Select Page
Our family loves the outdoors, including everything from camping and hiking, to mountain climbing, or just swimming in the backyard. But, to make sure the fun continues, or the effects of everything not going perfectly are minimized, there are a few survival requirements you need to know to be prepared for the unexpected.


A little preparation can literally mean the difference between life and death.  With that in mind, the same principles that apply to everyday fun with the family, also apply to survival situations – not to mention the fact that the first can quickly and unexpectedly turn into the other.


So, here’s the deal.  When we’re talking about survival (whether urban, wilderness, or otherwise), there are a few things to keep in mind.  We’ve put together the basics below; and, the first 4 are not optional. They are an absolute requirement (including in everyday life, let alone an emergency or disaster situation).  In addition to the 4 mandatory items, we’ve included 6 additional items that will go a long way in keeping you safe, healthy, and most importantly alive.


This list has been adapted from a Seattle-based organization called “The Mountaineers” who originally published their list of the 10 essentials in 1974.  The list was created to answer 2 questions:


  1. Can you respond positively to an accident or emergency?
  2. Can you safely spend a night (or more) outside?
Although the list was originally created by a group focused on hiking, camping, backpacking and mountain climbing, the list has practical application to any survival situation.


The original list has been updated throughout the years, and has evolved from specific items into a “systems” approach.  You’ll find the full list below and we’ve elaborated on the 4 mandatory “systems” further down the page.  You can find more info on the other 6 “systems” in part 2 of this post.


Ten Survival Essentials

  1. Fire 
  2. Food
  3. Water
  4. Shelter
  5. Navigation
  6. Sun protection
  7. First-aid
  8. Repair kit/tools
  9. Insulation
  10. Illumination

4 Survival Requirements

When we're talking about critical survival requirements, there are a few things to keep in mind.  We've put together the basics in this post; and, the first 4 listed are not optional. They are an absolute survival requirement (including in everyday life, let alone an emergency or disaster situation).

The 4 critical requirements to survival in order of importance are:

  • shelter
  • water
  • fire
  • food

So, you could leave your home with nothing and survive with proper skills.

You can build a shelter with no suppliesfind sources of water in the wilderness, start a fire without matches, and hunt/scavenge for your food.

But, don’t let yourself and your family be in that situation. Be prepared.

Importance of Shelter

Some of the reasons shelter is important in survival situations are:

  • Shelter allows you to hide
  • Shelter provides protection from those who may mean you harm
  • Shelter provides protection from the elements
  • Shelter provides protection from animals and insects
  • Shelter provides protection from dehydration caused by the sun
A few tips when looking for or building a shelter:
  • Don’t sleep directly on the ground – it draws out your body heat and those pesky insects and small critters like to bite.
  • Make certain your shelter has overhead protection – the night sky draws out your body heat and the sun causes dehydration, burns and heat stroke.
Depending upon the survival situation you find yourself in, shelter can be carried with you, or created from scratch.  A few examples are:
  • a tent,
  • a Bivvy Bag, or
  • a “Lean-To”
You can find a list of easily-carried shelters here, or a list of DIY emergency shelter’s here.

Importance of Water

Your body is made up of about 60% of water. Water is needed to keep your body functioning. It regulates your body temperature, rids your body of waste, and lubricates the joints. You can go without water for ~2-4 days depending on weather conditions. 1 week at the absolute most.

Humans lose water in the following three ways:

  • Through urine,
  • Through exhaling, and
  • Through sweating.

You must replace the water you lose.

“Under extreme conditions an adult can lose 1 to 1.5 liters of sweat per hour,” Randall K. Packer, a professor of biology at George Washington University wrote in 2002 article for Scientific American. “If that lost water is not replaced, the total volume of body fluid can fall quickly and, most dangerously, blood volume may drop. If this happens, two potentially life-threatening problems arise: sweating stops and body temperature can soar even higher, while blood pressure decreases because of the low blood volume. Under such conditions, death occurs quickly.”


If you’re stuck outside of your safe zone and you can only carry a small amount of water (remember your Bug Out Bag (BOB) needs to be 25% of your body weight or less), you will need to find water along the way.
You can find sources of water in the wilderness, but you will need to make sure that these sources are clean, or you can end up making the problem worse through infection and/or sickness.

Importance of Fire

Obviously, fire is important in most (if not all) survival situations, especially outdoors. What you may not realize, are all of the uses for fire, and how beneficial it can be to have a proper and sustainable fire.  Some of the uses for fire are:

  • warmth
  • boiling water (for water purification)
  • water filtration (charcoal made from the fire can be used to filter your water)
  • cooking food
  • light
  • insect and/or predator repellant
  • sterilizing utensils
  • cauterizing wounds
  • staying clean (smoke kills bacteria)
  • signaling
  • creating tools

Read more at Urban Survival Site.

Fire can be prepared for simply by carrying matches or a lighter, as well as several other tools, such as a hand drill, bow drill, glasses lens, battery and steel wool, etc.; but if you happen to find yourself in a wilderness survival situation without any of these, you will need to create a fire from scratch.  There are multiple ways you can accomplish this, and there are a few special circumstances as well.  We’ve provided links for some of these below:


Importance of Food

Adequate Food and water consumption are essential to proper bodily function.  If possible, prepare for survival situations by carrying/packing high protein, high fat food options such as:

If you are suddenly found in a survival situation you are not prepared for, you will need to forage and catch foods for sustenance.  Some options are:

One can go without food for ~8-21 days (with adequate water).  Remember, the rule of 3:

You can survive for:

  • 3 minutes without air
  • 3 days without water
  • 3 weeks without food

Of course, these are generalities, but definitely good basic knowledge to be aware of.

That stated, and this is probably obvious, the longer you go without food, the more your body will have to work and adjust in order to sustain bodily functions and energy.  Around the 8-hour mark, your body will begin to adapt as follows:

  • Normally, your body breaks down food into glucose (which provides energy to the body).
  • After ~8-12 hours, glucose storage is used up, and your body will start to use amino acids to provide energy (which affects your muscles, but can hold you over for about 3 days).
  • After ~3 days, your metabolism will start to preserve lean body tissue, and will instead begin relying on fat stores – significant weight loss will occur.
    • The more fat stores, the longer you can survive starvation.
    • Once the fat stores are used up, your body will go back to breaking down muscle.

Once you’re at that point, you will gradually get weaker and weaker, and you will need to take action as quickly as possible.  Your goal is to survive as long as necessary until help can get to you.  In order to do that, you need to maintain bodily functions, as well as your strength to the best of your ability.

Food is…

  • Needed – for energy.
  • Needed – for the body to preform optimally.
  • Needed – to get from Point A to B and beyond.

Read more about how long you can live without food, side effects, and risks at Healthline.


So, now that we talked about the importance of Shelter, Water, Fire and Food, what do you pack in your BOB to survive your trip to Point A to Point B?