Survival Priorities

This article describes the basic priorities in a typical short-term wilderness survival situation.

Core temperature

The most immediate need is to ensure your body can maintain it’s core temperature withing acceptable limits.  Proper clothing is your first line of defense.  In a hot environment, it provides protection from the sun and helps wick away your perspiration.  In cold environment, it provides insulation. Shelter augments the function of clothing by providing additional shade, it protects you from precipitation to help keep you dry, it shields you from the heat-robbing effects of the wind and can even provide additional insulation.  A fire can supplement inadequate clothing and shelter by adding extra heat or drying out wet clothing, along with other benefits.


Once the priority of body temperature is addressed, usually the next priority is hydration.  While maintaining an adequate intake of water is obviously important in a hot environment, it is equally important in any situation.  You’ll need a means to collect, store and purify water.  The usefulness of containers for storage and boiling should not be underestimated.


Once your immediate survival needs are secured, its time to start thinking about getting help.  There are a variety of signaling tools ranging from very simple, such as a whistles and signal mirrors, to expensive and complex devices such as Personal Locator Beacons and satellite phones.


Food is typically given a low priority in short-term survival.  One can technically survive weeks with no food intake.  However, the body’s reserves of fat and muscle are not instantly available once the calories on-hand for immediate use are exhausted.  A supply of energy for your body’s systems is needed to maintain your core temperature in cold environment.  For this reason, some source of calories should be carried, particularly in cold and/or wet environments.  Tools for procuring food in the wild are not as important as carrying some extra food.


Most immediate short-term survival priorities fall into just a few simple categories.  For instance, Core Temperature can include clothing, fire, shelter and even encompass food and water.  In another article, we’ll detail the essential gear and equipment that can help provide for these needs.

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