The 10 gear mistakes of Alone contestants

survival quiz forest

And the 10 items I would bring

Okay the title is clickbait. There are many ways of doing something, and we each have our preferred methods. Survive your own survival.

This is the list of gear choices the contestants made for season 3 of the Alive show, and how often the items were chosen. Below you will find what I would choose and why. I’ll share my perspective having done 6 months living in the wild with rations of 1250 calories per day. The location dictates the gear; therefore this list is just a guide. I’ve also made a more recent alone gear list article that analyses all the seasons along with the choices of the winners, and my current opinion.

Sleeping Bag

Chosen by all 10 people / 10 times

Number 1 for me.

I would bring a hybrid or synthetic sleeping bag with mosquito net attached rated to the coldest temperature I would experience according to historical temperature records. It should be a hybrid or synthetic sleeping bag because after long term use they loose their insulation power due to dampness from your body or the environment. It shouldn’t have a goretex outer layer because it traps moisture. If a down sleeping bag gets wet it looses its insulation completely; they are off the table. The sleeping bag is important because the body uses calories to keep itself warm, and long term survival is all about calories. When your body is starving you loose fat, and fat keeps you warm. During the 6 months I spent in the boreal forest I was very cold because I lost about 30 pounds at my lowest point. If the temperature I could expect for a cold night in the Andes foothills in Patagonia is 5°F (-15°C); then I would bring the warmest sleeping bag I could get.

Something like the Marmot CWM rated to -40°F (-40°C), although it is down.

Fishing Line & Hooks

Chosen by all 10 people / 10 times (300-yard roll of nylon single filament fishing line and 25 assorted hooks, No lures)

Number 2 for me.

Monofilament line is not ideal for long term survival, although it’s good for handlining. It just breaks easily and snaps at below freezing temperatures unless it’s specifically rated for cold. 50 lbs braided line would be better (although the rules don’t allow  braided line). The hooks must be strong treble hooks; once single hooks brake they become useless, but a treble gives you three chances (unfortunately this is not allowed). Trebles work well for trot lines too. You could also use inner paracord strands. They work very well if you braid 3 strands.

I would bring 300 yds. Piscifun braided fishing line 50 lbs strength and 25 Mustad Extra Strong treble hooks.

Ferro Rod

Chosen by all 10 people / 10 times

Number 3 for me.

Yes, the convenience of quick and easy fire lightning is worth to have. Using a bow drill uses up energy. I would bring a 1/2 inch by 6 inch ferro rod. People might think that you could maintain a fire throughout the challenge, but that would mean using up extra firewood (and in turn using energy gathering it). It saves more calories to start a fire every day, than to use up extra wood to keep an ember covered in ashes overnight.


Chosen by 9 people / 14 times

The last contestant to win lasted 87 days (he didn’t bring rations by the way). Five pounds of flour amount to 8,255 calories, that won’t give you a ton of advantage. The daily recommended intake of calories per day is 2000 (for someone in civilization). I would bring whatever could potentially provide more calories: it boils down to doing the math of how much food (in calories) you expect to gather with an item vs. the potential 9000 calories from a ration. If you think you might only hunt 30 squirrels (< 3000 cal) with your bow; it would be better to bring rations instead. A great way of bringing rations is to fatten up before the show and gaining muscle mass to provide your body with fat and protein. Fat has 3500 calories per pound. I believe the show has recently reduced rations to 2 lbs.


Chosen by 9 people / 9 times

Number 4 for me.

I would bring a knife! The knife is very important for filleting, skinning, wood carving etc. A knife is a must. There is no question about this item. It should be fixed blade, full tang, have a sheath, and be comfortable. I prefer stainless steel because it stays sharp longer than carbon; although it can’t be as easily sharpened. I would bring a Morakniv Knife with Stainless Steel Blade 4.1-Inch.


Chosen by 9 people / 9 times

Number 5 for me

I would bring a hatchet. A small axe would be very helpful to cut stuff for the shelter and fire, it is also great for doing quick wood carving. I would bring a Schrade SCAXE2 hatchet. It has a sheath, it is 11.8 inch (30.0 cm) long and weighs 1.37 pounds. It is a very good axe that I used everyday during my 6 months in the forest. The only thing is that you must be familiar with the safe use of an axe. Two contestants have injured themselves so far with an axe.


Chosen by 9 people / 9 times

Number 6 for me

Absolutely, a pot is super important. You can boil wild edibles (in fact many wild edibles must be cooked to be edible) and cook anything in a pot. You will make tea, get Vitamin C, and a full stomach. It will serve you to carry water and works as a perfect container.

I would take a stainless steel MSR stowaway pot that is deep rather than tall, so I could do some frying too. It should hold at least 1 liter.


Chosen by 8 people / 8 times

If you are bringing an axe/hatchet then you don’t really need a saw. Saws can’t be sharpened without special tools. They are structurally weaker than an axe. They perform the same function (although more specialized); besides, you won’t build a log cabin. Update: some contestants actually tried to build a cabin in season 4 (they didn’t last as long as the ones that stayed in under a tarp).  And even then, you could build a cabin with just an axe.


Chosen by 8 people / 8 times

Number 7 for me

Paracord is amazing. You won’t find any natural cordage that compares to it. It has 7 inner strands plus an outer cord. You can make fishing lines or nets with the inner strands (braid 3 strands to make a durable fishing line). Use it mostly for gathering food though. Do not waste it for your shelter; use roots or natural cordage instead. I would bring ROTHCO type III nylon paracord.

Bow & Arrows

Chosen by 2 people / 2 times

Number 8 for me.

Definitely. I brough a bow in my six months and although one of its limbs broke, it gave us red and white meat. I do not know why not many people choose a bow. If the location has abundant small game then I think it might be a great idea to bring one. You can hunt grouse, rabbits, squirrels, and big game too. I would bring a 45 lb SAS survival bow. Plus 2 G5 Outdoors fixed blade broadheads and 4 judo small game points. Guesstimate the amount of calories you might obtain with a bow and if they are more than 9000, then decide between a bow and rations.


Chosen by 2 people / 2 times

A tarp is part of the mandatory gear, and that’s why the majority didn’t choose one.

Water Canister

Chosen by 1 person / 1 time

The pot can be used for water.


Chosen by 1 person / 1 time

Multi-tools have an uncomfortable grip. You are better off with your knife and axe combo. The name of the game is food. I don’t think the multi-tool makes your food gathering easier; unless you had access to wire and then you could make hooks with it.

The Leatherman Supertool 300 would be the best multi tool to take because of it’s durability. I don’t think having a multi-tool is a bad idea, but it needs to be part of a strategy to justify choosing it.


Chosen by 1 person / 1 time

Number 9 for me.

It could be used to make a trench as part of your shelter and for primitive trapping. It can also be used to gather wild edibles, and to get clay. If it would be useful for gathering food in your location; bring it. I would bring a fixed shovel like the one Zachary Fowler brought. I haven’t tried it, but has good reviews looks simple and sturdy. 


Chosen by 1 person / 1 time

Unless you have lots of spare bands for the slingshot it wont last much use. I rather have a bow because arrows have a consistent weight and shape; which makes them more accurate than random sized rocks. Unless you had clay or steel projectiles for the slingshot, the bow is more accurate. A sling bow might be a good compromise of portability and accuracy (not sure if allowed). Although the band is still a weak link.

Sharpening Stone

Chosen by 1 person / 1 time

It seems like a good idea, but you can use sand or a rock instead.

Bivvy Bag

Chosen by 1 person / 1 time

The bivvy will trap condensation in your sleeping bag and slowly decrease its loft. The tarp included in the safety gear list combined with a proper shelter would be enough.

Gill net

Chosen by 1 person / 1 time

Number 10 for me.

Absolutely. I saw Agafia using her net in a documentary. She spent decades living off the forest with the Lykov family. If there is a river nearby or even in a lake you could use the net to catch fish. If you have no luck, there is plenty of cordage in it. I would bring a custom net made of braided cord for durability, a Best Glide survival gill net should also work.

Frying Pan

Chosen by 1 person / 1 time

Use the pot. You can fry in a shallow pot.


Chosen by 1 person / 1 time

The hammock is an item that fulfils a need that could be obtained from natural materials (pine bough bed). Food is the priority not comfort.

I would swap paracord for a hammock if they allowed me to bring a custom made hammock made of paracord and braided fishing line. As soon as I got dropped I would unravel all the paracord and line, and use it for fishing.

What do you think about my choices?

The 10 gear mistakes of Alone contestants
3.9 (77.44%) 39 votes

13 Comments on "The 10 gear mistakes of Alone contestants"

  1. Joel Lovell | December 12, 2017 at 18:21 |

    Excellent reasoning and I appreciate the thought that you put into each, thank you.

  2. Great list with good reasons. Although I would rather have the saw than the shovel. I can make a digging stick that works just as well as a shovel in a short time. For me, personally, the folding saw gives me more precise cuts. It is great for doing firewood and it expends less energy than an axe or a hatchet. It also uses a different set of muscles.

    That is just my choice.

  3. Like your list. My list is similar. Axe, Sleeping Bag, Ferro, Pot, Line+hooks, Snare line, Bow, Pemmican, Gorp, Hunting Knife. Food rationed/supplemented with what is caught/gathered. First 3 weeks would hunt/trap/fish heavily. Always ration food.

    • Donald T Oberloh | August 26, 2020 at 12:14 |

      Hi Troy,
      Maybe you can help me here. I understand rationing food when you think someone will come and save you, and you have nothing to do but lie in a lifeboat and wait. What about preserving any food you do not need to cover your estimated caloric expenditure for the day, or past few days, but eat your fill, so that you will be healthier, better able to do more physically, like further hunting/gathering, and have a clearer head to make rational decisions with? Just wondering.

  4. Great choices. I was thinking a pulaski axe would serve as a shovel replacement and get you the axe as well (getting a blunt object to hammer with seems easy enough…. just get a small log and shape it into a bat). On a side note, I’m surprised no one has built a dug out shelter yet. Also, question on your ration, were you thinking just making pemmican or pre-buying something to get the max calorie density (or would you go for something with a little carb boost)? What boots would you suggest for a wet condition and which for a snowy condition? Thanks for all the great insight!

    • Alexia Johannes | July 18, 2020 at 16:16 |

      I have the same question, mostly because I would feel too vulnerable in the contestants’ shelters… maybe digging expends too much energy? Or maybe it is specifically forbidden in the rules? Maybe the ground is too wet or too cold? But it would certainly be my first thought to explore.

  5. Brian Houle | June 9, 2020 at 14:19 |

    Great choices, I might switch out 1 or 2 items. I have applied every year, to no avail, did not know I was up against 14000 though. thanks for your post…..

  6. Good article. Very informative.
    I need to study how to use a gill net. Watching the series, I’ve seen them used with mixed results. So there must be some does and don’ts. More research is required.

  7. Frank Dillard | August 11, 2020 at 10:42 |

    I agree with everything but the shovel, you can make a shovel with your axe. I would replace the shovel with 5 lbs of jerky. Gives you at least ten days of energy to scout, set up camp and gather food.

  8. Donald T Oberloh | August 26, 2020 at 12:07 |

    Thanks for the great thought that went into your selections. Unfortunately they do no allow braided fishing line, which I love also, or a metal bow. I know they say traditional, but they seem to let modern recurves, even take-down, bows in.

    Personally the knives on the Leatherman Surge may be enough when I use a hatchet or boys axe (Granfors Bruk Small forest axe)for 95% of all felling, limbing, splitting, cutting, skinning, (I don’t know if a Leatherman had even been used to field dress a Moose before seeing (Jordan?) do it) and slicing/whittling chores, plus I like the file to sharpen with, a small adze style tool (made from existing bits, wood chisel, leather awl and pliers to aid with removing a hook from your tendon (ouch!!)

    As Bruce (3/20) stated a Pulaski would be great, but somehow I do not think they would allow that in. Cool if they did. What about firing up one side of a double bit axe, without affecting the other edge, over coals, and reshape it into a adze or how style instrument?

    Last thing, I do not know how to measure my calorie expenditure for tree felling, with a saw vs. an Axe. Maybe some of you can help me here

    It is nice that we can all choose our own 10 items and hear the reasons others make their selections.

  9. build the gill net with the para cord. snare wire would be a must.

  10. Do each contestant acquire their own selection e.g. buy their own or do the show let them pick from a lot? If they buy their own, are they given an allowance to purchase them?

  11. While I grok your vibe about bringing a bow, I probably would not. Mainly because bringing a bow assumes you’re proficient with a bow, which I am not. I’d probably miss the target enough times to break all my arrows (you’re only allowed 6, IIRC) at which point all I have left is an unwieldy club and a piece of catgut.

    My list (based off the season 6 equipment list):
    1. paracord
    2. sleeping bag
    3. fishing line w/ hooks
    4. roll of wire (for snares and shelter building)
    5. multi-tool
    6. shovel
    7. axe
    8. ferro rod
    9. gill net
    10. Either: 2lb beef jerky OR 3lb block of salt

    No knife, which sucks but the multi-tool does have at least 1 knife blade.

    The salt block would depend on the area in which I was dropped. If I’m near salt water as they were in earlier seasons the salt block is superfluous. But season 6 has them at a fresh water lake. As to the beef jerky, it takes 4lbs of beef to make 1lb of jerky, so that’s effectively 8lbs of meat. Alternately I could bring another knife in slot 10.

    This list also assumes I’ve got a tarp and a flashlight of some kind in the survival pack so I don’t need to use one of my 10 slots for that.

Comments are closed.

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