Where did the seven priorities originate from?

The concept of the seven wilderness success priorities originated from the American Boy Scouts, and recognizing those objectives is a requirement for earning merit badges from the Boy Scouts of America: Wilderness Survival.

These are listed in order of importance, the seven priorities are

  1. positive mental attitude,
  2. first aid,
  3. shelter,
  4. fire,
  5. signaling,
  6. water
  7. and food.

Positive attitude

The first goal in the BSA’s wilderness survival process is a positive mental attitude. Using the acronym S.T.O.P to teach this definition is popular: pause, consider, observe, prepare. When you know you’re lost, it’s about staying put. Don’t try back. Don’t worry.

To support yourself and those in your group, you must rest and have a strong mindset. After observing your surroundings with a calm mind, you’ll concentrate on what to do next.

How does S.T.O.P work?

stop signage


When something goes wrong, STOP immediately.

There are worst thing you can do, such as panic and start running around or trying to “retrace your steps.” That’s the best way to get even more confused or spend precious time coping with the real problem (first aid, approaching storm, etc.).

Simply stop, stay still, take a deep breath, and start think about what to do next. However, if you are ion a river, or during a thunderstorm, you might want to grab unto something or take shelter.


Thinking is the most powerful weapon you can have. Think of Macgyver, he always got out of a situation by thinking and a few tools

You’ll want to know where you are, so get your map out, your compass, and use the landscape to orient yourself of where you are. Don’t just go anywhere and try to figure out a plan. Look for unmistakable landmarks, trail markers, etc.


Observe your group and see what you need:

  • Does anyone need first aid or injured?
  • Is someone in your group panicking?
  • What gear do you have? And take inventory of what you have
  • Look for the best place for shelter.
  • Where is the best place to signal for help?
  • Where is the nearest water source?


Knowledge is power and once you’ve layout what you have and have to do, you can start to plan.

  • Act and help out those who are injured first
  • Is a storm coming? Look for shelter.
green trees on green grass field during daytime

Prioritize your plan so you can focus on other things in your list later. Here’s the priority list:

First aid

Check whether you or someone in your party needs first aid before doing something else. This involves looking for any symptoms of hypothermia that may occur even though temperatures are well above zero.

Look for shelter and build a fire

The next two survival goals are shelter and fire after you have properly sized the situation and administered first aid. Changing weather is a big concern. Building a shelter and a fire helps preserve these possible hazards. It’s what humans did before civilization as hunters and gatherers, and if you want to survive in the wild, it’s what you should do. Don’t wait until evening to make a fire or shelter, take full advantage of daylight while you’ve got it.

Signal for help

You need to start signaling for help now you’ve got shelter and flames. A whistle, a signaling mirror and a small fire-starter kit containing flint, steel and lighting are things that should always be included in your pack for any camping excursion. I don’t suggest shouting for help, as it wastes strength; shouting doesn’t go as far as echoing a whistle.

Reflect light from a tiny signaling mirror or smoke from a spark. Three brief sound bursts or reflections repeated in succession also work. Put it off until you really need it if you have a mobile phone. You can still get a weak signal from a nearby hilltop, even remotely.

Water and Food

It seems counter-intuitive, but once you realize you’re lost, the least of your immediate concerns should be water and food. That’s why they’re the last two items on the list. It is more important to stay and create a shelter and fire before searching for water and food. Next, hydrate yourself when struck by hunger and thirst.

In extreme survival circumstances , a person can go weeks without food as long as he is hydrated. But you can’t live without water for many days.