What happens when two complete strangers—minus their clothes—arrive in one of the most extreme environments on the planet? Each male-female duo is left without food, water and clothes, allowed only one essential (read ‘helpful’) item as they attempt to survive on their own for 14 very long, difficult days.
This is the premise of ‘Naked and Afraid’, a reality series that airs on the Discovery Channel. Each episode chronicles the lives of a male and female survivalist who meet for the first time and are given the task of surviving a stay in the wilderness—completely naked. After they meet in the assigned locale, the partners must build a shelter and find water and food.
The events of each couple’s quest play out in a single episode of the show. They are provided with rough cross-body satchels containing a personal diary/camera for use when the camera crew is not there at night, and a map. They all wear identical necklaces with a center bead that is a microphone with a wire connecting to a wireless audio transmitter hidden in the satchel. Some personal jewelry is allowed. There is a camera crew who are not allowed to intervene except for medical emergencies when it is “absolutely necessary.”
Security companies help local families lessen their risk, yet the expert Saline County residents depend on did not play it safe for himself for 14 days. So just who is Matt Garland and what inspired him to join the show?
Matt is a Benton native and a local nature survivalist—and ‘Naked & Afraid’ enthusiast—who recently appeared in Season 12, episode 7 that aired on April 4, 2021, and took place in the Chiricahua Wilderness in Arizona.
The local home security expert with Advanced Alarm Technologies was goaded into applying for a spot on the show, and the rest is history. “I’m one of those people who have watched and re-watched every episode of the show, and always have it on in the background when I’m at home and ‘couch quarterback’ as I watch. One day my friends and wife, Kelsey, goaded me into signing up for it, and I thought nothing would come of it. I was surprised when they called me,” said Matt.
“I’m a third generation Eagle Scout and earned the rank of Order of the Arrow. Being a boy scout is a rite of passage in my family. I have spent my entire life preparing for this survival challenge,” shared Matt. “The premise of scouting is to ‘always be prepared’ and the show takes away that advantage, since you can only take one item with you.”
“My helpful item is what I call a ‘matchet,’ which is a modified hatchet,” said Matt. “It is a really helpful, multi-use tool that I made. I keep it in the back of my truck and use it for everything—as a hammer, to skin deer.”
When asked what his victory with the show was, Matt is quick to say “Completing the 14-day show was my victory,” said Matt. “Before the show (as a viewer), I had an outside perspective and judged the participants a lot. Now that I’ve lived it, I understand that every single thing is a battle. To do anything is hard—if you’re hungry, you have to pursue your food. Thirsty? Go find the water, prepare it to be able to drink it. I realized how much I take for granted every single day,” said Matt.
The biggest surprise of the show was all the difficulty with traps. “For instance, I had to come up with six feet of cord for one simple snare. It took hours to make the cord. In hindsight, if I had more time and patience during the show, I could have re-used some of the cords,” said Matt.
When asked what he had to overcome in the 14-day survival challenge, Matt answers candidly, “I had a very inexperienced partner, and there were parts of that dynamic that were super difficult to overcome. We disagreed strongly, and it caused friction. We did end up apologizing, and we did overcome it, but gaining my partner’s trust was difficult,” said Matt.
Matt is quick to say what the experience taught him. “I learned a lot about patience over the course of 14 days,” said Matt. But he is also eager to relive the challenges and take on new ones. “I’m not done—I want to go back and be on the show again, and my goal is to complete a 21-day traditional challenge and then a 40-day challenge.”
Sometimes all it takes is 14 days of living an adventure to realize it is just the beginning, and there is more to experience, even if it means living in the wilderness naked and feeling afraid.