Beginner’s Guide to Everyday Carry (EDC)

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Every Day Carry (EDC) is something we’re really passionate about, and for good reason!

Whether you’re looking ahead to being prepared for a SHTF moment or simply want to be better prepared every day of your life, consciously focusing on EDC can make all the difference.

Especially if you ever find yourself in an emergency or a life-and-death scenario.

While a topic like this can sound intimidating, it really all comes down to some basic preparation and research.

A little bit of planning goes a long way!

So, Just What Is EDC?

What is EDC everyday carry what should you bring with you daily
Will your EDC kit include a bow tie?

As stated earlier, EDC is short for Every Day Carry, and this will definitely mean different things for different people.

While it’s a popular acronym in both the prepper and the survivalist communities, the individual items that are EDC are going to differ a lot depending on situation.

In a simple way:

EDC items are those you won’t leave home without.

In modern society, car keys, wallets or purses, and cell phones would be EDC items as most people carry those with them everywhere.

When used in in the survival/prepper communities, this refers to a conscious decision to carry certain items that can help in emergency or survival situations.

This also has a strong connotation when it comes to concealed carry for firearms as well as understanding local knife laws both in rural and urban areas.

Read Also: How to Scout Carry a Knife

Why Does EDC Matter?

There are many things that can happen to people no matter where they are.

No hikers plan on getting lost and dying in the wilderness but it happens hundreds of times a year to experienced hikers[1].

No one plans on having a severe bleeding injury, but it happens and there are hundreds if not thousands of accidents or crimes every year where a little preparedness and first aid on site could have changed a tragic event into one with at least a living victim at the end.

EDC is all about being prepared.

While in your ideal situation you have a wilderness survival kit in the wild (or a well-stocked isolated cabin if you believe in preparing for societal collapse type scenarios), while living everyday life you generally can’t be as prepared as you want.Hatchet Buck Knife Pocket Knife Pic be smart about carrying in the city

If I could carry my trusted Buck Knife and hatchet everywhere I walked I would, but since I currently live in a city with a really uptight police force…not a smart idea.

These small kits are about being prepared – but maybe even more importantly, they help teach you how to think about possible situations you’ll be in and be more aware of potential dangers.

In the long-term this is a crucial skill you can apply to other areas in life, as well.

In other words, the benefits go beyond “just” being prepared.

General EDC “Rules”

These aren’t rules so much as guidelines. Rules of thumb, so to speak.

There isn’t necessarily a single right way or wrong way to approach EDC, but there are some basics that everyone should start with before adapting the rest to their very specific situations and specific potential needs.

Start with these thoughts:

  • What can you easily carry on your person?
  • What can you easily carry along in a backpack?
  • What small items have multiple potential uses?
  • What helps you solve common problems?
  • What could help you solve potential emergency issues?
  • What can protect you from threats?
  • Is everything you’re including easy to carry?

These are important building blocks.

If you can’t carry it easily on yourself or with a simple backpack you can throw in the car or over the shoulder, you’re not going to consistently carry it around.

5.11Tactical RUSH12 Military Backpack Molle Bag Rucksack Pack for EDC
This bag may be too large for some people’s EDC and too small for other people

Some people would argue that a full sized backpack is too much and hits bug out bag or full emergency kit level, which they might have a point[2].

Between survival kits, caches, bug out bags, and EDC kits, EDC should by far and away be the most practical.

It’s meant for everyday support and giving some protection from threats and a bit of an edge in an emergency – it’s not the end-all, be-all solution to these issues.

Think of this like first aid for being prepared.

First aid kits aren’t there to cure severe life-threatening lacerations, bruised organs, or broken bones. This is literally the “first” aid given so the victim has a fighting chance until full professional help can be had.

The Modern EDC Basics

The following items should be considered slam dunks, and a cornerstone for EDC in modern day life. They are easy to carry, often necessary for everyday activities, and can serve versatile functions.

#1: Mobile Phone

Pretty much everyone carries a mobile phone with them nowadays and there’s a lot of reasons not to like this, and there are valid reasons to argue that in an apocalyptic situation that phones should be ditched.

But for everyday use, a charged phone can contact help, pictures can be taken and sent to help a search party, and the number of people killed from hunting or camping accidents has dropped dramatically because of the ability to call emergency services immediately.

As much as I hate carrying a cell phone, it’s an obvious EDC choice in the modern world.

#2: Multi-Tool

While nothing reassures me quite like my trusty pocket knife (more on that further down the article), a really good multi-tool should be a must.LEATHERMAN Surge Heavy Duty Multitool Wire Cutters Scissors Sheath EDC tool

Having pliers, a small saw, knife blade, cork screw, and screwdriver all in one makes this versatile tool a no-brainer.

But spend the money on a real quality one like the Surge from Leatherman or the Gerber Suspension Multi-Plier.

A multi-tool not only helps deal with situations you can imagine, but also makes sure you’re prepared with tools for problems you might not have even thought of yet.

#3: Lanyard for Your Keys

Why does the lanyard matter?

Because when used properly, the rings at the end allow you to not only have your keys, but you can also hitch on your multi-tools, emergency whistle, fire starter, mini-flashlight, or whatever else you want attached.

#4: Paracord Bracelet

Some people might consider this only important with people in wilderness survival situations, put the truth is that paracord is ridiculously versatile.

There are tons of articles online about the hundreds of potential uses of paracord, and as a bracelet it’s easy enough to carry along without any inconvenience.Paracord survival emergency bracelet rope cordage with compass

Paracord bracelets can be designed to carry many outstanding small pieces of equipment with in them. Take a look at the Friendly Swede Survival Bracelet for an example of that.

Other models include a compass.

Even if you just have the plain paracord bracelet, this provides all the rope you need for almost any type of situation.

Whether needing some basic rope to tie things, using it to secure a splint in a first aid emergency, or even jerry-rigging something together – a paracord bracelet is a must for EDC, in my opinion.

#5: Pocket Knife

I won’t go anywhere without my pocket knife unless there’s absolutely no way (such as getting on a plane and flying).

This is a great tool, it is useful for self-defense, and frankly there’s a reason that a knife is the top pick for survival gear.

While maybe more useful in wilderness situations, I still am a huge fan of what these bring to the table.

That being said, scroll down to the bottom legal notes for a little bit more on things you need to take into consideration when carrying a pocket knife.

Specific Situations Matter for EDC

I tend to have a lot of wilderness survival type gear whenever I practice EDC. There are several reasons for this, such as:

  • I frequently spend large amounts of time in the country or the wild
  • I spent years living in Alaska (habitat creates habit)
  • Years of experience lets me carry gear that works in multiple emergency situations
Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe survival bushcraft forestry tool
Carry an axe in the forest is a good choice. On a trip to the coffee shop? Not so much!

Your common situation should absolutely play into how you approach EDC and what items to carry in addition to these basics.

Since I spend a LOT of time in the wilderness, the objects I carry everyday should focus on the specific challenges, obstacles, and potential issues that I’m going to face in that environment.

For someone who is never going to be 50 miles from the nearest road or up in the mountains or deep forests, having an outdoors-based orientation for EDC doesn’t make nearly as much sense.

Urban-Specific EDC Items to Consider

Considering the majority of the world’s population live in cities, and the world in general is becoming increasingly urbanized, it’s important to understand how to approach urban EDC.

Even if you don’t live in the city, if you’re going to visit, you might as well be fully prepared and ready.

While certain cities may have different challenges, the following are some of our favorite urban based EDC items:

#1: Tactical pen (and small note pad)

Having a small note pad and pen is underrated as survival gear.Gerber Impromptu Tactical Pen for writing and self defense

Write a message, catch a license plate number, write down the details of a sudden traumatic event, write directions, or drop a message to someone if you’re in trouble.

Having a tactical pen gives you the ability to defend yourself as these are built to be an emergency self-defense device, as well. (See our list of the best tactical pens for EDC)

On top of that, they are completely legal while also easy to conceal the tactical side of the piece. That makes it really useful and practical as part of your EDC all in one package.

My Recommendation: Gerber Impromptu Tactical Pen

#2: Emergency whistle

For gals, this gets attention fast when threatened, lost, or needing to scare off a potential threat.

For guys, this can be a quick way to signal for help, signal to be found, or return a signal from someone else in dangerous situation.

These are small, light, and easy to carry around in a multitude of ways, making them an important part of emergency urban EDC.

#3: Small high powered flashlight

This shouldn’t be a red lens light. It should be a small, compact, and ultra-bright flashlight, the type that can temporarily blind someone when you shine it in their eyes[3].

Tactical flashlights have come a long way and the ideal ones for EDC are very small, very light, but also sturdy and strong enough to use as a blunt force weapon in a pinch.

My Recommendation: Vont Tactical Flashlight

#4: Dust mask3M dust face mask for every day carry in urban city smog smoke defense PPE

Don’t overlook the usefulness of a simple dust mask.

Great for blocking common allergens and good for helping to keep cold and flu germs at bay, a dust mask gives at least a basic little bit of protection to your lungs when you need breathing protection.

It’s not a gas mask by any stretch of the imagination, but it is far better than nothing!

#5: Hidden 20 dollar bills

($160 worth is my recommendation)

The old saying goes that cash is king still holds true, although that comes with a caveat that you don’t want to make it obvious you’re carrying a lot of cash, because that can lead to marking you as a potential victim for unscrupulous types.

Hidden 20 dollar bills are ideal.

This is because it gives you enough money to make an important emergency purchase like a cheap hotel room for a day or two, and any food or meal during that time.

This can even get you an Uber ride for a pretty impressive distance.

I like $160 as a minimum amount because of how many emergency expenses that can cover, but it’s a good ideal to split that up.

One $20 bill in a jeans pocket, two in the wallet, one in the shoe, etc.

#6: Roll of quarters (or dimes for super small hands)Roll of quarters for emergency money and personal defense strike enhancer

A roll of quarters has long been a veteran trick for EDC because you always have change for a pay phone, enough cash for a quick bite if needed, and when you curl your hand around it that adds some pain to a hammer fist when fighting in self-defense[4].

The days of the pay phone are pretty much gone, but the roll of quarters is still an excellent option because of this versatility.

A roll of dimes can work on a much smaller scale for those people with really small hands, but it is less cash and not quite as effective for any of the benefits that a roll of quarters brings to the table.

These are easy enough to acquire from any bank, credit union, and even most convenience stores.

Wilderness-Specific EDC Items to Consider

Those of you who spend a lot of time in the wild or in isolated areas know the importance of being prepared for different types of emergencies.Grewingk Glacier EDC in the wild rural area what to carry wilderness

In some parts of the country, if your vehicle breaks down, it’s a long lonely 20 mile walk to the nearest gas station and you better have water to get through the day.

Being prepared in the wild also means having first aid training and materials available, being aware of potential predators in the area, and adjusting your EDC to take into account the unique challenges that a wilderness location can bring.

You also need to adjust based on the climate.

An Arctic setting in winter requires a far different EDC mindset than if you are working in the desert in the day time or exploring wetlands.

Keeping that in mind, there are still some general items that are always going to be useful.

#1: Knife

If you are going out in any situation in the wild that could end up being a wilderness survival situation, you should absolutely have a knife on hand.

Now, what type of knife?

That is a fair question. Personally, as long as it’s legal locally, I like having two:

A trusted pocket knife as well as a larger fixed blade like a Buck Knife.

This is something I adjust as the situation calls for but I never head out into the country without a pocket knife on me.

#2: Emergency Thermal Blanket

Honestly, considering these fold up small enough to fit into a wallet or jeans pocket, there’s no reason not to carry an emergency blanket.

Emergency Blanket Tarp Thick thermal sheet stay warm in emergency

However, it’s important to learn how to use them properly.

This isn’t a replacement for shelter or a quilt, but it is a versatile lightweight piece of gear that can be used in a variety of ways, including signaling for help when lost, marking the area for rescuers, or as a way of supplementing whatever setup you have to keep yourself warm.

#3: Compass & Paper Map

This combination is one that I am a firm believer in, but it does come with some caveats.

One is you need to learn to use a compass before heading out into the wild or the super rural areas.

This isn’t just a base “oh this is how it works” but you should practice with scavenging groups or actual training from specialists to get really good with using one in real life situations.

The second is to have a paper map.

I love a good GPS and often carry a good emergency beacon when really heading out into hairy territory, but a paper map is never going to lose power or malfunction due to electronic failure.

As long as you’ve studied the map ahead of time and it’s detailed (country roads, local towns an unincorporated villages, etc.) then you will have the ability to know what area you’re in and can figure out a direction that takes you to a road, town, railroad track, or something that gets you back to civilization.

In an emergency, paper maps also make for a good start to a fire.

You did carry your fire starter, right?

#4: Non-Match Fire Starterüberleben Zünden Fire Starter EDC kit firestarter on keychain

I love a small little pack of good strike anywhere matches, but I never leave home with a favorite Firestarter.

A good magnesium stick fire starter can be a literal lifesaver and these are small, easy to carry, and my favorite one comes with a little bit of paracord that makes it easy to attach to a belt, a key chain, or you can just fit it in a pocket.

My Recommendation: The Uberleben Zunden Fire Starter is as good as it gets!

#5 Portable Water Filter

Shelter, water, fire, food – these are things you need to survive in an emergency and, without water, the rest stops mattering pretty dang quick.

Most of the human body is water and while this might sound like a boring bit of advice you’ve heard a thousand times before, if you’ve ever been in serious danger of dehydration and heat exhaustion from exposure, you understand.

Don’t go out to any heavily rural or out of the way area without a portable water filter.

Recommended: Life Straw – There’s a reason they’re the one filter every outdoor enthusiast knows about.

Don’t Forget the Basics

While these five are added to any wilderness or extreme rural based EDC, these are in addition to things like a bandana, tactical flashlight, signal whistle, phone, or a small box of strike anywhere matches.

While this sounds like a long list, it’s something that takes up very little space so you can carry it on you, in a small pouch, or at worst, in a small backpack you can just grab.

EDC Kits vs Wilderness Survival Kits & Bug Out Bags

Thinking consciously about EDC kits is the first step in being more prepared.5.11 RUSH72 Tactical Backpack Military Bug Out Ba, Molle Pack Large

These won’t ever be as thorough as an in-depth wilderness survival kit, or certainly a bug out bag, but having EDC for all your everyday situations, as well as an EDC backpack that’s always in your vehicle, is a great way to make sure you are prepared without having to cut out supplies or equipment you really should carry around.

While an EDC kit doesn’t replace a full blown bug out bag or wilderness survival kit, it is a practical way to be at least partially prepared no matter what the situation.

Your EDC preparations are your first response to any emergency situation, or even being prepared for likely challenges you’ll meet at certain times.

A good bug out bag is much more thorough and is designed to give you the tools for a long-term survival situation for a true “everything goes to hell” type of scenario. The EDC is designed for common challenges.

The best bug out bag in the world is great, but if you don’t have enough on you to get to where yours is stashed, then what good is it?

Most people also don’t want all the things that go with a good bug out bag constantly with them in a vehicle wherever they go for multiple reasons.

Some things overlap

Sometimes things overlap between one or another, and you will find that your EDC can change drastically based on location, job, and what you regularly do.

Survival Home Batch EDC setup contents suggestions

The picture shows some of my Alaska EDC when I spent a lot of time out and about.

Duck tape because it was versatile and can be used for many different things, including Gerry-rigging things.

Aspirin is medicine in a water resistant bottle with cotton that could be used for fire.

The plastic garbage bag could be used to carry items or waterproofing a shelter.

Dental floss gave me strong string/rope (this was before paracord was widely available), while a coffee filter could keep chunks out of water before boiling it.

And if you’re lost in the middle of Alaska, having a shot of whiskey to calm the nerves isn’t the worst decision in the world.

Everything there had multiple uses that played to my strengths, and could easily fit into a small shoulder pack.

The knife, bear spray, and firearm went without saying whenever I was out and about in The Interior, but that combination is an EDC that I’ve never had to carry elsewhere.

But, they are all still in a bug out bag.

Don’t get overwhelmed.

Think about having a carry with you EDC and an EDC based around a small backpack.

This makes it easier to breakdown and organize, and is the best way to be properly prepared and get the most out of your preparation.

What Are Your Everyday Needs?Stainless Steel Lock Pick Set Multitool specialized EDC items

There are many different pieces of equipment that are going to be an EDC for one person but not another.

Line workers who work on power lines are going to have safety equipment they never leave home without.

I don’t know many locksmiths who don’t have multiple lockpick tools or sets they carry around everywhere.

On a non-survival practical EDC note, freelancers or entrepreneurs needing work will carry business cards. A writer will double down on having a notebook and pen on them at all times – and possibly two of each.

Taking a moment to think about practical common needs can help make the EDC process that much easier to put together.

Legal Notes on Knives & Firearms

Depending on the situation or location, you may want to consider carrying a knife or firearm.

There are obvious legal restrictions on this and those need to be taken into consideration.

In some places, carrying one or both is widely accepted with very few regulations or legal restrictions. Alaska is one state that’s an example of this.

However, there are other places where it’s heavily restricted or pretty much not allowed.

Personal beliefs on freedom to carry aside, it is the responsibility of each individual to know what the local laws are and to make sure you’re in line with what is and isn’t allowed locally.

Shane Dayton
Shane Dayton has believed in being prepared since his earliest day in Scouts.

He’s a travel and outdoor enthusiast who uses his knowledge to write on survival, wilderness skills, fishing, hunting, hiking, and more with his brother at Amazing Outdoor Adventures.


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