Preview: NGC’s “Live Free or Die” introduces viewers to human rewilding

Consider yourself forewarned. As you’ll second-guess using vanilla and raspberry flavoring after learning just exactly where it came from thanks to National Geographic Channel’s new docuseries Live Free or Die, debuting Tuesday, Sept. 30 at 10pm ET/PT. That said, NGC has found itself a winner by following five unusual Americans who are participating in a lifestyle trend known as human rewilding (the undoing of domestication, people who are living almost completely off the land).Live Free or Die Colbert in tub

Living a minimalistic existence never looked so unappealing — at least to this suburbanite — as is the case for this handful of beaver- and rat-eating naturalists who are genuinely committed to living off the land. You’ll marvel, and at times maybe even applaud, their simplistic ways and ingenious survival skills, but it’s doubtful you’ll be taking up their lifestyle anytime soon — no electricity, no refrigeration and no stops at the local grocery store. The five individuals featured live in remote parts of our country — growing food, foraging and eating roadkill to survive. Cameras show no mercy when detailing the gutting and skinning processes of their kill, which is a normal part of meal prep for this crew. While extremely educational, the bloody pelts, bone twisting and cracking, and sawing off of little beaver feet is — well — a bit gag-inducing and must-turn-away-TV, at times, but it’s just a part of their lives.

Colbert from NGC's Live Free or DieThe first “rewilder” you’ll meet is Colbert, who is primed to be the series’ standout. Not only does he educate us (and vividly show us) that the mustard-colored jelly in a beaver’s castor gland — which he masterfully guts — is used for vanilla, raspberry and strawberry flavoring (Ah, no thanks on the strawberry topping!), but his personal history proves to be equally as surprising. Twenty years ago Colbert moved to the Georgia Swamp where he built a cabin and now lives off a $2,000 a year budget, as a professional trapper.  Prior to his swamp move, he had a fancy home that he shared with his wife and two daughters, while he worked as a financial adviser. After getting divorced and filing for bankruptcy he decided to forgo life’s amenities and, instead, live as cheaply as possible. Now, his only “luxury” item is store-bought coffee. He’s definitely a skilled hunter and trapper. “Hunting naked is an incredible, intense, sensual experience,” Colbert tells, but thankfully, we didn’t see a lot of that in episode one.

Tony and Amelia from NGC's Live Free or DieTony and Amelia live in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Tony’s kind-of a wide-eyed kid who is mesmerized by his Cindy Brady-looking, survivalist wife, Amelia. These two have a smaller shack than Colbert, and appear to struggle more sustaining their food supply. Tony was a suburbanite raised with video games, who worked at a Starbucks, before opting not to deal with the financial and social pressures of the real world. He’s definitely the weak link in this duo. Amelia, however, is totally BA. She’s a skilled butcher — and man, can that girl seriously skin a cat. Their discussion over whether or not their bobcat roadkill is edible is simply priceless.

Live-Free-or-Die-Gabriel-webGabriel is a 28-year-old who shares his nomadic lifestyle between the mountains and the sea. For the majority of the year he lives with his wife, Luna, in a cabin with no running water by the coast, but for three months every year he leaves for the mountains to live off the land. Gabriel’s been studying earth-based skills and learning from different native people around the world. “Being in the wilderness to me is like being alive,” he tells. We learn from Gabriel that the eye sockets of a fish actually have fresh water in them (something to consider when lost at sea and nearing dehydration). We also learn some of his tricks to hunting using homemade traps. I’m pretty sure I dry heaved while watching Gabriel eat a shish-kabobbed rat, tail and all. Let me know how you do watching that one.

Thorn from Live Free or DieThorn appears to be the most desperate of the five profiled in the series, but surprisingly happy. His hut is made of twigs and leaves and looks like even a gentle breeze could blow that thing down; and when it’s 1 degrees outside, it’s 1 degree inside — not much for providing warmth. For the past two years Thorn’s lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains, located eight miles from the nearest town. Prior to relying on the forest for his daily survival, Thorn spent his days as a schoolteacher. Thorn’s distinct facial tattoo tells of his commitment to the land and his love for trapping. Thorn’s also got a 5-year-old daughter who apparently spends part of her time living with him in the woods. (Now here’s a tip for parents – give your kids a glimpse at Thorn’s life next time they complain about not having the newest video system or latest game release. Living the minimalistic life is always an option.) Cameras follow Thorn as he struggles to find any type of protein. He tells cameras that he’s “eaten some pretty sketchy stuff when I needed it,” and it’s not at all surprising seeing the harsh winter landscape he faces. But Thorn doesn’t feel like he’s living in poverty. “I feel like I’m wealthy. I feel like I’m rich. Look at that view.”

And it’s a view — and a lifestyle — you need to check out.
Watch Live Free or Die on National Geographic Channel Tuesdays at 10pm.

Live Free or Die episode guide:
Live Free or Die: Rise of the Wild (premieres Tuesday, Sept. 30 at 10pm ET/PT)
Live Free or Die: Trial by Fire (premieres Tuesday, Oct. 7 at 10pm ET/PT)
Live Free or Die: Blood, Sweat & Tears (premieres Tuesday, Oct. 14 at 10pm ET/PT)


Credit: National Geographic Television/Ben Cannon
Credit: National Geographic Television/Ryan Wakeman
Credit: National Geographic Television/Lindsay Coooper






  1. Good lord producers REMOVE DEREK ASAP!! The guy vascillates from being “drunk on whiskey” to being completely agro about all aspects of life. His hatred of his mules is exhausting. (I fast forward past him.) What an ingrate! Why such bitterness from a man who INHERITED his fathers house and property! I WISH EACH WEEK THAT THE MULES WOULD GIVE HIM A GOOD KICK IN THE FACE! He clearly fits no where except in a death brawl in some Denali mountain saloon. I want to live with Colbert and help him build a cool fort. The guy is ingenious!

  2. December 17, 2015

    I watch this show with amazement each week. And, I wonder why someone would want to “Live”
    that way. Initially, I thought that some of the characters were mentally ill. But, I guess as they say
    “To Each His Own”. I am concerned about the Nomadic Wanderer, Tobias, in regards to his
    health. I’ve noticed that he drinks muddy water. And, I wonder does he have a chronic sore throat.
    Also, I’m concerned about the food sources of all of these individuals. Is the producer of the show
    concerned about the health and mental status of these people?

  3. They call themselves woodsman, and nomads. That one couple, the man said he can’t even shoot a gun and had to go to his inlaws to learn (WOW) Why not put real people who can survive outdoors live Natives, or Survival Man, or Bear Grylls. I have seen a 16 year old Mexican boy tame a horse in less than a week. That man with the mules is a real joke, they keep running b/b they can sense he is scared and don’t know what he is doing. It’s a ok comed show tho.

  4. These people are a joke. I’m surprised at natgeo. If you want to learn how to live free watch Bear Grills or survival man, or any native american. One man can’t handle his own mules lol. Give his mule to any 16 year old mexican or native kid and it would be tamed in 1 week. These peoplem are a true joke. That couple on the show, the man said he had never shot a gun. Really? How can they call them selves (Woodsmans, and nomands.) It’s a great comedy show.

  5. I would like to know when did Thorn put a front
    enclosure and windows on his hut.
    Did i miss an episode?
    I like the show.

  6. by far my favorites are tony and amelia. she is priceless in that duo but of course they have to say and do things the producers lay out for them. so how much is reality when it comes to what they do compared to how they actually live.

  7. what is going on this week..??? I haven’t seen the program in 2 weeks! Live Free or Die is my favorite show… I love Colton best.. He’s a smart guy.. Don’t care for Derrick… He doesn’t belong on this show.. Pretty much a DA… We need this program on every week at a prime time.. This show has to be very popular..? Please don’t take it off !!! You will have a mutiny on your hands!!

  8. what about all the legal hassles,most areas have zoneing and building laws . would not be very free in a jail cell

  9. i really enjoy “Live Free or Die” but i am appalled that National Geographic would air, the segments with that man Derek, who lives in the CO. he is not a good representation of your show at all. he swears way to much , using Gods’ name in vain, also he does not know how to handle his mules at all, they resent him, its no wonder they are always running away from him, there are so many things he has done with the mules, that is not correct, in the handling of them. i thought National Geographic was a learning channel, but what i view when i see Derek, is ridiculous, so i hope you take him off the show,

    • I agree with you completely, actually I came to this site to complain about Derek also, he is also offensive with his swastika hat . The cussing , and the thing with the mules is horrible!!!! I have never written a show before but felt I had to. We will no longer watch the show if he’s not taken off. I was so glad to see other like comments

    • I have to agree with the other comments. Derek has got to go. I don’t have a DVR but I do mute him now. He has nothing to offer like the others do on the show. I have learned things from the others but have learned nothing from him. That is to say unless I want to learn to cuss or learn how NOT to handles mules. Bring Gabriel or someone like him back.

    • I whole hardheartedly agree with E. Hawkins about Derik & his mouth. When he is on I fast forward it.

  10. We watch the show all the time. But, now we are having to turn the channel. It was such a good show until you added
    Derek. Its so sad one person has to ruin such a good show. All the cussing he does, makes us sick. It was one show that we could let the grandkids watch, but you took care of that. So sad.
    I must tell you this is the VERY FIRST time I have EVER wrote to a TV show, or anything of the kind. I heard at one time that just one letter like this represents thousands of people, that don’t write in. I have always been the one that never wrote in, but I feel so strongly about the cussing, NTGEO really needs to take a second look at what kind of programming you are showing. Most of your programming is very good, but you ruined this program. Respectfully, Don and Kay

  11. I like the show so much until this season and you added the guy that does all the cussing I now record the show and fast forward it when he comes on all the g,d words out of his mouth are to much to listen to I really like the show even had my grandchildren watching now they can’t cause we don’t talk like that I know a lot of people may not agree and I am just one but as for me and my house we serve the Lord

    • Yes the cussing need not be, sadly gone are the days that cussing was not allowed on T.V,
      Especially when he says G.D it so much, I hate hearing that

  12. Derek is abusive to all animals and lacking humanity day to day. Please remove ALL animals from him as he SEEMS to lack skills to co exist with nature. Actually . Think he’s an asshole. And should be the mule.

  13. Regarding Thorn, and people judging that he’s an unfit parent, that’s ridiculous. The show made it clear that the kid is living “on the grid” with her mother, and that Thorn has visitation to where she stays with him in the woods. He makes sure she’s safe and comfortable. She has the best of both worlds. Those of you who are ready to call DCF on him need to open your minds. Living without technology can be a great learning experience for a child, and she’s spending time bonding with her dad. Lighten up, man.

  14. Derek is an idiot. His skills with the mules are absolutely substandard for a three year old suburban kid. Try not using a berrel saddle, and I bet if he even watched one episode of princess Sofia he’d at least learn your supposed to stay on top. I prey rules of the universe come into play and thin out the weak and stupid before he can spread his lacking genes.

  15. I love the show and just wanted to tell Tony he needs to toughen up,I have noticed he is unable to deal with dead animals,the skinning and gutting..I see who the stronger one is,you rock amelia..seems like Tony just has a weak stomach lol..

    • because he went to California a few month ago. I KEEP ASKING MYSELF WHAT KIND OF PANTS OR (NO PANTS) DOES THORN WEAR?

  16. I love the show. Anyone with common sense could tell that these men are not “dead beat dads”, even before GTC aired episodes with them interacting with their children and grandchildren. I admire the fact that they live in what we call the “wild”. I thinks it’s a beautiful life style to live free. I spent well over 20 years of my life as an active duty soldier and appreciate the courage and tenacity that these men and woman have. I’d love to hang out with them on their turf for a while. Bravo NGC!! It’s great to see something on television that doesn’t mirror soft porn, violence, & bad “reality” TV show acting. Question: How old is Thorn?

    • I would love to move and live off the land! I feel like my life would be soooooo much more enjoyable – even if I have to scrounge for protein at times.

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