Dave Canterbury’s 10 C’s of Survival
First, Thank You to:
Dave Canterbury of the Pathfinder School and many YouTube videos
Ellsworth Jaeger book “Wildwood Wisdom”
Townsend Whelen and Bradford Angier book “ON YOUR OWN in the WILDERNESS”
Tom Brown, Jr. books “TOM BROWN’S FIELD GUIDES” guiding me to spirit in all outdoors
Todd Smith, Outdoor Life Magazine – Survival kit 10 items
Doug Ritter, Equipped To Survive – Survival kit 10 items
Mike Forti, United States Air Force Survival School – Survival kit 10 items
Before I start I just want to say I am all for being a good caretaker of the earth and saving money. Outdoor equipment doesn’t have to be as expensive as what the stores sell it for; repurposing things from around the home and yard sales will serve just as well.
1– Cutting Tool
A. Dave always leads his recommendation lists for survival gear with a good high carbon steel, full tang sheath knife. Your knife can also be the other half of an emergency flint-and-steel or ferrocerium rod-steel setup. I made my own knife out of an old file.
B. Folding knife for wood carving, cutting leather, or fine wood work. If you were to get a sturdy folding knife with at least a 4” lock blade it could possibly replace a sheath knife for emergency use.
C. Saw for processing wood. I prefer a Corona RazorTOOTH 18-in Pruning Saw (saved money by going fixed blade pruning saw).
D. Medium size axe for processing wood. I prefer a double bit cruiser axe (got cheap at a yard sale) with a short 22” handle. Some words about double bit axes: EXTREME CARE NEEDS TO BE EXERCISED IN THEIR USE.
E. Multi-tool for wire cutting/bending and general repairs (my multi-tool was an advertising gift). For in your vehicle have some bits and sockets of all kinds to pull out or repair parts of the vehicle. The battery makes a nice power source or spark to start a fire.
F. Sharpening equipment (I got a cheap set of diamond sharpening stones from my Dad for free) for cutting tools and three sided bird cage awl. I made my own three sided bird cage awl out of an old file.
2– Combustion Device
You should always have at least two ways to start a fire on you. Waterproof storm matches, ferrocerium rods, flint-and-steel (I found good sparking stones from streams – steel was made from an old file), blast matches, magnifying glass, and standard lighters are all viable choices.
Just as important as a fire starting method; make sure you include some hot burning, quick-lighting tinder so you can easily get a proper fire going with what kindling you can scavenge from the area around you. Cotton balls soaked in Vaseline or cotton pads soaked in beeswax or paraffin make excellent fire starters.
With flint-and-steel or magnifying glass you will need; charred 100% cotton cloth, 100% cotton rope/lamp wick in a tinder tube with a charred end, or charred punkwood.
With a magnifying glass, good dry punkwood, and a sunny day you can get an ember going to ignite quick-lighting tinder.
When Dave talks about cover in this context he is talking about items that will help you keep your core temperature around 98.6 degrees F.
The go-to survival items in this category depending on how light you’re packing will either be a foil emergency blanket, an 8 foot x 8 foot tarp, or a classic wool blanket.
Also don’t forget fluffy natural materials like leaves and dried grasses. With a skeleton of branches a pile of leaves and dried grasses can save your life. Along with the natural fluffy debris is a bed sack or canvas stretcher that you can stuff full to make a debris mattress.
Some words about tarps: an “oilskin” is a piece of material, like a backpack, garment, or tarp (usually heavy-duty cotton-canvas), that has been treated and infused with different oils and waxes. This makes a tough piece of material into a windproof, waterproof, breathable, hard-wearing item that can easily be passed on through generations, especially if you take care of it well. They come from an era where nothing was readily available, and when surviving and keeping yourself dry and healthy meant putting some work and love into your clothing. From what I can find; mixing equal parts beeswax, raw linseed oil, and pure gum spirit turpentine applied to 100% untreated cotton canvas of at least 10 ounces/square yard, gives the best minimum waterproofing and durability that can be achieved by DIY.
A. Dave recommends a 32 oz. standard stainless steel water bottle, unlined and uncoated, which is suitable for boiling water in. He places emphasis on a container with this volume because many water treatment chemicals (iodine, etc.) rely on quart measurements for metering and treating water.
B. I like to also carry a surplus US Army stainless steel canteen with a nesting stainless steel cup which can be used for cooking or hot drinks.
C. I also like to carry a surplus US Army stainless steel mess kit with eating utensils packed inside.
Water purification methods: boiling, chlorine tablets, iodine tablets or liquid.
A. 550 paracord, you can pull out the inner strands for all kinds of things, like thread for stitching or fishing line (550 lb. tensile strength).
B. #36 tarred bank line; you can unravel the inner strands for all kinds of things, like thread for stitching or fishing line (320 lb. tensile strength). Tarred bank line is fishing line. Speaking of fishing line, some of the new braided fishing lines are strong thin cordage and very good sewing thread.
C. Copper or steel wire for really strong repairs or construction.
Cordage is one of those stupid simple things that everyone takes for granted, but you’ll find it is very difficult to make yourself while you’re out in an emergency setting waiting to die from exposure.
Sturdy, lightweight cordage is useful for all kinds of things, from shelter construction to the improvisation of other tools.
6– Cotton Bandana
A few 3-foot by 3-foot bandanas, folded up, will take up next to no room and very, very little weight but you can use them for all kinds of things. One of them should be a bright orange or other color, which will stand out in the outdoors, so it will serve as a signal flag; a loud whistle is also a good signal sound; also cell phone with an external backup battery. A Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) is really nice if you are boating or are going to remote backcountry.
Dave says the primary use for him is as improvised first aid packing and wound treatment dressing.
Some words about first aid:
You can also fashion them into bundles a-la the classic hobo stick, use them as a coarse, first stage filter for water treatment, as padding, as a potholder, a little extra insulation, as kindling in a pinch, or, in a real emergency, you can cut strips off of them, use them as toilet paper or make charred cloth.
A. The importance of a compass and map should be obvious in an emergency situation, especially one where you are in remote backcountry. Dave specifically recommends a compass with a built-in mirror and bezel, also with a magnifying glass for fire-starting; it can give you a multi-purpose item.
B. I prefer a clear plastic orienteering compass with a magnifying glass. If I were going to remote backcountry I would take a sighting mirror compass for long accurate sights.
A. Dave is referring to a personal lighting device, meaning a headlamp or a flashlight. You should consider one that has multiple brightness settings to help you conserve batteries, and speaking of batteries; don’t forget to pack a couple of extras in your kit!
B. Candles are also a good back-up for light or fire starting. You can pack a small storm lamp or tin can to place the candle in.
C. Waxed ½” diameter lamp wick is a really good addition to use as a super match/lighter on those wet windy days when you need more flame power.
9– Canvas Needle
A. Heavy duty needles can be used for sewing, obviously, to repair your gear and clothing, but they can also be used as a suture for stitching up your skin in case you’re injured. Sturdy needles can also be lashed to a branch to form a multi-prong spear or gig useful for nabbing smaller prey like frogs and birds. Needles are also easily fashioned into fishing hooks if you’re in a place where fish are abundant in local water sources.
B. Also having an awl to punch holes with will make a needle more versatile. I prefer a three sided bird cage awl that can drill in addition to punching. Its three edges make it an aggressive hand drill.
10– Cargo Tape
Dave is here, of course, talking about that one item that all people truly love: duct tape! Duct tape is one of those things you absolutely cannot replicate in the middle of an emergency situation.
You can make or repair almost anything with it and it even will burn as a fire starter. It is lightweight, and removed from its primary roll it takes up very little room, especially when wrapped around a water bottle, a knife sheath, or a flashlight body.