Food: short-term survival priority or not?

I recently purchased a tiny neck knife that came in a little Altoid-sized tin. An insert with survival instructions suggests that food should not be a priority in an emergency survival situation, because you can easily survive a week without it. According to the insert  - your survival priorities should be: (1) shelter; (2) getting rescued,  and (3) water.

It caused to to re-examine the purpose of this website. My goal is to develop both primitive and gear-based wilderness survival skills to the point that I can easily and (relatively) comfortably survive a week in an emergency survival situation. The point of this site is to document that learning process and help others to do the same.

Isn't there a contradiction in devoting entire posts to the task of finding food?

If I'm trying to figure out how to survive a week in a wilderness survival emergency, shouldn't I focus solely on shelter, getting rescued and water?

I think the answer is both yes and no. Yes, finding food is not a critical task if you just need to hunker down and wait for rescue or find your way to civilization. It should definitely be at the bottom of the priority list among those listed above.

But ignoring food-finding skills would be kind of a goofy strategy in developing survival skills. Following such a strategy would require me to make 2 assumptions: (1) I will never be in an emergency survival situation so long that food becomes a critical resource; and (2) It is just as easy to survive 4-5 days without food as with food.

While this site focuses on short-term survival, my goal is not to be able to survive the first week, only to die on day 8. There are plenty of survival (and not survival) stories of people who have been lost, isolated, or injured (and therefore stationary) in various types of wilderness for weeks and months. So the first assumption is rather silly - I don't need food to survive week 1, but what if the survival emergency goes for a month?

Have you ever fasted for 4, 5, or even 7 days? 

I've fasted for just 3, and the amount of energy I have even by day 3 is rock bottom. Trying to go 4 more days - while engaging in energy-intensive tasks such as shelter construction and heavy travel - is possible I'm sure. But not easy. I've hiked 25 miles without food before, and felt like I was losing my mind to hunger and exhaustion. What if you are injured and also have to hike/crawl 50 miles to the nearest road?

Perhaps the biggest part of surviving is having your wits about you, feeling confident and positive, and being aware of your surroundings. I would argue that mentality is survival priority number 0, before shelter.

Mental state/physical energy would be VASTLY improved in any emergency if you (a) have food and/or (b) are confident you can obtain food. 

Thus, the second assumption is goofy as well. Once you lock in a shelter, a rescue strategy, and a water source, it would sure as hell be nice to get some food.

I think you would never want to compromise any of the basic 3 priorities in favor of food. Don't spend all day building traps and have no shelter when night comes. If there is a road 10 miles from your location, don't hang out for 3 days collecting edible plants. Just get out!

I've tried to dream up some personally realistic survival emergencies before. Imagine the boat-swamp scenario in the deep wilderness of the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota. We're a hard 50 miles of bush-whacking from the nearest road because we've lost the canoe. We've also lost every single piece of gear, except for a knife attached to my belt, and the lighter in my pocket (which later turns out to be water-logged).

With a solid set of primitive survival skills (including food-finding skills), the trip back to civilization could simply be a well-fed and well-sheltered, fun adventure, with group morale high. Without those skills, the trip will be more dangerous, and much more miserable. The group will be hungry, exhausted, and probably very negative. Chances of survival will be lower, I think.

So after a brief crisis of purpose, I feel justified in pursuing food-finding skills as part of a general survival toolkit - even if the focus of this site is short term survival.

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