crocodiles, or just to watch a guy as he stalks through waterways searching for some sort of mythically terrifying water beast (or snake) that poses a threat to the locals, River Monsters is a great show for you to watch.

Of the eight contestants they had over the run, a full fourth decided to evacuate rather than completing the objectives, which doesn’t sound too good when you consider that they were trying to survive in the coastal rainforest in Washington and the desert regions of Southern Utah, places people have been surviving in for hundreds of years. Still, it can be a fun show and a great way to familiarize yourself with things that can help you survive in a forest or desert environment.

Survivor man is a show starring Les Shroud in which he survives in various scenarios with the things that someone would reasonably have available to them. The episodes show Les surviving in a wide variety of conditions and areas, from the swamps of Georgia to the Arctic Tundra.

The Last Ship is the story of a US Navy vessel and its crew survive after the world is decimated by a plague that kills 80 percent of the population. This is another show where morality comes into play repeatedly, because not only can they not help everyone, but bringing people onto the vessel poses numerous problems.

These are the kind of men (and women, in some countries), who can sneak up to a target, surveil them from afar, and take their life from eight hundred meters away, only to disappear without a trace. Slow, purposeful movements, caution, and cool thinking are their tools, along with an intense knowledge of trigonometry and the physics of bullet flight.

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And every year at Fort Benning, home of the US Army Infantry’s training facilities, as well as many more advanced schools, snipers from all over the world come together to show off their craft. These represent some of the greatest marksmen in the world, and they compete in events throughout a three-day period in order to determine who is the very best of them.

The end of the world due to a zombie outbreak is not just an ever more common trope for stories, it’s also a great way to start a tale about scrappy survivors. Follow a Sheriff named Rick who wakes up in the middle of a hospital after being shot by a criminal during a traffic stop.

The Walking Dead is a work of fiction, but it does have a lot to offer in the way of great content (it was based on an award-winning comic book series that is even darker than the show, after all). People who were already on the fringes of modern ethics and found it very easy to go from being a cold-hearted person to killing their fellow man to make sure that they can find another meal or another safe place to hide from the zombies.

I’ve found in my travels that one of the worst things that you’ll need to contend with is the weather. The hope is that this information will yield answers that can lead to better understanding of the causes of tornadoes, the reason that they choose the paths that they do, and the like.

And, while I don’t think this one is as good as the Walking Dead, it is still a great show on its own merits. As such, a group is trying to move Murphy from New York to the final operating CDC facility in California, in order to make a cure or vaccine from his antibodies.

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Mankind is very reliant on our electronic devices (says the man who’s writing on a computer while in cold air from an AC unit). The show begins in 2027, fifteen years after a world-wide electrical blackout wiped out all our technology.

The show revolves around young child who has a pendant around his neck that not only holds the key to figuring out what happened, but if there is a way to reverse the blackout and return order to the world. There are also plenty of examples of the cruelty of man, which is an important lesson to learn in this kind of situation.

There are few things that man has ever made that are more capable of wiping out our progress on this planet, as a species and as a group of civilizations, than the nuclear warhead. During the Cold War era, a lot of people wrote about what the world might look like after the detonation of such a weapon.

In the aftermath, the US splits into various smaller nations (including the Independent Republic of Texas, which I would absolutely live in). It’s a good story, even though it was cancelled once, and well worth a watch if you’re the kind of person worried about nuclear war.

Survivor provides us with a much more realistic idea of the reason why social order collapsed. This actually has a basis in history, with things like the Spanish Flu that wiped out huge swaths of the population having happened before.

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This is a British drama that revolves around a group of people surviving after what is being called the ‘European flu’. Society has, of course, broken down, and there is now no law, no social groups bigger than a few city blocks, and no police.

The story follows a group of survivors led by a matriarch, Abby Grant, as she looks to find her missing son, Peter, who she is absolutely certain survived the flu. This is another one of those ‘life after society collapses’ stories, although to me, it has a lot of elements of the Resident Evil movies to it (minus the zombies, of course), including the machinations of shadowy corporations that released a lethal virus for hard-to-fathom reasons.

The Colony is a sci-fi film, set in the future, that presents us with a world that has been destroyed by something we always hear about yet rarely see any real catastrophic impact from; global warming. To be specific, it is mankind’s reaction to global warming that doomed humanity; we built giant machines to control the climate, and one day it simply begins to snow and doesn’t stop.

In this confrontation, another problem is revealed; unlike many shows and movies, the supply of ammunition that is easy to find dwindled quickly in the wake of the apocalyptic events that lead to society’s breakdown, and so you can’t just fire lead downrange at people until the problem is solved. Sharpen that pocketknife, tie that squirrel trap, and grab a handful of tasty moss, because we've got seven shows for fans of Alone.

The granddaddy of survival shows is Survivor man, which ran on various networks from 2004 to 2015, and really kicked off the wave of people being dropped into certain-death situations for our entertainment. It was particularly notable for being one of the first shows in which the subject is also responsible for filming themselves -- which Alone borrows from -- really emphasizing true lone survival.

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Shroud would later turn Survivor man into a Bigfoot-hunting show for some reason, but the early seasons are still some of the best survival television out there. It just happened that those “points” were across remote rocky terrain or on steep cliff sides where one slip would mean a deadly fall.

The inexperience of the participants provides more danger than other survival shows -- turns out being an office manager doesn't help much when you get hypothermia -- and more than half of the original nine bounce before the final destination is reached nearly a month later. BBC2While Alone focuses on a single person against the brutal elements that Ma Nature throws at them, 2020s Win the Wilderness -- the newest addition to survival TV -- takes couples to the Alaskan wilderness where they compete against five other couples in survival challenges.

It's much more of a traditional reality competition series than Alone, but it has a cool prize: The winners will inherit a gorgeous three-story house, airstrip, guest cabin, and greenhouse that is 100 miles from the nearest road in Alaska. Current owners Duane and Rena One, the real stars of the show who built the hermetic property on their own but can no longer maintain it now that they're in their 70s, will bequeath the place to whichever couple they deem is most deserving.

One thing that differentiates Win the Wilderness from other shows is that you get to see various survival tactics in action, as each couple has their own strengths, weaknesses, and knowledge, but no one here is in real danger. You vs. Wild sees Grills set out to different remote locations to complete missions, and like Black Mirror's Bandersnatch, when Grills gets to a point where he can make a decision -- does he eat some raw shellfish for sustenance, for example -- you press a button on your TV remote to pick one of two options.

The fun part of this is that you can intentionally make Grills injure himself or get sick while also learning a thing or two about how to handle certain situations. Jeff Allen/Discovery Channel Alone is just too lonely for you, check out Discovery's Dual Survival, which pits TWO dudes against the wilderness.

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Where to watch Naked and Afraid : Discovery (cable subscription required), Hulu Where to watch Naked and Afraid XL : Discovery (some seasons free, some require cable subscription), Hulu (Season 1) XL is more reminiscent of Survivor, without the silly games, whereas you can drop in and out of Naked and Afraid as each episode is self-contained (unlike the contestants).

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