We all routinely carry certain items with us, either out of necessity and/or habit. Even the shortest journey out of home or work place triggers an instinctive check of pockets and bags: do I have my phone, keys, wallet? By logical extension, those of us who analyze and assess external influences on our lifestyle, normally have additional items in our routine carry checklist, and it is these objects that tend to be classified as EDC items. The concept is far from new and should not be intimidating, although some zealots of particular EDC items can come across a little strong in their discussions and guidance.
An identifiable generalized trend in Urban Preparedness, Wilderness Survival and even EDC, is the obsession with and reliance on ‘lists’. I get the distinct impression that for most people purchasing items from a recommended list of “things to carry”, is far easier and less time consuming and gives a quick ‘sense of peace’. With this in mind, why would I have a concern over the ‘list trend’? My issue is this: if we look to the founding concepts of EDC, we realize that arbitrarily following a list does not necessarily give us the protection and peace of mind we desire, in fact, in some circumstances, it may put us at more risk depending on what and how we carry.
The aim of this article is to run through what I regard as the foundation concepts and therefore key considerations on items we carry. There are three key category headers to consider:
1) Stowage – Where/How are we carrying
2) What items are we carrying
3) What should be the demands and expectation of our equipment
Let’s expand on these:
1) Stowage – Whatever we decide to carry must be carried in a manner that does not excessively confine or restrict our movement, ensures the items are held securely, but allows them to be accessed as needed (and this may be exceptionally time sensitive, especially in regard to any defensive items).
Most militaries will define individual equipment scales (also known as ‘loadouts’) right from basic training. The concept is simple; there are 4 scale/load levels:
Level 1 – Items carried on your person AT ALL times. In the military these would be items carried in your pockets, affixed to your belt or worn on your person e.g morphine syrettes worn on a neck chain. This translates directly to civilian standards. Our level 1 items would be keys, phone, wallet, personal defensive items etc.
Level 2 – These are items that are always within arm’s reach, but maybe removed from the body. In military terms, this would be your weapons system and ‘fighting order’, (Body Armor, Assault Vest or equivalent). Fighting orders revolve around the necessity to carry ammunition, water, emergency medical equipment and some key survival items.
This again can be easily translated for civilian application with the exception being the method for carrying items, since a military style webbing system may not be an appropriate choice in most cases. More likely, essential items are going to be stowed in a fanny pack, small shoulder bag (e.g laptop bag) or purse/manbag. Consideration also needs to be given to the type of clothes we are wearing and what stowage options are afforded to us by these.
Level 3 – These are items needed for extended operations (>12hrs), but maybe stowed during attack/assault phases of operations. Normally this larger pack (Ruck or Bergen) will contain additional supplies (ammunition, batteries), food, sleeping system, field equipment (shelter, wash kit, stove, additional clothing items etc).
For those who have given consideration to larger scale preparedness, level 3 is the equivalent of a ‘Bug Out’ bag. The intention here is to carry the essential items to sustain the individual for a period of up to 72hrs. This bag is normally stowed in a vehicle or at home/in the office, as opposed to being constantly carried.
There is a lot written about what constitutes the ‘ultimate’ Bug Out Bag, but often, in my mind, there is WAY too much equipment advised to be carried at this level, and this is where the dangers of ‘the list’ really begin to manifest themselves. That doesn’t mean there aren’t advocates of burdensome carry at level 1 and 2 also! We will look to avoid the ‘over burden’ problem in the next section.
Level 4 – These are typically ‘on base’ level items, which can be kept in a trunk, locker, in barracks or equivalent.
In EDC terms, level 4 will be items we potentially have stored at home for replacement or supplementation of regular EDC items if needed.
2) What Items are We Carrying:
Remember we are addressing at a conceptual level here, so what must be considered with regard to our item choices? I believe there are 4 essential considerations:
a) Individual – Who are you, what do you do, what’s your build, what’s your fitness level, are you carrying long term injuries or mobility problems, are you carrying for you individually or also on behalf of other family members? Answers to all these questions are going to significantly influence what you carry and how.
b) Competencies – What is your skill set, what is your level of training (especially in regard to any defensive items you are carrying), what is your experience in dealing with unexpected situations? The adage ‘the more you know the less you carry’ is often quite true. The greater your training, skill and experience level, the less likely you are going to carry equipment to ‘substitute’ your knowledge.
c) Concerns – This is one of the most critical, but also, in my mind, one of the most overlooked. What are you actually concerned in terms of personal safety? Or more pointedly, what are you preparing for? If we can’t specify our goal it is incredibly difficult to work back from that point to identify our equipment needs. Equally if we can clearly identify our goal(s) it is far easier to select our EDC items.
d) Environment – How is your physical environment (hot, cold, urban, rural), what potential threats or hazards are contained in your environment? Again clear assessment and identification of which hazards we want to avoid and/or mitigate is going to be influential on EDC selection.
3) The final part of our Foundation Concepts is to address what demands we have from our equipment. I have identified 5 key considerations in this regard. Before I begin I just want to clarify, it is very rare you will find an item that fulfills all 5 of these considerations. Think of it as ‘ticking the boxes’, an item that scores 4 out of 5 of these points will have a greater chance of making it on to my EDC than carrying an item that scores say 2 out of 5:
a) Fulfills an Essential Function – It is VERY easy to get loaded down with superfluous or overly specialized gear. In the first instance, EDC is about carrying small items that make a BIG difference. Investigate every piece of equipment and make sure you are carrying it because it’s essential.
b) Difficult to Replicate In Your Environment – This is coming from my ‘wilderness rules’. Being in a town or city means, in theory, everything is available to us if we are willing to purchase it, but that is not always a financially viable or stable approach. What I mean here is be careful not to load yourself down with items that can easily be scavenged if you needed to.
I expand on this more here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhlulImaiqI&list=UUVEZ8nWRJ0M07WHCSa9UlRA
c) Multifunctional – Some items may clearly have more than one use (e.g. Multitool), however with some creative thinking, we may come up with multiple uses for even the most banal items we carry. This is a great mental exercise and also a good way of really pairing down your gear if you feel you are currently carrying too much.
d) Legal – Given the increasing level of ‘stop and search’ powers afforded to the police throughout western nations, as well as enhanced security screening in many public locations, the chances of being ‘caught’ and prosecuted for carrying illegal items, plus the fact it’s erm, y’know illegal, means we should not be so foolish as to carry anything that is not legally allowed. Ignorance of the law is no excuse here. Get informed. Also understand, there are many, many, legal alternatives to items that maybe banned. This takes us back to our ‘training and competence’ development.
e) Discreet – I am a firm believer in the ‘Grey Man’ theory. You may want to walk around primed for imminent apocalyptic action, just don’t look like you are. Blending with your environment is something you want to and should be able to do. EDC item selection and carry methods can greatly help or hinder this process.
With a clear understanding and grasp of these foundation concepts, it should be easier to carry EDC items more suited to us and our situation, rather than carrying generic items from a different individual´s list. This makes us not only more prepared, but more informed and therefore confident in the equipment we are carrying.
In subsequent articles I will be going through some of my personal carry items and going into more detail on how these foundation concepts relate. All of this said, the final note is to know and understand EDC needs to be fluid and dynamic, making it easy for us to change, amend, add or remove items as we see necessary in changing circumstances. This will also be covered in more detail soon.
Does this article give you thought on things you may change about your EDC? If so, comment below on the what, why and how of your changes!
Clint Overland’s Comments:
Here is my take on EDC. Who, What, When, Where and Why? Who am I going to run into during the course of the day? What am I going to have to do? Am I at work or am I WORKING? Is it my day job or night work? This sets the guide lines for my carry. When am I going to have to use it? in a hurry, in a confined space, under duress and/or at the most inopportune time. Where am I going to be and what laws am I willing to break to insure my needs… Why am I going to carry this and why MIGHT I need it.
Here is a quick list of my normal all the time carry. I am rarely without these items. On my body: 2 knives, flash light, lighter, wallet, steel toe boots, Leatherman multi tool and cell phone.
In my truck: tool kit, emergency blankets, 1st aid kit, shotgun and 200 rounds of various ammo, flares, entrenching tool (small shovel), hatchet, hammer, tire tools and spare tarps and ropes. Spare windshield wipers, belts and hoses, whatever I may need in case something goes wrong with my vehicle. Be aware, it takes time and thought to work out everything properly.
For my night job as a bouncer, I add assorted other items.
Think, you may need to add for seasonal carry. In my truck I add water, food, heating supplies, blankets, insect repellent, and various other things depending on winter or summer. I have seen too many people in too many situations not have what they need. Don’t let that be you…
Erik Kondo’s Comments:
My Level I carry is not nearly as exciting as Clint’s. It consists of extra tire tube, tire tools, bungee cords, medical supplies, flash light, red strobe light, contact lense case, phone charger, sun screen, pens, wallet, and main set of keys.