Staying alive when you are caught out in the wilderness means knowing the 10 C’s of survival. Developed by Dave Canterbury, the 10 C’s are divided into two sections: five being essential and the other five being highly useful in keeping you alive more comfortably.

Don’t confuse it with the rule of 3 for survival.

The 10 C’s are designed in case you lose your way in the wilderness, the weather turns hazardous, or you become injured.

Dave Canterbury’s 10 “Cs” of Survival has been a handy guide for many years. Here are the relevant tools, supplies, and equipment you’ll need to stay alive when lost outdoors.

5 Essential C’s of Survival – A Prerequisite

Don't Forget to Carry Essential Items for Hike or Camp

Combustion: The ability to build a fire is an essential survival skill, and there are several tools that you can use to start a flame. While matches and a lighter are quick ways to start a fire, it is better to have a fire-starting kit or device that is not dependent on fuel or fails to work when it gets wet such as a match. A good device is a Ferrocerium Rod that will give off hot sparks even when wet and last a long time.

You will also need dry tinder, which you can gather from surrounding trees and logs, but you will need some type of acceleration to ensure it is waterproof.

Survivor Dry Box

Container: Just like soldiers carry canteens to hold fresh water, so too must you carry a container that will help you stay alive. Your container should be sturdy enough to place in a fire and can be sealed to protect the contents inside.

Basically, your container will also be used to boil water, cook meals, and even prepare medicines if necessary. You’ll need a container crafted from stainless steel and made from one piece to hold together better, even under the worst conditions.

Cordage: A little rope can go a long way in repairing shelters, binding together materials, and even holding you in place when walking across dangerous terrain. While traditional rope is too heavy and not very sturdy, you can find sufficient cordage made from more durable materials that will work.

You’ll need about 100 feet of good cordage which will be lightweight, easy to carry, and quite invaluable out in the wilderness. Parachute cord is an excellent material, so consider that as part of your survival gear.

Cover: Your cover begins with the clothes on your back and any natural shelter you can find. However, in cold and windy conditions, you will need more than that to stay alive. A space blanket is an excellent cover product; crafted from waterproof materials, it is lightweight, easy to carry, and can keep you warm even during the cold night.

The preferred material for your space blanket is mylar which has a strong backing. Also, make sure that one side is orange, so you can use it to get attention.

Cutting Tool: You will need a tool for cutting, one of the most important tasks you will need to do when trying to survive outdoors. Your cutting tool should be large enough to process firewood yet small enough to make small or fine cuts when needed. This means that your cutting instrument should have a blade that is about five to six inches long.

Preferably, the blade should be crafted from high carbon steel to be durable, dependable, and throw sparks that can help you light a fire. Make sure the knife you purchase offers a sharp 90-degree edge.

5 Helpful C’s for Survival – No Less Important

Here are five C’s that are not as essential but still important to survive outdoors with some comfort.

Candling: This is not really a flashlight but more like a headlamp that provides ample light without holding it in your hands. A candling device means you have the illumination necessary to repair, set up shelter, or do almost anything at night without propping up a flashlight.

Candling devices also make excellent signaling units to attract passing aircraft and vehicles at night. Plus, if you are out for an extended time, the light from this device will attract fish at night and cause frogs to freeze so you can catch them for a quick meal.

Cloth Sail Needle: A large cloth sail needle can repair your clothing, cover, and tent canvas. It’s not a common needle, so you will need to purchase it from a specialty store, but it is quite handy so that you can use it for many different needs.

If you magnetize the needle, you can use it as a backup compass. It can also punch holes in rigid materials like awe so that 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.

Cargo Tape: Cargo or Duct tape may be the most versatile of all adhesive items you can carry. You’ll need a roll of at least two inches from a high-quality, respected brand. What makes cargo tape exceptional, apart from its ability to tape together most materials, is that it can also be your tinder. Cargo tape is flammable, and a small ball will burn for several minutes, allowing you to ignite larger materials for your fire. You’ll be glad you brought a roll in case you get lost in the woods.

Compass: It helps to know where you are going, and a proper compass will help you walk a straight line out of the wilderness. You should purchase a compass with a lid and mirror to help you signal passing aircraft or vehicles. The mirror will come in handy when finding ticks or inspecting cuts that may be difficult to see otherwise.

In fact, some compasses offer magnifying lenses up to 5+ and greater, meaning you can use them to start fires in case your primary combustion kit is not working or missing.

Cotton Material: You’ll need a piece of cotton about three feet square. Bandanas are the most common product made from cotton that is about that size. You’ll find it highly versatile when on your adventure. From carrying embers to using them as a sling, the versatility of the cotton bandana is incredible. You can also cut it into strips for bandages, wash it up so that your hands are clean, and even binding together twigs and branches for the fire.

Of course, you can always use it for what it is meant for, placed on your head to protect 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.


Dave Canterbury’s 10 C’s of survival will help you last longer if caught in the wilderness without support. You should help your family and friends who also like to spend time outdoors hiking trails or camping to be prepared so they can survive in case the worst should occur.


My name is John Winger, I was born and raised in Virginia. I spent a good part of my early adult life in the US military, namely the Army and served in Iraq. I saw my fair share of combat missions and thanks to that experience I have a better understanding and appreciate for what my country means to me and the world.