What to Pack in an EDC Bag: Essential Items, Tools, & Gear to Carry Every Day

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Life doesn’t happen according to a rigid timeline.

There’s no way to schedule that today you’ll have an uneventful day and tomorrow you’ll get into a car accident.

We take steps, every day, to mitigate potential issues we can’t predict.

Perhaps you have some gasoline stored for the long term.

Or, maybe you grabbed a few tourniquets and keep them in your car.

And you probably have a bug out bag which you can grab for instant preparedness in case of a sudden emergency.

A smaller EDC bag is a good way to carry everyday essentials with you as well as a small selection of emergency supplies you can use to survive every day, whether it’s a normal day or something disrupts your routine.

Read on to learn about carrying an EDC bag.

Or, skip ahead and check out the EDC contents list!

What Is an EDC Bag?

How to choose what to carry in EDC backpack
The 5.11 Tactical COVRT18 is an excellent EDC bag

An everyday carry bag is a backpack, briefcase, school bag, messenger bag, computer bag, purse, or another bag you bring with you almost wherever you go.

EDC bags shouldn’t be bulky, obnoxious hiking backpacks or tiny articles of fast fashion good for only a few items.

An EDC bag should be comfortable, durable, not too flashy (you don’t want to attract attention to it![1]), and large enough for you to comfortably carry your general day-to-day needs.

Concealed carry backpacks and purses tend to be good EDC bags even if you don’t carry a pistol for self defense.

My EDC bag is a 5.11 Tactical RUSH Delivery Lima that I basically use as a computer bag plus.

Let’s look at what that “plus” looks like, because it’s what separates an EDC bag from a normal bag.

What to Carry in Your EDC Bag

I’ve used an EDC bag for over a decade now.

Though the exact contents change from year to year, the general idea has stayed the same.

There are some essentials that never leave my bag (except to get used or restocked) and some optional items I may or may not keep in my bag.

My EDC Bag Contents Computer Pistol Tourniquet Medical Supplies Knife Flashlight
I stage time-sensitive medical supplies (tourniquet, QuikClot, chest seals, medical shears, CPR face shield, etc) so they can be accessed immediately

EDC Bag Essentials

The essential ingredients in your EDC bag comprise two categories:

  • Stuff necessary for your day-to-day life
  • Stuff you hope not to use but can make things easier or save your life if you don’t include them

The first category depends on your job.

I rely on my laptop for work so my computer and its various accessories are essential.

When I was in college, books and writing tools were essential.

You’ll have to make this determination yourself.

The other category is less about what you use every day and what you should carry despite not using these items every day.

This includes some common EDC tools such as knives and flashlights as well as medical supplies, such as a tourniquet, allergy medication, and other first-aid kit components.

Should I carry a flashlight in my EDC bag
A Klarus flashlight goes with me wherever I go

Multi-tools, lighters, a notepad and pen, and spare batteries are also excellent choices.

My essentials list also includes earplugs and a sleep mask (curse that sunlight when I’m trying to sleep).

Essential items should fall into the following criteria:

  • They have a use
  • You know how to use them
  • They can be stored in your bag without too much bulk
  • Life will suck if you don’t have the item with you

I also include some cash, a checkbook, a tube of chapstick, and a few too many bandanas as my “essentials.”

Some item for self-defense is also essential.

It doesn’t have to be a handgun. Even a whistle can improve your chances of surviving a violent attack.

But everybody should know how to defend themself and everybody should have some means of defending themself.

Optional EDC Bag Items

Optional gear to store in your EDC bag are items which you may need but you won’t be up the creek if you leave them behind.

A toothbrush and toothpaste falls into this category.

If you’re caught out of home in an emergency it won’t matter if you have to go a night or two without brushing your teeth.

Leave the toothbrush for the bugout bag!

Optional EDC supplies good gear you don't have to always carry
…unless you wear the solar charger on the outside of your EDC bag

Optional items might also include the gear you’d love to have with you but take up too much room to always carry, such as a solar charger.

Fit them in when you can but don’t worry too much about these items.

Optional EDC bag contents include items you might want to carry for recreation, such as a novel or Nintendo Switch.

On the other hand, carrying an EDC bag allows you to carry more non-essential gear than you can carry with your pockets alone.

I always keep a Ziplock bag with a hotel shampoo, conditioner, and soap bar in my EDC bag.

And, you know what?

I’ve had to use them before!

Rural and Urban EDC Bag Contents

Naturally, what you carry with you will change whether you live in a rural area or are a city dweller.

Odd EDC messenger bag gear breath mints strips fishing line rural urban differences
Fun fact: These are good at clearing your sinuses, too!

Some fishing hooks and fishing line take up almost no space but aren’t worth carrying if you live in the center of an urban area.

While you’re more likely to face off with the environment in a rural environment, your urban EDC bag contents should be chosen based on the fact that you’ll be interacting with more people.

This means that you may want to carry an N95 mask (or equivalent), hand sanitizer, pepper spray, decoy wallet, and a tactical pen (what is a “tactical pen”?).

Or just breath mints.

Coyotes don’t care about your breath!

EDC Bag Checklist

This checklist is based on the contents of my own EDC bag, along with some more ideas which may make sense for your situation:

  • Cell phoneVictorinox Huntsman good choice swiss army knife for EDC bag
  • Wallet
  • Keys
  • Extra cash
  • Checkbook
  • Flashlight
  • Pocket knife
  • Multi-tool
  • Lighter
  • Laptop and accessories
  • Notebook (Rite in the Rain is best)
  • Pen and/or pencil (our list of the best EDC pens)
  • Book (to read)
  • Marker
  • Tourniquet
  • Bandages
  • EMT shears
  • Chest seal
  • Allergy meds
  • Prescription meds
  • OTC meds (painkillers, anti-diarrheal, etc)
  • Other first-aid kit supplies
  • Small hygiene kit (soap, shampoo, nail clippers, etc)
  • Bandana(s)
    Example every day carry items bandana bandanna pen paper pencil tools
    So many bandanas
  • Earplugs
  • Sleep mask
  • Safety glasses
  • Change of clothes
  • Chapstick
  • Water bottle
  • Tissues
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Spare batteries
  • Cell phone battery pack
  • Bottle opener
  • Snacks
  • Paracord
  • Rain poncho
  • Spare socks
  • Self defense tools (handgun, tactical pen, pepper spray, etc)
  • Wilderness survival tools (fishing hooks, compass, mirror, flint & steel, etc)


Remember, an EDC kit should gear you up to take on whatever the day may throw at you without slowing you down the rest of the day.

And the medical supplies may not be for you.

EMTs take time to get to accidents when people are bleeding out. A bystander with a tourniquet can save a life[2].

Having a well-stocked EDC bag is not only satisfying but can also make a difference in your community.


What’s the Difference Between Bugout Bags, EDC Bags, and Go Bags?

There’s some confusion between these three terms.

A bug out bag is a bag you keep at home or in your car. It’s stocked with multiple day’s worth of gear so you can grab it and be immediately prepared to survive off-the-grid for several days.

A Go Bag is a small bag filled with specialized contents so you can jump into action. Often, this means a weapon, ammunition, and medical supplies, so you can respond to an active shooter or to a mass casualty event[3].

An EDC bag is a comfortable pack you wear every day that carries all the essentials of day-to-day life along with a limited selection of emergency gear.


  1. https://concealednation.org/2017/01/the-grey-man-concept-and-clothing-choice/
  2. https://www.facs.org/media/press-releases/2018/tourniquet040418
  3. https://www.officer.com/on-the-street/body-armor-protection/article/10842737/the-basic-police-gobag

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