The rule of threes

In the wilderness, the human body is fragile. Make one false step, and you could be falling off a cliff to your death. It is also incredibly strong: men have survived in the wild for days, weeks and even months with nothing more than the clothes on their back. But just how much can our bodies handle? And how long can you expect to survive in the wild without basic necessities?

The rule of threes was created to help answer these questions. It’s a rule that lets you know how long you can survive without certain essentials. Fun and easy to remember, the rule of threes could also save your life. Here’s what it says:

According to the rule of threes, you can survive:

  • 3 weeks without food
  • 3 days without drinking water
  • 3 hours without shelter (in extreme heat or cold)
  • 3 minutes without breathing, 3 minutes severely bleeding, or 3 minutes in ice-cold water

Pretty easy to remember, right?

By all means, the rule of threes is not an exact science. People have been known to last much longer without food, and some people can survive in extreme heat or cold situations for days. But it’s still a pretty handy rule that can save you a lot of problems in the wilderness. Here’s how:

The rule of threes is not just a good way to remember fun facts (though we agree, this is the knowledge that always makes a pretty good impression with like-minded, outdoorsy people.) It should be considered part of your basic survival skills because it helps to establish survival priorities.

But before that, the rule of threes helps you not to panic. When you’re in an unknown situation and find yourself without some basic necessities, the worst thing you can do is lose your calm. Getting overwhelmed by stress will make it impossible for you to think logically—which is what you need most in a dire situation.

The rule of threes

Let’s say you went out on a camping trip with your buddies. You go for a hike but lose your way, you don’t have a compass and can’t find the camp you’ve set up. Now, it’s easy to panic and think that you’re going to die in the woods. But that’s where the rule of threes comes in handy.


Okay, so for starters, you know that you’re not without oxygen. That’s good, you can survive more than 3 minutes. Now, you have to think about shelter: are you in an extremely hot or cold situation? If yes, you have 3 hours to find shelter. Difficult, but by no means impossible. And if you’re not in an extreme temperature situation, then you get bumped up to the next digit. 3 days. That’s how long you’ll survive without drinking water. 3 days is a long time, and definitely enough to find a brook, a river, or just find your way back to your camp.

So what do you do in a survival situation? Your first reflex should be to consult the rule of threes: it will help you not to panic and realize you probably have much longer than you think you do to solve the situation.

The rule of threes will also help you establish some survival priorities. For example, not everyone knows that you need water much sooner than you need food. So if you get lost, don’t go scavenging for edible plants. Find a source of water as a matter of extreme priority! A lot of people also don’t realize that extreme heat or cold can kill you faster than starvation. Say you find yourself having to survive in the desert. You’re much better off looking for shade and shelter fast, rather than looking for water.

survival priorities

Once you’ve established your survival priorities, it’s easy to establish a strategy, a plan of action, and to stay logical. We highly recommend learning this easy rule by heart and remembering it in a survival situation. It will tell you two things right away: One: you can survive in the wild for much longer than you think you can, and Two: you can do this. Faced with the need to survive, these are the most important things you have to keep in mind.

There are four-core skills you’ll need to get good at to make your survival more likely until you get rescued they include:

  1. Finding a water source
    2. Finding/building a shelter
    3. Building a fire in any weather – Grab your FREE Everstryke Pro (guaranteed to light in any weather)
    4. Finding food

We’ll get to those. And other things to consider are first aid and self-defense – here are some simple self-defense techniques every man should know. But for know commit the rule of threes to memory, you never know when you might need them.