The Rule of 3's For Survival

Many of us have heard about the “10 essentials” when doing outdoor recreation Note: Search & Rescue (SAR) don’t refer to 10 any more just “essentials” because the number changes based on various circumstances.

At a minimum they are

  • Food
  • Water
  • Light
  • Clothing to keep you warm & dry
  • Navigation aids (maps, etc)
  • Communication device - don’t rely on your phone working
  • Sport specific gear (ski’s, helmet, etc)

We get it, its a lot to carry and every gram counts, so you want to carry only what is necessary. This is where the rule of 3's can help guide some choices. 

You can survive

  • 3 minutes without air (you will be unconscious in under 3 minutes)
  • 3 hours in the cold (without proper gear)
  • 3 days without water (sooner if hot or exerting effort)
  • 3 weeks without food (sooner if exerting effort)




3 minutes without air 

This article isn’t about first aid and/or medical help. If you are in a situation where you are not breathing, you are in trouble. And probably have less that a minute to get yourself out of that trouble or less than 3 minutes to receive help from someone until professional medical aid arrives.

3 days without water & 3 weeks without food 

Run out of Food & water? - Hopefully you have called 911 or someone will notice you are missing, and you will have told them where you are going so you will be found in less than 3 days, (or you’re near water in which case you have 3 weeks). Some survival kits contain fishing hooks, etc. Why? without proper gear you will die from the cold long before you die of starvation.

3 hours in the cold 

So the best chance of increasing your odds of surviving long enough to be found is to carry something(s) that will help you keep warm and dry.

One of the most common statements from rescued people is they hadn’t realized how cold it would be waiting for help to arrive (even in summer). Every year people die from the cold before they are found. They didn’t die from being injured. This is a statistic that could easily be changed with some light weight gear.

The average search and rescue (SAR) time is 8 hours. Could you last that long in the outdoors with what you are carrying?


Some simple items and their weight below. Note this is in addition to the bare minimum essentials listed above.

  • Plastic poncho – 43 grams
  • Foil bivy sack – 82 grams
  • Foil blanket to use as a tarp or as barrier from the cold ground – 59 grams
  • Rope to hang tarp - 14 grams (based on 4 x 2 meters of 2mm rope)

A total of 198g to change the statistics on your survival.

Take a look at what you carry as your survival gear, are you carrying the right things? 

What lightweight survival items do you carry? Let us know in comments below or

To view the EMELEE packs click HERE



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