Basic Survival Series: 5 Items To Always Carry In The Woods

  • Posted on: 25 October 2016
  • By: Jim jones
5 critical survival items

There are five pieces of gear that many consider the most essential emergency items that you can carry in your kit, whether you're hiking, rock climbing, hunting, camping or anything that you do in the wilderness that could potentially become a survival situation.

These five items should always be with you in a backpack. They are so important to your chance of survival that they have their very own catch phrase.

5 C's of Survivability (Dave Canterbury):

  • The first "C" of the 5 C's of survivability is a good quality Cutting tool. Good quality to me is something that you can chop trees down with. It also must preform fine carving tasks as well because this tool may have to be used to create all of the other items in this list, in the event you've lost everything but your knife. Always keep your cutting tool attached to your body and make sure it's the highest quality you can afford.
  • The second "C" of the 5 C's of survivability is a Combustion device. When I say combustion device I don't mean something that can start fire, I mean something that will give you fire. In this case, a ferrocerium rod and wet fire gel that will start fire even in damp or wet conditions. A fire is one of the most important aspects of survivability because it helps control your body's core temperature, and you can do many other things with fire as well.
  • The third "C" of the 5 C's of survivability is a Cover. Something that can help ensure that your body's core temperature is protected in a cold environment or provide shade in an arid environment. I choose to carry a 100% wool blanket for a cover item. Ideally a 66 x 90 blanket so that you can roll up in it like a sleeping bag or make shelter or shade. There's a lot of different uses for a wool blanket because its the only fabric that will retain 80% of its insulating value even when soaking wet.
  • The forth "C" of the 5 C's of survivability is a Container. A container is very important. You can collect water obviously, but also to carry things like nuts and berries. Because your hydration is so important, you have to make sure that you drink plenty of water and that the water is safe to drink. A metal container allows you to boil your water. Boiling is the only 100% guaranteed method to kill all pathogens that will make you sick, so a metal container is very important. Make sure that you have a good thick-wall, stainless steel container that holds 32oz. 32 ounces is how things are measured for disinfecting water with chemicals. Whether its iodine, chlorine dioxide or bleach, it is all measured in drops or units by US quarter letter, so you need to make sure you have a 32 ounce stainless steel container.
  • The fifth "C" of the 5 C's of survivability is Cordage. Cordage is very important because it is used to lash and bind everything that you need in a survival situation. Tools, shelter, traps, all of these things require cordage for binding. Making cordage in the wilderness or in a survival situation is not going to be easy, so you want to carry cordage with you. I recommend a tarred Mariners bank line because it is water resistant and binds to itself very effectively. It is a 3 ply cordage that you can break down to three fibers and use for smaller things like repairing equipment, sewing or anything that requires a finer thread. 


These 5 items are the most difficult things to reproduce in the wild with natural material. Survival is all about conserving calories and maintaining your body's core temperature. You don't want to have to spend a lot of time and energy to make things in a wilderness situation if you don't have to, and these 5 items take a lot of time and energy, or specialized materials to recreate. You are far better off carrying these items.

With these 5 items, you can pretty much take care of all immediate needs for 72 hour search-and-rescue type scenario where you're going to stay put and wait for rescue.

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