By Anthony Yeary
When you leave your home, what do you have in your pockets? In your purse? Do you have a bunch of random stuff or garbage? Or do you have useful things that can get you through everything from inconveniences to real emergencies? An Everyday Carry Philosophy (E.D.C.) is the thought and value that you place on the items and tools you carry on your person when you’re away from home. Your personal E.D.C. usually fits into one of these four categories: occupation based, health based, emergency based and survival based.
Occupation-based E.D.C. revolves around your job. It’s when you choose to carry things that help you complete your work (which oftentimes is still on you on your days off). An electrician is guaranteed to have different things on them than a medical doctor, soldier or cosmetologist would. Health-based E.D.C. generally applies to the elderly, handicapped or the health conscious. It’s having your medications, supplements or other necessary equipment maintained or at hand. Those who are big into physical fitness may have workout clothes always at the ready, or may invest in a Fitbit or other fitness tracking tools.
Emergency-based and survival-based E.D.C. are similar, but different. Emergency-based E.D.C. generally revolves around personal protection from human threats. Survival-based E.D.C. generally revolves around preparedness from other-than-human threats like natural or man-made disasters or being stranded. Sometimes these two categories overlap, but the same could be said about all four. Nevertheless, everyone tends to focus heavily on one area, sometimes allowing that mindset to spread to the other categories as well.
Remember that E.D.C. philosophies also extend to other things in your life. For example, you’ll keep things at the ready in your vehicle, desk and home. When you reach a level of readiness through your own E.D.C. philosophy, you’ll find that friends and family members will always come to you first when they’re not prepared. They’ll ask you for a knife, flash light, pliers, a lighter, et cetera. And if it really hits the fan, you may find that YOU’RE the one they go to for help. Let’s go over some of the items and tools that you may want to consider for your own E.D.C. philosophy development. But beware, although I don’t like to, I will be forced to use the word “tactical” more than I would like!
Deep thought on everyday carry generally begins with the knife. As mankind’s oldest tool, the knife has unlimited uses and is put to work on a daily basis. Although typical folding jack knives are very useful, over the last 20 years the tactical knife has become the knife of choice for most men. This is because of the tactical knife’s dual usefulness. A tactical knife makes for a practical tool that you can use every day and as a defensive weapon, should the need unfortunately arise. This defensive application is the main reason why the tactical knife is so popular and has outshone the small jack knife and the large folding knives made popular by manufacturers like Buck.
A tactical knife is two worlds in one. It is a great defensive knife, but maybe not as capable as a larger, fixed-blade knife. It’s a great tool, but maybe a little large for some jobs that require a smaller blade, like those found in multi-tools. You sacrifice capability in those two areas to have a well-rounded package that is convenient to carry every day. Tactical knives have several features that make them stand out as a good defensive tool: ergonomics that keep the knife in a solid fighting grip, pocket clips that allow for quick knife draw, quick blade deployment features (like a spring assist or gravity assist), durable/rugged build and they fold up for convenient carrying.
When you begin developing your E.D.C. philosophy, begin by looking into a good blade. A tactical knife is the best all-around choice, but there are endless designs if that isn’t the best option for you. The pocket-sized knife is always getting upgraded, so if something new and practical comes out, feel free to change up, if it’s worth it. Isn’t that amazing? The world’s oldest tool and IT’S STILL evolving!
Multi-tools and forms of Swiss Army knives can be the most versatile tools you carry every day. Aside from the knives, especially useful are multi-tools that have screwdrivers, tweezers and pliers. Here’s a point to consider though: lots of people purchase the full size models as they see them as the most capable. It seems to make sense, as the larger the tool, the more tools it has and therefore the more capable it is. The problem with this logic chain is that most people will not want to actually carry the large, full-size Leatherman on them every day. They’re bulky and usually require a belt sheath.
My suggestion is to buy a pocket-sized multi-tool instead. I’ve been carrying a Bear Grylls Compact Multi-Tool for around three years now and I love it. It has 10 different tools and it fits in the watch pocket of my jeans. Its smaller size does mean less capability, but I use it in some way practically every day and it’s always in my pocket when I need it. That’s quite the opposite of my larger multi-tool, which I eventually relegated to the trunk of my car. There, it’ll end up seeing more use than it would in my toolbox or dresser drawer.
I can hear the eyebrows rise already. Why would anyone need to carry a flashlight on them every day, especially if you work during the day? My answer is that you simply wouldn’t believe how often you’ll use a flashlight once you begin carrying one! I started carrying a tactical flashlight after I started carrying a concealed handgun regularly. At the time, I was awake at night more than day, so it made for a common sense tool to have in conjunction with a firearm (always know your target after all). As it happened, I found that I used it daily, even during the daytime.
Like a tactical knife, a tactical flashlight may be your best and most versatile bet. But I urge you to purchase a good quality one! My Streamlight is by far the best flashlight I’ve ever owned. It is very durable, LED, powered by a pair of lithium batteries, has a lanyard attachment, well-designed belt clip, glass lens, a proper end-cap momentary power button and has three settings: low beam, high beam and strobe. For everyday purposes, the low beam is more than enough to do any job. In a defensive situation, the high beam is simply blinding and the strobe setting is extremely disorienting. Although there are many pocket flashlight designs, I strongly recommend a light that has those features (or at least most of them).
A pen is a great item to have on you at all times. That and a notebook, if you have the space on your person. I, for one, have a wretched short-term memory and I’m constantly writing things down so that I don’t forget. There is a way, though, that you can carry a pen and have self-defense in mind. Tactical pens fill that need. A tactical pen is, at its core ,a writing utensil, but it’s also a covert defensive weapon similar to a kubotan. They are made ruggedly, almost indestructibly, so that they can be used as a striking weapon, fist-load weapon, or a tool to apply control over an attacker’s pressure points. Some have other features, such as a glass-breaker, just in case of non-human emergencies. Also, if you carry a notebook, you may want to consider waterproof notebooks that you can find in the outdoors department of your local store.
It’s unfortunate, but as cell phones have become completely commonplace, the wristwatch has gone the way of the horse. Or at least, it would completely if they weren’t still seen as a fashion accessories and signs of hard work and maturity. Fashion and image aside, a watch should factor into your E.D.C. philosophy for reasons you may not have considered. What if your phone’s battery dies or you lose or break it? What if you need a compass? Any analog watch can be used as one as long as you can see the sun and are standing in the northern hemisphere. Watches can have functions other than time, like tachymeters, pulsometers, telemeters, Greenwich Mean Time bezels and even slide rule bezels for complicated mathematical computations.
Consider watches that fit the military watch category, for instance. My Timex Traditional is a military style watch that has standard time and 24-hour military time, is water proof, has a glass lens, a nickel-plated brass housing, glow-in-the-dark hands, Indiglo illumination, day and date and a functional 0-60 diver’s scale. For a $65 watch, it’s pretty damn good. As long as it’s practical, feel free to spend more on a higher end watch if you prefer. Also, consider watches that you need to wind yourself, ones that have self-winding mechanisms or solar powered models. This way you don’t have to worry about batteries if everything in the world hits the fan.
Having the ability to start a fire at all times may prove useful. Many methods of fire starting are just not practical to carry on a normal day, so a lighter is the best all-around option. Obviously, smokers don’t have to worry as they have their lighters on them at all times (unless they’re bums who always need to borrow a light and sometimes run off with yours!). Non-smokers have to put more thought into what they carry. For instance, a smoker is well served by the traditional Zippo wick lighter or a butane model. As a non-smoker, you may just want to carry a disposable Bic lighter (or an off-brand). The reason is that Zippos and butane torch lighters require maintenance and need to be refueled regularly. If you fill a Zippo and expect it to work a month later, you’ll find that all you get is spark. A smoker doesn’t have to worry, as they are compelled to continue refilling the tool on a regular basis. Smokers can take advantage of these high quality lighters, whereas the non-smoker should just carry a lower quality one like the Bic. What Bics lack in quality, they more than make up for in their low cost and dependability. They will always work when you need them, since they take forever to run empty.
Paracord is almost never needed on a normal day in civilization and having it at hand may seem like an unnecessary waste of space. However as you can carry paracord as a bracelet, keychain or other form, there are less and less excuses to not have some on your person somewhere. Paracord bracelets can have other uses, depending on how they’re made. Some bracelets have built-in compasses, whistles and even fire-starting tools. Paracord key chains can even have a heavy steel ball bearing stitched in to make a “hide-in-plain-sight” weapon, similar to a lead sap that is often called a “monkey fist”. I would urge you to find a way that paracord can be carried daily in a way that serves you well, or serves some other preparedness function so that you’ll have it when you need it.
This is a topic that I won’t get too deeply into, as it needs its own article to convey the proper amount of detail. Just know that our civil rights of firearm ownership and self-defense are being restored slowly with every passing year and almost all places in our country allow for the open or concealed carriage of a firearm. With the very real threat of a mugger, rapist, murder, active shooter/spree killer and, yes, terrorist attack in your town, adding a handgun to your personal preparedness plan is not paranoid; it’s prudent. With the millions of known legal concealed carriers in our nation (not counting the constitutional-carry states), you will not be alone in this practice.
Remember that with carrying a gun comes carrying other equipment, too. Begin with an appropriate holster that works for you, AND a sturdy pistol belt. They make them in many styles, including business casual and dress, so there really is no excuse for not buying one. You will also want to carry reloads, so a magazine or speedloader carrier may be necessary. Finally, and I can’t stress this enough, pursue education on using and carrying a firearm responsibly. There are many classes available to you, as well as videos, books and possibly even experienced friends and family members to help you.
If carrying a firearm or knife is not an option or preference, there are less-than-lethal defensive tools available to you. Chemical sprays and electrical weapons, like stun guns and Tasers, may be what you are looking for. Chemical sprays are widely available and affordable, just remember that they are not always effective and have disadvantages of their own. Electrical weapons may also be legally controlled where you live, so learn the law before you make up your mind. Electrical weapons also have their share of disadvantages; just remember that choosing a self-defense tool is all about balancing the good with the bad. Ultimately, whether it’s a gun, pepper spray or Taser, you just have to find the right balance that works best for you.
I’ve covered a lot of items for survival, self-defense and general preparedness, but remember that there are other things, too. Your wallet can be better optimized for preparedness, beginning with always having around $50 cash in it. For those who carry a purse, your capability increases with the extra real-estate to carry things, but remember to keep the clutter down so you can find your stuff when you need it. If you don’t want to carry a purse, you can substitute with a fanny pack and if you don’t want to wear one of those, I don’t really blame you. Your cell phone is also an obviously indispensable tool when it works, and your key ring can be enhanced, also: think bottle opener, p-38 can opener, jack knife, kubotan or flashdrive. Check out flashdrives made by Gorilla; they’re built to be virtually indestructible. If you require medications, keep them updated and on you too.
If you feel the initiative, you may want to consider constructing a pill-bottle survival kit (sometimes called a “go-tube”) or an Altoids survival kit. I may discuss these in further detail in a later article, but in the meantime do the next best thing and do a Google search. Either kit is made using an empty pill bottle or Altoids tin and filling it with items such as matches, candles, bandages, safety pins, paracord, fishing line, hooks or whatever. This way you have a small survival kit made on the cheap that you can easily carry with you.
Most people have at least a rudimentary E.D.C. philosophy once they start working their first job or get their first car. Advanced E.D.C. occurs when you actually start to critically think about it. Remember to keep your occupation in mind, the region you live in, local laws, your state of health and level of training. Bear in mind that magnesium fire-starters, jumper cables or firearms are useless if you don’t know how to use them, but just because you don’t know doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn. Also, your E.D.C. will evolve with time; what you think is good this month will change next month through the process of trial and error. That’s a good thing though, as one is rarely right the first time and situations change often. Good luck and happy experimenting!
Anthony Yeary served his country in the U.S. Air Force and is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.