Lots of people make Every Day Carry (EDC for short) videos on YouTube, post pictures, write articles, etc. For people that are into this it’s pretty straightforward that you never know what life throws at you and you’re often going to be caught with only your skills, intelligence, and whatever is in your pockets. For those that aren’t into this, see previous sentence as to why we are…
“Be Prepared” is the Boy Scouts of America’s motto. I was in the scouts for a long time and earned my Eagle Scout at the youngest possible age. My wife might say I took this to heart too much and I’d probably say just enough. That said, this is heavily slanted by that and other life experiences like travelling all over the world since I was 8. Many people don’t have the skills for this stuff to be useful or by luck or otherwise haven’t been in a situation to realize the value of having it. Others might constrain their life to not ever require self assistance. I make the trade to have a lot of capabilities by combining knowledge and tools, at the cost of carrying a bit sometimes and a lot of work and practice with skill building.
“Two is one and one is none”… not sure who said it first but everyone from the Marine Corps to Forbes likes to quote it. You’ll see this theme that I double down on all the essentials, I’m not going full NASA but it’s good to think about backups for things you consider important. I also try to not just straight duplicate but incorporate some additional capabilities with the spare since I will likely have both…
When I was young every grown man carried a hankerchief, not sure which generation stopped doing this but it’s a habit I picked back up. I use it to wipe off my daughters hands/face/whatever when I don’t have wipes with me (kids are super messy…), I used to blow my nose (nothing more embarrassing than being in a meeting you can’t leave without a Kleenex and mucus running down your face. The nice thing is it also has all these ancillary emergency features also like bandage, tourniquet, etc.
It’s so crazy to me that most people don’t carry flashlights in our modern world. I always hear that my phone has a flashlight but then I routinely hear that hey my phone battery is almost dead, the flashlight burns through a phone battery pretty quick… Flashlight technology has progressed so much in just the last 5 years even that it’s basically free to always have a flashlight with you that lasts a very long time and has good beam quality. I carry a Streamlight Nano on my keychain which is about 10 USD at time of writing, is super tiny, waterproof, lasts 8 hours on a single set of batteries that you can replace at basically in drug store (in the USA at least). I also carry a Foursevens Preon 2 which uses two AAA batteries that are easily found anywhere in the world and on high mode kicks out a crazy 192 lumens from a little pen light. I’ve used these two lights looking for things under car seats, find my keys I dropped under the car, finding the breaker box when the power kicks off, etc. flashlights are just plain useful…
I started wearing a watch again after yet another trip to the beach where I found I no one had a watch (or a waterproof phone) with them and we actually had to be somewhere. One of us had to keep going and checking a phone to see what time it was. I found this really funny because it’s a problem I just didn’t have before smart phones because EVERYONE had a watch (probably not everyone but most people so if you forgot yours it wasn’t a big deal). I’m currently sporting a Citizen Promaster Air which is sweet because it’s EcoDrive (i.e. never needs a new battery) and also has a slide rule in the bezel (which albeit isn’t necessary is really neat and does in fact do math on the off chance my phone was dead and I really needed to multiply something…). I have found that since I started wearing a watch I look at my watch even when my phone is with me and easy to get to. I’ll even set a timer on it instead of my phone just because its quicker and easier. I’m not really sure when or why I stopped wearing a watch but I’m definitely glad I’m back on the wagon.
Having pen and paper is severely under-rated in my opinion. I started carry this again the day I was at a work event and went to add someone to LinkedIn but then my phone battery died. He didn’t have a business card and I actually never got his contact info. Granted if it was a super important lead I would probably have found a way to get in touch but it made me realize how functional having a little bit of pen and paper with me was. Now I always have a small pad (some paper removed for easier carry) of Rite n Rain paper which is nice because it won’t disintegrate when you get a drink knocked over on it. I carry a cheap hotel pen that I don’t mind leaving on the table after I sign a check or forget to get back after lending to someone. I also carry either a Mini Fisher Space Pen or a Fisher Bullet Space Pen that writes in basically any condition.
I don’t smoke anymore but when I did I found that having a lighter on me was actually really useful! Not just lighting a cigarette; but setting off fireworks, lighting candles, burning threads off a sweater, melting 550 ends, etc. I personally carry a mini BIC lighter on me and a slim Zippo in my bag with some small bike intertube around the lid to keep the fuel from evaporating so quickly. The thing about a Zippo is that if you do find yourself out of fuel you can basically fill it with anything layer around – rubbing alcohol, charcoal lighter fluid, gasoline/petrol/diesel/kerosine, lamp oil, whiseky/vodka. I’ve also carried a mini-BIC lighter which is a little more dependable for basic lighting but less versatile in the long run so its a bit of a trade off. I also carry a tiny little fero rod but I admit that’s probably a bit overkill when I’m not out in the woods camping. I read an interview with a native american chief where he was asked what the greatest invention the white man brought and his answer was the wooden match, I sometimes wonder how it would explode his mind to see the excellent, cheap, widely available options we have for fire making today…and the fact that almost no one actually ever has one with them.
Knife and/or Multitool
I got my first knife from the souvenir shop at Mammoth Caves when I was 7, that’s a big deal for a Kentucky kid, it’s like you’re half way to manhood. I promptly took it to show and tell at school, no knives weren’t allowed in school back then either; but people weren’t crazy and it was Kentucky so the teacher just let me show it and said she’d keep it in her desk and return it when I headed home (or maybe mom and dad had to come pick it up, I honestly don’t remember). All in it really wasn’t a big deal and surprise no one got hurt, but then again it was Kentucky where, at least at the time, all kids knew what to and NOT to do with knives. I’ve pretty much carried a knife with at least some frequency since then. I’ve done a lot of camping in my life, camping you use a knife to prepare food, cut firewood, make tools (skewers, pot lifters, etc.) most people are pretty familiar with all those uses. There are several other places I’ve found a lot of use carrying a knife. My Grandparents have a small farm in Kentucky so I spent a lot of time as a child out and about on a farm. On a farm you will often find yourself opening a feed bag, cutting rope, etc. pretty far from a house or even a car that has a cutting tool so carrying a knife (better yet a multitool) is really convenient and saves a lot of back and fourth grabbing things, or trying to plan ahead on exactly what you need all the time. My parents liked to move a lot so I spent a lot of time in my adolescence working on houses. Working on houses I used a knife to strip wires, open paint cans, cut tape, cut caulk, open caulk, etc. Knives can also be good for defense but this is always a last resort and should really be avoided at all costs. Granted, right now, I don’t live in a dangerous place, I don’t spend a lot of time on at the farm, I’m not working on any houses, and I’m obviously not always camping – but all the years of carrying and using knives has turned a knife into an extra finger almost. It’s weird not having it, if I’m around the house and don’t have it I find I still reach for it. While not strictly necessary most the time, I could use keys to open a package, wander around finding a scissors or a steak knife to cut some packaging. I COULD start my fire place with a friction fire and hand make all my own shoes, I don’t because there are much easier ways… That’s mostly the reason I always carry a knife is that it’s just useful and easier in my experience. The multi tool just kicks that up a notch because it adds pliers, scissors, and screwdrivers to the mix.
Currently I carry a Victorinox Waiter for cutting food, opening wine, opening cans, as a backup knife and a Spyderco Tenacious Combo Edge as a beater for all the standard cutting tasks. I also carry a Leatherman Syle PS on my keychain which provides small scissors and pliers and is also TSA allowed on planes…
When I’m camping I carry an ESEE-5 for cutting wood and such, ESEE Izula Stainless for camp tasks, cutting food or small carving. And a Leatherman Surge for pliers, screwdrivers, and such but I’ll sometimes drop to my Leatherman Wave if I’m really worried about weight. My wife will often carry her Leatherman Skeletool CX which is even lighter but not nearly as strong.
As with anything there are sets of trade offs. It’s all about what you’re familiar and comfortable with and willing to carry around (mostly a size and weight concern).
Non-Essential but useful
This is honestly almost on the essential list nowadays. I mostly use this to take documents or photos to be printed. I also keep a ton of reference material on it and will sometimes use to randomly swap files with someone or move something to another computer (like a network driver when it can’t get on the internet). I carry a Kingston SE-9 and it’s USB 3.0 cousin (I have two because they have two different file systems on them, if you’re not in computer work one is probably fine).
I had a spare pen slot and through an Industrial Sharpie in, it actually might get used more than the pen. If I had to cut one I’d cut this and keep the pen but I do use it a lot…
I see a lot of guys wearing these paracord bracelets and it’s always the same story – how much is in that (I don’t know), every used one (no). It’s also hard to get at, you’re not going to whip it out to make a quick leash for a neighborhood dog that got out (something that I seem to do pretty often). I carry two pieces of 550 paracord, one wadded up in my back pocket (1-2 meters depending on the day) and a smaller piece (0.5 -1 meter) braided on my key ring. I like hanks that I put there because I always use them, I think absolutely nothing of cutting a piece off to tie a lanyard on a knife or tie the bow on the Christmas tree (those are just the two things I did lately). Eventually it gets short enough and I just get a new piece. Since the barrier for entry is low (i.e. I’m not having to destroy a bracelet) it actually gets used and makes it all the more useful. If you have a bracelet then at least you’re carrying rope which puts you ahead of almost everyone but for me personally I like loose rope.
I started carrying a small metal pry called the Pocket Wrench 2.0 bar that doubles as small wrench and a bit driver (I also carry a double end 3D phillips bit). This is new so I’m not sure how often I’ll use it but it seems pretty cool.
I carry a small 14mm button compass, it may or may not be useful but when you get turned around in a foreign city with buildings too tall for GPS to work it helps. Alternatively you can probably ask people where to go…
Spare Flashlight Batteries
I keep a couple spare AAA’s in an empty pen slot on my wallet which isn’t strictly necessary but I’ve got the space.
I keep my keys on a real climbing carabiner that I took off a Black Diamond Quickdraw, I like having a climbing one because it can hold an insane amount of weight and/or force if needed. That said, I mostly just like have a carabiner because it’s really nice to be able to quickly hook things up, like my water bottle or my backpack on a rack, my wife’s keys onto mine (she has the other carabiner from the draw…).