By Kevin Estela (@estelawilded)
We’ve all seen them: the elaborate everyday carry (EDC) flat lay images on Instagram and all over the internet. They have symmetry, the right balance of brightness and contrast, and a near-impossible cleanliness to it all. They exist because we find what other people carry interesting. Generations ago, a gentleman’s EDC included a folding knife, a pocket square, a coin pouch, and perhaps a flask. Today, EDC includes items for self-defense, utility, entertainment, communication, and bragging rights. Spend enough time looking at all the different layouts of EDC gear and you’ll find some similarities, but you’ll find many more differences. What is often overlooked is where to carry your EDC. In other words, it isn’t what you carry but how you carry it. Surely you can dump all the contents of your pockets into a pouch, but that isn’t the best option compared to other methods. We wanted to do a deep dive into the world of EDC and discuss where and when to EDC certain items on your person.
Before we get started, let’s get this out of the way. Everyday carry is truly that: every day. This can mean you carry the same knife, lighter, flashlight every day or you carry at least one knife, one lighter, and one flashlight each day that varies depending on your clothing. If you have a knife you carry every day or you decide to carry a knife that best suits your apparel and mission, you are satisfying two common definitions of EDC. If you tell yourself, “I only carry emergency equipment when I think I’ll need it”, then perhaps you should stay home or change your activities if you’re deliberately walking into an emergency. It doesn’t make sense to have your kit sometimes and not all the time.
On the flip side of that coin, the EDC community often uses the maxim “It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.” This can lead you to packing your pockets with a bunch of gear that gets carried a lot and used very little. We think the best balance is somewhere between these two ideas. Carry the equipment that blends what is possible and what is probable.
Where to EDC
When you decide where to carry your EDC, you need to factor in many considerations. Comfort is a major factor in what you carry, as humans tend to follow the pleasure principle—we do what is pleasurable and avoid what is painful. Your EDC kit shouldn’t be painful. Another factor is social acceptance. Self-defense items, for example, are often publicly scrutinized and best carried concealed closer to your body. Access and organization is a pair of considerations that work hand-in-hand. Emergency kit items like life-saving medical gear must be organized to avoid wasted time in locating and accessing them. Other considerations exist, such as kit dimensions, weight, cost, legality, durability, and so on. As you calculate all these factors, they will help determine where you will carry certain items.
Starting with the smallest and the most packable items you can EDC, the easiest place to put items is in your pocket. The handwarmer pockets in your pants can easily carry a small folding knife, small flashlight, lighter, and a pack of gum. The items you carry in your pockets should lay flat, if possible, to avoid printing through your clothing. Use small pouches inside your pocket to keep items from rattling or jingling around. Though less flexible than pouches, small tins can also be used for this purpose and provide more rigid protection for you if the items are sharp.
Pocket carry is convenient since most pants have at least two front pockets, and some shorts and pants are equipped with many more. With the potential carrying capacity of numerous pockets, you must come up with a system of where and how certain items are carried. Build in consistency to avoid the anxious self-patting common with those who can’t locate what they need.
A subset of pocket carry that can be displaced from the pockets and carried elsewhere on the body are “keychain kits”. The items that make sense for a keychain (squeeze LED light, whistle, tick tweezers, small keychain knife, small button compass, etc.). These items can be carried in a pocket, they can be worn around the neck on a breakaway or expanding lanyard, or they can be clipped to a belt loop to dangle at the waist. Keychain carry limits the size of the gear you carry unless you don’t mind looking like you’re toting around your high school custodian’s giant keyring. The benefit of keychain carry is that it ensures you will always have a bare minimum amount of gear with you if you leave your house and don’t forget your keys to get back in.
Belt carry increases your capability of carrying more dedicated tools than those that are carried in the pocket. Save for a few dedicated pocket fixed blades, larger blades are more comfortably carried either inside the waistband or outside the waistband depending on the length of the blade. Belt carry of EDC tools also frees up your pocket space for your hands if that is where you place them at rest. An essential element of belt carry is a proper belt. If you carry a defensive pistol, a flimsy belt with no structure will make it difficult to keep your pistol from printing through your shirt.
Belt carry also allows you to place a supplemental pocket where you want it around your waist in the form of a belt pouch. While belt carry allows you more comfort to carry substantial tools, you must take public perception into consideration. Some items we carry have more tool signature while others have weapon signature. This requires you to conceal them with appropriate clothing. Belt carry works well in cooler months when you have jackets and sweatshirts to cover your waistline. Summertime belt carry becomes impractical if you are dressed office casual but equipped for the zombie apocalypse. Sounds extreme but even a single belt pouch with a multitool will get “the look” from your coworkers if you are the anomaly.
According to the internet (we know, we know), the first fanny pack is attributed to an Australian woman in 1962. They were in, then they were out, and now they are back again. The fanny pack (or waist pack, if you prefer that terminology) is popular for EDC, and they don’t have to be carried only around the waist anymore—the fashion trend at the time of writing this is to wear the fanny pack bandolier-style around the chest instead. Fanny packs can be used to contain all of your EDC items when you are headed to the beach and don’t have pockets or to pack more gear than your standard load out. Fanny packs are great for travel, as they can be stored with your kit in a foreign location and grabbed in a hurry if you are late or forced from where you’re staying.
One problem with fanny packs is the tendency to take them off and leave them behind. This is true of all off-body carry—with courier bags, satchels, and day packs. However, more common (and socially acceptable) than the MOLLE-equipped coyote brown bag covered in morale patches, the fanny pack trend allows you to carry gear with any outfit and into almost any location.
EDC Best Practice: Redundancy and Layers
In the EDC community, we don’t care how you carry as long as you do carry. What works for you may not be the right method for the next person. Ultimately, how you carry will be a very personal decision based on your needs. When you look at the flat lays previously mentioned, you may look at all the items and determine you don’t have the willingness to carry them all, or perhaps your considerations will make you want to carry other items instead.
Again, it isn’t just what you carry, it is how you carry it. We’ve outlined a few different places you can carry EDC items along with some benefits and drawbacks for each. A good practice for EDC is finding a method where you carry gear across your body. This means you carry some items on your belt, some in your pockets, and some in a supplemental bag you carry over the shoulder or around the waist. We also recommend you carry redundant layers. You may have a fixed blade belt knife, a folder carried deeply in a pocket, and a small knife with other keychain survival gear around your neck. Another great practice is to carry your kit in the same location every single day. That could mean your knife is always in your front pants pocket and a lighter is always your left front pocket. Consistency is key.
EDC is more of a practice than it is perfection. You will work out what makes the most sense for you. Experiment with different carry methods for your kit, and when it doesn’t feel right, try another. It will get to a point where you develop a habit of carrying the same gear in the same place every single day. You will even have a “loading” and “unloading” (for lack of a better term) practice each day where you lay out your items on a table or nightstand consistently the same way for inspection and organization. Eventually, you may find how you organize your kit at the end of each day may start looking like those internet flat lays and you’ll be satisfied with your kit…until the next great EDC item comes along and you’ll have to work that into your loadout, too.
Kevin Estela’s (@estelawilded) Blade HQ EDC Picks
“This is the Swiss Army Knife I’ve carried for decades. It has the right size to fit my hand and the right collection of tools to address plenty of tasks in the great outdoors. Not a day goes by when I don’t have my Ranger on me.”
“The Exotac FireROD is my go-to firestarter. I can use it for its intended purpose as well as for signaling and as a “quick light” to see my way. It is waterproof, durable, and has earned a spot in my pocket with my Swiss Army Knife.”
“This organizer helps me keep emergency kit items and support gear at the ready. It holds all of my smaller items that can easily get lost in the bottom of a pack. The pocket layout is fantastic.”
This high-vis waterproof lighter holder floats and keeps your fire-starting supplies dry even in wet environments or on aquatic adventures.
An Estela and Yellow Birch collaboration, this pocket sheath is made from English bridle leather and includes space for a knife and a ferro rod.
The Micro Stream packs 250 lumens in a package just over an ounce in weight and under four inches in length. The perfect pocket torch!
For when you really need to light up the night, this flashlight can put out 1,000 lumens and fit nicely in your pants pocket.
Whether you need to lash down gear, tie up food, construct a makeshift shelter, or make really cool braided bracelets, this paracord is a must-have.
This notebook repels water, keeping your thoughts and notes safe in all weather conditions.
You never know when you need to bivvy overnight. This emergency blanket reflects up to 90% of your body heat back to you so you can survive the unimaginable.
The functionality of a tool box but in a pocket-sized package, this multi-tool is truly a do-it-all device.
If this one is out of stock, try a Leatherman multi-tool instead!
The quintessential titanium frame lock, the Chris Reeve Sebenza 31 is known the world over for tight construction, lightweight durability, and supreme build quality.
Your voice can only do so much. A whistle is the best long-distance communicator if you wander where the cell service is lacking.