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The 10 C’s of creating a Survival Kit

When it comes to putting together a “Get out of Dodge”  (GOOD) “Bug Out Bag” (BOB) or even an “I’m Never Coming Home” (INCH) bag it is easy to get into the mindset of stuffing everything you could possibly need into a backpack and end up with a weight you are not capable of carrying for even a mile.

Years ago Dave Canterbury, author of “Bushcraft 101” and “Advanced Bushcraft”, came up with a concept which he calls the 5 C’s of survivability.  He later extended that to the 10 C’s and I believe these 10 should be the backbone of any survival kit even for just a day hike.  

When putting together a minimalist (or any) basic survival kit, consider these underlying categories for survivability. You might fulfill the recommended requirements in a number of different ways. That’s up to you. But it’s a great guideline.

  • Cutting tool
  • Combustion device
  • Cover/shelter
  • Container
  • Cordage
  • Candling
  • Cotton material
  • Cargo Tape
  • Compass
  • Cloth sail needle

Now let’s take a more in-depth look at these 10 categories of survivability:

  1. Cutting Tool: The Cutting Tool you carry should, at a minimum, be able to complete any and all tasks in the event of a total equipment failure. This is needed from any tool you choose. A tool for this task should be something that is not too large as you may need it for fine carving or food preparation. To that end, it’s recommended to have a 5 or 6” blade on a full tang survival knife. You could have a small hand ax instead if you are skilled in using it for delicate jobs. Many people today seem to carry multitools or pocket knives as a standard emergency tool. These are great as an extra tool as they are useful for many things. However, they should never be your first or only choice in this category as they are just not large enough or strong enough to be the one tool you trust your life one in a survival situation. It’s also recommended that your tool is made from High Carbon steel and not stainless or other exotic metal as it needs to be as multi-functional as the rest of your gear (we will address this as we go). The spine of any knife you chose as your survival knife should have a 90-degree flat ground spine so that it can be used for striking a Ferro rod. This saves you from using the blade for this function thereby conserving your resources and not dulling the blade unnecessarily. The reason for the High Carbon steel blade is for sparking Flint or other hard rock material on the spine to add in fire starting if other methods fail, get damaged or become lost.  Remember that any items used for the kit must be multi-purpose so that you can eliminate unneeded weight and can accomplish more with less. The “less weight” concept is to conserve resources like the calories (energy) spent to carry your kit along with the hydration lost from heavy loads and sweating.
  • Combustion: The ability to build a fire is an essential survival skill and there are several tools that you can use to start a flame. A lighter is a quick and usually easy way to start a fire, but fire is so important that you need to have at least two or three ways to start one.   A good device is a Ferrocerium Rod that will give off hot sparks even when wet, plus it will last a long time.
  • Container:  You need a stainless steel container with a wide mouth that holds at least 32 oz of water.   Your container should be sturdy enough to place in a fire to boil water and cook meals.  And it needs to be leakproof.   If you don’t want to start a fire every time you obtain safe drinking water, you can also pack a filter system.
  • Cordage:  When they think cordage the average person is thinking 550 paracord, which isn’t a bad option, but there is an even better option that weighs less, and takes up less space and is overall much more versatile.   I am talking about tarred #36 bank line cord. Bank line is extremely versatile and can be used as trot line, decoy line, net making and mending, construction, sewing, gardening, survival and marine applications.  The tar sticks to the string, not your hands and it really holds a knot.  It comes in two types, twisted and braided and while each has a place, twisted is more uses.  You will want at least a hundred feet of whatever cordage you choose.
  • Cover: Your cover begins with the clothes on your back and any natural shelter that you can find. However, in cold and windy conditions, you will need more than that to stay alive. What you choose should be light and compact but multi-purpose. It is ideal to carry at least a poly tarp of 8×10, a couple of 6 mil 55-gal trash bag/drum liner and an emergency re-usable space blanket such as the Arcturus Heavy Duty Survival Blanket. This small roll will give you tons of versatility and adaptability at a minimal cost. Other uses for these items include rain catchments, sleeping bags, ground coverings, rain gear, and signaling (if the tarp has an orange side).

  • Candling:  This category has nothing to do with wax candles but rather candle power.  While a flashlight is ok, having a headlamp so you can be hand- free is a much-preferred option.  Make sure you get one that is waterproof and not just water-resistant.  Also, carry a spare set of batteries for it.   If you have space and weight for it a backup device that uses the same size batteries is also recommended. 
  • Compass: It helps to know where you are going, and a proper compass will help you walk a straight line out of the wilderness. You should purchase a compass that has a lid and mirror to help you signal passing aircraft or vehicles. The mirror will come in handy when finding ticks or inspect cuts that may be difficult to see otherwise. In fact, there are compasses that offer magnifying lenses up to 5+ and greater, meaning you can use it to start fires as a 3rd option to your primary combustion kit.  If you don’t know how to properly use a compass look for YouTube videos on the subject such as this one.
  • Cargo Tape: Cargo or Duct tape may be the most versatile of all adhesive items you can carry. You’ll need a roll of at least two inches, preferably from a high-quality, respected brand. What makes cargo tape exceptional apart from its ability to tape together most materials is the fact that it can also be your tinder. Cargo tape is flammable, and a small ball will burn for several minutes, allowing you to ignite larger materials for your fire. You’ll be glad you brought a roll along in case you get lost in the woods.  Gorilla tape makes a good choice.
  • Cotton Material: You’ll need a piece of cotton about three feet square. Bandanas are the most common product made from cotton that is about that size. You’ll find it highly versatile when on your adventure. From carrying embers to use as a sling, the versatility of the cotton bandana is incredible. You can also cut it into strips for bandages, washing up so that your hands are clean, and even binding together twigs and branches for the fire. Of course, you can always use it for what it meant for, placed on your head to provide protection from the sun in case you lose your hat or cap. Dipping the cotton bandana into cool water and using it to refresh yourself can be quite welcome in hot weather.
  1. Canvas Needle: A large canvas or cloth sail needle means that you can repair your clothing, cover, and tent canvas. If you magnetize the needle, you can use it as a backup compass. It can also punch holes in tough materials like awe, so you can make repairs. And you can use it for medical needs, such as removing thorns, splinters, and stingers. You can even suture wounds if you have the right type of thread.  A #14 and a #10 needle are what is suggested.

And there you have it the 10 C’s that make up the basic backbone of any survival kit you build.

Comfort and convenience:
You can survive with just what is on the 10 C’s list but for comfort and convince you are going to want to include a few more things.  A good quality axe along with a  bow saw and/or other hand saw.   This will allow you to make improvements on your basic tarp shelter and make gathering firewood easier.    To make food prep easier you are going to want to include a Billy Pot along with a grill that fits inside of it.  Turned on it side with the girl in it you can turn a Billy pot like the Zebra into a bake oven.   The grill can be used alone to cook on as well, and the pot can be used to boil water as well as to cook in.  A two-headed metal spork is also handy for cooking and eating.   And no list of conveniences would be complete without a sleeping bag or sleep system including a pad to help make sleep more comfortable.

And don’t forget to pack food for yourself and any pets you expect to bring along on your journey.

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    November 7, 2020 at 5:37 am

    Thank you for sharing such a fantastic blog!
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  3. Vaughn

    December 6, 2020 at 10:59 am

    Very good job and thanks for sharing such a fantastic blog.

  4. Pingback: Three C's of Survival - Survival Jack

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