In this article, I aim to introduce you to some very basic survival concepts that apply to a wide range of survival situations which will hopefully help you to get into the right mindset to survive. Please be aware that this list is under construction and I intend to add to it as time permits.
The Rule of 3’s
The one that is most well known among survival circles is commonly called ‘The Rule of 3’s’. This is a rough, generalized guide of how long your body can cope without these fundamentals for living so that you can prioritize your time and resources accordingly. In many cases, people have survived longer than this though, so keep that in mind.
- 3 minutes without air (zero oxygen means asphyxiation which results in death)
- 3 hours without shelter (your core body temperature goes down leading to hypothermia and even death)
- 3 days without water (we all know water is an essential component for life and without it, we cannot survive)
- 3 weeks without food (food is at the bottom of the list as it is not a top priority; keep in mind that people have gone without food for more than 3 weeks and have survived).
‘Two is one and one is none’
This is a military saying and is one of my favorites. It basically emphasizes the importance of having redundant capabilities (NOT gear) in your survival equipment. Why do I say capabilities and not gear? Well take for example the simple butane, BiC brand lighter. They are dirt cheap, easy to use and can start a fire 99% of the time (provided you built your fire to stay lit). The big problem with lighters is that they are affected by moisture, extreme cold, extended use, strong winds and so might not work too well when you need them.
Another issue is that they eventually run out of fuel (butane) especially if cracked and consequently have to be thrown away. If you chose to have a second lighter as your one and only backup fire starter then you’re chance of starting a fire could potentially be zilch especially if both lighters are stored in the same place in your bag and given the fact that both are impacted by the aforementioned environmental factors. So instead of having a lighter as your backup, I would recommend carrying either UCO stormproof matches, a good quality flint fire starter or Condy’s Crystals/glucose.
It is always good to have at least two of each item as the minimum in your kit. You can have more than that of course but then you’ve got to juggle between the need for redundancies and the extra weight they bring. For example for fire starting I have three (yes I know that’s more than two) separate tools for this purpose: some NATO waterproof matches, a flint striker and Condy’s Crystals. To take care of my water needs, I have three methods of ensuring that I have access to safe water at all times the first one is a Sawyer Mini Water filter, the second a three-stage Survivor Filter and the last one, of course, is the marvelous chemical I swear by Condy’s Crystals.
For lighting, I have more than one strobe, a tactical torch, and a headlamp. Having more than one item ensures that you are not left in the dark should that item become lost, broken or rendered useless. Multiple use gear is another great option to consider as it allows for a wide range of different purposes and more than just two at that (e.g. a bandanna which has literally a hundred uses for example).
If you ever find yourself caught in a bind such as getting lost out on a day hike, commit this simple easy-to-remember acronym to memory. Maintaining a level head and planning before acting are both very important if you want to come out of a bad situation in one piece (albeit perhaps with your pride hurt).
- Stop what you are doing immediately. Take a break. Breathe in, breathe out. Drink some water or brew up a cuppa. This does two things 1) takes your mind off the present situation and 2) boosts morale significantly – arguably there’s nothing better than a heart-warming brew! That is why I carry tea and coffee in my mini survival tin.
- Think about what you are going to do next and think about it carefully. Weigh all your options and their associated risks before taking action. This is a great time to think about your priorities (see my article on the ‘5 Priorities of Survival‘ as a guide).
- Observe – see what gear you have immediately available that may aid in your survival or self-rescue. Observe the weather, daylight that is left, any injuries you may have and the welfare of any others who may be with you.
- Plan – This final step is probably the most important one as it determines your fate. Planning is key to a good outcome in any survival situation. The old adage goes ‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail’ and it is so true. Once you determine your plan of action, stick by it closely unless unforeseen conditions thwart it.