Dave Canterbury's 10 C's of Survival
Dave Canterbury of the Pathfinder School, LLC developed the “10 C's of Survival” as a handy list of the most essential tools for staying alive in a wilderness emergency. The 10 C's of Survival should be taken to heart by anyone who spends any time in the backcountry—indeed, even the front-country.
After all, a day hike can quickly become a situation of perilous stakes. Weather can rapidly turn, bringing frigid rain or wet, heaping snowdrifts where ten minutes before was blazing sunshine. You may stray from the trail and become entirely disoriented, or become suddenly hobbled by a twisted ankle.
The 10 C's of Survival are best thought of as divided into two batches: a core of five absolute must-have pieces of survival gear rounded out by an additional roster of highly useful, if not essential, tools.
The First Five C's of Survival
Never head into the boonies without these first 5 of the 10 C's of Survival.
(1) Cutting Tool: Ultimately, this means a sturdy, full-tang survival knife—something that should always be on your person in the backcountry. A design with a four to five-inch carbon-steel blade and a flattened back edge is typically the most dependable and versatile. Well-made survival knives allow you to do everything from clean fish to split kindling.
(2) Combustion: Being able to spark a fire is critical in a survival situation. In inclement weather, it’s the first order of business—fundamental to maintaining your core temperature. Additionally, a blaze can help you advertise your location to potential rescuers. Carry spark-catching material such as the Pathfinder Mini Inferno tinder or Gorilla Tape alongside a ferro rod and a good lighter.
(3) Cover: A common mistake committed by plenty of outdoor recreationists is neglecting to include an emergency shelter in their go-to hiking packs. Even if you’re simply setting out for an afternoon trail hike, you need the ability to quickly erect a precipitation and cold-resistant covering to keep you dry and warm in the event of an unforeseen night out in the backwoods. A poncho, wool blanket, tarp, or even a plastic garbage bag will serve you well.
(4) Container: An ideal container for wilderness use is a 32-oz. stainless-steel water bottle. Staying hydrated is fundamental in an emergency, and you want a durable vessel for storing and carrying water. The high-quality metal additionally allows you to boil water—or melt snow—to render it safe to drink: You don’t want to be dealing with a gastrointestinal malady on top of your other worries.
(5) Cordage: Sure, you can fashion rope from plant materials in the backcountry—but why expend that time and effort if you don’t need to? Carry a good 100 feet of 550 cord, which can assist in a dizzying array of tasks.
The Second Five C's of Survival
In the event of contingencies in the wilderness, the remaining five items of the 10 C's of Survival can be immensely helpful to have on hand.
(6) Candle: It’s all too easy to forget about an illumination source when preparing for a day on the trail. If you’re stranded for whatever reason, the onset of night is a real threat: You can quickly hurt yourself fumbling around in the dark for kindling or water. Having more than one source of light is best—a headlamp is particularly convenient, but bring candles along as well.
(7) Cotton: It’s no weight or space burden to stuff a few cotton cloths or bandannas in your pack—a level of convenience that belies the versatility they display in the backwoods. From bandages to signaling flags, from fire-starters to head coverings, cotton bandannas are deceptively multi-use.
(8) Compass: There are plenty of methods for orienting yourself in the wilderness, from keying into
the wheel of constellations to tracking the sun’s shadow. But bringing along a durable compass with a sighting mirror gives you an unfailing tool for precise navigation—one that readily doubles as a signaling mirror.
(9) Cargo Tape: From injuries to pack malfunctions, a roll of duct tape serves as many functions in the backcountry as it does in the garage.
(10) Canvas Needle: Also called a sail needle, this little tool can be employed to repair clothing or shelters, act as a makeshift compass, dislodge nasty splinters, and for other delicate, high-precision operations.
Remember, the "survival weapons" of the 10 C's of Survival only work when combined with the knowledge and presence-of-mind to put them to use. If you can stay calm and ward off panic—commonly your greatest threat in the wilds—you can use this basic equipment to keep yourself alive, healthy, even contented, until help arrives.