A survivalist and off-the-grid homesteader from Passadumkeag, Kate Wentworth will star in the upcoming season of “Naked and Afraid XL,” a Discovery Channel reality show that challenges people to survive for weeks in the wilderness with few tools and no clothes. And this season comes with a brutal twist.
In the scorching savannah of South Africa, Wentworth and 11 other participants will roam “The Valley of the Banished,” where they must work together to survive 41 days, or risk being cast out of the group. This aspect of the challenge — the banishment of “weak links” — makes it unlike any other season of “Naked and Afraid.”
“It was the most ultimate twist I’ve ever heard of on the show,” said Wentworth, 32. “It’s almost cruel. Basically, if we feel that people aren’t contributing, we’re allowed to ask them to leave.”
The season kicked off at 8 p.m. Sunday, May 17, with a one-hour preview that introduces the 12 participants, and the first full episode airs at the same time next Sunday, May 24. Additional episodes will air each following Sunday.
This is Wentworth’s second time on the show. In the episode “No Safety in Numbers,” which aired March 10 of last year, she was one of four survivalists who participated in a 21-day challenge on a deserted island in Panama. During that challenge, she made it to day 13 before tapping out due to maddening flies, nonstop rain, low group morale and other challenging conditions.
“I guess in a way, this XL challenge is my chance at redemption,” she said.
Born in Rhode Island, Wentworth has lived in many places — from the Virgin Islands to Wisconsin. Before accepting her first challenge on “Naked and Afraid,” she lived off the grid for six years. She also studied outdoor survival skills while interning at Turtle Island Preserve in North Carolina. It was through her mentors at Turtle Island Preserve that she became known to recruiters for the Discovery Channel show.
“I thought it would be fun because I always enjoy the idea of testing myself,” Wentworth said. “When I was offered the opportunity to go on the show, it was another way to grow, in my eyes.”
In Panama, Wentworth dealt with torrential rain and itchy bug bites that covered her whole body. And despite all that suffering, she agreed to return to the show for the upcoming season in Africa.
“Africa was the opposite — we’re talking the savannah here,” she said. “The temperature reaches 125 degrees sometimes. I’m not sure what the hottest day was out there, but I tell you, it was hot. I’ve never experienced hot like that.”
Dropped off in a remote setting, survivalists on the show are asked to strip down. In return for their clothes, they’re given two of their favorite survival tools. Then they’re on their own. Well — almost. A camera team does follow them around, but they have strict rules not to interfere or socialize with the survivalists. In addition, the survivalists are usually paired up initially, then run into more participants in the days to come. The group dynamic is constantly changing.
Wentworth’s fellow survivalists in the challenge are from New York, Alaska, Washington, Virginia, Arkanasas, North Carolina, California, Georgia and Ontario.
“There’s the challenge of the environment, the challenge of working with whoever you’re partnered with, and then the challenge of actually surviving with no food, no clothes, no water, for however long,” Wentworth said. “It’s 1,000 percent mental.”
At night, the most important task — even more important than sleeping — was keeping the fire going, and it wasn’t just for warmth. In the savannah, fire is necessary to keep away lions and other predatory animals.
“This is their terrority,” she said. “I’m just one person from Maine in the middle of Africa with very hungry animals around me.”
Wentworth remembers sharing her water sources with a variety of wild animals, including elephants, giraffes and water buffalo.
“There were definitely moments where I was like, ‘Wow, this is gorgeous,’” she said. “And there were definitely other moments where I was like, ‘Wow, this is the ugliest thing I’ve seen in my life.’”
Often, that ugliness had to do with clashing personalities, opinions and beliefs as the participants struggled to create a functioning community under especially stressful circumstances.
“I don’t know if I was naked and afraid, but I remember being naked and pissed off at one point,” Wentworth said.
But it wasn’t all conflict and drama. On the show, Wentworth has made some fast friends, some of whom she speaks with over the phone almost every day. She’s even invited two fellow “Naked and Afraid” stars to Maine for an outdoor adventure.
Before the season airing, Wentworth isn’t allowed to give away any clues as to how she performed in the challenge or how long she lasted in “The Valley of the Banished.” But she did make it out of the savannah safely, and is now in the process of putting down some roots in Passadumkeag. She’s almost finished building her off-the-grid cabin, where she hopes to share with others the outdoor survival skills she learned on and off the show. She’s also studying to become a Registered Maine Guide.
“I can’t imagine living in any other way,” she said. “It’s so simple.”
All seasons of “Naked and Afraid” are available Discovery Go app and at Discovery.com. Fans can join the conversation on social media by using the hashtag #NakedandAfraidXL and by following Naked and Afraid on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.