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5 C’s & 10 C’s Of Survival | Dave Canterbury Recommends…

The following post on the 5 C’s & 10 C’s of survival is timeless. I originally posted this years ago. However I’m re-posting the list as a refresher. The principle is useful to newbies AND seasoned survivalists. Especially as it pertains to building a survival kit.

These elements of survival basics are well worth remembering (and practicing).

Dave Canterbury, author of “BushCraft 101” and “Advanced Bush Craft”, first came up with the concept which he calls the 5 C’s (and then the 10 C’s) of survivability.

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
Combustion
Cover
Container
Cordage

5 C’s of Survival

Before listing the 10 C’s of survival, these first 5 are the core elements of survivability. They are categories/items that would be difficult to reproduce in an outdoor situation if you didn’t already have them.

Cutting Tool

The most difficult thing to reproduce in an outdoor situation. A high quality knife, preferably in a sheath and strapped to your belt. Full tang for strength is a great idea too.

I’ve written a number of articles on the survival knife, including this one about “batoning” wood:

[ Read: How to Baton Wood and Why ]

>> Morakniv Full Tang Fixed Blade Knife
(view on amzn)

Combustion Device

You need ‘something’ that will start a fire, whether the environment is wet or dry. And the ability / “know-how” to do it. (Articles on Fire Making)

>> FireSteel – World’s Best Firestarter Rods
(view at FireSteel.com)

Cover

Cover & Shelter to protect you from the elements. This could be a wool blanket, a tarp, Mylar foil blanket, etc. Even your clothes and outerwear are considered among the “shelter” category once you start digging into it.

Maintaining a safe body core temperature is paramount to survival.

>> Heavy Duty Emergency Survival Blanket
(view on amzn)

Container

A container capable of boiling water (such as single walled stainless steel), or cooking. Enables water purification and cooking of foods.

>> Stainless Camp Cooking Container
(amzn)

Cordage

Paracord, rope, twine, etc. will facilitate building shelter and other uses.

>> Paracord | Genuine Mil Spec Type IV 750lb

10 C’s of Survival

These are the expanded elements of survivability that you might consider.

Candlelight

Flashlight or a Headlamp (LED) for hands free operation. Here’s a related article:

[ Read: Headlamp vs Flashlight | The Pros & Cons ]

A HIGH QUALITY Headlamp:
>> PETZL ACTIK CORE Headlamp
(amzn)

>> Cheaper but Very Popular Headlamp

Cotton Bandana

Any cotton material (~ 3×3 feet) can be used for head-cover, cleaning, filtering water, making char-paper, etc.

>> Military Army Trainmen Paisley Large Bandanas (27″)
(amzn)

Compass

A quality compass for navigation.

>> Military Lensatic Tactical Compass
(view on amzn)

Cargo Tape

Also known as Duct tape. For repairs, making things, and a zillion other uses! Wind up your own mini-roll for your kit.

You can’t beat this stuff:
>> Gorilla Tape | Black Duct Tape

Canvas Needle

A heavy duty needle for repairs, sewing, and many other uses.

>> Leather | Canvas Needle
(amzn)

5 & 10 C’s Video

The following two videos are Dave briefly explaining the 5 C’s and 10 C’s of survival.

I have no affiliation with Dave Canterbury. Though his advice is sound. I first saw him back in 2010 on the Discovery Channel TV series ‘Dual Survival’ (he was on 2 seasons). Canterbury is currently the owner and one of the instructors at the Pathfinder School in southeast Ohio.

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36 Comments

  1. very good list one thing extra i would add how ever some sort of a LARGE blade like a kukri a bowie knife or a tomahawk and have more than one kind of blade blades can break and at the worst possible times

    1. This still falls within the “Cutting tools” C-category. Dave is a big advocate of redundancy, so in addition to a carbon steel blade with a 90 degree spine, we should also carry a multitool/Swiss Army Knife and either an axe, hatchet, machete, etc, depending on our local environment.

    2. I would rather have a moderate sized knife 4-6″ that has a thick spine for batoning and a foldable saw, like a Silky, Fiskar, or Bahco. You can process way more wood this way. In a perfect world, you would have a bushcraft knife, folding saw, and a hatchet or small forest axe. Really big knives are great choppers, but they wear you out and they suck at finer tasks.

  2. As for combustion, have several methods available, and make sure you have practiced with all of them. Fine motor skills degrade with cold and stress, make it muscle memory if at all possible.

  3. For Container, you may want to consider the Kelly Kettle. It took me years to find, but I wouldn’t give mine up for anything now. It offers water purification with the speed and efficiency of a rocket stove and utilizes fuel from the environment which I never have to buy or carry.

  4. Age, and the frailties that come with it (some, more than others) tempers the possibilities with probability.

    Even when I was younger, more fit, before open hear surgery, a hip replacement, etc, I would never have considered lugging around a “bug out bag, INCH bag, or Get Home Bag” filled with all the neat little gadgets that so many preppers and survivalists fill theirs with. So many folks seem to be hell bent on carrying all the comforts of home with them.

    Ok, to each his own, but what is your objective? Getting home (or at least to where you have long term food, water, shelter, waiting), or is your plan to live of the land until normality returns?

    If it’s the latter, you are fooling yourself (yes, even those younger folks). There’s probably not one in 10,000 folks will last over 3 weeks once the food and water they are carrying with them runs out. Wish those odds were better, but they ain’t (probably much worse).

    I pack for three days. I pack for what I am likely to need. Shelter from the elements (small tarp, cordage for employing it, a container for water, means to render water safe, means to start a fire, a good knife, a defensive firearm, a very small am/fm radio, small flashlight, spare AAA batteries for radio and light, a couple of candy bars for comfort food, 100 rounds .22 rimfire ammo (I consider bigger guns not worth the extra weight, be good with what you carry). This fits in a small shoulder pack (sling pack) and weighs less than 10 lbs., including the .22 revolver that supplements the .22 pocket pistol always with me. Everything in the pack with the exception of cordage, water container, lifestraw, tarp, radio and extra batteries, are redundancy for what I carry every day on my person.

    Each to their own. Everyone will face their own unique circumstances. My plan is to make it home as soon as possible, as quickly as possible, and does not include carrying my home on my back while doing it.

    PS- my comment about bigger guns not being worth the extra weight mostly applies to overland travel on foot with the objective being getting home

    1. Dennis said, “Ok, to each his own, but what is your objective?” “…or is your plan to live of the land until normality returns?”

      No need to ‘overthink’ the article’s intent. It’s not about ‘living off the land’. It’s simply a logical guideline to get started with basics for a kit – according to Dave C., pretty much regardless of what the intent of said kit. Although especially for “bush craft”.

      – BOB
      – GHB
      – 3-day hike
      – Afternoon hike
      – 72-hr kit for car
      – Etc..

      1. Ken,

        I agree. My comment was more directed at a pet peeve of mine with, not this article, but those articles on various sites depicting huge, very heavy and bulky “bug out/get home bags” that I’ve seen over the years.

        No, too the contrary, this article today covers the basics that I believe are completely necessary. My personal bias came out in my comment. That bias is my feeling that those articles around the internet (not here) that lead neo-preppers to believe that they “must have” every little comfort bringing thing-a-ma-jig some vendor offers in their bag in order to survive short term, causes some to spend money that would be better spent on long term, stationary preps.

        I probably chose the wrong thread/topic to vent my thoughts on what I believe are unnecessarily large and heavy bags. Everybody has their own thoughts and objectives on this. Wasn’t criticizing the gist of the article. My bad.

  5. Ok my 2¢ worth, as I have pretty much kept my mouth shut during all the BOB,GHB,EDC,so-on talk. And yes I have all of the said Bags in place….. But.

    Honestly I have a hell of a nice GHB in the Durimax 2500 truck, one in the Jeep and another in the Bonneville. In these vehicles are all the bells and whistles needed to drive safely through any sort of weather and conditions, PLUS enough ballistics to conquer France. Me an Ole Blue will be very comfortable and make it home just fine. Yes Home will be my destination, not some BOL 200 miles away. If it’s occupied when I get there, God help them.

    With that said IF I have to hoof it because all hell has hit the fan, all bets are off, this old, fat, out of shape, 1/2 cripple, grumpy bastard, are going to beeline it 20 miles without stopping to fish, set up a luxury campsite OR taking the time to Hunt and Process a full sized Moose. My “stuff” will be as simple as the clothes on my back, a Canteen (or two) and a DX-45acp, I could use a few missed meals anyways. We’re talking 2 days walk, How much stuff do ya really need for two days walk as long as you don’t get shot of course.

    First of all for those old fat guys out there, try going to Wally World and carrying a 50 pound bag of Dog Food to the front checkout, How about a 30 pounder, MAYBE ya can with a 10 pounder, NOW weigh that GHB or BOB, and seriously ask yourself if you can hike even 20 miles to your BOL……. AIN’T going to happen.

    Even all you young bucks out there 50+ pounds??? Really? And WHY!!?? Ya had better have a better plan than just leaving your home base and wondering around in the woods.
    Now again, if ya have alternate transportation available, you bet ya.
    But with these worn out knees and ankles and big old fat gut? NOPE, nada going to happen.

    Everyone’s situations are different, as is every situation, but if you’re talking surviving in the wilderness absolutely Dave Canterbury’s 5-10 C’s are well worth it, plus a heck of a lot of other “stuff” you’ll need, can you say TP and Sanitation, Medicines, and nine million other things we all live with and the 1 million we need to survive.

    I honestly believe the one place you had better be heading within 32 seconds after a TSHTF, is your Home Base. THAN figure out what’s next. For me, I’ll be putting 99.9999% of my effort into defending my Home Base, may not last long, but seriously what options do a lot of us have???? I sure as hell can’t tote my 600 rolls of TP through the hills and I AIN’T leaving it for something as simple as an EMP, EOTWAWKI thingy. Gota be a “real” nasty event for me to head to the hills.

    Sorry Ken, not meaning to get argumentative, just thought I’d toss out a slightly different point of view.

    1. NRP,
      I get what you are saying, totally. In my youth my body took a beating doing Ski patrol, NY State Life Guard and I’ve even had the bends from scuba diving (so much fun).
      I took my 50lb. BOB for a 8.5 mi. hike, camped over night and came home. For the sake of practice. It was 95º F and humid as all get out. It wasn’t a joy, but I did it. I am 45, out of shape and don’t tolerate heat real well, but I did it.
      I totally agree that not everyone is going to be able to do that. Now my BOB covers the 10Cs and a few more Cs not covered above. I am tool heavy and I could have left some behind.

  6. Interesting how some are reacting somewhat (seemingly) angrily to this article. Huh. It wasn’t about bug-out (at least I thought it wasn’t)… Though these kit contents are indeed a basis for that – so I get the correlation ;)

    Just seemed like a good one for the newbies (or whomever) out there in internet-land. Canterbury simply cleverly came up with C-words to represent some basics like knife, fire, shelter, water, cord, light, navigation, and a few other things. Makes it easier to remember the basics. Actually I originally posted this way back in 2013 (if memory serves). Just freshened it up a bit.

    1. Ken;
      Not trying to come across as “angrily” or negative at all.
      As I did indicate I agree with “Bags” I just feel that there is a time and place for the escape (Bug-Out) ideas, As I believe even you would agree that trekking 20-30 miles with the Kitchen Sink would be taxing.
      I also 1000% agree having the right stuff at the right time is of utmost importance. Hence the 100 pound GHB in the vehicles WITH the 5-&10-C’s and probably 100 things I have stuck in there.
      My particular response was the fact that most, even those youngens would have a difficult time with some of the overbearing and extremely massive “Packs” that are sometimes seen.
      Absolutely no disrespect intended towards the Article by any means..

      1. Sounds like it’s time to put out another article on “bug out” so people can vent their frustrations. Maybe I’ll work one up next week. Haven’t done one of those in a while.

        This one was simply about Dave Canterbury’s 5 C’s of Survivability – Cutting, Combustion, Cover, Container, Cordage.

  7. Ken
    Makes you wanna go to the Taylor Swift/Kim Kardashian type writings, huh?
    (If u do, u will be held accountable)
    LOL
    I couldn’t resist….. I’m bored as heck. And too many pain meds….

    Ahhh, it is what it is. This crew and this site is a thumbs up.
    No matter how ya dice it.

    (Lay off on the TP Mann, he means no harm.)

    1. Ha! Maybe he’s down to 500 rolls and is feeling a bit anxious ;)

      Nahhh – it’s all good. No issues with the TP-Mann & Dennis.

      1. With all the comments regarding the difficulty of some to travel that 20 miles on foot with a bug out bag, I suggest what is quite common around here. Many pickup trucks have a four wheeler in the back with a lowering platform or ramps in the box. Load up the quad with your supplies and do a little off-roading – an hour or two and you are home having used very little fuel. Here the woods are not that dense that you can not scoot out of sight away from roads and dwellings. Just be a good neighbor and repair the fences you have to cut.

        500 rolls only, we may need to have someone in the area do regular checks on his anxiety levels. TPSD can be serious.

        1. Forgot to mention that when there is enough snow, the quads are replaced with sleds.

  8. I’ve seen the first 2 seasons of Dual Survival. Never saw the later ones, because they are very expensive to buy on DVD. It’s a great show though for anyone who enjoys survival shows. Another good one is Survivorman.

  9. Never understood why others are so concerned about other people’s BOB, GHB or Ain’t going nowhere bag. Different regions, locations, needs, surroundings may dictate what someone does or doesn’t need i.e. no need for snowshoes in FL but might be a need in MI and there is no “one size fits all” in any survival situation.

    People should just be honest with themselves about their physical abilities, need for comfort, dependence on technology, skills or lack there of and what they are expecting to accomplish when they decide the contents of their bags. And remember Murphy will always join the party when you least expect him so always have plan B, C and D.

    1. Romeo Charley;
      Not really that way at all.
      One needs to remember we’re all different and in different areas, different lives and in different lifestyles.
      The will NEVER be one best anything for everyone.
      My previous post was this old mans way of saying just that.
      For me…. no way in heck I’m doing a 50 pound pack. BUT that dose not mean for someone else it’s not yhe way to go.
      Also we all discuss Buging Out or In or BOLs and all that. But guess what, we ALL need to have a plan that fits each of us…
      Tha Article is on the 5 or 10 Cs, you will NEVER meet someone tjat agrees more that I do.
      Hell I’m the one that preaches LIGHTS OUT WEEKENDS for crying out loud. Ya aint going to do that without two things..
      Stuff (5Cs) and the knowledge that it takes to use that stuff.

      I understand Ken thought I was trying to make it all about Bugging Out. Not so….
      BUT you had better know the more Cs you got the more stuff your carying to get wherever.
      Everyone knows “2 is 1, 1 is none” honestly how many fires you going to build on that 20 mile hike home????
      Don’t misunderstand me, I’m all in on preparing and surviving a SHTF, but I’m also a realists and know my own limitation.
      Everyone needs to know their own limitations, and know how many rolls of ZTP to have…
      Im down to 480 here, YES I stocked a BOL up in Silverton thats wayyyyy to far to walk or hike… but if needed I could make it there somehow.

      HAVE a Plan for “What If”

  10. – Having read the above comments, as well as Ken’s original article which I have read before, I would have to agree with most of the above. (Taking France? Reminds me of the joke about how many Frenchmen it takes to defend Paris. Answer? No one knows, it’s never happened) I have listed the items in my bag in the vehicle before. Mine weighs 27 lbs. at fighting weight. My biggest problem is, I have a tendency to stuff other “stuff” in my bag which doesn’t probably need to be there. Might be nice to have, but…

    So, periodically I have to get the bag out and clean the other cr*p out. Everything in my bag is something I have used for years. While I have carried much more cr*p for Uncle, even at the time, I knew that was the case. 3C maybe didn’t understand, but our suffering behinds did.

    I call my bag a GHB; even so, it is a BOB ‘light’. While I could conceivably go for a very long time on what is in it, the stuff that makes it possible to use as a BOB is very light and as pared down as I can make it. For example, I have electronic copies of documents on a flash drive, with only about three on real paper. If there is an EMP, realistically I am unable to be likely to need those other ‘important pieces of paper’; That’s life, and that flash drive is not very heavy.

    I have also described what might be my trip home, with possibilities of from 45 miles to over 100 as well as the conditions I might expect to find enroute. (hot, dry, frozen, or flooded.) My GHB has actually been used several times for various weather emergencies over the past few years, including a blizzard which required me to remain on duty at work for 70 hours continuously, a flood which kept me in the truck for 24 hours and a couple of more minor events. In every case it did its job, and I didn’t even have to think about it. I needed the item, it was a matter of digging it out.

    That’s the bags job, and as far as I’m concerned, it did that job just as described. As a result of some serious thinking on my part, I have changed one item recently. For years I have had a 4” Ruger .357 and its support items where I could get it, and it would go home with me. I recently put it back in the safe for while I am at work, where I am unable to carry it. I have substituted a 4” H&R .22 9-shot revolver, which is lighter, more likely to find resupply should I need to on ammo, and still quite effective. it has its own support items, a holster, boresnake. and ammunition as well as a couple of other cleaning items. I have around 100 rounds with me rather than the 40 I carried with the .357; used properly, a .22 is just as capable of feeding me in the clutch or defending me and mine. That’s why the change, and I would cry a lot less if it were to be lost or stolen.

    I will agree, a lot of folks have unrealistic ideas of just what that bag will support, supply and do; more power to them. After they find out what it can’t do, after the TEOTWAWKI, it will make those of us who do know what our bag will support some interesting times as we clean up the mess. I just hope and pray not to ever need my stuff, or have to see if it really will do what it is supposed to.

    – Papa S.

    1. Concur on the amount of weight we used to carry. Now I need a 19 year old to carry what I used to carry 50 years ago. Bad hips, arthritis, COPD. Goal is to have enough to make it home from 30 miles (doable) to 80 to 100 miles. on the latter I would try, but realize it is likely that somebody along the way might get some good stuff while I sleep. AR7 with 200 rounds. Also a small rolling cart that folds. Carry a large store of calories around my waist.

        1. – Incidentally, the Container Ken linked to is the one I carry; mine is just not so pretty any more. I have a no-name stainless cup from Wally World on the bottom, the lid under it, and a 1-liter bottle of Lipton’s half-and-half tea and lemonade inside it. My titanium Light-My-Fire spork will just barely fit inside as well if I am careful. (usually I don’t bother)

          I did put a second box of .22 LR SGB in the bag. I have problems taking things out and not adding to.

          As NRP, me and car guy have indicated, I have also a supply of additional calories stocked in my EDC as well. Trying to reduce that little stockpile as well.

          – Papa

  11. In regards to the Dave Canterbury article:

    One thing I noticed is he almost was always in a region that had lots of trees, shrubs and things in which to burn. If you are surrounded by fuel, it would make sense to carry a big knife to process standing dead wood into campfire fuel. Other than that idiosyncrasy, I have to agree with the thinking of the first 5 “c”s of survival. As I said before ( possibly in the past week ) the backpack is simply a container and the contents are going to be mission specific.

    My modified list of the 5 “c”s based upon traveling high traffic zones like the Pacific Crest Trail in October/November or the Grand Canyon in July include some modifications.

    1. Cutting: Since I was traveling and working in a zone where there was no or minimal dead and down wood, the big blade to process branches into kindling was left behind at home for a smaller lighter blade(s). processing branches into firewood was rarely done.

    2. Combustion: In traveling through these zones, I carried a small white gas stove with me since there was no burnable wood. ( even the trail junction signs were made of painted aluminum. I replaced a number of them myself back then.). Frequently the backup to a clogged water filter was extra stove fuel. Of course I used a Bic lighter and had a sparking tool with me as well.

    3. Cover and clothing: This is entirely mission dependent. i.e. the clothing and shelter you bring with you to the bottom of the Grand Canyon in July will be entirely different than clothing and shelter you bring with you on the Pacific Crest Trail in October. Best idea is to talk to somebody who has done that prior to packing your backpack or truck.

    4. Container to heat water: I carried 2 containers myself: one to rehydrate my supper while the slightly bigger one was dedicated to boiling water to refill my Nalgene bottles.

    In the Grand Canyon in summer, I carried a lot of water in a 5 gallon cubitainers. I did not have to pack cold weather insulation so most of my pack weight was water. I also carried a good flashlight as backup to my headlamp because most of my hiking and movement/work took place at dawn or dusk. I was curled up somewhere in the shade during the mid day heat. Do not forget extra batteries for flashlights and headlamp.

    5. Cordage- enough to rig up a tarp or tent, hang your food in bear country.

    Climbing rope is heavy so I do not go into the back country looking like Indiana Jones with a coil of Goldline draped over my shoulder. ( like the old Marlboro Man advertisements ) If I am climbing or setting up a safety line, my 150 meters of Elderid Dryline 11 mm kern mantle rope will be inside of it’s own stuff sack. Ropes are also expensive butt they can save your life so I treat mine with respect.

    Lastly, my limitations of a water filter: They will no longer work if there is water inside and they are allowed to freeze. They do get clogged up with sediment, minerals. When in doubt, I would pack extra stove fuel.

    Ken, these articles are good and thought provoking for the novices out there so keep them coming. A few of us regulars do not spend too much time in the woods these days but these articles bring back memories for some of us. My get-home bag these days has rain gear and dry socks among other items.

  12. Man I wish the apostrophe would be (correctly) removed from all of the 5Cs and 10Cs.

    It’s not a sickness; it’s just a pet peeve.
    Also it’s correct English.

    1. apostophe:
      Not to start an agreement or to piss anyone off AND I can understand “pet peeves”
      But seriously if this would be my only concern in what’s happened in the world…
      I’d be in Heaven HAHAHA.

      Thank you for the comment Apostophe. I really needed that today….

  13. I’m a graduate of Dave’s Advanced and Basic Pathfinder courses and his advice is sound. Every bag I make, whether it’s a BOB, INCH, GOOD, GHD, … whatever bag, I keep the 10 C’s in mind and always have at least the 5 C’s. Gadgets are cool, but stick to the old school, tried and proven techniques. Save your money and buy the best bushcraft knife you can afford, you will thank yourself later. Also buy the best ferrocerium rod, like ones from Exotac. Ferro rods just work, doesn’t matter if they get wet, high altitude, high humidity, whatever, they just work. Two is one and one is none. Have duplicates and back up items in your kit. Like carrying matches, a lighter, and a ferro rod in your kit. Learn what fatwood is and how to use it.

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