Stuck In The Woods

Sometimes the unexpected happens, a disabling injury, an unexpected bivouac, lost, marooned, bad weather, whatever.

When it does, then whatever you have with you at the moment IS your Emergency Survival Kit. Whatever is in your pockets or in your pack is all you have to work with. That, and your brain and your determination.
There’s a mnemonic called “The Rule of Threes“. It’s a bit general and exaggerated, but it emphasizes the relative priorities of staying alive.

In three seconds, you can die of panic.
In three minutes, you can die from lack of oxygen or heavy bleeding
In three hours, you can die from exposure
In three days, you can die from thirst
In three weeks, you can die from hunger
In three months, you can die from isolation

So, if you’ve calmed down  and taken care of serious wounds and bleeding and you’re still breathing, then keeping your body warm/cool is your top priority.

You may be uncomfortable, but you can last several days without water and many days without food.

To categorize the priorities, we have:

Healthcare (first-aid, sun protection, etc.)
Insulation (clothing and shelter)
(Tools – knife, flashlight)
Communications (signaling)
Navigation (maps and compass)

These categories form the basis of the Ten Essentials that the Mountaineers of Seattle (a mountaineering club) formulated in the 1930s to address the cause of mountain-related deaths of that era. Originally, a list of ten items to carry, it evolved into the more comprehensive Ten Essentials System in the 1970s. This system still applies today.

Here’s how to make yourself  a Plan B kit (also known as a Personal Survival Kits (PSK))


Useful website and books

One of the best websites on emergency and survival gear is

Of the hundreds of books, I recommend two:
98.6 Degrees: The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive by Cody Lundin
Surviving the Unexpected Wilderness Emergency by Gene Fear

Both emphasize maintaining the body at a reasonable environment (heat/cold/etc) and what items are useful for that purpose.

Neither emphasizes the many tips, techniques, skills etc. that can confuse and detract from the fundamental job of keeping alive.

So you have learned about exposure and survival. You have created your own Personal Survival Kit.

Have you practiced with the various items? In a safe and comfortable place?

Here’s some simple exercises for you to test yourself. Nothing hard, no score except your own evaluation. See them here : Survival Skills Exercises and Tests

On request, I can conduct a three-day “Stuck in the Woods” course.

Stuck In the Woods course outline


Stuck in the Woods student notes
Stuck in the Woods handout
Stuck in the Woods exercises
Stuck in the Woods Personal Survival Kit (PSK)

Jim Yuen, March 2007
revised Jan, 2014