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Unlike other reality TV shows where survivalists are surrounded by a production crew, the contestants on Alone are truly, well, alone. As they are dropped off on location, they are given a black box filled with cameras, batteries, and microphones and instructed to film themselves in the wilderness.

In the wilderness, each must survive as long as possible—alone. All the contestants are in the same geographical area but spread miles apart. The one who survives the longest receives a large cash reward. What makes the competition so difficult is that no one contestant on the show knows exactly how many of the other contestants are left. So in the end, rather than competing against others, the challenge is deeply personal—emotional, mental, spiritual and physical—a true test of one’s endurance, pain tolerance, resourcefulness, and grit. The prize for the ultimate survivor is $500,000. 

In order to survive, each contestant is allowed to take 10 items. They get to choose what is most essential to their survival. Often, one of the items is a photo of a spouse, children, or partner. The other nine objects are key to shelter building and hunting. Some take a bow and arrow (no guns allowed). Others take a nylon rope or a fishing net. Almost everyone brings an ax and a flint stone. Anyone who has spent time outdoors knows that shelter and fire are the two non-negotiables.  

Over the course of eight previous seasons, the producers of the show have played with slightly different formats, but in the end, 10 individuals enduring the harshness of the wild alone is the essence of the show. The newest season (nine) takes place in Labrador, Canada, but previous seasons have been in the remote regions of British Columbia, the Arctic Circle, Mongolia, and Patagonia.

Oh, one last thing that I forgot to mention: the wild animals. Badgers, wolverines, bears, moose, foxes, and wolves— all threaten to steal food while waking contestants up at night, surrounding their handmade shelters with growls, barks, scratching, and howling. Honestly—it’s terrifying.  

Alone is one of the best survival shows out there. It’s a bit of a slow burn … so settle in and see who can fight off intense hunger, wild beasts and the harsh elements—alone. (Hulu, seasons 1-8; History Channel/, season 9)

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