MCCORDSVILLE, Ind. — A lifelong Hancock County man pushed himself to countless limits as a contestant on the new Netflix series “Outlast.”
Joel Hungate of McCordsville went throughs a monthslong vetting and audition process to be chosen as one of 16 “alpha adventurers” competing for $1 million.
“I’m just your average, everyday Indiana native who answered the call to uncommon adventure,” explained Hungate.
The premise of “Outlast,” which premieres on Friday, March 10, features 16 people being dropped into a temperate rainforest in Neka Bay, Alaska with only the clothes on their back. There are two main rules: you have to be part of a team to win and you can only leave the game by your own will or due to medical reasons.
As Hungate describes, he is an accomplished moutaineer, survivalist, trekker, hunter and fisherman who was one of the first in the world to ascend part of the High Altai Mountains of Western Mongolia. He grew up outside, spending his time hunting, fishing, camping and hiking.
“…It really spawned a love of the fulfillment and self-reliance borne of connecting with the outdoors,” Hungate reflected. “My family, and my late mother in particular, were huge advocates for embracing a lifestyle of adventure – which I’d define as the readiness and willingness to face any endeavor boldly, without any assurance of the outcome, or frankly any opportunity to ‘problem-solve’ your way to a destination or goal…”
To prepare for the challenge of a lifetime, Hungate says he learned all he could about the “geography, climate, dangers, flora and fauna” of Southeast Alaska, including what he could and could not eat from the land, plus strategies for shelter, clothing, fire, water, fishing, hunting and risk mitigation.
“I took a lot of inspiration from the native Tlingit peoples in that area of Alaska and the types of insights they had for surviving in such an unforgiving environment.”
Hungate also physically transformed by gaining weight to mitigate the likely weight loss he would experience in the wild.
“We knew very little about the twists and turns of the competition or the challenges that awaited us, so I had to build a conceptual framework based on generally being able to suffer – mentally, physically, and emotionally – for an undisclosed period of time and balancing that with physical conditioning for whatever potential challenges awaited,” he detailed.
The area of Alaska where the competition was staged is known for extreme amounts of rain, and “Outlast” was filmed during the time of year when the tide can change dramatically. Hungate says the locale is also known for having the largest concentration of brown bears in the U.S.
“It was an otherworldly experience – a disorienting contrast, juxtaposing unbelievable beauty with the unrelenting and capricious nature of the conditions and challenges of the game,” he remarked. “I got to put every facet of who I am as a person to the test – physically, mentally, morally, spiritually, relationally, emotionally, technically – and truly see who I was, or who I would become, under the most unforgiving, ambiguous, and daunting of conditions.”
Hungate says his only regret was having to be away from his wife and three young children for so long.
“I joked with the producers that they were filming the wrong stuff in Alaska,” said Hungate. “The real survival was happening back home as my wife held down the fort with three children under 4 years old!”
According to Hungate, “Outlast” can be described as a social experiment that is a combination of “Alone,” “Survivor,” and “Lord of the Flies.”
“The experience has helped me grow as a leader, husband, father, brother, friend, and person and I made lifelong friendships with my fellow adventurers. Already, my time on ‘Outlast’ has opened so many doors for adventures to come.”
He encourages anyone intimidated by nature to start in a capacity that works with their goals and capabilities. It also helps to educate and prepare yourself, develop discipline, learn how to use equipment and gear, and to dig deep into whatever foundation you’ve built your life upon, whether it be be faith, meditation or altruism.
“You are capable of so much more than you think, and a lifestyle of adventure truly is for everyone, and is just as unique as you are.”
All eight episodes of “Outlast” will be available starting Friday.