Backbone of Survival - The 10 C's

Backbone of Survival - The 10 C's

Many years ago, Dave Canterbury, author of “Bushcraft 101” and “Advanced Bushcraft”, came up with a concept that he calls the "10 C’s of survivability".  He later extended that to the 10 C’s, and we believe these 10 should be the backbone of any survival kit—even for a hike.

This is definitely a great guideline for any basic survival kit, and one you should keep in mind when putting yours together.

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


Here they are with description:

  1. Cutting Tool: The cutting tool you choose to carry should be able to cut a small branch, as well as cut meat, and help in preparing food. Keep in mind it will need to be long, and some even have ridges for other things you can do with them. Finding the right cutting tool is essential, and you will need to keep in mind all of the things you are going to be doing with this knife when out camping, hiking, or even surviving. Make sure you know the basic care for knives, or whatever tool you choose to be your cutting tool and have a guard to protect the sharp end. Storing it properly and maintaining this item will be essential.
  • Combustion: One of the first things we do when we get to a campsite is start a fire. (After setting up our tent, of course.) There is a reason for this: we need fire, both for warmth and for cooking. Fire is essential in our survival, and you need to have a way to start one, even in the worst of conditions. Waterproof matches, and a few sticks or some type of fire sticks will be important to keep in your bag. Keeping this stored up in a place where you can just grab it and go will also be important. Having something that not only starts a fire (even in undesirable circumstances) but also keeps it going (in case you do not have anything around) will be very important. You may be hit with a situation where you cannot grab branches or anything and will need to have a fire going when it’s pouring down rain. This will test your resolve -- and having items on hand that can overcome this will be essential.

  • Container: You will need a stainless-steel container with a wide mouth that holds at least 32 oz. of water. The container needs to be sturdy enough to cook in or boil water. You’ll need to boil any water you find before you drink or cook with it, unless you have some type of filtering system.

  • Cordage: The tarred #36 bank line cord is a wonderful option for this. The bank line is extremely versatile and can be used as trotline, decoy line, for net making and mending, construction, sewing, gardening, survival and marine applications. The tar sticks to the string, not your hands, and holds a knot. It comes in two types: twisted, and braided. While each has a place, twisted has more uses. Getting roughly 100 feet of cord, regardless of what you choose, will be important.

  • Cover: This is anything from the clothes on your back, to the type of shelter you are planning to make. Having the proper clothing will keep you warm in the times when you will inevitably be cold. Having tarps on hand will assist you in making or shoring up your shelter. Remember that when you go out, you may not be cold, but at some point, the sun will go down and temperatures will change. Make sure you have enough extra items on hand so if it does get cold, you are covered.

  • Candling: This does not mean you need a candle with you. It means you need to have some type of lighting where you can be hands-free. A great option is a headlamp. Easy to use, versatile, and lightweight, you cannot go wrong with having a light facing in the direction that you are. Make sure you carry extra batteries, and even an extra headlamp in case something happens to the other one.

  • Compass: A compass will help you navigate wilderness and may also have some extra handy features attached. Make sure you do your homework on them. Find one that has a good rating and has a mirror, magnifying glass, and a case. (Or it closes.)

  • Cargo Tape: Gorilla tape is a great choice for this. Just keep in mind what you will probably be using it for. Some of them are flammable, and you can use them to burn for a few minutes while you find something to keep a fire going.

  • Cotton Material: Bandanas are the most common product made from cotton that are about the size you want. From carrying embers or to use as a sling, the versatility of the cotton bandana is incredible. You can also cut it into strips for bandages, washing your hands, and even binding together twigs and branches for the fire. Of course, you can always use it for what it’s 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.

  • Canvas Needle: A large canvas needle or cloth sail needle means 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 convenience, 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 its side with the grill 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 do not forget to pack food for yourself and for any pets you expect to bring along on your journey.


  • James

    Great list! Back in the day, I trained on the “10 Essentials.” Also a good list. The two together are a winning combo. As an EMT, we were taught that you can live for three days without water and three weeks without food. That said, carrying a couple of quarts of water (per person) can buy some valuable time. Some extra food, like power bars, can provide needed energy and boost morale. For combustion. I like a reliable Bic lighter, a ferrocium rod with a striker, and a fresnel lens magnifier along with some home-made wax-infused cotton cosmetic pads or Vaseline-coated cotton balls. Be prepared and be safe!

  • Donna Wingert

    Knee-hi, great for many uses. Keep feet warm as an added layer under socks and so I’ll fitting boots don’t make blisters, uses for tying things, filtering stuff, carrying stuff, Grandma said that during the war we women would ship our boys all the nylons we could send them to keep them warm etc. That was real knowledge she told me about. How about you friend ate you going to add this wonderful item to your bug out bag?

  • Raymond

    The Ten + C’s are a great start, yet all are for not, if you do not know all the ways to use them in adverse conditions. Positive mental attitude and developed skills through experience cannot be overlooked. Learn, Hone, own the day.

  • Major D

    After years of operating in cold climates, my most important “C” is change of socks and underwear, especially the t-shirt. The sweat you make while moving becomes an air conditioner when your body cools down. Frost bite and hyperthermia result fast. I would roll this info into your Cover “C”, but it can never be overlooked. Stay safe

  • Dan

    Sewing an improperly cleaned wound closed is almost always worse than leaving it open till it can be properly cleaned and disinfected.
    What needs to be number one on every preppers list is to get adequate training for survival including first aid/medical training.

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