History Channel's Alaska Off-Road Warriors TV Show

By now, if you're into 4WD and off-roading, chances are you've heard of, or watched an episode, of the History Channel's Alaska Off-Road Warriors. Or maybe you've seen the commercials. After I watched a couple of episodes, I thought I would share some thoughts on the program.

First of all, there are several vehicles of different makes and models. Just five. The teams are:

  • Toyota FJ55 Landcruiser - Butch & Bill
  • Toyota 4-Runner 1994 - Pete & Shey
  • Jeep CJ - Ritch & Carl
  • Toyota 4-Runner 1986- Brent & Scott
  • Landrover 90 - Jason & Glen

Note that Shey is the only woman in the event (but the primary driver of her rig).

The goal (object of the series and "race") is to win $ 100,000.00,  by having the best time traversing the state of Alaska, from the southern end to the northern rim. The conditions vary, and cover just about every off-road situation a driver can encounter.

First of all, these are not teams with million dollar energy drink sponsors. They're not professional in the sense that they do these weekly for a living and a trophy. But four of the teams live and work Alaska. So they drive though rugged terrain every day of their life. Heck, going to the nearest store is probably just a mud bog away. While your average "off-roader" may take their 4x4 out on the weekend, these folks depend on them every day. So that's a different kind of mindset than most of us may be used to, depending on where you live.

I like that these people are your average Joe's. No SEMA beauty rigs here, no $85,000 Jeep JK's with flawless paint jobs. That's not what this is about. They all have experience at 4-wheeling, but I can't imagine living in Alaska and not developing those skills instinctively just to survive. No 911, no cell phone reception, no gas station on the corner.

The only team from the lower 48 states is the Jeep guys. The builder, Carl, is a cancer surviver. He built the Jeep himself (kind of like therapy). I have to give the man credit, because you know building and working on your own vehicle is a whole lot different than buying one off the lot. He knows his rig bumper to bumper, and I'm not so sure any of the other teams have that ability (though I'm sure all of them can fix something when needed as a matter of survival).

The show is only an hour, but the teams drive 6 to 9 hours a day. Off-road. I don't know about you, but I'd probably have a whole lot of aches and pains in my body after that many hours of hard trails, concentration and stress. How many hours straight have you trailed?

In-car cameras follow a lot of the action, and the studio cuts that down to fit within the alloted program time. So you don't know what really happens during the full day of driving (Note that this is filmed in Alaska's summer, so it's somewhat "daylight" 24 hours a day). But you do get the highlights.

Each vehicle has it's own quirks. Some have a 4-cylinder, or a V6, the Jeep has a V8. They also have different weights. The FJ55 is nearly 6000 lbs. So you can see how horsepower can sometimes come in handy, but it's not always needed. Light vehicles, or those with a shorter wheelbase (like the Jeep and Landrover) navigate terrain differently than the longer SUVs. Tire size can matter, even the KIND of off-road tire can make a difference. So I feel the show has done a good job mixing up the combinations to make the show interesting.

Vehicles break too. Some are common things when running off-road, like a dropped driveshaft, or overheating. While the Jeep broke the front (homemade) bumper/brush guard, which would be a rare occasion. Repairs are made in the field, IF you have the parts, and you brought them part with you.

Of course, these vehicles have humans doing the driving and the navigating. You know when you put some humans together, friction will result. But overall, I think all the teams (so far) have just a normal sports rivalry. Some for the fun of it, some for the cameras. I think if one member had a serious injury, they would all pull together to help.

I have only seen the first two episodes. But I want to make some general comments here.

  • It's amazing the lack of safety equipment. No helmets (not even a half helmet?). I don't see seat belts being used to often. Carl buckles a lap belt in his Jeep. Shey throws a lap belt on when her brother takes over for a mud bog, and I was thinking, "Damn, she must be the brightest one of the whole lot!". I guess women are smarter.
  • The navigator on the Landrover needs to give his girlfriend back her flats and get some real shoes. Dude, get some boots, you're in the woods!
  • I thought using the winch to straighten up the center link/tie rod was clever.
  • First the Landrover can't fix the broken driveshaft, and they want to proceed on 2WD/FWD. Later in the program, a driveshaft suddenly appears and they repair the vehicle. What???

One thing I haven't seen in the episodes is the camera crew or their support vehicle. I really wonder what they are driving, and how much extra gear they carry. 4WD air conditioned motor homes maybe?

If you're a person who works on their own rig, and your 4x4 has some battle scars and scratched paint, you will probably like this show. For me, it's more about the vehicles than the people, but I plan on watching the next episodes.

I don't have a favorite to win so far. Though there is one obnoxious driver I don't like, but we'll see how that pans out.

Check out an episode and see what you think.