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Survival Priorities- What do we REALLY need?

We have all read in a survival book about "The Rule of 3's" or the "Sacred Order of Survival". Both of these are excellent guidelines for memorizing what your body needs and what's the priority, or hierarchy of what your body immediately needs.

The Rule of 3's

I can't pinpoint who originally made this, as its in almost every survival book I have read.

You can survive:

  • 3 minutes without air

  • 3 hours without shelter

  • 3 days without water

  • 3 weeks without food

  • 3 months without companionship

The number 3 is a rough estimate as to the exact amount of time you can actually survive without those needs. I have been very dehydrated when I used to work in wilderness therapy in Utah over a 14 mile trek through the desert with only two quarts of water for 2 days. By the end of that excursion (which ended up happening because of a student who refused to move on her own), the entire group was very dehydrated. We all had different levels of symptoms. But we probably could not go up to the 3rd day of barely any water without serious effects.

The Sacred Order of Survival

Shelter, Water, Fire, Food. As you can see with the rule of 3's the priorities are basically the same with this order. If you are lost, regulate your core body temp first, as you can die of hypothermia faster than dehydration, and way faster than starvation.

The Owl Eyes Wilderness Survival Priorities

After giving some thought to these priorities, I created a list of survival needs, more of a rhyme, as it needs to be easy to remember when in a stressful situation:

  • Harmonize

  • Regulate

  • Hydrate

  • Energize

  • Evacuate


If you are lost, take a moment to Breathe. What do you have in your pockets that could help you find rescue? What materials are in your immediate area? Make sure your awareness and attitude are in check. Immediately take care of First Aid needs. Air and first aid are ultimate priorities in any situation.


Make sure your core body temperature is where it needs to be. Are you hot and sweating? Are you shivering? You may need to pull out your ferro rod to start a fire, or your emergency blanket to craft some sort of shelter. I always make sure I bring an extra layer or two, even though I feel I may not need them. This "just in case" layer, could be the difference between shivering all night, or being comfortably warm in an unexpected situation.


I always make sure to bring some sort of water filter or purifying tabs with me on woods adventures. If you take your body weight (pounds) and divide it in half, that number is the amount of ounces you should aim to drink (aim for more) on any given day. Add the strenuousness of the hike, or building a shelter, and you'll need more water. A good indicator of proper hydration is your urine output. Are you peeing clear, a lot, and frequently? Then you are well hydrated my friend!


Eat and sleep! Food may potentially be hard to come by in certain seasons or environments. Always bring a few extra snacks with you. Sleep is essential and we need to be sure to build a proper shelter to ensure that we are able to energize for the next days tasks. People rarely sleep the first night in a survival situation. They are too stressed, panicked, or cold to be able to fall asleep. If you can get some food in your belly, and stay warm, you will be on a better path to getting a good night sleep in the woods.


Get out of there! You do not have the proper preparation to stay out in the woods long. Humans seek community and companionship so a long term survival situation can start to bring psychological stress that you didn't prepare for either. There are survival TV shows all about this aspect, in which folks usually last no longer than 3 months because they crave connection. I always bring a signal mirror and a whistle around my neck so I can get the attention of someone should an emergency happen. I also have a good GPS I take with me on longer adventures. Getting out of the situation should be your ultimate goal.

Take Care of All Your Needs

In any case, there may be an order to what you might want to focus on first. We may only be able to focus on first aid and keeping ourselves warm the first night. If we can, we are always searching for water and food while we are building our shelter as well. A well rounded satisfaction of needs is the ultimate preference anywhere we are. Breathing, staying warm, fed, and hydrated is your goal at any point in life and those are what really matter.

Thank you for taking the time to read about the Owl Eyes Survival Priorities. If you would like to go deeper into your survival skill training, consider booking a class. Check out my calendar or send me an email to see what's happening near you! Get out there and have a good time.

*At no additional cost to you, I receive a small percentage back if you order a product through the product links. Thank you for your support!

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