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The 5 C’s of Survival: Understanding the Basics

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It helps to be prepared when you’re planning a wilderness adventure, a weekend trip, or just something as simple as a weekend hike.

You never know when bad luck might strike, and, of course, old Murphy’s Law likes to make an appearance when we least expect it.

To prepare for Murphy’s unannounced visits, you’ll need a survival kit to be by your side at all times. Think of it as your new best friend, who will get you out of some unexpected distress when you need it most.

The 5 C’s of Survival Explained

The basic concept of building a survival kit is easy. You just need to follow the 5 C’s of survival checklist.

Utilize this checklist to guarantee you have all the necessary items in case you become stranded while awaiting assistance.

Let’s go through the list now!

1. Combustion

BIC ligher with holder for survival

You’ll need fire and some form of fuel. Yes, good ol’ fire. Homo erectus discovered it about a million years ago, and you should make sure that you also have this element in your 5 C’s of survival with you.

Fire is essential for cooking food, sterilizing water, keeping predators away, creating smoke signals, and providing heat. Matches are not recommended. You’ll need a lighter, but you don’t need a fancy one.

Just a standard BIC lighter will do. You must, however, have a waterproof sleeve to protect it in case of wet weather. Also, you can prepare fuel that will help get the fire going.

A good option is to simply cover cotton balls with Vaseline. Covering them in Vaseline will make them rain-resistant.

If you want to go further, ferro rods are available that are perfect for any type of weather. Some include a waterproof capsule in the handle that can hold fuel and keep it dry.

2. Container

metal water bottle for survival

As part of the 5 C’s of survival, a water bottle is an absolute necessity. You don’t have to purchase the most expensive bottle with all the extra features.

A basic metal water bottle with built-in water filters will do just fine. The added advantage of having one of these is that you’ll also be able to cook food in it and boil water in it.

Depending on your capacity, you could get a stainless steel camp cooking container, which is a bit bigger and will be just as functional but a bit heavier to carry around.

You can also perhaps get yourself a mini, lightweight water filter. These mini filters can be very useful when you don’t feel like boiling water or are unable to do so.

3. Cordage

heavy-duty rope for survival

Thirdly, you’ll need to include a multi-purpose or heavy-duty rope in your 5 C’s of survival kit. Since you’re building a minimal survival kit, the aim is to include items in the kit with more than one function.

Choosing twine can be inexpensive. Apart from tying things up, you can use it to tie tarp shelter knots, and you’ll also be able to use it as fuel to light up fires.

A better option would be to stick to the survivor cord. Buying it can be a bit expensive, but it will prove to be a good investment when you need it.

It’s a heavy-duty cord that you can use to tie things up, but you’ll also be able to split it up. You can use the internal nylon strands as a fishing line.

4. Cover

using survival tarp

The best advice is to never get a plastic tarp. A plastic tarp won’t protect you from the elements or unexpectedly severe weather changes. You also don’t want embers from your fire melting your only cover from the elements.

Instead, invest in something a bit more durable. You can get a nylon tarp that works well enough, but these are also susceptible to getting ember holes.

A good choice is to buy a heavy-duty fireproof tarp. It would be best if you also had a mylar blanket that would protect you in case the temperature dropped. Both of these items are light enough to carry in your backpack, which will insulate you sufficiently.

Other items that could fall under this category could be camouflage gear, sleeping bags, insulated socks, and jackets. It all depends on your environment, your carrying capacity, the activity you’re embarking on, and your personal preferences.

5. Cutting

multi tool for survival

A multi-tool instead of a hunting knife will be a better choice since we’re preparing a lightweight survival kit. There are thousands of good multi-purpose tools available.

A multi-tool is better because you’ll be able to do much more with it than with a survival knife. These handy little gadgets have built-in saws, pliers, files, and knives.

Nothing stops you from carrying more than one knife if you choose to do so. Just make sure you have the appropriate tools for important activities you may be required to do, such as needing a knife for hunting, requiring a tool to carve wood for fires, or perhaps even needing something for self-defense.

Final Thoughts

By now, you should’ve gathered that the 5 C’s of survival are based on the four critical elements of basic survival.

Without these tools in the wilderness, you’ll have no shelter, no water, no fire, and you won’t have the ability to gather food. 

As you become more experienced, your choices on your 5 C’s of survival list will evolve. You may want to include camouflage gear or insulated socks and jackets as part of your survival kit.

As mentioned, it depends on some factors that you need to consider. Happy adventures!