This article is adapted from Dave Canterbury’s “The Ten C’s for Survival” Dave is a noted survival expert and the founder and owner of Self Reliance Outfitters.
1. Cutting Tool
This is the most important of all our items and it must be capable of several other tasks. A blade that is too small will make it difficult to process fire wood. A blade that is too big will make finer carving tasks more difficult. The happy medium here is about 4 ½ – 6” in blade length. Blades made from High Carbon Steels are preferred due to their ability to throw a shower of sparks. Another criteria is that the blade spine have a nice sharp 90 degree edge and should be of full tang design. Your knife needs to be prepared to take much abuse!
The Mora Bushcraft Black Knife will split wood and start your fire (This is Dave’s knife of choice).
2. Combustion Device
Your ability to create fire in foul weather conditions can many times be the difference in your survival, not only is it a CTC function in cold weather, but it will disinfect water for drinking, help you cook, and signal for rescue, not to mention that fire is very comforting psychologically on a dark night.
It will take a combination of a waterproof sparking device as well as a waterproof tinder. We want any fire starting device we will be staking our life on to be combined with accelerants not fuels. A Ferrocerium Rod will give us a very hot spark even if the rod is wet, it also is long lasting which makes it an ideal device to use for ignition. Source of tinder must be a highly combustible material that is soaked in an accelerant and then waterproofed. There are good products meeting this criteria on the market and some can even be stored with the Rod to make a 1 piece kit for carrying an emergency fire starting element within your pack.
The Light My Fire FireSteel and Tinder will have you prepped for any emergency.
Your cover always begins with having the proper clothing for the conditions. From there, you should have a re-usable emergency space blanket of some sort, something that can be folded back up and used in harsh conditions without fear of easy destruction. There are several good brands on the market that combine the reflective Mylar with a sturdy backing, even having grommets for ease of use to make shelters like leans or tube tents when needed. Another consideration is to ensure this Blanket/tarp has an Orange side that will aid in signaling for rescue.
This single piece of gear is the one that most beginners and many more experienced people fail to prioritize. Any container that cannot be placed into a fire is not robust enough to be placed within your kit. The container must seal so that water can be carried over some distance but must also be used to disinfect and boil water and cook food and medicines. Stainless steel is the best material and must be single walled and of a one piece design. The container should also have a wide mouth to enable easy collection of water and make getting contents like food or char out as easy as possible.
There are many things you will want to build and fix that will affect core temperature control. Cordage can be used to repair gear or create bindings for shelters. Cordage is on the top of this list because the amount of proper materials that would need to be collected and the time spent to create it can be easily avoided by carrying about 100’ of good readymade cordage material. Your cordage should be of a multiply design enabling it to be broken down to finer fibers if needed as well as increasing its overall length. I prefer the Tarred Mariners #36 Line as this gives 360# of tensile strength for bigger jobs as well as single fibers of almost 100# strength that can be used for gear repair as well as fishing if needed. This line makes a very superior Snare when compared to parachute cord and due its tarred quality binds well to itself when making strong lashings.
6. Cotton Bandannas
These should be at least 3’ square if possible in order to create a sling or cravat. Bandanas need to consist of 100% cotton, so that they char well to create embering material for a fire. A bandana can be used for bandaging when cut in strips. A bandana can also become a hygiene device for washing up or to carry or bind things like fire wood. They also make a good head covering to protect from the hot sun and are great for just dipping in a cool creek to take a break on the trail.
7. Cargo Tape
I am talking about good old fashioned Duct Tape, don’t fool around here! Carry an entire 2” Roll of Gorilla Brand tape. This can be used for everything from first aid to creating needed items. The adhesives in this tape are also highly flammable and a golf ball sized wad will burn for several minutes to help ignite and burn marginal tinder sources. It can actually be stripped into minute fibers and used to make an impromptu birds’ nest to be ignited by your Ferrocerium rod. Cargo tape can be one of the most useful items you carry in an emergency so carry an entire roll.
The compass must be capable of performing more functions than just walking a straight line on an azimuth or bearing. Your compass should have a mirror so that it can be used as a signal mirror and to look for ticks and lice and to inspect cuts in areas that cannot be seen without the aid of a mirror. This makes it functional for not only signaling bus also first aid. If you can find a compass with a magnifying lens of at least 5 powers it will be useful as a backup fire starter as well.
9. Cloth Sail Needle
A sail needle is a fairly large needle that is used for both Tent Canvas Repair and sewing/repairing sails. It has a wedge at the front and a very sharp point. This is not a needle that can be bought from a craft store. The beauty of this needle is its size, strength, and multi-functionality. I place mine on the back of my Knife Sheath with Gorilla Tape and forget about till I need it. Magnetizing this needle ahead of time will allow its use as an improvised compass device. It can be used to repair any torn gear, punch holes as an awl, and also is great for picking at thorn, splinters or stingers. In an extreme case it could be used to suture as well.
10. Candling Device
This should be a Headlamp not a flashlight as you will want to ensure that both hands are free if needing to use a light to complete any task. This tool can be used for things other than providing light. Having multiple brightness settings as well as a flash will make it a signaling device, it can also be utilized at night for attracting fish or freezing frogs in their tracks.
The comfort fit headlamp from UCO is a great option