Blair’s Tools for ‘Naked and Afraid’
When Discovery producers told Blair Braverman that she could prepare tools to bring onto Naked and Afraid, she got busy making three things that she thought would ensure her survival in the harsh conditions of South Africa’s wilderness. We met up with Braverman at her northern Wisconsin home to look at what she made and talk about whether those items actually helped her. Read her full story: “Everything on Naked and Afraid Is Real—and I Lived It.”
BLAIR BRAVERMAN: I'm Blair Braverman. I am a writer and a dog sledder, and I live in northern Wisconsin. In 2018, I was on the discovery show Naked and Afraid in South Africa.
So the way the show works, you're completely naked. One of the only things I could do to prepare was plan my objects. They have you bring three or four, and then based on the environment the producers choose one or two that you're going to bring.
Most of my outdoor experience is in really cold places where I'm alone in that I'm the only human and then I have a team of dogs. So the amount of packing you do for that sort of thing where you're just making sure that none of your equipment is going to fail and you have backups in case it does and you have everything you need for the dog's safety and you have what you need for your safety and their food, and your food, and everything, so this was really strange. Like, I had to prepare by studying, which I do anyway but like I would have to carry all the resources in my mind. I wouldn't be able to bring a notebook to bring anything. And in my body, like preparing my body, because we wouldn't have shoes and we'd be walking around on really hot ground and rough ground.
So I would spray this all over my feet like three or four times a day and then go for barefoot walks. And my feet did get harder. I don't know how much was from this and how much was from the walking. It made me feel like I was getting ready.
Naturally, the first tool I wanted to focus on was a knife, because that's the number one thing you're going to use out there for anything. But how do you pick a knife for that? So I found a custom knife maker who had been on the show, and his name is Matt Wright. Ironically, I ended up being on the show with him, and so I ordered this custom knife that is designed basically for this kind of survival situation.
It's very heavy, and you can see it's designed for chopping. You have a point you can do sort of fine detail work. There's a saw blade on the back. This is for making arrows. This hook is for vines. I'm sure it has uses I don't even know about.
There is a little dip right here that you can use for a bow drill, because when you're making a bow drill-- which is something else I practiced a lot-- you need something to hold the vertical stick in place. And you can use a shell, or you can use a piece of wood.
It also has these holes so that you can strap it to a post and use it as a sphere. And then the sheath has this built in sharpener. So if it gets dull while you're out there, you can sharpen it.
I thought I was incredibly clever, because I took leather and I made this, sort of, shell for the sheath. And I sewed it on with heavy duty fishing line. And there's holes in the leather so that it can come apart and turn instantly into sandals. And look at this.
It would have been perfect, and I was like that's the sneakiest, cleverest thing anyone's ever done. I was so proud of myself.
So I also made this handle. I didn't know if they'd let me keep it you know to wear it around your body. And this is made out of survivor record, which looks like paracord but it actually has really special fibers in it.
So it has wire that you can use to make snares. It has wax tinder. It has fishing line, and then it has other little fibers you can take apart. I later realized, of course, there was no way I would have been able to take this apart and use it. It wouldn't be in the spirit of the challenge.
But at the same time, I thought might not be bad to have. You never know. You're out in the wilderness.
What if the crew never comes back one day and no one's going to come get us and we're stuck out there indefinitely? Like, you have to think like that. And maybe then it could be a kind of backup if things got even more real.
The second thing I thought about a lot, of course, was a pot, because water is going to be so important. And so I found this pot that's almost like a camping pressure cooker. And it's very lightweight, but it's big as you can see. You can boil a lot of water. You can cook a lot of meat, like a stew, anything like that.
And then it has the seal on the inside. And so you can really, really make a tight seal, carry things, cook things quickly. This was going to be my cooking situation.
I also tied on this little piece of leather, because I figured I'm not going to have a pot holder out there. I don't want to burn myself. I've bundled this as small as possible, but there's a lot in here.
Look at how much there is in that little bundle. If I had this, I would have had everything I needed. And I did do one last thing that I didn't tell anyone about. And I got this weatherproof printer paper, and I printed out a bunch of poems in size 4 font. And then I cut them out and I folded them up so they were tiny, tiny, tiny, and I hid one in each of the objects I had prepared.
And the idea I had was that whichever object I was assigned-- because I didn't know which one I'd end up with-- I would be assigned the poem that was in it. And that would be my, sort of, private challenge while I was out there would be to really connect with that piece of poetry and understand it and meditate on it while I was out in the wilderness, which I know is very nerdy.
And I picked poems that are old classics that I've never really connected with, because I thought I can come back later and read what people have written about them. But this will give me a chance to really think deeply about something that's considered great. And so I have this tiny thing is Bright Star by Keats, Spring and Fall by Gerard Manley Hopkins, Ozymandias by Percy Shelley, The Second Coming, and an excerpt from Song of Myself by Walt Whitman.
I wasn't ever going to tell anyone about it. When I got out there I'd have to bury it, and then I could go sit with it when I wasn't doing something else. So I put these-- like I sewed a little pocket in the fabric that was like a little enclosed pocket.
So I packed everything up. I flew from Wisconsin to South Africa, and my luggage got lost on the way. And so I didn't get any of my objects. They just gave me a knife to use. And I didn't get it back till after I was completely dead, which you know that's a lesson in letting go.