Personal and Practical Insights From the Three-Time Naked and Afraid Star
Concerning all things outdoors, Amber Hargrove is a force to be reckoned with!
This adventurous and highly active former U. S. Army Sergeant has tackled nearly everything “wild”. From catching fish with her bare hands, hunting small game with crossbows and shotguns and conducting camping and survival training, to taking several little back-to-nature excursions called Naked and Afraid, she has been through the mill.
Although she’s as tough as nails in the woods, Amber has a softer side. One that translates to teaching others, including her own children, about the wonders that nature has to offer, as well as leading and teaching Boy Scout groups about the basics of self-reliance in the outdoors.
“Concerning all things outdoors, Amber Hargrove is a force to be reckoned with!”
Her training was reinforced and expanded during her eleven years of service in the U.S. Army, including two deployments to Iraq. After leaving the Army, her experiences were useful in her role as an instructor for active duty army troops where she shared techniques and tips that helped motivate and push them to help make them the best they could be.
Today, Amber opens up in an exclusive interview with American Survival Guide, where she is a social media contributor, about her early hits and misses as she developed her outdoor and survival skills. We’ll also learn about her other current and future projects as she continues to learn and grow as a survivalist, instructor and caring mother.
AMERICAN SURVIVAL GUIDE During your younger years, was the outdoors a large part of your regular daily life? And how did it shape you into the person you are today?
AMBER HARGROVE As a child growing up, that’s all we ever did was stay outdoors. There were no video games. There was never a time we came inside unless it was snowing outside. My siblings and I would build shelters, forts and go fishing in all the ponds nearby, bringing home crawfish or snakes.
Being taught basic survival skills as a child growing up is one of the greatest things a parent can give to their children to survive in life. I was very lucky and I’ve been fortunate to have a father who would hunt and go fishing all the time and a mother who always went out of her way to provide for us.
ASG Everyone must start somewhere, no matter what field of interest. Do you recall during your earlier years any time that you felt you took on “more than you could chew” while out in the wild?
AH There’s one moment where I was in the Everglades. There was a wild 12-foot alligator that I thought I was able to handle. It was breeding season and they are abnormally aggressive. It almost destroyed me. I could barely pull it out of the water. It slapped me on the ground with its tail and in that moment, I realized I bit off way more than I could chew.
ASG You served in the U.S. Army, do you feel that military training helped with your Naked and Afraid challenge or was it detrimental because of the lack of equipment and/or “backup” that the military often employs.
AH Serving in the U.S. Army eleven years has taught me a set of valuable skills when it comes to working with partners or dealing with stressful situations, especially when it comes to Mother Nature. One set of skills that I have is the ability to try anything, no matter what it is. This could be trying a different type of food or not being scared of failure itself. Filming on my 40-day challenge I tried several different shelters because I wanted my partners to feel as though we were a team and able to grow together. I never said no to anybody’s idea, but I always ensured it was always safe and it would stand up to the test of surviving in the jungle.
One thing that most people aren’t prepared for as a survivalist is to go into an environment and not knowing your partner or understanding their skills. Everything that we did on the Naked and Afraid challenge we were graded from 1 to 10, so if you didn’t have the ability to communicate with your partner or work with them it played against you.
“I used to be a really big fan of Naked and Afraid so I decided to submit one of my videos of me wrestling a 12-foot alligator. I got a call two days later asking if I would go to South America to film for 21 days.”
ASG How did your time on Naked and Afraid come about? Were you approached by the producers? Or did you watch an episode and say to yourself, “That’s a challenge I want or must take on.”
AH I used to be a really big fan of Naked and Afraid so I decided to submit one of my videos of me wrestling a 12-foot alligator. I got a call two days later asking if I would go to South America to film for 21 days. At that time I had a secret clearance and I was an active-duty soldier. My commander told me I was unable to go into that country, so I called Discovery and explained my situation and they called me back the very next day offering me the Everglades challenge in Florida.
I had a blast in the Everglades, minus the mosquitoes. They would not leave us alone and, at that time, the producer told us we were not allowed to have a fire at night because, during past filming, a team burnt their shelter down and incurred second-degree burns. This was crazy because we had so many alligators surrounding us and thousands of mosquitoes with no natural repellent because the mud was mucky and attracted the horse flies. The positive side of the Everglades was that it offered so much food that we ate three to four times a day.
“From catching fish with her bare hands, hunting small game with crossbows and shotguns and conducting camping and survival training, to taking several little back-to-nature excursions called Naked and Afraid, she has been through the mill.”
ASG Probably an obvious and over-asked question, but how much did being naked, which is not the norm during a survival situation by any means, affect you physically, mentally or even emotionally?
AH Being naked while filming for Naked and Afraid changes everything that you do. It was difficult not having shoes or having clothes to protect you from the bugs. It gets into your head just a little bit. It’s also awkward when you meet your partner and they see you’re completely naked. My partner couldn’t stop staring at me all the time.
ASG What is the biggest misconception that you feel most people have about Naked and Afraid? And, what was your biggest misconception that was an eye-opener once your challenge began?
AH To me, the biggest misconception from the viewers of Naked and Afraid is understanding the purpose of being stripped of everything including clothing and shoes. This is what makes Naked and Afraid one of the greatest challenges- by testing and pushing all your skills, knowledge, and body to their physical and mental limits. Just the fact that this show is real- no gimmicks no tents, no mosquito repellent, it’s you, your partner and the wild.
For me personally, the biggest misconception was the fact that when filming in Africa, we didn’t have any hunters protecting us from the lions around our shelter at nighttime; not to mention the hippos coming near in the early morning. That was the first time I’ve ever felt fear knowing that the lions were staring at us within 15 feet of our fire. All we had was a three-prong spear I made for fishing for my partner and myself.
ASG How do you feel your peers would describe you?
AH A lot of my peers would describe me as a leader- self-sufficient, and reliable. I’m very calm when it comes to stressful situations.
ASG What tips would you recommend to someone while they prepare prior to beginning their 21-day challenge on the show?
AH I would say practice your skills over and over. Expect the worst but go in with a positive attitude. Be ready to have either the best partner or the worst, but once again staying positive is an absolute must.
ASG Whether they’re in the media spotlight or not, is there any one person that you would absolutely jump at the chance to work with?
AH If I could pick an ultimate survival partner I would say, hands down, Matt Graham. His skills are superb when it comes to the outdoor surviving aspect and I know there’s so much I can learn from him. To me, you want a partner who’s willing to teach you what you don’t have and vice versa.
ASG As experienced as you are today, how do you keep your skills sharp and continuously learn new outdoor or survival techniques?
AH I currently live in Libby, Montana where everything is basically, outdoor living. I currently am a Boy Scout leader and I do training sessions all the time about how to fish, how to set up traps, how to prepare using survival techniques in the wild, aimed at young children.
The next step for me as a survivalist would be to push myself as far as I can. When I completed my 40-day challenge in Ecuador for Naked and Afraid XL, I realized I can rely on my skills and be self-sufficient in a jungle environment for longer than 40 days, if necessary.
I spent two years overseas in Iraq for two combat tours as a U.S. Army Sergeant. My first deployment put me in an environment where there were limited resources of food and water. We lived on the inside of our Humvees for three months. I was nineteen years of age during my first tour and that was the moment I realized that, all my survival skills my father had taught me, I’d be able to put them to the test here in a combat zone.
ASG What would you say is your greatest “strength” or “strengths” in the survival world, and what areas would you admit that you could use more practice to really “nail it”?
AH As a survivalist, I am most proud of my water resourcing, starting fires and shelter building skills.
One thing for me that I do need to work on is how to become a better prepper, whether it’s concerning solar energy or seed preparation or the like. I’m currently reading and taking classes on how to become a well-rounded prepper.
ASG Hypothetically speaking, what people (well-known or otherwise) would you want by your side while under survival conditions? And what would each person contribute that would make the group strong and secure?
AH I would pick Peter Kohler who is an outdoor survivalist and a famous knifemaker for the Dark Timber Brotherhood. Also, Matt Graham, who is an outdoor survivalist in all different environments and well known for his training videos.
Peter is a strong leader and hunter; Matt is a gatherer and has a calm mindset. I am in between, so this would be the perfect match for going out in the wild and surviving.
ASG Survival, in general, is often underestimated by many “non-survival” people. What would you say are the top areas where people fall short during real-life survival situations?
AH When people go out camping, a person tends to take all the necessities with them. They can’t cope many times when you have practically nothing to work with, but still have to make it work. People assume they will always be given everything versus working for it.
Going out in the wild and surviving for 40 days in Ecuador made me grateful to sit on a chair and not sit on the dirt or being able to go to the bathroom on a toilet versus a pit. You become grateful for the small things in life.
ASG If an inexperienced person wanted to get their foot into the door of survival and self-reliance, where or how would you recommend them to get started?
AH There’s so many ways to start. They could begin by attending survival or self-reliance workshops. Testing your skills and putting it to the test “in the field” will build self-confidence. You can’t just read a book and then go out in the wild and say you know how to do something.
ASG On that subject, how can a beginner determine the difference between an experienced instructor and someone who “jumped onto the bandwagon” and started teaching possibly life or death skills or techniques without true experience or qualifications?
AH If you were to go into training with an open mind and willing to learn and feel as though you are in an unsafe environment, you really need to re-evaluate your instructor. Somebody who is experienced will put you in an environment where it’s safe to observe your basic knowledge. Whenever somebody says they like to show me a different type of fire-starting technique or shelter building, I always “google” their background, and see if they are legit or they’re just copying it from a book.
“Testing your skills and putting it to the test “in the field” will build self-confidence. You can’t just read a book and then go out in the wild and say you know how to do something.”
ASG Do you have any projects in the works on television, in books, online videos, or anywhere your fans can get more of your diverse outdoor experiences, tips and techniques?
AH I’m currently working on a project for a TV series. It will be one hour with the huntress. The show will be called “Forging Across America”. I created the storyline from all of my experiences. I want to find the hidden gems in America, the greatest survivalists, knife makers, and the like. I started working on this production about a month ago.
ASG What does the not-so-distant future hold for Amber? And where do you see yourself in, say, ten years?
AH I currently have been working with the Messermeister cutlery company and designing the first-of-its-kind female survivalist camping knife called the “Huntress.” She will be released to the public in late June. I have a passion for knives. I believe that slapping the color pink on a knife does not call it a woman’s knife. The ability to have a knife that fits any woman’s hand and can be used for all purposes in camping, hiking, or survival situations is what’s important.
In ten years, I see myself being able to live out in the wild on my own land and being self-sufficient. Currently I’ve been traveling around and testing out survivalist products for several companies.
ASG Finally, using only three words, how would you describe Amber Hargrove?
AH Strong, caring and inspiring.
Amber is not afraid to tackle some of the biggest challenges in the wild, and few come bigger than the American Alligator.
Alligator wrestling is probably not at the top of many individuals’ “to-do” list but, for Amber, this activity tests and pushes the uppermost limits of her strength, skill, and fearlessness when dealing with this reptilian beast. She started wrestling alligators in 2013 as a way of dealing with her fear of them. When she overcame the hurdle of stepping into the water with the animals, her drive and fear changed dramatically. So much so, that she spent the first day training for six hours straight with gators from three to nearly twelve feet long.
She said of the experience, “Leaning how to react and control the alligator with his tail or being able to manipulate the strength they have to your advantage made me feel like a savage beast out there with them. Swimming and controlling their movements, it’s something that just became a passion of mine.”
She also adds, “The one thing they don’t tell you until training starts is that you have to be barefoot walking in the water curling your toes, so you know when you touch the alligator under the water.” Scary stuff, without a doubt.
Suffice it to say, Amber’s fear of alligators is a thing of the past as she keeps her training and skills on point by training consistently every year. This not only helps retain her abilities, but it also prepares her mentally for her next outdoor adventure, whatever that may be.
To train like Amber, jump in with the gators at Colorado Gators Reptile Park.
When she’s not training, learning or sharing survival skills, fishing, hunting or leading the Scout troop, Amber provides ASG’s social media followers with updates on her exploits, reality checks for survivalists and insights about knives and other outdoor necessities on ASG’s Facebook page www.Facebook.com/AmericanSurvivalGuideMagazine. Be sure to visit and like our page and share her insights with your friends.
You can also follow Amber on her social media pages.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the September, 2019 print issue of American Survival Guide.