Story

Interview: Survival Expert Dave Canterbury on Life, the Wild, and Sharp Things

Dave Canterbury

Editor’s note: This interview is the first in a series with Outdoor Hub’s featured video partners. 

Outdoor Hub recently got the chance to interview Dave Canterbury, founder of the Pathfinder School and wilderness survival expert. Dave has amassed an impressive knowledge of  life-saving techniques and is now sharing that knowledge with law enforcement, Department of Natural Resources employees, and outdoor enthusiasts. In addition to teaching, Dave maintains a sizable following in both his channel on YouTube and television.

It is a rare treat for us to ask Dave a few questions and gain a little bit of perspective in the process. Dave talks a bit about his work, his experiences, and of course his love of a good knife.

Outdoor Hub: What are the important lessons you draw from your time in the Army, being a fisherman, and wilderness survival instructor?

Dave Canterbury: Repetition. You just have to consider the type of skills you need, and hone those skills until you get better and better. So you hone those and have a personal toolbox for use in the wilderness. If you just fish them out a few times, you’re not going to understand them. Repetition is the key ownership of the skill. This proved true for me in the military and in life. If you can’t repeat a skill in your sleep, you don’t own that skill.

In your years of experience, what was the most-life threatening situation you had to go through? How did that strengthen you as a person?

Probably when I was stuck in a heavy storm out in the south coast, fishing a couple miles from shore. One thing I’ve learned is basically not to get caught in that situation. Pay attention to your surroundings, pay attention to weather, understand what’s happening, and predict what Mother Nature may do so you don’t get caught in situations like that.

It taught me a very valuable lesson in paying attention–to be proactive in things rather than being reactive. By the time you’re reactive in a situation, it’s nearly always too late.

What is your favorite piece of gear?

My Pathfinder Knife and my axe.

Do you have a favorite knife or brand? 

Blind Horse knives. (Dave repeats this emphatically.) They’re my favorite. They make probably a hundred different styles of knives.

What would you say is your favorite hunting weapon? What is your favorite game?

Probably a 12-gauge shotgun. I like hunting small game a lot, to tell you the truth. As far as medium game or more dangerous game, I hunt all of them. I like to hunt them with a knife.

What is your goal with the YouTube channel? 

My goal is to spread “tribal” or “frontier” knowledge: how folks survive day in and day out in wilderness environments. I’m spreading that knowledge because I think it’s important for people to have those skills in this day and age. History always repeats itself, and its useful to understand those skills in case they want to go hunt possum for fun or for a living.

What makes the internet different than television or teaching students in person?

We can reach a wider audience as well as a more specific audience. Television is limited because it’s about entertainment, television is about money and advertisement. I don’t have to script or worry about money I spend on video production on YouTube because nobody tells me what I can and can’t do. I’m my own boss. I don’t have to create unnecessary drama. I think that’s a big benefit the internet has over television. You can draw in specific audiences because they just type in what they’re looking for, you can’t search television on how to build a start fire, on how to build a survival shelter or trap. I can search for all of that on the internet and find it quickly.

When you film a new video, what do you do differently today than you did in the past?

I’ll probably say that my editing has gotten better over time. I’m better in front of the camera, it’s almost like I’m talking to people. I think that’s one thing to think about when you start filming and you get nervous when you first start doing that kind of stuff. Over time you get used to the camera and it’s like talking to your buddies over a campfire. Then you relax and you can do what you do.

Do you have any videos you’re especially proud of?

I’m proud of all my videos, but the 21st Century Longhunter Series especially because I was able to pass on a lot of historical information. I enjoy teaching and I enjoy history.

The series can be seen below:

You teach many, many students how to survive in the wilderness every year. What kind of person makes the best student?

You know, sometimes it’s the guy who’s never done it before–the guy who comes in there without the assumption that he knows what he’s doing. Those people make the best students because they’re open-minded and capable of thinking outside the box. They’re not stuck in the mind frame of only doing it this way or only doing it that way.

What do you keep in your bug out bag?

Man, I don’t have a bug out bag. But I do believe in what I call personally the 5 Cs of surviving. You got to have a cutting tool, a combustion device, cover element that can create a micro-climate, a container, and cordage. These five items are the hardest to recreate in nature and it takes skills and specialized material to recreate in nature. They most directly affect your survival ability in the wild.

If you were allowed only one of those, which one would you choose?

My knife. I think everyone should have a knife.

Where would you go on vacation if it wasn’t survival-related?

(He chuckles.) My wife really likes the Bahamas.

What’s the next chapter for Dave Canterbury, where do you go from here?

I think right now we’re building our school, opening up a few satellite locations. Grow everything as big as it can get. I also totally expect to do more television.

If you could choose anything and any place, what and where would be your ideal adventure?

I’m pretty partial to the United States. I think Alaska would be my ideal spot for adventure. Fish, hunt, trap–everything I do down here I’ll do up there.

Thanks again to Dave, who was able to take time out of his busy schedule to sit down with us. You can find more about his school here, or learn useful survival tips and techniques on his YouTube channel.

Or check out some of his most recent videos in the playlist embedded below:

Image courtesy Dave Canterbury

Any views or opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of OutdoorHub. Comments on this article reflect the sole opinions of their writers.