5 Basic Survival Principles

Okay, so I want to start this blog by getting the absolute basics of survival out of the way by giving you the 5 Basic Survival Principles. These principles will underpin everything you do in a survival situation and will keep you alive by helping you prioritise what is the most important thing to you at any time regardless of the situation you find yourself faced with. So long as you follow the 5 basic survival principles you should be okay.

I have used all of these principles over the years and I can promise you that they have prevented many a bad situation becoming life threatening. The 5 basic survival principles I am sharing with you will be those you would use in a permissive environment (i.e. no bad guys trying to hunt you down), a non-permissive environment is a whole different ball game which I will cover in the future if I get enough interest (Email or comment below) 🙂

So what are the 5 basic survival principles?


The 5 basic survival principles can be broken down into Protection, Location, Water, Food (PLWF) and Will to Survive. PLWF is what you would use to assess what is the greatest threat to your survival at that point and should be used like a flowchart (see below). At any point that you have completed a task, something has changed or you have not moved for a while, go back to the start of the flow chart and reassess!

5 principles of survival flowchartI cannot over-emphasise how important this very simple flowchart is, this single piece of knowledge will more than likely keep you alive in the short term even if you have no other survival training. This knowledge once in your head weighs nothing and you can’t leave it behind accidentally so should always be able to be called upon when you least expect it.

̵ Learn it

̵ Understand it

̵ Use it


The final principle of the 5 Basic Principles of Survival is something that can’t be taught or learnt, but will single handedly have the biggest input to your survival chances; having the Will to Survive! In simple terms if it’s freezing cold and you sit on your butt complaining about the cold, can’t be bothered to gather firewood to light a fire or to build a shelter then your outcome isn’t great. If however you get moving, gather enough fire wood to keep you warm overnight and build a cosy shelter despite not being able to feel you fingers or toes, you stand a LOT better chance of living to fight another day.

Do you have the eye of the tiger?


You must hav5 basic survival principles - W2Se the Eye of the Tiger spirit where death is not an option and do everything you can to live There are numerous stories of people beating unbelievable odds to survive and the only reason they did is they have that do or die Will to Survive! Remember pain and discomfort are temporary and you are a long time dead 🙂


So there you have it, the 5 basic survival principles that will keep you alive and give you somewhere to start should you find yourself unexpectantly in a survival situation. I will elaborate on these 5 principles in the next few posts and put some more meat on the bones.

If you have any feedback or comments then please let me know; also check out my other posts and have a look around my site, you never know, you might just learn something that could save your life 🙂



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  • hi Dave!
    I have never heard of the PLWF principles but it makes a lot of sense. I mean, you need to prioritize basically. This is basically like a pyramid of human needs but for survival. Thanks Dave!

  • Zoe

    I absolutely agree that having the WILL to survive is the main input for survival! I do think, once you have all the other elements of the flow chart sorted, however, maybe you could do more than just ‘await rescue’ – seek out places where you’re more likely to be found for instance, or natural instruments you could use to guide somebody towards where you are for instance.
    Great post though, thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks for commenting Zoe. Just to answer your point about awaiting rescue and making something so you can be seen. This is all under the heading of Location. PLWF is simple but covers everything 😀

  • Abd mutalib Hassan

    Five basic principles that are the best to start the movement and also during emergency, to our existing survival course all of that is just basic. Despite what is presented is a good effort but need to be briefed in detail the existing experience, however I appreciate your effort and I am grateful to be able to add to the existing knowledge ..

    • Yeah those are the absolute basics, but what better place to start, eh.

      I will be adding to these posts and building things up over the coming months and years so please come back and let me know what you think.

  • Greetings from Alaska USA..


    • Alaska, now that is a place I would LOVE to visit for a few months! I am really jealous, such a beautiful part of the world and a great place to separate the men from the boys 🙂 How cold is it at this time of year?

      • Greetings..

        Its been an adventure and no one wants to go out and do what I do. Its all ATV, beer and fire side bitch fests about politics and such. Ive seen a lot in my 8 years here…Grizzly attack and charges, chopper rescue and loads of other good sound lessons. Its nothing liker anywhere I have ever been in the US or Europe and NOTHING like ppl are shown on tv.. Most of this week it was just below 0F. Still above normal. Dwelling between 14- and 0-F. Now its went up to the low 30F as its always does when we get snow. Expecting a foot over night. The snow will clear then drop temps again. I hope to get out into the mnts in it overnight.

        If you ever want to get over here, ill show you everything.


        • Bergmann, you are making me jealous, that sounds AWESOME!!! Its sitting around 35F with 45mph winds here at the minute, not as bad as your end but still bad enough to screw your day up if you were caught out. If I am ever over in Alaska I will DEFINITELY be giving you a shout!

  • Mike1942

    You forgot the first thing for survival Dave, Water! The first thing I would do is find ways to supply myself with an adequate water supply (there are many ways to do that). Then I will think about shelter and how to make myself visible. Anything after that is pure logic, isn’t it!? Under most circumstances it is wise to stay put and wait for help, unless nobody knows I went in the first place. I’ve been throughout the Canadian North as far, as 200 miles North of Tuktoyaktuk, NWT on the first two drilling Island built there in the seventies, -45/55 and colder, especially up on the crown block. One Kitchen help got killed by a polar bear and the camp froze in about a half mile from the rig so we had to walk to work every day (night 24 hrs. a day in Winter). How is that for a “survival” story? And there would be plenty more if I had the time.

    • Mike, thanks for the comment, you sound like a pretty badass bloke to be doing that kind of work. It sounds like a challenge and a half!

      In answer to your point about water, I have to disagree and you have the perfect story to illustrate the point. If you were driving to another rig 5 miles away and your vehicle crashes and rolls over in a blizzard; visability is down to a few feet. Because your vehicle was so hot inside you werent fully wrapped up in your winter clothing which was on the seat next to you. Unfortunately when the vehicle rolled you were thrown clear and find yourself outside in the full force of the 30mph winds with your vehicle nowhere to be seen. What will kill you quicker, lack of water or the -86F wind chill? Water is way down the line, survival roughly works on the rule of 3; you can survive –

      3 mins without air
      3 hours without shelter
      3 days without water
      3 weeks without food

      the PLWF cycle has been learnt by some very harsh lessons and has been shown to work no matter what the environment. I hope that helps?

  • LakanDula

    Interesting post, I’m a knife enthusiast – knives are a great part of survival culture. You should read “Personal Self Defense” by Jeff Cooper, he’s a U.S. Marine veteran and firearms instructor, he teaches people the “Seven” principles of survival self-defense, though it’s not really something that most self-defense instructors would teach. Among those include Ruthlessness, Speed and Decisiveness.

    • Dave

      I will be doing some posts in the future that will focus on these kind of skills.

      There is a time and a place for those kinds of skills but I always teach that unless you have no option and are backed into a corner then walk away. That being said when it’s do or die then controlled and very swift aggression are what will keep you alive. I will have a look for that book and see what it has to say.

  • Molly

    I hadn’t even thought about how these basic survival principles could be summarized, but this article definitely gives them to me in great clarity. The chart is very simple but detailed nonetheless, and it shows how important it is to think clearly in such a situation. I will learn them; you never know when you might need them. Thanks for sharing!

    • Dave

      It was my pleasure, I am glad it reads well and will be a help to you. Please have a look at my other articles as well, there is a lot of great information in those as well.

  • Jena

    Hey Dave! This post is so great! I love learning new things, especially when they are practical like this. Without thinking about what is most important, I would probably think of food first, but that will not keep me protected. We never know what might happen to us so these 5 principals are very important to know!

    • Dave

      Thanks Jena, your comments are appreciated. Its funny how in the western world we always think of our stomach first when we have the least to worry about when it comes to food, lol. Glad I could help you out and teach you a simple life skill.

      Please have a look at some of my other articles, you never know you might learn something else… 🙂

  • lifebeginswithyourhealth

    Nice article everyone should read and take notes from to learn the 5 basic principles of survival, very good tips on how to survive. Most people panic in such situations and do not follow these principles, today you just never know when you might need to know how to survive.

    Most important thing to remember is do not panic, maybe the hardest as well……..what do you think?

    • Dave

      Totally agree, panic kills more people than anything else. When disaster strikes; STOP! Breath, think and act, reaction normally results in a bad decision. Thats why the military practice and practice and practice so that when something goes wrong they have been through it hundreds of times and they instinctively know what to do. The morale of the story, practice… Lots

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