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What Is the 333 Rule of Survival?

What Is the 333 Rule of Survival?

Three is a magic number, especially when it comes to the rule of three for survival. Never heard of this rule? This basic survival rule could actually save your life if you’re ever caught in a harrowing situation while spending time in nature. 

Keep reading to learn all about the rule of threes and how it is the best tool to have under your belt anytime you head away from civilization.

What Is the Rule of Three for Survival?

Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast or prefer a cozy home knowing the 333 Rule of survival is your first step to being a success in a survival situation. The rule of three is a generalized statement about what it takes to survive and prioritizes the necessary steps to get you to your best chances of survival in an emergency. In summary its 3 minuets of air, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food are life threatening. Lets take a closer look.

Holding up three fingers in nature
For nature lovers, knowing the rule of three survival is essential knowledge.

3 Minutes Without Air

The first tier for the rule of three survival is to think of three minutes. Three minutes is two-fold. If you find yourself underwater, you can’t go much longer than three minutes without air. This means that your first act of survival is to get to a space where you can breathe. Shelter, water, and food mean nothing if you can’t breathe.

If you’re in an emergency that doesn’t involve water, you’ll have a better opportunity to breathe, calm your racing heart and clear your head. That makes whatever decisions you’re about to make come from a clear head free of panic. Take three minutes to breathe slowly, with purpose.

Pro Tip: We had a close call with a sinking truck once and wrote an article about the importance of window breakers that can help you avoid 3 minutes without air.

3 Hours Without Shelter

Now that you can breathe without having a panic attack, you should be able to assess the emergency with reasonable thought. That assessment should be to first take in your surroundings. Ask yourself a few questions. What is the environment like? Are the temperatures going to drop below freezing? Do you have the tools or space to get out of a harsh environment?

You can survive in a harsh environment for up to three hours unless you are in cold water. After that, you could be at risk of exposure. And exposure can kill. Before you think about how thirsty you might be or that you haven’t eaten anything since breakfast, you need to make sure you have shelter. Cold water however will shut your body down in 30 minuets or less and you will need to find any way possible to get out of it.

If you know you’ll be stuck in the elements overnight or for a long time, a survival shelter could be what you have to build from whatever you have with and around you.

Whatever you need to do to protect yourself from nature’s harsh realities, start doing it. Having air in your lungs and shelter over your head has now given way to your next priority – water.

Pro Tip: Make building a survival shelter easy by using the Mortons on the Move guide to Bushcraft 101: How to Build a Survival Shelter in the Wilderness.

3 Days Without Water

Believe it or not, no matter how thirsty you might feel, your body can survive for up to three days without water. And now that you have shelter, you can begin the hunt for water. If possible finding a potable source of water or purifying it is important.

There are many microscopic organisms that thrive in water. If you ingest them, you might have your thirst quenched, but in moments, you could easily be sick. You could throw it back up, making your situation even more harrowing. If you expect to reach civilization in the very short term most water-born illnesses can be easily treated, however getting sick without support can also be life-threatening.

Your best bet for access to clean water is to plan ahead and have tools in your backpack, such as a water filtration system, purification tablets, and a backpacker’s stove and small pot. Once you have a safe water source, you can move up the ladder to the last of the rule of three for survival – food.

Man drinking water from stream
You can go three days without water and three weeks without food in a survival situation.

3 Weeks Without Food

Food only becomes an issue with survival when you know you might be stuck for a long time. Not hours, but days but weeks, because your body can go for up to three weeks without food. All those survival shows you watch aren’t always showing the true order of survival priority. Food is the last thing you need to consider when it comes to surviving in the wilderness.

Woman survivalist building shelter and fire
Building a shelter is a key step for surviving in the wild.

Why Is a Positive Attitude So Important for Survival? 

Before you find yourself in an emergency, go back to when you first thought of heading out on a hike, a trek, or a ride. Think about your feelings. We’re willing to bet you were excited. Maybe even a little anxious if you were embarking upon something new.

Either way, we’re also willing to bet that you probably had a positive attitude because you were excited. That positive attitude is yet another vital tool to have under your belt. Heading out into nature with a smile and a visual of success can actually help you survive an emergency ordeal. 

So, before you head out, check your expedition behavior. In other words, what will your attitude be like if it starts raining in the middle of your hike? Will you let that rain cloud your judgment and impede your decisions? Or will you look up at the sky and rejoice in the droplets so very much needed in the desert you’re hiking in, knowing you prepared for it?

A positive attitude goes a long way in nature. So before you take your first step, take your first breath, envisioning all the right moves. Because it only takes three seconds (or less) to make one bad decision that could cost your life.

The Survival Rule of 3's | TJack Survival

What Are the 5 C’s of Survival?

Along with a positive attitude, proper expedition behavior, and the knowledge of the rule of three, comes the 5 C’s. Any good outdoor enthusiast will tell you that you should always have certain things in your pack, whether it’s a day hike or a multi-day trek.

The 5 C’s are a cutting tool, a combustion device, a cover, a container, and cordage. All of these should be kept in your vehicle. Call it a bug-out bag, a survival kit, or whatever you want – just don’t leave home without these tools.

A cutting tool, or a knife, can help cut down wood for fire or shelter. It could even help with hunting for food. A combustion device such as a lighter, a firestarter, or matches makes it much easier to start a fire for warmth. 

Cover such as a tarp or an emergency blanket makes for an easy shelter from the glaring sun or the pouring rain. A container, such as a pot or collapsible bowl, can collect water, while cordage can also help hold up a tarp or build a primitive fire tool.

These tools in your backpack and your vehicle are perfect for the survival rule of three.

Pro Tip: Teach your little ones these 10 Easy and Valuable Survival Skills You Can Teach Kids.

Can Taking a First Aid Kit on a Hiking Trip Save Lives?

Now you’ve got the attitude, the knowledge, and the survival kit, is it time to head out into the wild? Not yet. Every good outdoor enthusiast will also tell you that you should have a first aid kit in your pack.

This doesn’t mean you have to pack up your entire medicine cabinet, but it does mean that you should have a few basics. The basics include bandaids, medical tape, a syringe, Ibuprofen, blister kits, pain gels for burns, Ace bandages or athletic tape, and Benadryl. 

Having a first aid kit is like having insurance. You should always have it, but hope you never have to use it. But when an emergency arises, and you have a stocked emergency kit, it very well could save lives. A simple cut in the backcountry can become dangerous if not taken care of properly. A first aid kit goes right along with the 5 C’s and the rule of three. It’s a must in any outdoor lover’s pack or car.

Be prepared and know your survival skills before you lace up your boots and hit the trail.

How Long Can a Human Go Without Eating?

Ok, we’ve got the bug-out bag, the positive attitude, the skills, and the first-aid kit. Is there room for food? Should we even be worried about bringing food in our pack? Yes, and yes! There’s always room for food if you bring along trail mix and bars. Whether you go on a week-long trek or a two-hour adventure, it’s good to have some snacks, if not full meals.

But, if you forget to pack the snack, and the unforgettable happens, your body can go a lot longer than you think without food. As mentioned before, you can go up to three weeks if you have shelter and water. But keep in mind as the days go by, your body will begin to notice the effects of no nutrients. You won’t be in prime shape. You will lose muscle, and you will feel weak. 

50 Survival Tips - Food | Fire | Shelter | Water - Wilderness knowledge you should know

Be Prepared for Your Next Adventure By Knowing the Rule of Three of Survival

While many people like surprises, when it comes to outdoor excursions, it’s best to leave the surprises at home for welcome-back parties. We’ll take prevention, packing, and preparation – you might call those the three P’s – over surprises any day. 

Now that you know the rule of threes for survival and the 5C’s, you’re prepared for your next hiking trip. Lace up the boots and start hiking.

What survival skills do you think everybody should know? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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