My 2019 Everyday Carry (EDC)

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Everyday carry. EDC. It’s a term used by ex-military folks to describe items carried on a daily basis, and it evokes images of concealed-carry handguns, MOLLE packs, and anything else tactical or tacti-cool.

That said, the term EDC is gaining more prominence among those of us who are not ex-mil and even among those of us who are not particularly tacti-cool. If you think about it, we all have our own EDC, even if we don’t call it that.

Gents, you need only check your pockets. And ladies, you need only look in your purses. Whatever you can pull out is EDC. It’s stuff you carry around with you every day.

Thanks to some good Black Friday deals, I’m upgrading my EDC for 2020, but I wanted to share what I’ve carried on my person for 2019. In fact, not much has changed in my loadout over the past couple years because it’s served me so well.

Keychain

Keeping keys together with carabiners.

I bought a rather inexpensive carabiner keychain on Amazon many moons ago. It works great for me because I have to carry a lot of keys. It’s not the slimmest thing in my pocket, but it’s not bulky either. I’d prefer something slimmer, but I really can’t do anything about the number of keys I carry, so I’m living with this for now. I do like the ability to quickly clip and unclip my truck keys on the main carabiner, and quickly take off keys as needed.

Multitool

Possibly the most versatile of my EDC items.

Clipped to my keychain is a Leatherman Micra multitool. This little guy is perhaps the most-useful item I carry on my person every day. He’s come in handy hundreds of times, from opening packages to tightening screws to trimming and filing my fingernails. I’ve even used the tweezers to remove bee stingers.

I received my first Micra for Christmas over a decade ago, and carried it everywhere I could. I lost it sometime during college and missed it so much that I bought another one within a week.

There’s a lot to like about the Micra, but a few features I think are under-appreciated are the engraved ruler (Imperial and international units) on the frame and the fingernail file. No, it’s not a Swiss Army knife, but it’s got what I need. And, assuming I don’t lose it, I know it’ll last me a good, long time.

Wallet

My Flowfold wallet, just a little rough around the edges.

I got tired of cheap leather or faux leather wallets falling apart every couple years, so I upgraded to this one from Flowfold several years ago. It’s made out of sailcloth, which means it’s durable and water-resistant. As a testament to its design, it looks the same today as it did the day I bought it, aside from the creases earned during its natural life. It even floats! (No, I have not tested that!)

It’s not the most stylish thing out there, but it’s arguably one of the most functional. I can stuff more than a dozen credit cards into it (and no, I don’t have a dozen credit cards either) and a load of bills, and it keeps asking for more. I try to keep it slim though, because it fits better in my pants. It also has RFID protection, which helps keep my cards safe from fraud. Never a bad thing.

PocketMonkey

You’ve heard of putting a tiger in your tank? Well, now you can put a monkey in your pocket.

This is a new addition to my EDC, and one I haven’t had to use yet. I bought a PocketMonkey for my dad for his birthday, and didn’t realize the order came with a second one. So, I did what any reasonable man would do and slipped the second one into my wallet.

This little gadget is the size of a credit card but can do a lot. It’ll open bottles, tighten screws and bolts, and even help you wind your earbuds. You can combine it with a credit card to make a makeshift phone stand (though in my experience, use a card you don’t mind getting scratched up).

Funny story: I forgot this was in my wallet when I went to Europe this year, and it made it through airport security in America, the EU, and Britain (the ultra-secure London Heathrow airport) without so much as a batted eyelash. While it is actually TSA-compliant, I don’t know if I’d try my luck again. But that’s information to keep in your back pocket (pun intended).

Phone

It may not be the newest or most attractive thing out there, but it’s tough and it works. Complete with finger smudges on the screen!

Okay, yeah, we all carry phones, so this one’s mostly a given. But I have to extol my LG Escape 3 for being such a trooper for the three years I’ve owned it.

Despite its storage being almost full, it’s still snappy and reliable and it doesn’t even feel like it’s aged. It’s endured temperatures as high as 110° F and as low as -8° F and been with me everywhere from airplanes to camping trips. I don’t see any reason to upgrade until it gives up!

My philosophy on a lot of things, especially on technology, and on phone-buying in particular, is that it’s best to buy something that’s going to last you for a long time. I know that sounds strange given that I was an IT troubleshooter in a former life and that I’ve written a book about computers, but hear me out.

Companies like Apple plan obsolescence into their phones so that you’re forced to buy a new one every few years. That’s how they make money. Plus, they market things as being “new” and “updated” (they are to an extent)—but that doesn’t mean that your phone is automatically old and outmoded.

Buy a good phone, take care of it (meaning don’t drop it in the toilet), and it should last you a long time. Don’t hop on the “latest apps and features” bandwagon and you’ll save yourself a lot of money and needless stress.

Didn’t mean to step on my soapbox, but I felt like that was an appropriate place to air my opinion. Onwards!

Knife

Smith & Wesson make a fine “urban survival” knife for only $20.

Okay, now we’re finally getting to something that’s real EDC, right? Knives!

My EDC knife of choice has been something with a glass-breaker and a seatbelt cutter, simply because I live in a more urban environment and I’m more likely to need to cut a seatbelt than I am a piece of rope. I like that such a knife enables me to rescue myself or someone else from a car wreck, though hopefully I’ll never have to.

I started the year with an M-Tech knife that my dad gave me for Christmas a few years ago, but the clip broke off and the spring mechanism wore out. I replaced it with the closest thing I could find at The Knife Shoppe, which was a Smith & Wesson 1st Response. It looks and feels solid, and I like the grippy scales. It’s sharp enough for my needs—the toughest thing I do with it is cut apart cardboard boxes before recycling them. And I really like the thumbscrew for opening the blade.

I used to carry this knife in my back pocket, which is where most Texans carry their blades of choice. Next year, I’m planning to keep this one exclusively in my vehicle as a rescue knife and carry something else on my person. Stay tuned….

Watch

I’m amazed that Casio can make G-Shocks as tough as they are at the prices they sell them.

This year, I started a (small) watch collection and I can see how easy it is to spend a lot of money on timepieces. As mentioned, I’m all about buying for life, and I’d rather buy quality than quantity, so my collection will remain a small one of superb pieces.

In an era of smartwatches, there is still no replacement for a quality wristwatch. While the smartwatch you’re wearing will be obsolete in a couple years (meaning you’ll have to buy another one), a well-made wristwatch can last you a lifetime. And I don’t think even the most stylish smartwatch can rival the elegance of an analog timepiece.

My go-to, everyday watch is my G-Shock GA1000 Gravitymaster Twin Sensor. (I just call it my G-Shock!) I bought it last year for a pittance and it’s been nothing but tough and timely. I could probably write a whole essay about how much I like my G-Shock, but instead of boring you, I’ll just summarize the main points:

  • Analog and digital timekeeping (meaning it has hour, minute, and second hands as well as a digital display)
  • World-time mode for tracking time in other time zones
  • Chronograph, timer, and alarm functions
  • Long-lasting lume (I can read it in pitch black eight hours after light exposure)
  • Built-in digital compass and temperature sensor (very handy when outdoors)
  • Tough as nails and reliable as heck
  • Antimicrobial and comfortable watch strap
  • Water-resistant up to 20 bars (200 meters)

It’s big, almost too big for my smallish wrist, but I wouldn’t change anything about it. I dig the overall look, especially the aviation-inspired design of the mode dial.

Maybe someday I’ll acquire a G-Shock with an altimeter, if only for the cool factor of having an altimeter and barometer strapped to my wrist. Also, this model requires a battery change every two or three years depending on usage, while others are solar-powered. As with most things, you pay more to get more, but I’m very happy with my G-Shock and I don’t know anyone who has ever been unhappy with theirs.

Backpack

Still in great condition five years later, but you can see it’s been around the block a few times.

I’ve been carrying this SwissGear backpack for over five years and it’s a tank. I know I’ve had to carry fifty-plus pounds of books and gear around during college, and this bag didn’t complain in the slightest. The stitching is rock-solid all around, especially on the straps. The zippers may require coercion when the bag is stuffed, but they don’t break!

Given, there are some things I don’t like about it: When loaded up, it looks bulky and can cause achy shoulders. (I wish it at least had a chest strap, if not a waist strap, to place the weight on the back rather than the shoulders.) It’s also not the most stylish backpack out there. But it holds a lot, keeps stuff dry, and shows very few signs of wear after I’ve worn it all over the place.

Due to changing needs (I’m no longer schlepping textbooks around campus), next year I’m switching to a messenger bag for EDC, so I’m retiring this backpack from active duty. That said, I’m still keeping it for that odd occasion that I need (or prefer) a rugged and reliable backpack.

Kindle

You can see I’ve got A.J. Baime’s Go Like Hell queued up. After seeing Ford V Ferrari, it’s worth a second read.

I never know when I might have some down time to dive into a book. Sure, I could read on my phone or carry a tablet for greater versatility, but I prefer the e-ink display of my Kindle Paperwhite. It’s more like a real book and much easier on my eyes—not to mention that it won’t distract me with notifications or tempt me to spend my time surfing the Web.

My Kindle Paperwhite has 4 GB of storage, which I’ve heard equates to somewhere around one-thousand books. It has a backlit touchscreen for reading in the dark, though I find the backlight hard on my eyes sometimes. My first Kindle didn’t have a touchscreen—buttons only—and it could be a pain to navigate, so I think the touchscreen on this one is one of this model’s greatest features. I like that I can use my finger to highlight words to get immediate definitions; it’s also great for books like War and Peace where the language changes a lot, because you can highlight words and phrases for translation.

I just have a relatively inexpensive faux leather case for my Kindle. There are fancier ones, yes, but this one provides adequate protection. I’m also unwilling to pay a lot for a case for something that I may upgrade a few years down the road.

I’ve loaded my Kindle with a small library of books, so I never worry about being bored anymore. I don’t know that I’ll ever get through them all, but to quote The Sun Also Rises, isn’t it pretty to think so?

Book

He’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse.

Even though I have a veritable library on my Kindle, I always try to have a real, physical book with me—a paperback, if possible. There will never be a replacement for reading words on paper and flipping pages.

The kind of book I carry varies from week to week. One week it might be a work of fiction; the next it might be history or philosophy. I do own several books, but more often than not I patronize the local library for books to tote around. I check out a book, and if I like what I read, I may then buy it—shelving space permitting.

Lunch bag

Fortunately, the stains are on the backside!

I’ve used this bag well for several years now, at least since I started college. My mom bought it for me from The Container Store way back when. It fits decently inside my SwissGear backpack and keeps food cold. What more could you want from a lunch bag?

Unfortunately, this bag has some irremovable stains, so I’m also going to retire it from active duty at the end of the year. Also, since I’m upgrading my EDC pack to a messenger bag, I’m planning to upgrading my lunch bag/pail. Stay tuned on this one, too.

Earbuds

My brother’s old EarPods are my current pair of ‘phones.

Did you know that wired earbuds are old-fashioned now? No? Well, apparently they are. Wireless rechargeable earbuds are where it’s at.

I don’t have a beef with wireless, but I like the convenience of a pair with wires. And my phone still has the standard 1/8″ (3.5 mm) audio jack (unlike the new iPhones!), so it makes sense to keep using them. These used to be my brother’s, but he gave them to me when he upgraded (because his phone is one of the new iPhones that doesn’t have the audio jack!).

I don’t plug in and tune out much, but when I do, I use these. They sound good; they’re neither too trebly nor too bassy. And they have a built-in microphone for taking calls, a feature I don’t use very much but find convenient nevertheless.

I grew up listening to music cranked through my dad’s old Technics hi-fi stereo, and I’m convinced that the only real way to listen to music is through this kind of system, because you don’t just hear it—you also feel it in your body. But since it’s impractical to carry a big stereo around and impolite to blast your music for all to hear, these earbuds do the trick.

Pens

A handful of pens, with a drawing pencil, a mechanical pencil, and a Sharpie to boot.

What’s more embarrassing than needing to write something down but not having a pen? (Yes, lots of things, but this is pretty bad, too.)

I’ll admit that I don’t carry a pen on my person, so I don’t always have one readily available. The exception is that sometimes, when I’m wearing a jacket, I have a pen in one of the pockets. But I always have a writing utensil in my bag.

I’d say most of the pens in my arsenal fall into the category of finders-keepers, rescued from uncertain fates on classroom floors and in lecture halls. I’m not particularly attached to any of them, but none of them are bad pens, either. They’re standard fare, they get the job done, and I won’t be sad if I loan one to somebody and they don’t give it back.

To this point I’ve not carried any special or tactical pens. I have a $10 tactical pen that looks deadly but doesn’t write worth a flip—so I don’t carry it. A lot of people swear by Fisher space pens, so that may be something I acquire next year.

First Aid

Unused and unopened, thankfully.

A couple years ago, I took a Red Cross first-aid class because I wanted to learn the basics of first aid and CPR. After the class, I decided to buy a mini first aid kit and a CPR breathing barrier—better to have them and not need them than to need them and not have them. Thankfully, I’ve not needed to use either so far. They’re both lightweight and compact enough to carry around and almost, but not quite, forget about.

Gideon’s Bible

Did you know they could make Bibles this small? Well, they do have to take out most of the Old Testament, but this is perfect for sharing God’s Word with someone.

I’ve got Bibles on my phone and my Kindle, but this one doesn’t need batteries.

For those that don’t know, the Gideons are an organization composed of Christian men who distribute Bibles free of charge. They’re the ones who place Bibles in hotel room drawers. They hand out these small orange Bibles at public schools (at least in my state, where it’s not a crime or politically incorrect to do so), and that’s where I acquired this one.

I carry it for two reasons: One, to read in the event that I can’t use or don’t have my phone or Kindle; and two, to give to someone else who needs it more than I do. And should I give it away, I’ll just acquire another one for the same two reasons.

Planner

Planner and pen to keep me on task.

I’m big on having to-do lists and keeping track of appointments. I do place reminders in my phone calendar, but I prefer a planner for ease of use. And, like the Gideon’s Bible, this doesn’t run on batteries.

If I have something I need to do on a specific day, I’ll write it down in my planner. Every night before bed, I’ll go over the next day’s to-dos and objectives, and make note of anything I didn’t get done that current day. Rarely do I get everything done in one day, so I also aim to take care of the “leftovers” first on the next day.

I bought this planner for $1.99 at my local Half Price Books. In the past, I’ve used 5″ x 8″ planners but I thought I’d try this smaller format this year. It’s okay, but I like having more space to write and take notes, so next year I’m going back to a larger one.

Flashlight

This Nitecore P12 is about 5.5″ long and 1″ in diameter.

I have two very bright, tactical flashlights. The first is a Nitecore P12 that is longer and looks more like something a law enforcement officer would carry. The second is a less-menacing Soonfire (Chinese knock-off of Surefire) that I picked up before my trip to Europe. Each is good in its own right, and both have a max output of 1000 lumens.

I like the Nitecore because it’s big and bright. It feels good to hold, with enough weight to have substance but not so much that it’s heavy. It has four brightness settings and is powered by two rechargeable batteries. My first one disappeared somewhere and has likely (hopefully) been found by a happy new owner. I bought a second because I like the design so much.

This Soonfire E11 is 4.3″ long and 1″ in diameter, just a wee bit shorter than the Nitecore.

The Soonfire has a different set of uses and features. It’s shorter than the Nitecore and is a gunmetal gray rather than a tactical black. It has five brightness settings plus two strobe modes. I bought it specifically for traveling, and it’s made it through American, British, and European airport security with no problems. It’s also rechargeable via USB, which means I can use the same cable to charge my phone, tablet, and this flashlight. That’s brilliant (pun maybe intended).

Which one I carry depends on what I’m doing that day. Normally I’ll carry the Nitecore simply because it’s what I’m used to. But the Soonfire is easier to pocket and takes up less space in a bag, so I may reach for it when I need to carry it in my pants pocket rather than a bag.

Computer Glasses

These glasses have saved my eyes. No kidding. Gunnar didn’t even pay me to write that.

A new addition for this year, I bought these glasses from Gunnar, a company that specializes in eyewear for computer users and gamers. I’ve always had problems with bright light and especially with light from monitors and TVs. My optometrist didn’t think that these would do me any good, but let me tell you that my experience has proven otherwise.

I tried using blue-light filters on my computers, but they only helped a bit. I’ve also followed the 20-20-20 rule: “Every twenty minutes that you’re in front of a monitor, take twenty seconds to look at something that’s twenty feet away.” That also helped, but didn’t solve the problem.

I figured there wasn’t much to lose, so I ordered a pair of prescription Gunnars with the amber lens tint. On the first full day I used them, I noticed an immediate difference. No eye strain, no dry eyes, no headaches. No more staying off the computer after work because I simply couldn’t stand looking at a screen anymore. No more avoiding watching TV with my family.

These are the real deal, and you can quote me. I’m not even paid to write this; I’m just amazed and thankful that someone designed this product. They are now an essential and permanent part of my EDC.


And that’s it! It seems like a lot when it’s written out, but I’m so used to carrying it around every day that I don’t even think about it—that is, until I create a list like this and start revising my loadout.

What about you? What’s an indispensable part of your EDC? Do you think I should add anything to my list?

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