Story by Jim Cobb, Photos by Jim Cobb and Manufacturers
Once upon a time, if you asked any adult male in America to empty their pockets, you’d typically find the same things. While the exact make, model or brand would vary, a wallet, handkerchief, pocketknife and keys would all be present. Depending on their age and background, they might have two handkerchiefs, one for their own use and one reserved for lending to a lady in need.
The EDC concept has become wildly popular in the prepper, survival and outdoors communities. Part of this keen focus stems from an increased interest in self-reliance. Plus, if we’re being honest, many of us just like collecting “stuff” and we feel we can justify it by calling it our EDC gear.
Brief aside into semantics, bear with me. EDC is an acronym and stands for Every Day Carry. Some folks write it as Everyday Carry, but there’s a difference between the two phrases—an important one.
Everyday Carry implies mundane or routine items, such as the difference between your everyday shoes and your church shoes. Every Day Carry has more weight—meaning items you carry with you every single day, no matter what you’re doing or where you’re going. See the difference?
With that out of the way, let’s get into the details of EDC. There are a variety of items you might choose to have on your person, or otherwise close at hand, as you go about your day.
For the sake of our discussion here, we’re going to leave off the topic of defensive weapons, simply because that is an amazingly personal decision that must take into account the user’s skills and experience, as well as legalities.
A knife is one of mankind’s oldest tools. While the construction, materials and configuration of it has changed over the centuries, the usefulness of a sharp blade remains without question to this day.
When it comes to EDC, most people choose a folding knife, simply due to ease of carrying. In recent years, though, smaller fixed blades have been rising in popularity for daily users. The reality is that for most folks, either will be perfectly fine.
Unless your job or lifestyle requires heavy-duty blade use on a regular basis, the strength difference between a fixed or folder isn’t going to be that relevant, provided you choose something of decent quality either way.
There are some people who go so far as to carry both a fixed blade and a folding knife, or other configurations involving multiple blades.
Folding Knife: The Buck 110 is a classic, something that for many of us may have been one of our very first knives. Despite its age, the model holds up extremely well today.
There are also a number of Swiss Army knives from Victorinox that fit the bill nicely.
Fixed Blade: This is a case where size definitely matters. For many people, a large knife isn’t practical for daily carry. Fortunately, there are plenty of options on the smaller end of the scale. The Adventurer from Bark River is a great model that works well.
Another is the Lapwing from Nordsmith Knives.
I’ll admit that I was late to the game with regards to carrying a pocket flashlight. For years, I never understood the appeal. Then, I picked one up to use in an article I was writing, and it was love at first sight.
At the time, I was working as a detective and used it all the time when going through dimly lit buildings, looking for apartment numbers. It was also useful for quick repairs around the house, and even to help me find the dog’s tennis ball when it rolled under the couch.
While there is a tendency to want as many lumens as possible in a flashlight, as a practical matter you can end up with something too powerful to be useful in most applications. Anything around 75 lumens is going to be bright enough for daily use.
The Streamlight ProTac 1AAA is an excellent model that is small enough to go unnoticed in your pocket yet provides plenty of light when you need it.
Another great model is the Thrunite Archer 1A V3, which easily cycles through three different levels of illumination.
There exists a huge range of options in this category, from slim and lightweight to robust and heavy. There are any number of configurations, including some that come with attachments that add even more functionality.
Because these can get heavy quickly, it is important to give thought as to how you plan to use it. Adding a boat anchor to your belt isn’t advisable, unless the weight is warranted. That said, in some situations having pliers, screwdrivers, and even a small saw blade at your fingertips could certainly prove useful.
The Leatherman Rebar is a classic model, one that has most of the common multi-tool features.
If you’re looking for something a little more heavy-duty, you can turn to the Victorinox Swisstool Spirit Plus, which has a separate wrench with attachments.
If you’re a smoker, this one is a no-brainer as you probably have multiple lighters available at any time. However, even if you’ve kicked that habit, or never started it, having some way to get a fire going quickly is desirable, just in case.
The spark or lighter is just half of the equation. A small stash of ready-to-light tinder is also wise, in the event that you’re unable to source it in the field.
Lighter: the standard Bic lighter will be sufficient in most cases, though if you couple it with an Exotac fireSLEEVE it’ll be protected from moisture as well as accidental gas release.
Another option is their titanLIGHT, which can be lit and then stood on end to provide hands-free fire.
One more item to consider is a basic ferrocerium rod, which works in any weather or temperature.
Tinder: if you want to go with the DIY approach, tossing a couple of cotton balls, infused with petroleum jelly, into a plastic bag will suffice—though there’s always a chance of staining clothes if the bag gets opened or torn.
Another option is a Fastfire cube from Solkoa Survival Systems. Scrape a bit of it into a pile and it lights by flame or spark.
This may be something of a lost concept, given the prevalence of cell phones and the ease of snapping a photo of whatever needs to be remembered. However, jotting a quick note isn’t just quaint or old-fashioned. It can be quite useful in a variety of situations—such as your cell phone dies, you need to leave a note for someone, or you just want to document something with a quick sketch.
Notebook: Rite in the Rain makes a range of truly great products that live up to their name.
You might want to add some sort of notebook cover to the mix, such as the Expedition Wallet from Savage Gentlemen.
Pen: Sure, you could just grab a cheap disposable stick pen to toss in your pocket, but if you want something more substantial go with a Hinderer Investigator Pen. It can double as an impromptu defensive weapon, too.
Everything we’ve discussed up to this point are items that you can probably carry on your person, either on your belt or in a pocket. However, there is something to be said for adding an EDC bag to the daily load out.
Obviously, it dramatically increases your storage capability. In doing so, it gives you more options as well, as you aren’t limited to the size of your pockets or the strength of your belt.
One great addition for the EDC bag is a decent first aid kit, along with perhaps a small set of tools, depending on where you’re headed and what you have planned for the day.
It need not be a full-size backpack, though if you routinely need to carry a laptop and other bulky items for work or school, that might be the route to take. Otherwise, a small shoulder carry bag will probably suffice.
I’ve grown quite fond of the Haversack from The Hidden Woodsmen. It is the perfect size to carry just a few more survival essentials than I can keep in my pockets.
For a more business-like approach, the Envoy-13 from Vanquest works great.
If you’re looking for something larger, maybe something in the new RUSH 2.0 line from 5.11 Tactical will suit your fancy.
Many people choose to carry something personal that they feel brings them luck, blessings or something similar.
For example, I have a set of “Saint” coins (St. Anthony, St. Jude, St. Christopher) I’ve carried for a few years now, along with a “Dead King Louis” bead—the mascot my friend Matt Martin designed for his company, Vehement Knives.
While some folks look at items like these with derision, considering them nothing more than pocket jewelry, I feel there’s nothing at all wrong with tossing something in your pocket that makes you feel safer just by having it.
There are also a number of companies that specialize in collectible coins, if that’s your thing. They are easy to carry, as they don’t weigh much or take up much space. Fair warning, though, this can be an addictive hobby.
Although the term EDC means the same thing to everyone, what one person’s personal EDC looks like will vary from another’s. Everyone has their own likes/dislikes and daily needs.
The above recommendations are just that, recommendations. Your needs may be different and that is ok. As with everything in life, your EDC is a personal thing that reflects your daily life and may not be right for someone else. However, trying out different products and items to build your own personal EDC is half the fun. Enjoy the hunt. K&G
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Jim Cobb is a recognized authority on disaster readiness. He has written several books and is also the Editor in Chief for Prepper Survival Guide magazine. He is a longtime collector of knives, EDC gear, and defense weapons. Jim lives in the upper Midwest with his wife, kids, and a motley crew of dogs and cats.
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