There are a lot of things that you could be carrying as part of your every day carry (EDC) gear. The problem is that you probably don’t have enough room to carry everything that you’d need in case of emergency. Getting some of these things can be pretty inexpensive if you just keep with the basics.
There’s a whole following of people who make budget EDC kits that fit into an Altoids tin. I have one myself, and it’d be pretty awesome if I had it with me if I were stuck somewhere, but I find that even though it packs a lot of stuff, it’s a fairly bulky item to carry so I don’t always put it in my pocket. It now sits in a pouch as a part of my motorcycle EDC kit. When I have room though (and don’t forget to grab it), it goes in my on-person kit. The kind of EDC kit I’m talking about here today is spread out in different pockets, including on your keychain. That makes it easier to fit. I’ll have some more posts later about how to make an altoids tin EDC kit or a pouch kit. I’m sure most of you have heard of a bugout bag. It’s the bag you grab if you have to leave home or that you keep with you as you’re traveling in case something happens. A well-planned bag should give you enough things to survive with as long as you’ve learned how to use them properly – and have them with you. Obviously, you could survive much easier and better with a bugout bag but even though it may be within reach most of the time, it’s not actually on you. Unless you wear one of those crazy waist packs. Sure, they can pack a decent amount of stuff but you have to have some kind of fashion sense. A good EDC kit will have things you need to get through a situation but be easy enough to carry that you never leave it at home. This means that unless you always wear cargo pants or have a purse within arm’s reach, you can only carry a few small items with you. So what should you carry? Well, assuming you’ve learned enough skills to allow you to make due with what you can find, you just need a few things to help the process a bit. There are a few major categories to survival equipment that you need to keep in mind for a bare-bones budget EDC kit:
Obviously, keeping things cheap is sometimes a priority. If you’re like most people, you have to prioritize where you spend your resources. Also, you don’t always have to spend a lot of money to get something that’ll work. Let’s look at an inexpensive (or free if you happen to have these things lying around) kit.
Since this is a bare-bones, inexpensive EDC kit we’re looking at, your knife will have to be on the lower end as far as knives go. If you want a free knife that you can put in your pocket, Survival Life has a folding credit card knife that would be great. It’s probably going to be the most expensive thing on the list though. You need the thing to work so I wouldn’t suggest a $3 piece of crap that you can find at your local car parts store. You need something that’ll work when you need it to or there’s no reason to have it in the first place. The best deal would probably be to find a used one at a garage sale or on Craig’s List or Backpage. Just do some research on the internet about any knife you find and take a good look at it to see that it’s still in good condition. One good example is the Smith & Wesson CK105H Extreme Ops Knife. It’s usually under $15 and has a pretty good reputation. It’s a folding knife with a pocket clip so you can carry it easily (and legal in most places). It’s stainless steel but not high-grade (or you wouldn’t be able to get it for under $15).
Obviously, being able to start a fire is a huge advantage in a lot of survival situations. Even something as cheap and easy to find as a disposable lighter can be a huge advantage to keeping warm and purifying water or cooking. These can be found usually for about a buck or less, or free if someone leaves one behind somewhere. You can also cut a strip of duct tape and wrap around it without adding too much bulk.
For a light, on the cheap end, you can’t beat a Cree 7w flashlight. It’s under $5 and pretty awesome. It’s also small enough to fit in your pocket and takes AA batteries. This baby’s super bright too. I even wrote a review about it after I picked up a couple as throwaway lights. Definitely a must-have for a budget EDC kit.
For shelter, there’s not really a lot you can do in your EDC kit. My suggestion is to just get a couple of 84″x52″ mylar space blankets. They’re super cheap and fit in a back pocket with no problem. Just remember that these are a one-time use kind of thing and tear pretty easily. They make better ones for about $10-$12 or so but they’re bigger.
For cordage, the problem is keeping it on you at all times. Probably your best solution is to get some unflavored dental floss. If the original packaging is too big to carry around, just pull the spool out of it and tie or tape down the end. You can get 55 yards of cordage his way. Another option to the dental floss is just getting some fishing line. The key is to just find a way to carry it efficiently so it doesn’t take up too much room. One of the best ways I know is to use a cheap plastic floss bobbin from an empty dental floss container or just get a pack of them for arts and crafts purposes.
For an EDC kit, you have to stay small. If you’re not going to just eat plants and berries (hopefully you’ve studied the area you’re in beforehand to know what’s available and what’s poisonous), one of the best bang-for-your-buck foods is fish. Your bugout bag may have a full-on mini fishing kit in it but you certainly can’t walk around with that in your pocket. For a fishing line, just use the dental floss or the fishing line from cordage section above. It’s always good to pack things that serve two purposes. You’ll need to have something on the end of the line to hold the bait and grab the little fishies when they strike. Fish hooks are pretty small and cheap so you might as well just throw a few of them in your kit. You’ll have to figure out what sizes you want to carry. The one problem with fish hooks is that they’re pretty sharp. I keep a couple in my hats that I wear all the time but if you want to put them in your pocket, you’ll have to put them in something. If you have the room, one of these mini survival tins are pretty awesome. You’ll just have to get the right size of fish hook to fit inside but at 3.9″ length x 2.45″ depth and .875″ height, they’ll fit some decent-sized ones. If you go that route, throw in a square of aluminum foil in it to keep them from bouncing around and to give you something you can make a field-expedient cup or cooking pan out of. I know I said I don’t always carry my Altoids tin survival kit but this one’s pretty small so it’s a lot easier. You can also just take a piece of cardboard, shove the hooks into the sides of it and wrap that with some aluminum foil.
If you have the room, any smart EDC kit or bugout/GBH/GOOD/INCH bag will have duplicate items. One, because things have a habit of breaking or getting lost, and two, one solution may work in most circumstances but not work in another. A realistic budget EDC kit doesn’t allow you much but that doesn’t mean you don’t have choices. As they say, Two is one and one is none.
Any good EDC kit will also have some kind of backup for everything you carry. I carry a keychain knife on my keyring (strangely enough). If you have the room, another full knife would be better but only if you’ll carry it.
For backup, on the cheap end you might want to consider a cheap flint rod that you can carry. It’s a lot harder to start a fire with than a lighter in most cases but it never runs out of fuel and doesn’t care if it gets wet. It’s also super small, especially if you take off the handle and put the rod somewhere it won’t get lost.
For a budget backup light, it’s hard to beat a mini micro keychain light. You can also buy these in packs of 5 or 10 so you can stash them in lots of places. I was lucky that I got about 20 care packages when I was in Afghanistan and they usually had one or two in there so now I have several. I use them as zipper pulls on my bugout bag and other bags.
Not much I can think of as far as backup shelter for an EDC kit. Maybe just get two more mylar blankets?
I’d also suggest that you get a 550 cord bracelet as a backup. They’re cheap and easy to wear. After a couple of days, you’ll forget you even have it on you. Remember that a 550 cord can be pulled apart if you just need string instead of a super-strong cord.
If you decide to spend a bit more money, you can certainly open up your options for better equipment but then there are a LOT of options to include better equipment ass well as more backup pieces. By adding a necklace to the bunch, you could expand it even further. I keep a handcuff key, P38 can opener, a small neck knife and a small flashlight on mine, for example. You can also extend this kit a bit by just making some changes to things that you’re already carrying. For example, changing from a digital to an analog watch can give you a way to find North during the day: A kit like this budget kit should work in most survival situations and you can carry it at all times. The only downside is that the TSA nazis won’t let you keep a knife so if it gets stolen in your baggage or you end up making an unscheduled combat landing somewhere, you’re outta luck. There are options for that but one simple one would be to carry something that isn’t a knife that you could sharpen into one if you needed it – like a metal bookmark. So what about water? Remember that if you have a fire and something to hold water in, you can purify it. What do you have available that you could carry every day? You can’t solve everything with an EDC kit unless you expand your wardrobe or start carrying a purse (women can have pretty freaking awesome EDC kits that include things like survival bars and stuff). Also, you may want to spend some more money and extend your EDC kit with an office EDC kit or a vehicle EDC kit like I have on my motorcycle. Until then, at least get a budget kit and then start improving it as you go along. An EDC kit doesn’t have to be expensive. It just has to be useful and available when you need it. You need to look at what situations you want to plan for, figure you what you have available to you (money, pocket space, etc) and get what will work for you personally. One person’s kit isn’t gonna work for everyone. Different people have different skills and different priorities. The kit above is just to bump your imagination a bit. So what have you come up with for a cheap and easy kit that you actually carry every day?