The 10 c's of survivability

Just ten items. Ten items that will keep you alive as long as you have the knowledge to use them. While the idea of going out for a weekend with just this minimal kit may seem absurd to some of you the weight savings make it well worth having to be a bit ingeniutive. I'm not sure the originator of the 10 cs is but I learned it from Dave Canterbury both in his books and on his youtube channel and I'd like to say thank you Dave. So here's the 10 main pieces of gear you need to make it.



Cutting- A nice solid fixed blade from a reputable manufacture. My two favorite knives are the Kabar Becker BK2 and the mora companion. Depending on your plans for the trip you can get away with just one belt knife and one folder. Generally I bring three knives. A folder, the mora for small tasks and carving and the BK2 for any real heavy duty chopping or batoning. If you are just starting out the mora is a great bushcraft blade. At under 20 bucks on amazon you can't go wrong with a mora.

Combustion- The ability to create fire under any condition. Man has relied on fire for warmth, cooking, protection, illumination, and as a tool for thousands of years. Bringing only a bic would be fine or you can get a ferro rod. I typically leave matches at home and bring a Swedish fire steel, a container of tinder, and a bic. The tinder is Vaseline soaked cotton balls. They ignite with the smallest spark, burn forever, and are fairly wind and moisture resistant. I use the ferro rod every trip and have not needed my bic yet. The cotton balls coupled with a fair amount of matchstick sized dry pine twigs is usually enough to get a fire going even in the rain.

Cover- A person could easily get by with nothing more than a wool or fleece blanket and a tarp for most of the year. I prefer to bring a small 3 man tent, a sleeping pad, an emergency blanket, a cheap disposable poncho or a trash bag, and a sleeping bag. Not getting a good nights sleep can ruin a trip in a hurry. Tents have they're own set of downfalls such as not being able to use a fire for warmth and they weigh more than a tarp but they keep you dry and the bugs won't bother you as much either. If you are new to the woods bringing a tent can also help give you a sense of security. I have slept in shelters I made myself and I can honestly say I prefer the tent. Cover also includes your seasonal clothing like jackets and gloves. For longer trips bringing a few extra changes of clothes is wise. Always take good care of your feet. Sturdy hiking boots such as timberland white ledge are waterproof, tough, and comfortable to wear.Don't forget about your socks too. I bring at least 2 pairs for each day but no more than six pairs total because I can wash and dry the socks as I use them. As far a the saying "cotton kills" yes and no. Most of us are not going to be in a dire life and death situation on a bushcraft trip. I have heard good things about lightweight canvas pants or cargo pants but being a blue jeans kinda guy that's all I wear. Dress for the season and always bring at least a hoody, a beanie hat, and a thermal long sleeve. These three are even in my pack in the summer.

Container- For cooking and water storage. A good choice is a solid single wall (non insulated) stainless steel 32 oz container because you can boil water with it. I have a 32 oz Nalgene canteen along with a 20 oz steel canteen cup. It all sits very nicely with several tea bags and coffee bags inside my canteen cover.  Depending on the plans for the trip I also like to bring a cast iron skillet. They will never break and once they are heated up they retain the heat and cook evenly. The lodge skillet I have will probably get passed down for several generations.

Cordage- rope of all kinds. You could make cordage but it is very time consuming and it is way easier to bring cordage along. I have one pound of #36 tarred twine which has a tensile strength of around 300 pounds. I have carried regular jute twine in the past as well because it is a great flash tinder but lacks the strength of tarred twine. Paracord is another option or addition to the cordage I bring. Paracord is great for ridge lines, guy lines, and for practicing your knot tying skills by the fire at night. The breaking strength for true paracord is 550 pounds. Paracord planet seems to have good paracord so this is what I usually buy. Remember to learn some basic knots and practice them until you can tie them with your eyes closed and behind your back. Again cordage could be made in the bush but it is very time consuming and will definitely not have the strength of manufactured rope.

Cotton Materials- The age old cotton bandana. People have come up with a million uses for bandanas. Possible uses could be filtering water (will not purify), help keep dust out of your nose and mouth, tinder, signaling device, sling, bandage, wash rag, the uses are endless. I have two in my pack. I think they cost about a buck a piece. Vaseline soaked cotton balls could probably be in this category as well but I generally include them in my fire starting category.

Cargo Tape- Duct tape or Gorilla tape. I carry a full roll of duct tape, and wrap my bic and tinder container with about two feet each of gorilla tape. Again the uses are endless. Cordage, waterproofing, patch kit, bandages, hell you could make a canoe out of it if you had the time and a massive amount of duct tape.

Candling devices- I also refer to this as Illumination. If you want to be all rustic an oil lantern, beeswax candles, and a candle lantern would fit the bill. For the rest of us a small flashlight and a headlamp with spare batteries is more practical and safer. Generally the light of the fire is enough to accomplish most camp tasks but the extra light from a good headlamp increases safety and precision. Headlamps are great because they keep your hands free and nowadays they weigh next to nothing. I carry one by black diamond and a streamlight microstream flashlight along with 4 aaa batteries.

Compasses- a good compass can save your life as long as you know how to read it. I have a cheap UST engineer compass that suits the bill in my pack. I also don't have many deep woods trails in my area so I don't use a compass much. When I head out it is on family owned property that I grew up on so I know every square inch of land pretty well not literally but you know what I'm saying. If your trip will bring you to an unfamiliar location be sure you have a good compass.

Canvas Repair Needle- These are very thick needles that will sew most any common materials. I'm not much for sewing so the main use for me is to get slivers out. If magnetized a needle can be carefully placed on a leaf or piece of paper then set on the surface of water to find a north south line.

Additional things to have in your pack
  • First aid should always be considered. I have a small first aid kit with everything needed for common ailments while afield. It also contains a pair of tweezers, safety pins, a whistle, a signal mirror, chapstick, an extra bic, and a  few handwarmers. The whole kit fits neatly inside a sandwhich bag. For any serious injury I carry a trauma pack which I hope to never use.
  • A hatchet and a folding saw such as the Bahco Laplander greatly increase the type of shelters you can build. They are both great additions to a fixed blade and with the combination of these three tools you are only limited by your imagination.
  • Leather work gloves will protect your hands and make getting hot pots and pans out of the fire a hell of a lot easier.
  • Food is the fuel that keeps ya moving. If laws and seasons allow fishing, hunting, and trapping are all viable option but if you want life to be easier and probably tastier bring some steak and stir fry veggies, bacon and eggs, whatever you enjoy eating and cook it up on the fire. I know some would consider this camping instead of bushcraft but whatever I don't like being hungry. Also the dehydrated meals by mountainhouse don't taste horrible but for the price you can get real food that tastes better even if it weighs a bit more. Don't take this to mean dehydrated meals don't have a place I just prefer real food. Gorp is great to munch on between meals and it'll keep ya moving.
  • A water filter like the sawyer mini or a life straw can make gathering water a much easier task. They won't remove water born viruses(which aren't very common in the US anyway) or chemicals, but in general they will make water safe to drink. Boiling is the only surefire way to kill everything in the water.
  • Fork and spoon makes eating a hell of a lot more pleasant
  • Coffee is a great comfort food for me. I drink a lot of coffee and would be miserable if I had to go without.
  • A firearm. I bring a pistol on every trip. If I'll be hunting small game or plinking around camp I bring my SA .22 six shooter.


What are some extra pieces of gear you like to carry to make life easier?


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