I was recently on a trip with a close friend. Sharing a room in the hotel when we stopped for the night, he made what seemed a bit like an odd comment at the moment. As I emptied my pockets on the top of the dresser, he said, “I thought I carried a lot in my pockets,” clearly implying that I carry much more than he does.
The truth of the matter is, I do carry a lot in my pockets. Mostly that’s due to two interrelated reasons. The first is that I exercise my Second Amendment rights by carrying concealed. I’ve had a license to carry concealed for a number of years, and have done so long enough, that I feel half-naked when I don’t have a gun on me. Of course, that also means carrying a mag pouch with a couple of spare mags in it too.
The second of those reasons is that I’m a long-time survivalist. So I don’t just carry the normal stuff anyone needs to have, like car keys and my wallet, I also have a number of other things I carry, which have a survival connection. But even though they are survival items, I find myself using them often enough that they’re definitely worth having in my pockets.
In reality, we all have an EDC; that’s Everyday Carry for those who aren’t used to the terminology. While society is moving more and more towards a minimalist attitude about EDC, I find myself gradually adding more and more things to my basic load.
Women are actually much better at the EDC game than men are, although they aren’t necessarily thinking survival in preparing their EDC. Rather, their purses tend to hold a plethora of miscellaneous items, which might be needed at any time. Monty Hall, the longtime host of the TV gameshow, “Let’s Make a Deal” actually made a joke of this, ending his program by asking women to find postage stamps, safety pins, paperclips and other items in their purses and paying them for every one they found.
How did those women end up with all that stuff in their purses? While some might be due to not cleaning out their purses often enough (we won’t talk about that), most of it got there because they found that they needed those items on a day-to-day basis. Maybe they didn’t need those things every day, but they needed them often enough to make it worth the inconvenience of carrying them around.
Your EDC may consist of nothing more than your wallet, phone and keys, but it’s still an EDC. What I want to talk about is making that EDC useful for more than just getting you to and from work and buying your morning coffee.
Disasters and other emergencies don’t happen on our schedule or when it’s convenient for us. If anything, they come at the time that’s the most inconvenient for us; when we are the least ready and it is the most inconvenient for us. Yet we have to deal with them when they come, regardless of whether we want to, we are ready to, or it is convenient for us to do so.
I think we can all agree that its’ easier to deal with those things, when we are prepared. Part of that means having the right training and mindset, but an even larger part means having the equipment and supplies we need to work with.
EDC on Multiple Levels
Before we get into any specifics, I want to mention something important about EDC. That is, you don’t necessarily have to carry everything in your pockets. Even though I wear cargo pants pretty much all the time, I don’t have enough room for everything I consider part of my EDC. Rather, I carry some items on my person, some in an EDC bag, and there are even a few others are simply kept in my car.
Why is this necessary? Because I don’t want to carry around a full survival kit with me every day, at least not on my body. Part of that is because what I consider a survival kit and what some other people consider a survival kit are very different. I’m not talking a survival kit built into an Altoids tin, but rather a kit that will give me enough to work with so that I really can survive. So, while I want that survival kit with me, just in case I need it, it’s too big to carry around on my body all the time. Since my car is always with me, I keep it in the trunk.
At the same time, I carry the absolute necessities for survival on my person, mostly because I’ve found those items to be useful for other things as well. However, there are also a few items that I carry, simply because if I need them, I won’t be able to get them from the EDC bag in my car.
The things in my EDC bag may not be used as often, but I would definitely need them if I found myself in a survival situation, while away from home. I’ve had this happen before, when caught in a blizzard or when my car has broken down. By keeping them in a bag, I can take them with me if I have to abandon my car or if I am traveling in someone else’s car.
In the situation I mentioned at the beginning of this article, where a friend and I were taking a trip, we went in his Jeep. Since I wasn’t taking my car with me, I grabbed my EDC bag out of the trunk and threw it in the back of his Jeep, along with my suitcase. That way, I had it with me, just in case.
EDC on Your Person
At the most basic level, EDC is about what you carry on your person; what you have in your pockets. As part of that, I have turned my keychain and my wallet into survival tools, by the things that I’ve added to them.
Here’s my keychain. It’s actually a combination of two keychains, which I’ve connected together. The first one is a dual-ring keychain, which was actually a promotional item from Snap-On Tools. The two rings are connected together by a silver yoke that allows them to be taken apart (A in photo). The second keychain is something that I found at Lowe’s when I was getting some keys copied. It’s the black part in the center, with all the S-links attached to it (B in photo). In turn, it’s attached to the first keychain.
There are two reasons why I like this second keychain. First of all, it’s easy to remove my various pieces of EDC gear, if I need to use them. Secondly, the locking S-links are useful survival tools themselves. With this keychain, I’ve got six of them.
In addition to the normal assortment of keys and little scan cards on my key chain, I have:
- Streamlight Nano flashlight
- P-38 can opener
- Handcuff key
- Small multi-tool
- Whistle (missing)
- Compact USB Memory, with personal information, important documents and survival manuals installed on it
- Aluminum vial filled with tinder
- Cigarette lighter
Like everyone else, my wallet is stuffed with the normal assortment of cards and photos, but also has a few key items, specifically for survival.
I start with $100. While money may not solve all problems, there are plenty it can help to solve. So I always make sure that I have some money stashed away, hidden in my wallet, just in case. In addition, I carry two stainless-steel survival cards. The one on the left is a lock-pick set and the one on the right is a general survival card, with fish hooks, a small saw, an arrowhead and a tip for a fishing spear. Finally, there’s a Fresnel Lens magnifier there, which not only makes it easier to read the phonebook, but can be used as a backup fire starter.
Of course, there are items in my EDC which won’t fit in my wallet or on my keychain. In some ways, those are my most important items.
As you can see, everything in that picture is well-used. That’s because I really do carry it every day. That picture includes, clockwise from top-left:
- Tactical flashlight
- .45 caliber Springfield XDS handgun
- My cell phone, which is loaded with apps and information to help me survive
- Tactical pen
- Pocket knife (sharp pocket knife, a dull one isn’t any good)
- Change for a phone call (assuming I can actually find a pay phone)
- Magazine pouch with 2 spare mags for my pistol (total of 20 rounds between pistol and mags)
My selection of this particular pistol was based upon its size and caliber. The .45 Auto round was developed for use by the US Army. Moro tribesmen were attacking our troops, high on drugs. The standard .38 caliber sidearm of the day wouldn’t stop them; so the .45 was developed for it. Of all handgun rounds, this gives the most knockdown power. Considering that chances are if I’m ever attacked and need to defend myself, the attacker might be on drugs, I’ve chosen to carry the .45.
The one thing that’s really lacking from this picture is spare batteries for my tactical flashlight. That’s because I don’t carry those on my person, but rather in my EDC bag in the car. That way, I’ve always got spares with me. Considering how quickly the brighter tactical flashlights can go through batteries, I consider a spare battery an essential piece of equipment.
The other thing that really goes through battery power is my cellphone. Modern smartphones are hard on batteries, regardless of what the manufacturer’s literature says. If you use your phone at all, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to make it through a day, without needing to recharge. So, I carry a solar charger, recharging battery and automotive cigarette lighter charge in my EDC bag. I also carry cables not only for my phone, but also with other common connectors, so that I can recharge other people’s phones, if necessary.
Moving on to the EDC Bag
The bulk of my EDC gear isn’t actually carried on my person, but in my EDC bag in the car. I use a Condor cross-shoulder EDC bag, which works out just fine for my needs. My wife’s EDC bag is a tactical fanny-pack, but hers doesn’t have as much in it as mine does. That’s mostly because she isn’t as well trained in survival as I am.
As you can see in the picture above, there’s a water bottle, in an insulated cover, attached to one side of the EDC bag, and a knife and multi-tool attached to the other side. There’s also another tactical light attached to that side, although you can’t see it in the picture. Everything else is inside its various pockets.
One nice thing about this bag is that it’s a cross-shoulder design, which both makes it easy to carry and hard to steal. I ordered it in grey, rather than black or cammo, in order to make it look less tactical, but I don’t think that strategy worked very well.
The bag is MOLLE equipped, so it’s possible to add additional pouches on the outside. I’m using the MOLLE straps to attach the knife, multi-tool and flashlight to one end. With a couple of carabineers you could easily attach other things to these straps as well, such as a jacket that you aren’t wearing.
As you can see from this picture, my EDC bag has quite a bit in it. There’s actually more than what you see in the picture, as I left some items out to reduce the clutter. Basically, I’m carrying enough equipment with me every day, so that I can survive to walk home, assuming I have to abandon my vehicle somewhere and walk for some reason.
For simplicity sake, I’m going to break down what’s included in my pack by categories, rather than by where it is in the photo above.
- 2 rescue blankets – the cheap kind
- 20' paracord – real paracord, not the imitation stuff, on a spool for convenience
- 10 yd duct tape
- Rain poncho – can be used as an emergency tent, strung up with the paracord
- Lifestraw water purifier – about the best there is
- Water bottle (hanging on outside in picture above)
- Spare plastic bags (4) (can be used as canteens)
- Esbit stove (not shown, with hexamine fuel tablets)
- Spork (not shown)
- Stainless steel collapsible cup (not shown)
- P-38 can opener
- High energy food (jerky, granola bars, nuts), sealed in a plastic bag
- 2 - 12" x 24" heavy duty aluminum foil – for emergency cooking, can be folded to make a pan or food can be wrapped in it to be cooked in a fire
- Fishing kit (line, bobbers, weights and hooks)
- WetFire fire starting cubes (this particular brand works extremely well)
- Stormproof matches (in waterproof container)
- Metal match – magnesium fire starter, works better than a Ferro Rod, as magnesium is highly flammable
- BlastMatch Jr. – sparking fire starter. Easier to use than a Ferro Rod. Spring-loaded, so all you have to do is push it down and it creates a shower of sparks
- Cotton balls in petroleum jelly – homemade tinder for starting fire. One cotton ball burns about three minutes
- UST Klipp lighter (not shown) – refillable, windproof lighter
- Tactical flashlight
- Spare batteries for both tactical flashlights
- Sheathe knife (this is a fairly small one, with a 3-1/2” blade)
- Quality Multi-tool (cheap ones tend to bend when you apply pressure)
- Wire saw – stored in plastic bag to keep it dry. They can rust.
- Compass – military style
- Signaling mirror (not shown) – I use a glass signaling mirror, not plastic, because it is visible from farther away
- Whistle (not shown) – Plastic, not metal; so that it won’t stick to the lips in cold weather
Everyday tools and helps
- Phone charger – multi-purpose type, which also has built-in battery for recharging phone
- Car cigarette lighter adapter
- Hair bands - for use as rubber bands, great for holding things together
- Paper clips & binder clips
- Safety pins
- Pen & pencil
- Pad of waterproof paper
- Copies of my driver's license and passport, laminated (not shown)
- Emergency contact phone number list (laminated)
- Mini office
- Kleenex – can double as toilet paper
- Anti-bacterial hand cleaner
- One-use toothbrushes
- 3 Compressed washcloths – Put them in water to expand
- Abdominal bandage
- Knuckle bandages
- Adhesive strips – cloth ones, so that they are flexible and don’t come off easily
- Cohesive medical tape (sticks to itself, instead of the skin)
- Stretchy gauze (not shown)
- Sawyer insect repellent (not shown, comes in a pocket size container)
- Alcohol wipes – for cleaning wounds
- Steri-strips – for closing the skin over open wounds
- 3 day supply of my personal medications (not shown)
As you can see, this is quite an extensive list, much more than what you would find in a typical survival kit. Why is that? You might wonder. Basically, it’s because I’ve tried living off of what is in the typical survival kit and realized that it’s not enough. My kit has evolved over time, as I’ve realized that to ensure my survival, I had to do what many others would consider overkill.
The thing is, this really isn’t all that much to carry around, no matter how it looks. The whole kit is only about a foot tall, eight inches wide and seven inches thick. It can’t weigh more than about 12 pounds. So it’s really not all that bad. It’s light enough that it won’t slow anyone down or tire them out faster.
At the same time, it provides me with a lot of useful equipment, both for survival and on a day-to-day basis. There isn’t a week that goes by, where I don’t have to use something in that kit. So even without having to survive a disaster, keeping my kit in the trunk of my car is well worth it. If I had an office that was away from home, I’d have another similar kit in my office.
What Else Do I Carry?
Early on in this article I mentioned that I break my EDC down into three categories: what I carry on my person, what I carry in my EDC bag and what I carry in my car. So let’s take a look at what I carry in my car, besides my EDC bag.
There are two reasons why these items are not in my kit. The first is that they are mostly too bulky to fit in that bag. I don’t want to turn it into a backpack, as I already have a bug out bag. The second is that they are items that change periodically, either due to seasonal changes or because they get used up in normal daily activities.
The first category of these items is clothing. Much of the time when I leave my home I am wearing clothing that might not be appropriate in a survival situation. I might be dressed too well, rather than in rugged clothing. I probably also have on dress shoes, rather than shoes for walking long distance. I might even leave without a coat, as the temperature was warm when I left home. So, I carry:
- A complete change of rugged clothing, typically jeans and a work shirt
- A good pair of walking shoes, usually tennies, if not hiking boots
- A season-appropriate jacket
- A hat and leather gloves
- Although it’s not clothing, I keep a wool Army blanket in the car too, for emergency use
I also carry emergency equipment for my car, including such things as jumper cables, engine chemicals and some basic tools. As I’ve covered those things in another article, I’m not going to go into detail here. But I do want to mention that I always have rope and bungee cords in my trunk, not only for hauling things, but because they would be useful in a time of emergency.
Then there’s my snack box. I don’t know about you, but I often find myself away from home, busy doing something or other, at meal times. So I keep some food in my car. This is mostly jerky and granola bars, not junk food (although in my younger years I have to admit, it was mostly junk food). There’s usually enough there to keep me going for a few days, if I get caught in a blizzard or something.
Finally, I carry a more complete trauma first-aid kit, than what I have in my EDC bag. This is not so much to help myself survive, as it is to help others, in the case of a disaster. I will not be the only one who is having trouble. Having that first-aid kit gives me the ability to help out at least a few people, even if I can’t help everyone.
Should I have to abandon my vehicle in a time of crisis, I’d take all of these items with me, even if it didn’t look like I would need them. Things change, so it doesn’t make any sense leaving something behind. Likewise, if I have to shelter in place somewhere, those items would help me there too.
A Final Point
Allow me to make one final point here. What I’ve listed above has come from a lifetime of being prepared. The list has evolved through time and is continuing to evolve. One reason it evolves is that my needs have changed. When I had young children, I had to take them into consideration, so I kept things that we would need for them in the car as well. But now that they are grow, I only need concern myself with my wife and my needs.
Another thing which has caused my list to change is where I’ve lived. When I lived in Colorado, I always kept a folding shovel in the car, in case I had to shovel snow. But I haven’t seen snow where I live in a number of years. So that shovel wouldn’t do me much good.The reason I’m mentioning this is that you shouldn’t just duplicate my list and call it good. Rather, you would be better served by taking my list as a starting point, and developing your own. Think through every item and decide what would work best for you. That way, you will have what you need, not what I need.