So You’ve Found Yourself in a Survival Situation… Now What?

Student after his shelter burned during USMC Mountain Survival Course.

Student after his shelter burned to the ground during USMC Mountain Survival Course.


Whether you find yourself in the wilderness lost, injured, alone, or all of the above; It is important to keep calm and to not panic. The first thing you should do is assess your surroundings and take inventory of everything you have on you. Even the most seemingly insignificant items in your pockets could save your life. 

Every scenario is different, your assessment of the situation, environment, and resources will determine what you do first. For example: If you are out of water in the desert, finding a water source will be your top priority. Whereas in blizzard conditions shelter and fire could be your first necessities. Your needs will continue to dictate the order in which you prioritize your goals.

The priorities of work for the first 48 hours and beyond are as follows:

First 24 Hours: 

  • Find water source
  • Construct shelter 
  • Build fire 
  • Signal for Rescue 

Second 24 Hours and Beyond: 

  • Make tools and weapons 
  • Find food 
  • Improve, improve, improve! 

*Note that food isn’t a priority until the first four priorities are met. You can go two weeks without food but only 2-3 days without water and only a few hours without shelter in some environments.

*Also worth mentioning is that many edible plants have poisonous look a likes. Only eat something if you are 100% sure of it’s identification and characteristics.