The 4 Core Survival Priorities and Why You Need to Get Their Order Right


( – In a survival situation, the main thing you need to do is cover your Core Four survival priorities — shelter, fire, water and food. But you also need to get them in the right order; getting that right can mean the difference between surviving for three weeks or just three minutes.

Prioritizing Your Core Four

If you’re trying to survive, you’re going to need shelter, water and food — and unless you’re very lucky with the climate and environment, you’ll need fire too. The thing is, though, that although each of these four is equally essential, they’re not all equally urgent. Here’s the order of priority:

  1. Shelter. In almost any environment, shelter is your first priority. Without appropriate shelter, the desert sun will dehydrate you in a matter of hours — or a winter gale will bring on hypothermia in minutes. When it comes to the weather, you’re safer once you’ve put a barrier between you and the elements.
    Remember that the sun sets fast and the night’s cold is no joke even in moderate climates — not to mention that staying dry and staying warm go hand in hand, so you have to keep the rain off, too. You need to know how to find natural shelter, and to improvise one from materials that you have with you or can find lying around.
  2. Fire. There are some places you can get away without fire, but generally, it’s going to be essential. A fire can heat your shelter, help dry wet clothes, purify water and cook food. It can also help keep predators away while you sleep, provide light and generally improve morale. Make sure you always carry basic fire-lighting equipment, know how to use it — and have the knowledge to start a fire without it if necessary. This is something we should all practice every chance we get.
  3. Water. Shelter and fire will keep you alive through your first night in a survival situation — but by the morning you’ll be feeling pretty thirsty. Once you’ve ensured the weather isn’t going to kill you, your next priority is water. Without adequate water, you’ll start to run into serious problems within three days, and you have almost no chance of surviving longer than a week. Learn how to find water in the wild — for example, which plants are a good source.
  4. Food. You can go a surprising number of days without food before it really starts to have an impact, but eventually, your body will start to demand the calories it needs as fuel and the protein it needs to repair itself. Luckily, there’s plenty of food out there — if you know how to find it. To survive more than a few days you’ll need to be able to forage for edible plants, and that’s the bare minimum. The ability to fish and trap game will come in pretty handy, too.

The Core Four are based on what’s known as the Rule of Threes. Remember, as a general rule you can last:

  • 3 minutes without air
  • 3 hours without adequate shelter
  • 3 days without drinking water
  • 3 weeks without food

Keep those facts in mind and you’ll be able to prioritize effectively, counter the most immediate threats and maximize your chances of survival.

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