Ranked: 15 Epic Survival Reality TV Shows You Can't Miss

Exploration of the great outdoors and the complexities of the human condition have long fueled humanity's love for survival stories, whether in film or reality TV. Despite the odds, people are fascinated with the real-life struggles of individuals thrown into the wild, forced to fend for themselves. Below we've rounded up the top 15 best survival shows, showcasing the spectrum of the genre, from savage beauty to guilty pleasures.

15 Surviving The Stone Age

Learn about our ancestors while watching eight researchers live like our ancient predecessors in this three-part miniseries set in the Bulgarian mountains. While the show is not as boisterous as other examples within the genre, it does offer a merging of archaeology and wilderness survival.

14 Snowflake Mountain

This somewhat misguided reality show takes on the task of teaching young adults wilderness survival skills, resulting in hilarious, yet educational moments on the very tough journey into adulthood. From the contestants' complete lack of knowledge about the great outdoors, this show is a guilty pleasure for many viewers.

The Cast of Surviving the Stone Age poses together on a rock overlooking the forest

13 Naked and Afraid

Naked and Afraid features contestants forced to brave the wilderness without clothing, shelter, or nourishment, often with a complete stranger. It's an intense show that masterfully finds ways to push participants to their limits throughout each episode.

Exploring primal needs of survival in a natural setting has also found a home in mainstream films. Movies like The Revenant, The Martian, and 127 Hours seamlessly intertwined the elements into their thrilling plots. It's no surprise that reality TV has jumped on board, turning the genre into a fascinating genre for those interested in outdoor life. From rugged to soft, these 15 shows have captured the hearts of audiences, eagerly tuning in for each new episode.

The whole cast at the beginning of Snowflake Mountain. 

Among the most astonishing survival shows available, Naked and Afraid follows several pairs who strip down and endeavor to survive the planet's most unforgiving environments. From harsh deserts to thick jungles, the contestants must face everything that nature can throw at them, all while being completely exposed. The sans clothing rule sets Naked and Afraid apart from other shows in the genre, providing an unorthodox and captivating edge.

Jeff Zausch screaming on Naked and Afraid

Adding to the authenticity, the show often has a quasi-documentary feel. The participants are shown confronting real wilderness dangers, such as executive producer Steve Rankin, who was bitten by a highly venomous snake during a shoot in the Costa Rican rainforest.

12 The Colony

One of the greatest survival shows produced by Discovery Channel, The Colony presents an intriguing concept. Instead of being stranded on a tropical island or in a dense forest, contestants find themselves in a simulated post-apocalyptic world where survival goes beyond mere necessities.

Cast photo for The Colony

What sets the show apart is how immersive it is for both the participants and the viewers. It may not always be perceived as entirely genuine, but the meaty post-society storyline and well-cast contestants combine to create an incredibly original experience.

11 Dude, You're Screwed

Dude, You're Screwed merges Survivorman with Impractical Jokers. Five expert survivalists are pitted against one another, competing to show who has the best survival skills. Each episode sees one survivalist being kidnapped, then abandoned alone in a remote location to fend for themselves.

Dude You're Screwed Title Card with man wandering in the desert while wearing a suit

This series provides an exceptional view of experts in survivalism pushed to their limits and is undeniably one of the best survival shows. Although it ran for only two seasons, the show offers an entertaining and informative experience, complete with helpful tips for surviving various harsh environments.

10 Ultimate Survival Alaska

Promising breathtaking scenery and unforgiving weather conditions, the Alaskan region is known for accommodating some of the most daring survivalists. Ultimate Survival Alaska is one of the best survival shows out there, as contestants divide themselves into teams of woodsmen, mountaineers, military veterans, and endurance athletes. They aren't fighting for a grand prize, but instead for the love of conquering the daunting mountains, glaciers, forests, valleys, and creatures of Alaska. The unique team categories and unyielding Alaskan wilderness make for an intriguing and nail-biting series.

Ultimate Survival Alaska: Three men stand atop a mountain

9 Surviving Disaster

Surviving Disaster is one of the most gripping survival shows, showcasing various disastrous scenarios and how to overcome them. The show provides expert advice from survival specialists for challenges such as plane crashes, home invasions, and natural disasters. Equipped with animations, real-life testimonials, and insider knowledge from experienced professionals, Surviving Disaster is a must-watch for anyone interested in survival tactics.

Surviving Disaster Title Card

Former Navy SEAL, Cade Courtley, plays host in the informative and practical series Surviving Disaster, which takes viewers on a journey through different disaster scenarios, including man-made, natural, and pandemics. What sets the show apart is its focus on the audience and the practical advice it offers. Although the show only aired for one season, it remains an intriguing and valuable resource for those looking to prepare themselves for the worst-case scenarios.

Man vs Wild Bear Grylls with a machete

8 Man Vs. Wild

Bear Grylls, with his expertise and charm, navigates through some of the most inhospitable places on Earth in Man vs. Wild. This thrilling and educational show not only provides a survival adventure but also inspires and educates. Grylls portrays an unflinching look at survival, making it an excellent resource for those seeking to learn more about survival tactics or those wanting to enjoy Grylls' nail-biting feats of bravery that ultimately launched his successful career in the survival television industry.

Survivorman Les Stroud looking at something

7 Survivorman

In Survivorman, survival expert Les Stroud purposefully strands himself in dangerous remote locations for one week with no food or equipment. As viewers ride along with Stroud's one-man camera rig, they witness his flair and expertise in navigating every obstacle that comes his way. The show offers valuable insights into survival tactics, making it suitable for anyone looking to gain some much-needed survival tips. As a result, Survivorman has become a revered staple of its genre.

Bill McConnell and Grady Powell on Dual Survival

6 Dual Survival

Dave Canterbury and Cody Lundin, two expert survivalists with dramatically different survival methods, exchange ideas and debate tactics in Dual Survival. The show offers valuable and practical tips from real-life experts that allow viewers to assess which method they agree with. With its unique approach, Dual Survival stands out among reality survival shows, making it a must-watch for die-hard survivalists. Its popularity even spawned a spin-off series, Dual Survival Brazil.

Isolation, determination, and grit are the hallmarks of Life Below Zero, undoubtedly one of the best survival shows to date. The series follows the life of rugged individuals living in the freezing and desolate terrains of Alaska, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Dalton Highway, and the Tanana Valley. The show's cast members are all expert handlers of firearms, snowmobiles, and harsh weather conditions, and they have a stoic and unyielding approach to survival.

Alone cast sitting together outside.

Life Below Zero offers a stark contrast to the glitz and glamour of city life, highlighting the importance of self-sufficiency, resilience, and mental toughness. The show doesn't have any grand prizes or elimination rounds; the cold and unforgiving wilderness is the only adversary. Personal convictions, survival techniques, and raw wilderness skills are all put to the test in the quest for daily sustenance and living off the grid.

Frontier House: a woman and two children feed a pig in a pen

1 Naked and Afraid

Naked and Afraid is undoubtedly one of the most extreme and challenging shows on our list of best survival shows. Its concept is simple: drop two strangers, one man and one woman, both with no clothes on, into some of the most hostile environments on the planet and challenge them to survive for 21 days. The participants don't have any supplies, except a single tool of their choosing, and must rely on their survival skills, instincts, and each other for sustenance.

The show's approach to survival is unconventional and boundary-pushing, and its explicit content has raised controversies, but it also adds a layer of authenticity to the show that cannot be found in other reality TV programs. Naked and Afraid has inspired multiple spin-offs and international versions, including Naked and Afraid XL, Naked and Afraid of Love, and Naked and Afraid Australia. The show is a testament to the boundless human spirit and the unwavering will to endure in the face of adversity.

Bear Grylls World's Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji

The unfolding of Life Below Zero differs greatly from the typical reality TV series, adopting a more documentary approach. Yet, it stands out as one of the most exceptional survival shows on television. Throughout its duration, it showcases the struggles and challenges encountered by individuals who live off the grid in extreme Alaskan temperatures. Unlike its Alaskan counterparts, Life Below Zero shuns unnecessary melodrama or comedy.

Life Below Zero Next Gen Johnny Rolfe

It features actual residents of the Arctic state, facing the harsh realities of their environment day after day. Life Below Zero has garnered eight Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards, mainly for its remarkable cinematography and editing, thanks to its sincere portrayal of life in the Alaskan wilderness.

1 Survivor

With over 40 seasons aired, Survivor has established itself as a veteran among reality shows. It follows different groups of castaways struggling to survive on a deserted island, while also engaging in challenges to win rewards and immunity from elimination. The winner, dubbed the "Sole Survivor," is awarded a grand prize of 1 million dollars.

Jeff Probst smiling on Survivor season 42

Survivor has experienced its fair share of ups and downs in critical ratings, but its exciting challenges, unexpected twists, and diverse cast have earned it a devoted following. Boasting over 600 episodes, Survivor dominates as the longest-running survival show in history, winning seven Emmy Awards and even a GLAAD Media Award.

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