Last Updated on October 22, 2020
There are so many lists of possible survival items that can be assembled together to achieve the perfect Bug Out Bag. Heck, we have even created our own bug out bag checklist that you can read here, but everyone has different items, preferences and requirements for what they feel is a complete and well-rounded kit. Sometimes the items that are included offer a low chance of being useful to their weight/space requirements that I opt to stick with the most important survival items and save the “you might need” items for someone else to carry.
Dave Canterbury who teaches at the Pathfinder School has distilled his list even further to what he calls the 10 C’s of Survival. I don’t mean to suggest that Dave is saying this is all you need in a bug out bag, but it is another voice with an informed opinion about what is most important. I like this approach to cover the basics and I build from there.
We showed a video from Dave a few days back where he explained his list, but I wanted to do him one better and give you specific links and suggestions for actually acquiring these 10 items for your own bug out bag or Get home bag project. Dave has gotten creative with the naming convention on some of these items to keep everything easy to remember with a C.
1. Cutting Tool – This is the first item on Dave’s list and I certainly second the thought that a great knife is invaluable. I know there are people and methods of making knifes from rocks and that’s well and good, but it is much simpler to have and carry a great knife. Knifes come in all shapes and sizes and each has a use it is best designed for. For instance, in my EDC, I carry a smaller folder like a Spyderco Tenacious G-10 or my most recent acquisition of a Kershaw Leek that I picked up at the gun show a few weeks back. These are great knifes but for a survival knife you will ideally have a larger, stronger blade. A folder is great for a wide variety of cutting tasks, but if you need something that can chop down a tree, you need a single tang blade for strength and stability.
For my go to survival knife I use the Gerber LMF II. Why do I recommend this knife over others? For lots of reasons, but primarily because it is beefy, comes with a heavy-duty sheath and built-in sharpener, feels good in my hands and it won’t break the bank like a lot of other knives of a comparable size out there. The Gerber LMF I have has a really sharp edge, a partially serrated blade, you can use it as a hammer and it has holes to mount it as a spear if you really need to go caveman and spear a fish or a wild boar.
2. Combustion Device – You need to be able to make a fire for cooking, or to provide heat when it’s cold and general morale. A fire can be a lifesaver and a source or two of flame creation is vitally important. Most people including me recommend stashing a BIC lighter or two in any Bug Out Bag, but I also have a Swedish FireSteel to use should my BIC run out of fuel or become wet. Dave recommends the Ultimate Survival Technologies, StrikeForce Fire Starter which is actually a little cheaper. This little gem does the same thing as my Swedish firesteel, but it does have the advantage of a built-in compartment to add something else and that is WetFire. WetFire Tinder is amazing and even lights when it’s wet. Used in combination with the Fire Starter, you should be able to start a fire anywhere.
3. Cover – In this case we are talking about maintaining your core temperature. In the winter obviously you want to stay warm. In the summer, shade can provide a cooler temperature and keep the suns rays from cooking you. Dave recommends a Wool blanket. Wool has the amazing ability to retain almost 80% of your heat even when it is wet. You can use that blanket to keep warm, but it will also make a shelter to keep some of the elements off you.
4. Container – Water is the most important element for your health in the first 5 C’s of Survivability and you need something to be able to hold and collect water. Dave points out that you may also need to boil your water and you can’t do that with a plastic Nalgene water bottle. Dave recommends you carry a 32 ounce metal water bottle. Size matters in this category also as he stresses the importance of having a 32 ounce water bottle. This is because most alternate water treatment methods are going to use a quart measurement so iodine tablets or bleach will need something that you can be fairly precise with. A good water bottle will last you a long time and could have multiple uses for survival.
5. Cordage – Better known as rope to most people, cordage is one of those things like the other 4 items above that are hard to make yourself. Sure, you can make your own cordage or rope out of the right leaves or branches, but it takes time. It is easier to make sure you have a little with you and if there is any item a prepper buys first, it is probably a little para cord. Why is this substance so magical? Well, for starters you can do a lot of things with a little bit of para cord like lash that knife above to a big stick, you can lash two pieces of wood together as part of your lean-to shelter that you will use with your wool blanket. The inner strands can be removed and separated to make fishing line, suture or snares for catching wild game.
Dave demonstrates and I assume recommends Mariner’s Tarred twisted nylon twine line which you can find online at Bass Pro Shops. I haven’t ever used this and have to believe that para cord would offer you more options, but I will defer to Dave on this one.
6. Cotton Bandana – Bandanas can be used for a lot of things, but Dave mentions first aid primarily. He also recommends a 3 foot by 3 foot bandana made out of cotton. I couldn’t find any 36′ bandanas but I was able to find the good old 27″ cotton bandana all over the place. A cotton bandanna is also something I have as part of my EDC. If you don’t want to go the colorful cowboy handkerchief option, you can cut part of an old sheet out provided its cotton. I think my wife might kill me if I did that, but you may have old material around that would do the trick. You can also use the bandana to carry items or to wash off with or to hold that hot water bottle you have already boiled your water in.
7. Compass – with mirror and bezel. This little item has dual use as well just like your bandanna above. For the compass, you would use this for directional navigation of course. Then if needed, you can use the mirror as a signal mirror to get the attention of rescue planes or individuals far away. Dave says you can also use the mirror for first aid if you have to see an injury that you cant easily see (like on your face or backside.) I have a Suunto compass myself, but without a mirror. The Suunto MC-2G Mirror Sighting Global Compass fits the bill
8. Candlelight – For any survival situation, my preference, and it sounds like Dave’s is also would be a headlamp. If you are out in the woods at night, you do not want your hands tied up holding a flashlight. For almost any situation I can think of , its better to have both of your hands free and the modern headlamps do this with a ton of light, great features like 3 position tilting so you can easily switch the focus from the dinner on your lap to ahead of you on the trail and waterproofing. I have several Petzl brand headlamps and they are all excellent. Each model usually offers different lumens or power life-cycles, but a good one can be had for less than $40. The Petzl headlamps like the TacTikka offer three modes of lighting. There is low, high and strobe which again would come in handy for signalling.
9. Canvas Needle – Cloth Sail Needle – These are useful for stitching skin in a pinch with the strands of your paracord or twisted nylon above, repairing gear or getting splinters out of skin. Dave tucks his away behind some duct tape wrapped to his knife. For almost zero weight, this little tool could come in handy and you can buy a pack of leather factory stitching needles for less than $6.00
10. Cargo Tape – Last but not least. Duct tape. I don’t believe this item needs any introduction or explanation. You can make items with duct tape and repair almost anything else. A lot of duct tape can be stored with a minimum of room. I take old hotel door cards they give you and wrap 10 feet or so around them. It gives me the tape when I need it without the bulk of the roll. If you can’t fix something with duct tape, it is probably beyond repair. My personal favorite is Gorilla tape because I think it holds better than the generic brand of duct tape you would use on your HVAC system but having any duct tape is better than nothing.
OK, so this was just a virtual shopping list of Dave’s 10 C’s of Survival that hopefully either gives you some ideas for your own Bug out bag or survival kit. If you have other ideas of must have items, please tell me in the comments below. Some of these items will be available to win on the Prepper Journal in a little giveaway we have planned later this week. Stay tuned!