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How Long Can We Stay Alive Without Survival Essentials?

How Long Can We Stay Alive Without Survival Essentials? The ancient subject of survivalism has resurfaced during The Great Pandemic Depression leaving a residual of many important questions, especially due to the recent discovery of the Financial Coronavirus.  How long can we stay alive without air?  How long can we stay alive without food?  How […]

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How Long Can We Stay Alive Without Survival Essentials?

The ancient subject of survivalism has resurfaced during The Great Pandemic Depression leaving a residual of many important questions, especially due to the recent discovery of the Financial Coronavirus.  How long can we stay alive without air?  How long can we stay alive without food?  How long can we stay alive without water?  These and many similar questions can be condensed into one umbrella question: How long can we stay alive without survival essentials?  In order to answer this important question, we must first try to understand what survival essentials are.  Let’s begin!

In my economics and finance book The Survival of the Richest (2016), survival essentials were arranged into two major categories: immediate survival essentials and essential survival tools.  For the purpose of this article, we will focus mainly on immediate survival essentials, which can be divided into physical and mental essentials and then again into primary and secondary essentials.  The physical essentials are survival requirements for the body, and the mental essentials are survival requirements for the mind.  Primary essentials are the most important essentials.  Secondary essentials are ranked lower in their importance than primary essentials but are still crucial to survival.  However, some of these essentials may be significantly more applicable in very specific scenarios, such as apathy in the case of surviving war or concentration camps. 

For the sake of brevity, we will only discuss the primary immediate survival essentials here.  Let’s start with our primary physical immediate survival essentials, the most important requirements for our body in order for us to stay alive!  Without these, we would die in a short time, hence the use of the word immediate.  I will rank these in accordance with approximately how much time it would take for the average human to die without each one.  We could die the fastest without the first essential and the slowest without the last essential.  Please note that this is a general ranking, and it might vary for each person and each unique survival situation.  These essentials and others that will be mentioned shortly were derived after my extensive research on various survivors and survivalists including Tom Brown Jr., John Wiseman, Cody Lundin, Peter Kummerfeldt, Dr. Ron Hood, Ray Mears, Survivorman’s Les Stroud, Bear Grylls, Chris Kyle, Viktor Frankl, and the US Naval Institute.  The primary physical immediate survival essentials are these: 1) quality air and proper blood circulation (it is easier for us to consider these two essentials a tie because their ranking is debatable); 2) thermal balance of the body; 3) relief of immediate life-threatening bodily injuries; 4) quality water; 5) conservation of energy; 6) a means to relieve bodily waste products, such as by defecation and urination; 7) quality food; and 8) quality sleep. 

Every survival situation will be different for each person and for each crisis.  That is, there are no completely identical survival situations.  Someone can die from one scenario that was extremely similar to the last one that he survived.  Simply, time might not have been on his side that day.

The following is some commentary on the above ranking.  First, the ranking of some of the survival essentials are highly related to a survival concept that Dr. Ron Hood taught in his famous survival videos Survival Basics I & II: The Adventure.  In the second chapter of the first volume, “Shelter is Important,” Hood discusses the survival priority based on what he calls “the rule of threes.”  That is, in a survival situation, we have about three minutes to survive without air; about three hours to survive without shelter; about three days to survive without water; and about three weeks to survive without food (Survival Basics I & II: The Adventure, 2004). 

Second, blood circulation is debatably as important as air flow.  This concept can be easily understood in certain martial arts like Brazilian jiu-jitsu where a specific move called a circulatory choke can put someone to sleep in a few seconds or less.  Hold that same move for a little longer and death will occur.  Although lack of air and blood flow are two different things, they are ranked the same here because we can die from either one of these in about the same amount of time.

Third, thermal balance was listed in the primary physical immediate survival essentials instead of clothing and shelter because it is the more crucial universal aspect of human survival.  Clothing and shelter are listed by many survivalists as important, which they certainly are in the majority of situations.  However, the real problem is regulating our core body temperature at the average normal human body temperature of 98.6 degrees (hence the title of survivalist Cody Lundin’s first book).  Peter Kummerfeldt properly titles this concept “thermal balance,” and that term is used here.  It is important to remember that clothing and shelter are just two of several ways that we can achieve this balance.  In a tropical setting, humans can sleep without clothes or shelter as their own body heat may be sufficient (as in the ways of the ancient Australians).

Fourth, it is important to understand that the quality levels of these survival essentials will also make a big difference in the chances of our survival and how long we can stay alive.  For example, let’s pretend that you’re trapped in the desert and you need water to save your life.  If you were to drink water that was contaminated with bacteria and parasites, then you might just have accelerated your death.  This is completely different than drinking a clean, cold bottle of purified spring water.  By drinking contaminated water, you might actually die faster than drinking no water at all. 

Finally, the primary physical immediate survival essential called conservation of energy incorporates the need for food into a larger category.  The requirement for eating food can be considered part of the process of energy management, which includes both obtaining and using your energy.  Think of it as managing both the energy in and out of your body.  If you use little energy and eat nothing, it may result in a more favorable circumstance then using too much energy and eating something.  

Next, we will look at our primary mental immediate survival essentials, which are the most important requirements for our mind in order for us to stay alive!  Without these, we may not live very long.  I will rank these in accordance with approximately how much time it would take for the average human to die without each one.  We could die the fastest without the first essential and the slowest without the last essential.  Please note that this is a general ranking, and it might vary for each person and each unique survival situation.  The primary mental immediate survival essentials are these: 1) a purpose to live; 2) a will to live; 3) a positive attitude (a good psychological state); 4) survival knowledge; 5) ingenuity; and 6) mental preparation.

One of the most important conclusions about survival essentials discovered in The Survival of the Richest was that the whole subject of survivalism means nothing unless you have a purpose to live and the will to live.  “Learning about survival is absolutely unnecessary without having a purpose and a desire to live.  Simply, what good is finding food, shelter, water, or anything else if someone doesn’t want to be alive anymore?  Thus, obtaining any of the survival essentials is irrelevant if a person doesn’t have a reason or the will to live.  These two items are unquestionably the most important survival essentials” (Criniti (AKA “Dr. Finance”), 2016, p. 116).

It is much easier to determine how long someone can live without any of the primary physical immediate survival essentials.  However, the primary mental immediate survival essentials have indeterminate time frames.  There are people who have miraculously lived long lives without a purpose, a desire to live, and a positive outlook.  Although they might have never been brave enough to commit suicide, they might have been delighted if someone else did it for them.  In these cases, you could say that luck might have kept them alive.  Despite this point, anyone who wants to survive (and thrive) will want to ensure that they maximize their probability of staying alive by acquiring a large reserve of primary mental immediate survival essentials.

We will briefly review the essential survival tools, which are sometimes referred to by survivalists as the survival kit.  The following is a small sample of the major essential survival tools needed in a survival situation.  These various tools are meant to help someone attain the immediate survival essentials needed to survive.  Note that every survival situation and every environment may call for a unique set of tools.  This topic is highly subjective but is provided for a better general understanding.  Some examples of essential survival tools include, but are not limited to, an ax; a bag; a bed; a blanket; books; clothing; a communication means (sometimes called signaling); a container; a cooking pot; cord; disinfectant; kitchenware; a knife; lighting sources; a means to start and maintain a fire; a medical kit; money; music; navigational equipment; security; shelter; a transportation means; a wash kit; weaponry; and other miscellaneous personal items that can increase the potential survivor’s odds of staying alive during a survival situation.

It is important to realize that each essential survival tool can be ranked higher in usefulness depending on the situation.  For example, the axe might be more important in colder climates where wood needs to be chopped to keep the fire going continuously.  Without firewood, you can freeze to death rapidly. 

Also, as discussed in The Survival of the Richest, money is our great unique survival tool that can help us to survive and prosper (AKA “thrive”).  Principle 128 of The Most Important Lessons in Economics and Finance states: “Civilizations that use money require it for survival” (Criniti, 2014, p. 160).  With money, we can buy all of the above essential survival tools in large quantities to help us to survive.  However, its powers can have limitations.  For example, step off the grid into a real wilderness survival situation similar to the famous survival story of the Donner Party and your money can’t help you.

In summary, we needed to understand the concept of survival essentials before we could understand how long we can stay alive without them.  Survival essentials can be arranged into two major categories: immediate survival essentials and essential survival tools.  The essential survival tools are used to help us to obtain the immediate survival essentials.  It was concluded that we can stay alive without our primary mental immediate survival essentials for a very long time, although that kind of existence would probably be painful and unfulfilling.  However, without luck, most likely our lives would be short-lived as we would be inclined to always make decisions that would quickly lead to our death.

On the other hand, we probably could die much faster without our primary physical immediate survival essentials.  Roughly speaking, we could live a maximum of 30 days without everything on that list: quality air and proper blood circulation, thermal balance of the body, relief of immediate life-threatening bodily injuries, quality water, conservation of energy, a means to relieve bodily waste products, quality food, and quality sleep.  At worst, we could die in seconds if we are missing quality air and proper blood circulation.  At best, we could die in about 30 days without food and sleep.  Please note that these numbers are just an estimate for the average person under the average condition.  Some people can live longer or shorter, especially depending on the circumstance.  Either way, not having enough survival essentials can be life-threatening and a very dangerous predicament to be in.  Thus, it is crucial to know your survival essentials well and their corresponding ranking.  You could then be more prepared to prioritize effectively and make better split-second decisions to stay alive during an unfortunate encounter with a survival scenario.

Various parts of this article was adapted with permission from Chapter 12 of The Survival of the Richest (2016)

The following list is from Exhibit 12.1: The Survival Essentials from The Survival of the Richest (Criniti, 2016, pp. 101-104).  It may be considered incomplete as it is essentially a work in progress.  However, it is a major improvement over what existed in the survival literature at the time of its publication.

  1. The Immediate Survival Essentials
    1. The Primary Physical Immediate Survival Essentials (The most important requirements for our body in order for us to stay alive.  They are ranked based on approximately how much time it would take for the average human to die without each one.  Please note that this is a general ranking, and it can vary for each person and each unique survival situation.)
      1. Quality air and proper blood circulation (It is easier for us to consider these two essentials a tie because their ranking is debatable.)
      2. Thermal balance of the body
      3. Relief of immediate life-threatening bodily injuries
      4. Quality water
      5. Conservation of energy
      6. A means to relieve bodily waste products, such as by defecation and urination
      7. Quality food
      8. Quality sleep
    2. The Secondary Physical Immediate Survival Essentials (This debatable list is in alphabetical order, and it is not exhaustive.)
      1. Beauty
      2. Companionship
      3. Fitness
      4. Good health
      5. Sanitation
      6. Sexual activity
    3. The Primary Mental Immediate Survival Essentials (The most important requirements for our mind in order for us to stay alive.  They are ranked based on approximately how much time it would take for the average human to die without each one.  Please note that this is a general ranking, and it can vary for each person and each unique survival situation.)
      1. A purpose to live (The most important survival essential: a will to live can only be present when there is a reason to live.)
      2. A will to live (The second most important survival essential: having a reason(s) to live may not always ignite the will to live.)
      3. A positive attitude (a good psychological state)
      4. Survival knowledge
      5. Ingenuity 
      6. Mental preparation
    4. The Secondary Mental Immediate Survival Essentials (This debatable list is in alphabetical order, and it is not exhaustive.)
      1. Awareness
      2. Being able to divide a large struggle into small manageable tasks
      3. Being analytical yet able to see the big picture
      4. Discipline
      5. Displaying apathy (under certain struggles)
      6. Humor
      7. Motivation
      8. Proper emotional usage (for example, hope or love)
      9. Remaining calm in the presence of the struggle
      10. Spirituality (relative to the person)
      11. The ability to endure physical and mental suffering
  2. The Essential Survival Tools (These are some examples of essential survival tools, also known as “the survival kit.”  The list is in alphabetical order, and it is not exhaustive.)
    1. An ax
    2. A bag
    3. A bed
    4. A blanket
    5. Books
    6. Clothing
    7. A communication means (sometimes called signaling)
    8. A container
    9. A cooking pot
    10.  Cord
    11.  Disinfectant
    12.  Kitchenware
    13.  A knife
    14.  Lighting sources
    15.  A means to start and maintain a fire
    16.  A medical kit
    17.  Money
    18.  Music
    19.  Navigational equipment
    20.  Security
    21.  Shelter
    22.  A transportation means
    23.  A wash kit
    24.  Weaponry
    25.  Other miscellaneous personal items that can increase the potential survivor’s odds of staying alive during a survival situation

For more information please about Dr. Criniti’s economics and finance books, please visit Dr. Finance’s author page on Amazon and follow and like:

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Dr. Finance Website

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Dr. Anthony M. Criniti IV (also known as “Dr. Finance”) is known as a major disruptor in the science of finance, revolutionizing the field’s entire academic foundation.  He holds a PhD in applied management and decision sciences, with a concentration in finance, from Walden University.  He earned his BBA at The George Washington University with a concentration in international business. He earned a master of science in financial services from The American College, where he also obtained prominent financial designations, including Chartered Financial Consultant (CHFC), Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU), Registered Executive Benefit Consultant (REBC), and Registered Health Underwriter (RHU).

Dr. Criniti holds Pennsylvania licenses in fixed annuities, life and health insurance, and real estate.  His various professional experiences include work as an investment and a retirement specialist for The Vanguard Group, as a financial planner for several hundred clients, and as a real estate developer.

A native of Philadelphia, Dr. Criniti is a professor at several universities, an active investor in various marketplaces, an explorer, a financialist, a survivalist, and has traveled around the world studying various aspects of finance. He is the author of three acclaimed finance books: The Necessity of Finance (2013), The Most Important Lessons in Economics and Finance (2014), and The Survival of the Richest (2016).

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