Like many of you, we've been following the ALONE TV series on History for a few years now. Although no reality show will allow you to feel the stress of a real survival situation, ALONE is certainly one of the better examples we've seen in this genre. Each of the 10 contestants endures isolation, exhaustion, and the onset of starvation in an effort to outlast the others and claim the $500,000 prize. Season 6 takes place in the Canadian Arctic near the shores of Great Slave Lake.
Great Slave Lake is the deepest lake in North America and the tenth largest in the world. (Photo: Google)
We've often discussed the physical and mental challenges associated with survival in adverse conditions, but gear is a critical variable as well. When you have limited resources, you'll be forced to rely more on the items you do have in order to build a shelter, start a fire, purify water, and scavenge or hunt for food. ALONE contestants must choose only 10 items from a pre-approved, highly-specific gear list. These do not include the required camera gear — since each contestant films themselves as they survive — or clothing, personal effects, and safety/rescue equipment (more details on this below).
Today, we'll take a look at the gear options that are available to ALONE contestants, and allow you to choose your own hypothetical 10-item loadout in a poll. Once you've completed the poll, you'll be able to compare your survival gear picks to those of others who read this article. Finally, we'll close with a breakdown of the items that were most popular among the 10 participants on ALONE Season 6. This information may help you re-evaluate which tools and resources are most important, and which might not deserve a place in your pack.
As we mentioned, contestants on the show were allowed some clothing to withstand the cold Arctic weather, as well as a few personal items, safety items, and camera gear. This gear doesn't count towards the 10-item loadout, but it's fairly limited for a survival scenario that might last for several months. Here's the complete list of “freebie” items received by all contestants:
Items such as a rain shell, brimmed hat, and neck gaiter help contestants stay warm and dry. (Photo: History Channel)
Insulated, waterproof winter pants or bibs – 1 pair
Uninsulated, waterproof rain jacket
Long thermal underwear – 2 pairs (incl. top and bottom)
Leather or synthetic belt
Toothbrush – 1
Eyeglasses – 1 pair (proof of prescription required)
4×6 one-sided personal photo – 1
Safety and Camera Gear Though not explicitly mentioned by producers on the Season 6 web page, it appears that all contestants are supplied with some default items. These are designed to enable them to film their experience safely, call for rescue reliably, and stay alive until rescuers arrive if they're severely injured. Much of this comes down to reducing liability, since the show's producers don't want anyone to actually die during the competition.
Contestants are required to film themselves as they survive. (Photo: History Channel)
Camera equipment (cameras, mounts, batteries, etc.) and storage case
Rules and regulations guide
Animal attack prevention tools (i.e. bear spray and air horn)
Emergency signal flare and small signal mirror (for increased visibility during rescue)
Satellite phone and GPS tracking beacon
Emergency personal flotation device
First aid / trauma kit (tourniquet, gauze, bandages, rubbing alcohol, etc.)
20×20 canvas tarp
10×10 tarp for protecting camera equipment
Emergency rations pack to include water and food (cannot be used unless tapping out)
All contestants are provided with GPS beacons and sat phones to be used when they tap out.
Approved Survival Items
According to the rules, ALONE contestants get to choose exactly 10 items from the following gear list. There's also a stipulation that only two of these items can be food, so you can't just go into hibernation inside a fort made of beef jerky and wait for everyone else to tap out. No duplicate items are allowed, so you can't take three gill nets to increase your odds of catching some fish.
Here's the list, broken down into the appropriate categories. We omitted some of the more detailed specifications on some items for the sake of brevity, but you can read the extended version on History's web site. Look over these items, and consider which ones you'd pick — keep in mind that this particular scenario occurs in the Arctic, so cold temperatures and harsh weather will be a serious threat.
Rope or cord comes in handy for anything from rigging an A-frame shelter to rappelling down a mountainside.
12×12 ground sheet tarp with grommets (Remember that a 20×20 tarp is provided by default, this tarp is for additional ground cover.)
Surviving in the Arctic without a way to stay warm and dry at night would be a serious challenge.
Multi-season sleeping bag
Waterproof bivy bag (sleeping bag cover)
A pot offers a way to cook food as well as boil water.
Large pot with lid (2 quarts max)
Steel frying pan
Canteen or water bottle
Enamel food bowl
Soap is something we use every day, but would it be one of the 10 items you choose?
Bar of soap
Small bottle of shower soap
Toothpaste – 8 ounces
Dental floss – 40 mm roll
Shaving razor with blade
30 by 60-inch towel
No hunting rifles or fancy compound bows are allowed, only slingshots and primitive bows.
Fishing kit – 300 yards of 25-pound test mono-filament line and 25 barbless hooks (no lures)
Gill net – 5-inch mesh openings, 12 feet long by 50 inches wide
Primitive recurve or longbow with 9 arrows (broadhead, bodkin head, or blunt tip)
Slingshot with 30 ball bearings and one spare band
Snare wire – 3.5 pounds of 20/21-gauge wire
Salt block – 3 pounds
Net foraging bag
Food (2 Items Max)
Hardtack is one of the simple, long-lasting survival foods contestants can choose.
Beef jerky – 2 pounds
Biltong (dried meat) – 2 pounds
Pemmican – 2 pounds
Dried pulses/legumes/lentils – 2 pounds
Hardtack biscuits – 2 pounds
GORP trail mix (raisins, m&m's and peanuts) – 2 pounds
Chocolate – 2 pounds
Flour – 1 pound
1/3 pound of rice, 1/3 pound of sugar, 1/3 pound of salt
You won't get far without some sharp tool for breaking down wood — but there are several to choose from.
Ferro rod set with striker
Hunting knife (10-inch blade max, no secondary functions)
Duct tape or electrical tape – 1 roll
Sewing kit – 6 needles, 2 bobbins of thread, 3-inch scissors, 5-inch awl, 1-inch beeswax cube, small carrying pouch
Poll: Pick Your Gear
Complete the polls below to let us know what your gear loadout would consist of. We've broken it down into sections as seen above, so select the items (if any) you'd choose in that section and hit the “vote” button at the end of each category. Be sure to select only the 10 items you'd choose if you were actually participating in the Arctic survival scenario as seen on ALONE Season 6.
What the Contestants Picked
Now that you've voted for the 10 items you'd select and seen how other readers voted in our poll, let's take a look at what the actual contestants on ALONE Season 6 took with them into the Arctic. We'll list the gear below in descending order based on the number of people who selected it.
10 of 10
Sleeping bag – Unsurprisingly, all contestants chose this item. It'd be difficult to survive in the Arctic without an insulated sleeping bag for one night, much less weeks or months.
Fishing kit – Considering the need for a reliable source of calories, and the proximity to a large body of water, all contestants included fishing line and hooks in their loadouts.
9 of 10
Large pot – Jordan was the only contestant who didn't pick this item. He chose the frying pan instead.
Ferro rod and striker – Every contestant except for Nathan chose this reliable means of starting a fire. His kit didn't include a dedicated fire-starter; instead, he relied on his experience with the bow drill fire-starting method.
Saw – Nathan was the only contestant who didn't bring a saw, opting instead for an ax, fixed-blade knife, and pocket knife.
8 of 10
Paracord – Ray and Brady didn't choose this item, or any other form of cordage (aside from the line in their fishing kits).
Bow and arrows – Brady and Michelle didn't select this method of hunting. Both chose to pursue small game with snare wire instead.
Ax – Everyone except Barry and Woniya chose the ax as a means of chopping wood for their fires and shelters.
7 of 10
Knife – Jordan, Brady, and Michelle were the only ones who didn't include a fixed-blade hunting knife in their cutting tool arsenal.
Most of the contestants brought a fixed-blade knife, as well as several other cutting tools.
6 of 10
Snare wire – Tim, Nathan, Donny, and Woniya skipped this item as a secondary means of hunting.
5 of 10
Primary food ration – Half the contestants (Nathan, Donny, Brady, Woniya, Michelle) brought a food item from the approved list. One of them (Brady) also brought a second food item.
Multi-tool – Half the contestants (Jordan, Ray, Brady, Woniya, and Michelle) also picked a multi-tool, which can be used for precise cutting, sawing, drilling, and various other tasks.
1 of 10
Ground sheet tarp – Only Barry chose this for the base of his shelter. Other contestants relied entirely on the default green tarp and natural materials.
Frying pan – Rather than a pot, Jordan chose a frying pan for cooking/boiling.
Gill net – In previous years, the gill net was a more popular choice. Surprisingly, only Nathan selected it this year.
Secondary food ration – Barry was the only contestant who selected the maximum allowance of two food items. While this offers a considerable stockpile of calories, it also limited him to only eight other pieces of gear.
Pocket knife – Nathan brought this tool, while others relied on a multi-tool and/or larger cutting tools.
Shovel – Tim was the only contestant to bring a shovel, stating that he wanted it for breaking ice and digging up clay for pottery. He also brought an ax, knife, and saw.
If you're thinking that most of these gear choices were unsurprising, you're probably already on the right track with your emergency gear. Even if you're not an experienced survivalist, you should know why no one chose the comb, 2-pound block of chocolate, or single carabiner as one of their 10 allotted items.
That said, examining this gear list and the choices of the contestants should get you thinking more seriously about the value of your own gear choices. If your picks don't match up to those of other readers or the ALONE contestants, there could easily be a valid reason, but you should be able to articulate it.
Fortunately, in a real survival scenario, you probably won't be restricted to only 10 items. You'll have whatever you had the forethought to bring along. If you prepare the gear you know you'll need, and can support it with the appropriate skills and mindset, you'll have an easier time facing any survival situation that comes your way — whether it's in the Arctic, the desert, or your own home town.
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