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What is EDC? A beginner’s guide to mastering your everyday carry

From the right wallet to a versatile pocket knife, your personal EDC should be practical, functional, and even a little stylish

Flat-lay of all-black EDC (everyday carry) items, including headphones, a camera, glasses, a pocket knife, and more
Image used with permission by copyright holder

So what is EDC? In short, the acronym EDC stands for “everyday carry.” The concept is nothing new — it’s been around for hundreds if not thousands of years since humans began carrying tools and other items routinely needed throughout their day. But the term has become something of a buzzword recently, with many of the best outdoor brands getting in on the craze. It was first popularized in the survivalist and prepper communities before landing in the mainstream.

These days, most of us are familiar with the concept. But what exactly is it? Why should you care, and what else (if anything) should you be carrying? Let’s dive in with a beginner’s guide to defining EDC and crafting the best EDC kit for you.

What is EDC?

Simply put, it’s a catchall term that refers to “the essential items you regularly keep on your person, no matter where you’re going.” It’s the collection of personal items you never leave home without. The exact gear varies from person to person and is often defined by one’s hobbies, occupation, and daily errands.

To be clear, we’re not talking about the random things that accumulate in your pockets after a day out of the house. Spare change, gum wrappers, and Taco Bell receipts don’t count. We’re referring specifically to the tools and personal items that get you through the day. Every item in your EDC kit should have a clear, functional purpose.

Close-up of a pocket knife and wallet peeking out of the pocket of someone's jeans

Why EDC (everyday carry)?

A thoughtful EDC kit keeps you prepared and ready to tackle the routine tasks you encounter throughout the day. Let’s break down the most common reasons for caring about your own everyday carry.

  • Stay prepared: Having even a basic multitool (ideally the best multitool you can afford) means you’re better prepared than 90% of folks out there. That sense of preparedness leads to confidence that, no matter what situation you find yourself in, you’ll be ready. Because self-reliance is a skill worth cultivating.
  • Save time and money: In our modern society, you’re probably never too far from the right tool for any job. Worst-case scenario: You can run to Lowe’s for whatever you might need, right? But that wastes time and money. If you’re already prepared with basic tools like a screwdriver, a small knife, and a flashlight, you won’t need to hunt for them later. Even if you just keep them in your vehicle, it means you’ll rarely find yourself searching for the right tool because it’s always right by your side.
  • Look stylish: EDC has evolved beyond mere functionality and preparedness. These days, there’s an element of personal expression in one’s everyday carry. If you’re planning to accessorize your EDC, invest in handsome gear like an heirloom-quality knife, a badass tactical pen, or a handcrafted key chain.

Overhead view of everyday carry items, including a penlight, pocket knife, and smartphone

The most common EDC gear

There is no “best EDC” list. Only you know what tools and essentials will help get you through your day, which is why everyone’s personal EDC kit is unique. In our 21st-century society, these are the three most common items that few of us leave home without:

  • Smartphone: For many of us, we’d rather leave home without pants than without our smartphone. Even if you’re not addicted to TikTok and social media, your phone is an invaluable tool for various reasons we don’t need to explain here.
  • Wallet: For those things that haven’t yet been digitized into the cloud and tied to our smartphones, most of us still rely on a good old-fashioned wallet. It serves as an on-the-go filing cabinet for our identification, forms of payment, spare receipts, and sub-shop frequent flyer cards. In the last decade, however, the lowly wallet has evolved beyond the traditional leather bifold. There are now ultra slim wallets designed to hold only a few credit cards, RFID-blocking wallets with built-in GPS tracking, and near-bulletproof wallets crafted from aircraft-grade aluminum alloy. If it’s time to upgrade yours, consider how and why you carry your wallet in the first place.
  • Key chain: Most of us still rely on traditional metal keys and key fobs for accessing our homes and vehicles. But that doesn’t have to mean relegating your key chain EDC to a cheap metal ring you scored at the hardware store. There are now clever compact options like the multitool-esque KeySmart Classic Key Chain Organizer and swanky organizers like those from Orbitkey.
Flat-lay of a tablet with a watch, penlight, and pocketknife lying next to it
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Next-level EDC

Beyond the basics, the possibilities to further customize your EDC are infinite. To hone your everyday carry, take a second to consider your most frequent daily tasks. Where do you most often go once you leave the house? What do you do when you get there? Is there a particular tool you often have to rummage through your car’s console to find? Is your significant other often asking to borrow [insert tool here] while you’re out running errands? However you answer these questions, these three pieces of additional EDC will prepare you for most routine situations:

  • Pocket knife: Every man should have at least one EDC pocket knife. It’s a multipurpose tool that’s great for mundane tasks like slicing open Amazon packages and sandwich wrappers and more exotic demands like cutting cordage or, in a pinch, self-defense. The style of blade is entirely up to you and, again, depends on how and where you go about your day. For most tasks, a compact folding blade will do the track. We’ve long been fans of the best flipper knives, like the Gerber Fastball knife and the many stylish options from The James Brand. Before you order a new blade, however, check the local laws where you live. Some cities restrict the size and operation (think switchblades) of pocket knives.
  • Multitool: If you only carry one additional piece of EDC kit, it should be a multitool. A good multitool is the perfect multipurpose essential for almost any task. Even a basic multitool will include at least a screwdriver, scissors, a bottle opener, and a folding blade or two. More advanced models add things like pry bars, pliers, center-drive screwdrivers, and rulers. For the average fellah, this pocket-sized tool kit will ensure you’re always prepared.
  • Flashlight: In many cases, your smartphone’s flashlight will work in a pinch. But, for anything more than a quick glance under the couch, a proper pocket flashlight is infinitely better. The best modern flashlights are brighter, more durable, more targeted, and longer-lasting than even the largest smartphone flashlights. In an automotive emergency or in the rain or when you need a bright light source for longer than a minute, a dedicated flashlight is the best alternative for your EDC.

Other common EDC items include lighters, a pen, paper, and a good pair of sunglasses. Backup batteries can be another great addition, particularly for commuters who spend an hour or more on the subway or train.

Again, there’s no “best” EDC, and your kit should be entirely personal. There are no rules as to what one must carry. Only pack what makes sense for you. If it’s useful to you on a daily or semi-daily basis, it’s probably worth stashing in your pocket EDC bag.

Man with a backpack sitting on a concrete wall overlooking a mountain and urban landscape
Image used with permission by copyright holder

How to carry your EDC

The final consideration is how to actually carry your everyday carry. If you’re a minimalist, the front and back pockets of your pants might be all you need. In most cases, that’s probably how you’ve been toting your essentials around for years.

If you need to expand your EDC kit, however, consider a minimalist EDC bag to wrangle your gear in a way that works for you. For urban commuters constantly on the move, a sling might be the fastest and most comfortable solution. Those who appreciate a throwback look can opt for a waist bag (or “fanny pack”). Finally, if you’re toting more than the average Joe, consider a small, versatile backpack or laptop-friendly messenger bag with the right pockets, pouches, and sleeves to keep your personal EDC well organized.

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Mike Richard
Mike Richard has traveled the world since 2008. He's kayaked in Antarctica, tracked endangered African wild dogs in South…
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