An Every Day Carry Kit, or EDC, is comprised of the everyday carry gear, including emergency essentials, that you might need to face challenges or dangers, that come between you and home. In the strictest sense, we all take an EDC kit with us each day. Our wallet or purse, keys, money, cell phone; these are the things we've decided we need each day to ensure that we can do what we need to do and get home safely. But is it everything you need?
Identifying Your Everyday Carry Gear Needs
If only we knew exactly what situations we would face on a given day, we would never leave our house unprepared. There are no warnings given for disasters. You have to try to anticipate your needs before they arrive. Your daily routine can give you some ideas about the types of situations for which you need to be prepared.
Where do you live? Do you live in an urban, suburban, or country community? Or do you live so far out in the boonies that, without a four-wheel-drive truck, you'd need a 72-hour pack to make it home alive?
Work environment? You may live in a gated community but work in a dangerous part of town. Consider where you'll be spending time, especially outside of your car, as a part of determining likely risk.
Long commute? People who commute long distances have a higher likelihood of certain challenges like car trouble, or dangers such as car accidents.
Responsible for others? If you often have children with you, you may need to consider their needs as a part of you every day carry gear.
Unique medical needs? Do you suffer from a food allergy, bee allergy, asthma, high blood pressure or diabetes? Rescue medications like back up inhalers, epi-pens, blood pressure medicine, insulin, and needles would need to be a part of every kit you prepare.
Assessing What Challenges or Dangers You Are Likely to Face?
There are three types of scenarios for which you need to be prepared.
Challenges: common situations like a flat tire or a dark parking lot, a power outage; things that won't kill you, but a little preparation goes a long way toward making things easier.
Threats: a personal attack, car accident, injury, or an opportunity to help another person with one of these scenarios.
Catastrophes: Terrorist attack, natural disaster, rioting, getting lost or breaking down way out in the wilderness, anything that results in a major disruption to routine, or makes it necessary for you to survive on your own, at least for a time.
You know your routine. Only you can identify your unique needs and likely threats. It's important to be prepared, but if you try to prepare for every single emergency that could ever arise, you could end up with an EDC kit that's so enormous you never have it with you. The very best everyday carry gear is the gear you actually have on you when the need arises.
The Difference Between an EDC, a GHB, and a Bug Out Bag
If your initial instinct is to over-prepare, relax. At least you're on the right track. There are several types of emergency kits that are valuable to have around, and they all serve slightly different purposes. A Get Home Bag, or GHB, carries a little more equipment than you would want to carry on your person and is designed to do exactly what the name implies, get you home. Another type of emergency kit, called a Bug Out Bag, or BOB, and is as much as you can carry (within reason) and is designed to give you everything you need to survive up to a week. The weight limit recommendation for a Bug Out Bag is 1/3 of a man's body weight and 1/4 of a woman's.
Preparing for eventualities with all three of these types of kits in mind can allow you to prepare efficiently and give you ultimate peace of mind. You could think of it this way: Your everyday carry gear is designed to get you to your Get Home Bag. Your GHB is designed to get you to your Bug Out Bag. And your BOB is designed to support you through a minimum of a week in the wilderness, should the need arise. Best case scenario, you never need a GHB or a BOB, but it's nice to have them. An EDC kit, however, you are almost certain to need at least a couple of times a year.
What To Carry In Your Every Day Carry Kit
There are many recommended items that you might want to carry as a part of your EDC kit. Based on the risk assessment that you've already performed, you'll need to choose the items that best help you meet those needs.
Must Have Items:
Self Defense - a knife, box cutter, credit card knife, tactical pen – any item that you can use to defend yourself.
Fire – Lighter – windproof is best, waterproof matches, fire starting kit. Depending on the size of the kit you're creating, you can choose the size. But at a minimum, you should have at least one way to start a fire.
Light – Flashlight – You may end up with several different light sources, stored in different places, and in different kits. But you should always have some source of light on you at all times. If nothing else, a mini flashlight on your key chain is a must.
Compass – this could easily be incorporated with an analog watch, rather than as a separate piece of equipment. What you can't count as a compass is the GPS in your cell phone. In the event of infrastructure failure, one of the first things you'll lose is your cell service. You need an old fashioned, magnetic compass, either integrated into your analog watch, or by itself.
Cordage – a box of unflavored floss, a paracord bracelet, a bundle of paracord, or even replacing your shoelaces with paracord – too many situations will require some type of cordage. Don't be without it.
Shelter – Mylar blankets are the easiest and lightest choice for very small kits. As you develop larger, more advanced GHBs, or BOBs, you can incorporate better shelter. But a Mylar blanket or two will go a long way in a pinch.
First Aid Kit – This can be as simple as a few bandaids, a couple of alcohol pads, and some antibiotic, or as evolved as a full fledged First Aid Kit, complete with a defibrillator. Consider the other kits you're preparing, and carry what you think you'll need. First aid items you may want to consider, even for a small kit, include: band aids, bandages, alcohol, antibiotic, antacids, ibuprofen or acetaminophen, and certainly must include any personal rescue medications.
Food – or more correctly, a way to get food. At a minimum, a couple of fishing hooks in your daily wear hat, or folded into a piece of aluminum foil in your wallet, or a small medicine bottle full of supplies, you choose. These can be combined with your floss for fishing line.
Cash – You should always have at least some cash that is for emergency use only. It's probably a good idea to store it separately from your normal funds.
Should Have Items:
Items you should incorporate into your everyday carry gear, if you can. If necessary, use this list to begin putting together a Get Home Bag.
Small pill bottle filled with Vaseline - Vaseline (or any petroleum based jelly) has variety of uses including treating chapped lips and hands, cuts and scrapes, and for use as a fire accelerant
Cotton balls - first aid uses and as tinder for starting a fire
Weatherproof matches or Fire Striker
Battery – at least AA size. Maybe you already have one in your flashlight, but carry spares if at all possible. They come in handy for other things, too, like starting fires.
Small wire saw – This can be included as part of a credit card size multi-tool, to cut down on the amount of gear you have to carry.
Fishing supplies – a couple of fishing hooks in your daily wear hat, or folded into a piece of aluminum foil in your wallet, or a small medicine bottle full of supplies, you choose.
Food - hard candies, a bullion cube, anything to give you calories and a morale boost. The more the better, within reason.
Water purification – Whether tablets or a filtration system, something to get you clean water in a pinch. There are straw sized filtration systems.
Multi-tool – either full sized, or a credit card multi-tool that you carry in your wallet.
Whistle – For signaling, scaring away wild animals, or human attackers
Super Glue – comes in mini tubes and can serve a variety of purposes, including minor repairs, first aid, and as a fire accelerant.
Nice to Have Items:
A few things that it would be nice to have, if you can fit it in. If it won't fit in your everyday carry gear, this could be the beginnings of a great Get Home Bag.
Small address book – in the event that you lose the use of your cell phone, you'll need the emergency contact information for those closest to you. Include in it, any other information you might have difficulty calling to mind under stressful situations.
Shoes – a spare pair, in case you have to walk a long way. Hiking boots would be preferable. This is especially important for women, who might be wearing heels when they discover the need to walk.
Larger knife or weapon – Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.
Bright Yellow Poncho – good for weather protection and easier to spot.
Stainless steel water bottle or thermos – This can also be used as your kit container, as a weapon, or just to keep some water in.
Food – One or more high calorie energy bars or protein bars, enough to get you through a few hours of stress, at least.
Finding The Right Container For Your EDC Kit
Once you've assessed your needs, and chosen the items you can and will carry on you every day, it's time to figure out how to carry it. There are a couple of ways to go. The typical method is to get a small container and fit your gear inside. You'll need to choose a container size based on how you'll be carrying your kit. If you have a briefcase or purse, you can accommodate a larger size. If it must go in your pocket, you'll have to use a smaller container and be more creative in the way you carry anything that doesn't fit.
Metal box – If you can find something metal that fits your needs, a metal container is optimal. It will hold its shape and maintain a water tight seal better than some plastic containers. If necessary, you could also use it to cook with. Altoids tins are a popular choice, especially for an in-your-pocket EDC kit, though it is limiting in its size.
Plastic – The advantage of a plastic container is how easy it can be to find one in a size that fits your needs. Rubbermaid style containers come in a variety of sizes and are inexpensive. The downside is the lid can sometimes be too easy to remove; you may have to seal it with some duct tape.
Organization pack - Commercial EDC organizational packs are available in a number of sizes, designed specifically to help you organize your essential Every Day Carry Gear.
Wearing your gear – You can distribute your gear throughout your clothing, using cargo pants pockets, your hat, key ring, wallet, a chain or lanyard, etc. Women are at a distinct advantage because they are expected to carry a purse, and by simply carrying a slightly larger one they can accommodate many more items with little trouble. Men can improve their carrying abilities, depending on their work dress code, by wearing cargo pants with a number of pockets, or carrying a briefcase or small backpack with them to work. (Maybe now is the time to consider purchasing that ultra trendy man purse you've been secretly eyeing.)
Self-Contained Kit - Your container could also be a part of your kit. A thermos or metal container that can be used for cooking, etc. The only downside to this container is that you still have to figure out how to carry it with you every day.
The Best EDC Kit
There's what you should carry, and then there's what you will carry. The very best Every Day Carry kit is the one you have with you when you need it, and includes the knowledge to use the gear you've carried. All the preparation in the world doesn't do you any good, if you don't have your gear or don't know how to use it. So be realistic in your risk assessment, practical in your kit assembly (remember you can assemble a GHB and BOB, as well, you don't have to carry everything every minute), learn to use the items you've chosen, and be faithful in carrying your Every Day Carry Gear, every day!