‘Naked And Afraid XL’ Exclusive: Rylie Parlett Talks The Swamp And Surviving The Cold
Rylie Parlett is a veteran survivalist for Discovery’s Naked and Afraid XL. This series is the 60 days in the wild with seasoned cast members who already made the 21 and 40-day challenges seem like a piece of cake.
Or maybe they just bore the brunt of a piece of lodged thistle, a wayward thorn, a festering bug bite, or gruesome rash from a mystery plant encounter, nothing fatal, just super uncomfortable. Not enough of a misery index to put the contestant off from stripping down and doing it one more time for the producers’ cameras.
The Naked and Afraid XL Team Savage redhead Rylie Parlett is one pelt-wearing fierce competitor TV Shows Ace keeping a close eye on.
Sadly the last episode, we bid farewell to another tigress, Amber Hargrove, whose spiraling medical issues stemming from her injuries sustained in service to our country left her with the potential for an embolism or life-threatening clot.
But Rylie killed a water moccasin with panache on that same episode, and she appears to be holding up well with her mates Ryan Holt and Matt Wright.
For the past six seasons of XL, the all-star survivalists have conquered extreme environments with brutal climates and enormous challenges where others have failed.
Now, the 12 legends of the 40-day challenges return to test themselves like never before, as these all-star survivalists must tackle the Louisiana swamp for a never-before-attempted 60-day challenge. The wet winter rolls over the marsh and the larger reptiles go a bit dormant, but the dangers are still all around.
The Atchafalaya swamp is home to Rylie.
Naked and Afraid XL is filmed across a massive 7,000 acres in Louisiana’s infamous Atchafalaya Basin. The dark, cold waters and tangle of vegetation and brush lurk with predators, including territorial, 10+ foot alligators and North America’s only venomous water snake, the cottonmouth.
In addition to the threats they can see, the water is teeming with microscopic parasites that can burrow under the skin and create infections that send would-be legends home.
This season the hardships test the toughest survivalists in the world can endure and opportunities to showcase their elite skills. The survivalists will be able to hunt on land and water. While some could make it through their 21-day or even 40-day challenges, to make it the 60 days in the punishing Bayou, survivalists will have to up the ante and work hard.
Inserted into summer-like heat, they’re in danger of dehydration and swarmed by mosquitoes. As the weather turns, the hypothermia issues arise as rainstorms and swamp chills make their lives miserable.
And as winter settles over the bayou, the temperatures plummet to near-freezing, and their primary food sources of snakes and alligators hibernate. Rylie gained 30 pounds for this test of wills, and she already has lost most of that weight.
Exclusive interview with Rylie Parlett:
April Neale: By the way, your name means brave and Irish. Did you know that?
Rylie Parlett: I was told it meant something like that, and that’s awesome.
AN: So you were in two Naked and Afraid series, and then this is the third, Naked and Afraid XL.
Rylie Parlett: Yes, I did 21 days in Honduras, and I did 40 days in the Philippines.
AN: Tell me about the challenges of doing a 21-day challenge versus a 60-day challenge.
Rylie Parlett: There’s a huge difference there, especially in the sense that in real talk, you could probably just kind of count calories. I mean, you could sort of eke your way through and drag yourself across the finish line for three weeks, 21 days.
It’s not easy by any means, but there isn’t the aspect of long-term viability or planning that needs to go into a 60 day. I mean, if you’re not working in planning and projecting what you’re going to need a month later, you’re just not going to make it.
AN: Your teammates, Matt and Ryan, describe the qualities you appreciated in this more extended challenge.
Rylie Parlett: Well, I always tell everyone that up until this challenge, I was the black widow of Naked and Afraid because every partner ever had left. So I think all of that paid me back. I hit the jackpot with these two because they are incredible people, amazing people with outstanding talent.
Matt, the things he’s capable of doing, but I have seen it with my own eyes, I have seen him shoot a fish out of water that I couldn’t even see. He is a hawkeye, just an incredible marksman with years and years and years of training, in both being a hunting guide and a waterman.
He’s just a wealth of knowledge but super humble, super nice. You’d never know that he’s so capable of all these things because he’s just going about his own way, never bragging about himself or talking about all of his capabilities. He performs at an amazing level.
Ryan is incredible. He’s got a very driven sort of personality that kind of gets everybody else motivated too. And it just both of them together. Every day was incredibly motivating, the days when you want to get down in the dumps, it was tough to do so with incredible partners like those two, and I consider them brothers. I definitely don’t know if I would’ve been as successful with anybody else.
AN: Many people who watch this show are curious about after the challenge if you stay in touch with your teammates. Is it a lifelong friendship?
Rylie Parlett: Absolutely. Yesterday was Matt’s birthday. I gave him a call and talked to him and his wife. Ryan is amazing. I spoke to him about it every couple of days, and we’re all planning to get together in Florida at Matt’s place.
We’re all going to try to make it up to Maine and see what Ryan has been working on up there with his hostel. I’ve had other teams that had other partners, and it’s one of those things that you touched base here and there, but the 60 days in the middle of winter was so intense.
It was just like a life-changing experience, but I feel we all bonded a lot more than on any other challenge.
AN: Now, in the swamp in Louisiana, when it gets to wintertime, do the alligators tend to hibernate. It’s less of a, less of a danger to be attacked by an alligator? Do you see more deer and more nutria things like that?
Rylie Parlett: It is a double-edged sword there because you’re right about reptiles in the winter. They slow down, and alligators stopped feeding. They go into almost the dormant kind of state. That said, the water is a little safer, but that’s also a massive, incredible food source that you no longer have access to.
We can put anything [bait] on our hooks, but they’re not cruising or looking for food. It was hard to watch that [food supply] dwindling as the month got colder. So at that point, you’re not so much worried about the possibility of encountering alligators in the water, as much as you worried about the extreme realization that the food sources are no longer as available.
But if they’re not feeding, then there’s nothing that you can do. So it’s a trade-off, but I think any day of the week, a survivalist is going to tell you they’d rather have the alligators moving.
AN: You wore a pelt, and you didn’t appear as cold as some of the other participants who ultimately tapped out. How important was that for you to keep your core body warm?
Rylie Parlett: The pelt was also was given to us as one of our insurance items. Every team, every person received one. And honestly, without it, I don’t know. I don’t think any of us would have made it because it was unbearably cold having it, as you mentioned, the way I wore it, I kept it close to my core too, to get some heat or trapline, whatever body heat I could have, but it just was freezing.
Although I didn’t, when I appeared not to be cold, I was, it’s just one of those things mind over matter, really tried to not think about it or motivate myself or even trick myself into feeling that I was warmer than I was because the cold wasn’t going anywhere. It was winter in North America, so it was one of those. ‘Hey, this is the price of admission.’
You’re going to be cold. It is what it is, but it wasn’t easy. I will say that pelt. It was kind of like our comfort blankets—we, with our little one-possession out there. So we took excellent care of that. We’re very protective of that.
AN: By the way, the internet is full of all sorts of bizarre information about you.
Rylie Parlett: [Laughs] I saw the other day that I was, like, my net worth was a million dollars, and I was like, where’s this money?
AN: It was either written by a ‘bot or written by someone from another country. And the funniest was: “She [Rylie] is young and beautiful, but we do not know if she has managed to make a boyfriend right now,” which is one of your stated fun facts. We know you’re young and beautiful. Have you managed to make a boyfriend right now?
Rylie Parlett: [Laughs] I find I have managed to make a boyfriend. I have an incredibly supportive, amazing boyfriend who had to do his 60-day challenge. So often don’t get the credit, the significant others that they’re watching the weather too.
They see the hurricane; they’re seeing the temperatures drop and have to be home with no support and have to be home with no word of what’s going on. And with all of the things that they encounter. You can’t be there for them.
We were gone during the holidays as well. So, you know, when everyone else was having Thanksgiving, we were gone. I am grateful and lucky I have an amazing boyfriend.
He’s just the best. I always say, like, he’s way better than I am. I don’t know if I could do it the other way—this shoe on the other foot. I don’t know if I could do it.
AN: I’m sure he was sitting on his hands with worry at times. Another thing that I’ve never seen anyone write about or talk about, and I have not found anywhere, is women have periods. How do you manage something like that on a show like this?
Rylie Parlett: That’s a common question I get, and I think it’s a very interesting question because it’s true. It’s real. And it’s another challenge that we as women have that our male counterparts don’t.
I’ll be honest with you when your body goes into sort of shock, almost like an extreme gymnast or extreme athlete. You don’t have a period. So for that entire two months, I didn’t have anything., when I got home, I didn’t either. So I had to let my body get out of the shock of that [challenge].
In Honduras, I actually had two periods in a three-week challenge. So that was a real treat because your body goes into shock. Your thyroid goes crazy. Things can happen that way.
It’s rough because your hands are dirty, and things are just not hygienic. And we have another challenge. I can’t tell my partners, ‘Hey, listen, I have cramps that are excruciating today. So I won’t be pulling my weight.’
You have to suffer in silence and get it done. So, I don’t know if our male counterparts think about that, but it’s worth noting that every woman survivalist out there has had their own extra challenge.
I don’t mind answering that. I actually like explaining it to people because it’s like, ‘Hey, you know what? It’s even tougher for us.’
AN: You became a survivalist, and you schooled yourself. I saw that you had noted a bushcraft book on Instagram, and you were self-taught. Did you go to any schools?
Rylie Parlett: I did. I grew up homesteading my family. We always did primitive skills and homesteading just by necessity. Then when I’m off on my own, I always did wild camp and sort of did primitive skills without really knowing that I was doing them.
I started getting into it and teaching myself, and I did reach a point where I needed a mentor. I needed someone to say, ‘Hey, this is what you’re doing that could be better. This is what we need to go over.’
Then I was an apprentice at the North American Bushcraft School in Hedgesville, West Virginia. The president there, Jason Drevenak, is incredible. He’s worked with Nat Geo and many other organizations. I finished that program, and I just always kept on challenging myself.
I learned from everyone I’ve ever survived with, like Gabrielle Balassone. She’s fantastic, and we became friends. She’s great at a lot of things. Every time you go on a challenge with someone, you learn from them. I think if you can’t learn from your peers, then you become stagnant.
I’m always learning every time I do a challenge, and when I come home, I take what I struggled with and work on improving it.
AN: What are you going to do with this, all of this experience?
Rylie Parlett: Well, I feel incredibly fortunate because I get to go on these adventures and do what I love and what I’m passionate about and challenge myself. So I get to do it. And I have all these opportunities. I try to teach classes and mentor people, just the same way that I needed a mentor.
Anytime there’s an adventure, it’s tough for me to say no. So, one challenge turned into two, two turn into this huge XL Legends. And we’ll see, I mean, if someone has another adventure, it’s hard for me to turn it down, and I’ll always keep training and being ready for it when it comes.
AN: What was the most challenging aspect that you had to work to overcome?
Rylie Parlett: Well, for me, it was a hundred percent the cold. I’m not a large person. I gained 30 pounds for the challenge, and it was hard to do because I have a very active lifestyle and have a high metabolism.
I knew I was going to need that 30 pounds. And, when it was gone, it was freezing. It’s just, people say, well, you can insulate your structure more. You can share body heat, and you can do all these things.
But the fact of the matter is, although it’s the south, it’s still North America in the middle of winter, so it’s going to be outrageously cold. And, I knew it was going to be a big challenge for me going in. It was the thing that I was apprehensive about, but I just knew that I had to really distract myself.
I had to have the mental strength to get over it because I would never be warm until I finished the challenge. I just had to ignore how bad it was—every day.
Here is a fun Rylie rewind clip from last Sunday’s episode:
Rylie’s Wild Teeth Cleaning Hack
Naked And Afraid XL airs Sunday at 8 pm ET/PT on Discovery.
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