Understanding The Survival Rule Of Threes

The Four 3s of survival are guidelines to help people understand the length of time that they can go with air, shelter, water, and food. Keep in mind that these are guidelines and the lengths of time may be longer or shorter for some people. Nevertheless, remembering the survival rule of 3s is important for planning in a survival situation.

3 Minutes Without Air

Being able to breath is the most important survival priority. In an emergency medical situation, the first thing that you want to do is check a person’s airway since it only takes a few minutes without oxygen to cause brain damage or death. Knowing the Heimlich maneuver is crucial since many people choke to death in front friends and family who can’t help.

If you are in a survival situation that requires you to conserve air, remember to breathe slowly and avoid speaking or panicking. Many strong swimmers die within the first minute of cold water submersion since the temperature shock causes them to inhale water. Therefore, cold water acclimation is a wise survival preparation.

3 Hours Without Shelter

If you can breathe and have immediate first aid concerns squared away, the next survival priority is shelter. This may mean constructing a simple primitive shelter, but keep it simple and don’t expend much energy on this since more effort should be put into signaling for rescue.

Seek caves, outcroppings, or any other type of space that can keep you dry while conserving heat. It’s best to find a natural shelter that can be modified, and remember to make a natural bed out of vegetation to prevent losing body heat to the ground.

3 Days Without Water

After you have shelter, fire, and a rescue signal, it’s time to secure water resources. The human body is made up of mostly water, and 2 quarts is the bare minimum that you must drink per day. There are many crafty ways to collect water, but remember to filter and purify it before drinking.

Knowing how to extract and collect moisture from the earth, air, and plants can save your life in a survival situation. And despite what you might see on TV, don’t drink your own pee since this is almost like drinking seawater. Some people have lived for up to a week without water, but don’t let yourself go more than 3 days without any fluids.

3 Weeks Without Food

In a survival situation, food is the very last priority since our bodies usually have enough reserves to hold us over for 2-4 weeks. Being hungry can be very uncomfortable, put it’s important to remember not to waste energy searching for, gathering, and preparing food. Instead, see to your shelter and make sure you have water, a rescue signal, and first aid needs taken care of.

If you must eat, aim for food sources that don’t require much energy to collect, like carpenter ants or other insects that can be eaten raw. Don’t eat any bugs that are fuzzy or bright colored, and don’t eat plants or mushrooms unless you’re absolutely sure that they’re safe. If in doubt, eat a small amount of a plant, and if you’re fine after several hours, gradually eat more and more of it.


Survival is all about maintaining hope. So in addition to these guidelines, it can also be said that you cannot live 3 seconds without hope. Staying fit, active, and trained for adverse situations is the best way to survive them, so keep your skills honed ready.

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