Ranked: The Most Realistic Reality Survival TV Shows

Survival TV shows are a lot of fun to watch. But what many serious preppers want to know is … are reality shows about survival real?

How Real Are Reality TV Survival Shows?

We’re not going to lie, the answer is probably going to disappoint you. Most survival shows are made for entertainment. Audiences tune in for drama and adventure. That means many scenes are staged, especially in shows with groups of people “surviving” together.

“Alone”? Yeah, most of it is fake. The same thing goes for “Naked & Afraid”, sadly. Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean watching all survival shows is a waste. Some can actually be useful. 

What Are the Most Realistic Survival TV Shows?

#1. “Survivorman”

Les Stroud knows what he’s doing when it comes to wilderness survival. He worked as a wilderness survival instructor for a decade before the first episode of Survivorman even aired. He also teaches survival techniques to Canadian military personnel.

The reason this show is so awesome? It’s just Stroud. No camera crew, no emergency backup, nothing. In fact, that’s why he called it quits in 2016.

During an interview with Reuters, Stroud said, “It takes a lot out of me as I really do what I do for real, with no camera crew, no nights in hotels like others do, and it takes a toll on my body… You can only do seven days surviving without food a certain number of times a year.”

What you see is what happens. You don’t get incredible camera angles or awesome shots of Stroud on the run from predators (the time he was being stalked by a jaguar was completely real) every episode, but that’s what actually survival is really like. He doesn’t waste energy or risk his life on stupid stunts. The info on this show is something you can trust.

#2. “Fat Guys in the Woods”

This show lasted on the Weather Channel until 2015. We were sad to see it go because it was one of the more realistic survival TV shows. There were some humorous moments, sure, but a lot of the episodes focused on teaching complete wilderness “noobs” real survival techniques. And the info was solid, we’ve got to say.  

#3. “Live Free or Die”

Want to know how to turn pine pitch into glue? Need a refresher on your trap-making skills?

Check out past episodes of this (sadly cancelled) show on The National Geographic Channel. Live Free or Die follows several people who live off the grid long term. There are camera crews, but reshoots are rare and there aren’t any prepared scripts. It’s just experienced survivalists sharing great tips with viewers.

#4. “The Walking Dead”

Obviously, the whole zombie apocalypse thing isn’t real. But the survival parts and SHTF scenarios you see are pretty realistic. The things that happen on the show probably would happen in an EOD situation or government collapse. Hopelessness, overconfidence, despair,  boredom, PTSD — all of these emotions are the real thing.

The reason for this is pretty simple: the show uses trained preppers as consultants. So while not everything you see is realistic (why doesn’t anyone hang some stupid tin cans as an early warning system against zombie attacks?!), a lot of the scenes can help you prepare.

The best survival TV presents trustworthy information and realistic situations you may face during a disaster scenario. That way, even scenes that are kind of staged can teach you important techniques.