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The Survival Rules of 3: What You Need to Set to Memory

Do you know the Survival Rules of 3? You should…

Some, if not most, of you are probably familiar with the wilderness Survival Rules of 3. It’s based on the idea that if you have these things covered, you should be alright in most survival scenarios.

Anyone who’s been through it will tell you: If I only planned more and prepared ahead of time, it wouldn’t have been such an issue.

Benchmade Knife Company knows the importance of the Survival Rules of 3. It’s one significant step closer to the ultimate level of outdoorsmanship we all strive for.

There are four levels of concern in the Survival Rules of 3, and here’s how it shakes out:

  • You can survive for 3 Minutes without air or in icy water
  • You can survive for 3 Hours without shelter in a harsh environment (unless in icy water)
  • You can survive for 3 Days without water (if sheltered from a harsh environment)
  • You can survive for 3 Weeks without food (if you have water and shelter)

With these basic mathematics, you can easily see what’s most important, and what you should worry about first if you’re presented with a survival situation.

Let’s break them down, one by one.


Obviously, any condition that threatens breathing (or the blood’s ability to circulate Oxygen) is an immediate survival situation. 

Brush up on CPR and the Heimlich Maneuver (including how to do them on yourself, if possible), and a basic understanding of first aid training will never hurt.

If you become trapped or locked inside a small space with limited air supply, a breathing hole should take precedence over an escape. Find a source of air first, then address the greater need.


The environment is going to play a major factor, but let’s assume most survival situations don’t happen on a warm beach. Odds are cold temperatures, wind, rain, snow, or worse will be involved, which accentuates the need for shelter. Remember, you’ve only got three hours to shelter yourself in the toughest conditions.

As long as you’re breathing (see above), shelter should take priority over both food and water. A layman wouldn’t necessarily assume this, and there have been countless survival stories of folks worrying about what they would eat well before it became a real issue to address.

Even if conditions seem fair, it’s always important to establish a shelter if you’re forced into survival mode.

There are a multitude of styles and forms a wilderness shelter can take, but sometimes simple is better. Use fallen trees as a starting point, as their size can often create nooks and crannies after they’ve hit the ground that can be the skeleton of your eventual shelter.

Bringing packable survival blankets or tarps is also a smart way to stay ahead of the game. Paracord and a good Benchmade knife are essential for shelter creation, and you’d be surprised what you can become capable of with only a sharp blade and some cord as construction tools.

Without those two items, which are about as packable as backcountry supplies come, it’s hard to imagine the extent to which you’ll be able to shelter yourself. Two simple things can make all the difference.


Water (and by water, we mean clean water) trumps food in the Survival Rules of 3, making a durable bottle and a purifier both necessities.

Finding a natural source of water can help immensely, but it can’t always be relied on. And though water is tough to pack and adds weight quickly, it’s always worth bringing more than you think you’ll need.


Again, it’s tough to say you’re covered when food takes up space and adds weight to a pack. Survival situations have timelines that can stretch, and even if you plan on being away from civilization for merely a few hours, that can turn into days before you know it.

There are plenty of advancements that shrink down and dehydrate food for camping, but they involve camp stoves and water. Do you have enough non-perishable food items in your pack that you’d be able to consume a minimum amount of calories? It’s easy to look past this, especially if you’re relying on dehydrated food packs.

Also, it’s not impossible to find wild food if the setting presents the opportunity. Take some time to learn what plants are safe to consume in the area you’ll be heading, and you’ll have one more backup should the need arise.

The biggest thing to remember is that a survival situation doesn’t have to be the end. If you take these reminders to heart, you’ll be setting yourself up for a reasonable expectation of survival in most circumstances.

Let people know where you plan to be and for how long. Include a communications device in your backcountry supplies, and work up to traveling farther for longer periods of time into the wilderness.

Keeping a clear mind in survival is paramount to success. A quality craftsman knife from Benchmade can do wonders for easing the mind.

That way, you’re not left worrying about the performance of your blade, and able to focus on the Survival Rules of 3.


The Survival Rules of 3: What You Need to Set to Memory