Tag Archives: Rule of Threes

BOBs and INCHes and GHBs, oh my

“Everybody” knows about the “Bug Out Bag”, or BOB.  And many people use the term inaccurately.  There are actually several “flavors” of emergency kits which are not quite interchangeable; I attempted to differentiate between them here:




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The Rule of Threes


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Survival priorities

In my last post, I talked about ‘how’ to design a survival kit, but did not give any details.  When doing such a design, it is critical to keep in mind the ‘priorities’ of survival.

The type of kits I describe are intended to help you to survive until rescued.  Thus, the ability to signal for help is the first thing to consider in your design.

The first and most important signal is not in your kit at all.  Always have someone (reliable) who knows where you are supposed to be and when you are supposed to be back.  The odds of being found are much greater when you are actually being looked for, and generally you will not be looked for until the searchers are notified that you are missing.

Cell phones and various types of radio are a great way to inform people that you have suffered an emergency and pinpoint your location.  But only if there is a receiver within range AND the device still has power AND has not been subjected to water or impact beyond its tolerance.  So consider inclusion of other ways of signalling, by light, sound and area contrast.

Once we have arranged an ability to signal under any likely circumstances, we need to remain alive, healthy and in as much comfort as is practical until help arrives or is no longer needed.  Now is the time to consider what sorts of situations we want to survive, and what could assist us to do so.  Let’s be realistic here; only consider situations which are reasonably survivable with gear which it is practical to have on hand.  I tend to think in terms of ‘survivability time’ – minutes first, then hours, days and ‘long-term’.

This is codified by the ‘rule of threes’.  This states that you cannot survive 3 minutes without air or with a severe injury (sources vary but both are reasonable observations), 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food or 3 months without hope or companionship (sources disagree on which; perhaps both).  This is why it is a good methodology to design your kit from immediate need to long term.  And why it is critical that in a survival situation, you concentrate on the most immediately dangerous priorities first.  Following the rule of threes, you would attend to severe injuries first, then build shelter, then find water and only then worry about getting food.  Setting up for fire is generally part of shelter building although you might not actually start the fire until later, as needed.

To recap, the priority method of survival kit design is:

1) Figure out how much room you will have in the kit

2) Determine your optimal signalling items

3) Choose a knife and fire starting methodologies (more than one, since fire is so often key to successful survival)

4) Determine medical supplies

5) Select shelter supplies

6) Decide on how you will collect and purify water

7) Include food or ways to get food

8) Consider any ‘non-critical’  items like personal items or entertainment, or ‘general purpose’ items such as ‘duct tape’ if that is not already included earlier (it has fire starting and first aid applications in addition to its obvious uses).

When you are ‘done’, look over the entire list looking for ‘holes’, unnecessary duplication and for the appropriateness of each item.  For instance, if you have a book of paper matches, consider whether there is a reason to have such an unreliable item, and if so, whether the packaging is adequate to keep what little usage it has from being destroyed.  One kit I saw did have a book of matches (in addition to better sources of fire) because they needed something matchbook sized to wrap something else around and if you are going to take up that amount of space, you might as well get some benefit.  They packed the match book assembly in a waterproof bag, so in this case, it was appropriate.

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