Outdoor Survival – a Rule of Threes

My hunting buddy and I scouted this area months before, it looks a bit different in the fall without any leaves as when it did in the summer, all lush and green.

We part ways at o dark thirty and I make my way along a logging road to the spot I’d picked out.

I’ve been sitting for hours. There is still a lot of afternoons left but I’m hungry and it’s well past lunchtime.

A few hours after first light I’d decided to sit a bit further upwind. I’d left my spot and made my way deeper into the woods. Taking note of landmarks as I’d forgotten my compass in the truck.

1:04 pm: I decide to climb down from my rock perch and head back to the truck. I’d walked in from the left so if I head left I’ll hit the logging road.

1:21 pm: Can’t remember how long it took to get to my rock perch once I’d cut in off the road, it should be coming up soon. Check my phone but the battery’s almost dead. Stupid crappy phone, should’ve sprung for the nicer one with a better battery. Pretty confident I know where I’m going.

1:44 pm: I’m starting to feel a bit concerned, I’m pretty sure I should have hit the road by now. I stop to get my bearings, up ahead and to the right, I see a huge outcropping of lannon stone. I breathe a sigh of relief as I sort of remember passing that.

2:19 pm: Ok, starting to get WAY MORE concerned here. I’m pretty sure I must’ve veered off somewhere so I turn around and try to retrace my steps. I pull out my phone and try to get GPS to load but I can’t get a decent signal. As I wait I get the “Battery Alert; less than 15% of battery life remaining”. Message. Disgusted, I turn it off.

2:58 pm: Ok, this is ridiculous, this public land isn’t THAT big, a couple of square miles, I must’ve gotten turned around again. I stop, take a breath and try to figure out where the sun is behind the murky clouds obscuring the sky. I think it’s ahead and to the right. So that must be west right? I think of the map, we headed east into the forest so if I head due west I’ll at least come out on the hwy.

4:36 pm: Full blown panic. I’ve been lost for 4 ½ hours, my phone’s dead, the sun has just about set and I can’t find my goddam way out. WTF?

5:21 pm: Complete meltdown. The temps are falling quickly, last night it got down to about 16 degrees, my blaze orange suit is warm but not THAT warm!

Most of us like to think that we’d stay clear-headed in the face of an outdoor crisis situation. But the truth of the matter is you don’t know until you are actually in that situation. If you keep the “Rule of Threes” in mind; it may just save your life.


  1. Don’t panic – 2 seconds of running in the wrong direction can get you hopelessly turned around in the woods.
  2. Without oxygen, you cannot live more than 3 minutes without permanent brain damage.
  3. If you’re exposed to extreme temperatures, you will have about 3 hours to find some sort of shelter to get warm before permanent damage is done to your body.


  1. An average person cannot live more than 3 days without water.
  2. However, you CAN live up to 3 weeks without food.
  3. 3 puffs of a smoky fire are the signal for SOS, as well as 3 short bursts of a whistle.

QUESTION: What survival tips would you give to someone who was lost?

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