The EDC Bag

Your everyday carry (EDC) bag is one of your most important preparations. It is lightweight bag of gear to backup, support and compliment your on-person EDC. Pockets have limited space--this bag catches the overflow. It should be able to keep you going for a day or two in case you need to pick up and go, if you get stuck at work, or if disaster strikes and you need to bug out for home.

A Few "Don'ts" to Keep in Mind:
Too tactical.
  • Don't buy an overly tactical bag that will look out of place. Multicam, magazine pouches and MOLLE panels draw attention and mark you as a "tactical" kind of guy--probably armed, too.  Don't be that tactical goober guy--save the stuff for the range or the end of the world, not your daily carry. Carry something average looking.
  • Don't overload the bag with gear--one, you'll have to haul it around. Two, you want to have extra space to add things as needed--books, a laptop, etc.
  • Don't limit yourself to a shoulder bag. Shoulder and sling bags provide easy access to their contents, but a backpack is more stable when moving and can carry more stuff.  Pick which one works best for your needs. Shoulder bags are more common in the workplace, but a nice backpack will blend in nicely in all but the most upscale offices.
  • Don't pack for war unless you are in a warzone. You don't need smoke grenades, an AK and 53 magazines or a folding katana. If you want to have a dedicated active shooter/fight your way home/anti-zombie hordes bag, that's cool. But don't make that your everday carry unless you live in a really, really bad place.
  • Don't carry stuff you never use. Every few weeks, evaluate what's in your EDC bag and cut stuff that you haven't used. 
  • Don't make it just a survival bag. This is your EDC bag, so make sure you have plenty of EDC items--stuff like kleenex, phone chargers, extra batteries and so on. This is the bag that you live out of, so it should have the stuff you need everyday.
  • Don't just dump all your stuff into a bag--keep things organized so you can find them in a pinch. I like to kit things up when able.
Things to Pack in your EDC bag:
  • Water: 1L or more; I've found stainless steel water bottles to be the best, and you can cook/boil water in them in a pinch. You probably don't need water purification tabs unless you frequently travel pretty far from home..
  • Food: I carry 4 cliff bars with me; energy bars are generally a pretty good idea. Snacks, gum, mints, and your daily lunch are good too.
  • Fire: I carry two Bic lighters in my bag. Lighters are probably your best bet.
  • Cash: A few extra hundred dollars can get you pretty far in a pinch--even an emergency $20 will come in handy fairly often. Some coins for use in vending machines are also good to have.
  • Shelter: This is a bit tougher, as you probably don't want to carry around a tarp or tent every day. A mini space blanket and disposable poncho take up little space. Contractor-grade trash bags work too. As an alternative, you can pack an ultralight rain jacket--these can pack down very small. Mostly, just dress appropriately for the weather.
  • Medicine/First Aid: I carry a small bottle of Ibuprofen, Tums, extra chapstick, some small bandages, alcohol prep pads, tweezers and some super glue. A small gunshot wound kit is another good idea, especially if you carry a CCW.
  • Hygiene: Kleenex and hand sanitizer are a no brainer. A small mirror is a lightweight, often overlooked multipurpose item. I also carry a small travel pack of wet wipes for cleaning up or a quick scrub down--if you can't have a shower, this makes a big difference. I also carry a razor, a travel toothbrush and roll of floss. If you're frequently overnighting, a travel sized deodorant and shampoo don't weigh much.
  • A better flashlight. Unless I'm out after dark, I just have a small keychain light on my on-person EDC. I carry a better light in my bag. If you have a good flashlight on your on-person EDC, consider packing a small headlamp like the the Petzl e+LITE.
  • Caffiene. Good for late road trips, all-nighters, or just sleepy afternoons. Pick the form you like. I have a couple little packs of Nodoze and a few little packs of Crystal light energy drink mix. 
  • A cell phone headset. Bluetooth or the cheapo wired ones.
  • Sharpies.
  • Gorilla tape (the better duct tape). I wrap mine around old gift cards to make it flatter and more compact. A bajillion uses.
  • A bandanna (or similar). If one's not in your on-person EDC, you should at least have one here. A bajillion uses.
  • Paracord. You decide how much is enough.
  • A small radio if you don't already have one--many MP3 players and cell phones have a built in radio tuner these days. Keeping up on the news is important.
  • A small camera/camcorder, if your cell phone doesn't have one. YMMV on this one.
  • Gun stuff. Extra loaded magazines, maybe a back up gun or a full size pistol to compliment your carry gun. If you live in Mogadishu or Detroit, you may want to pack an M60 and a couple belts of ammo.
  • Zip ties. I used to carry these and ditched 'em because I couldn't find a good way to carry them and never used them. But lots of people like 'em.
  • Tools. A multitool, some small screw drivers and a little pry bar can do quite a bit.
  • Whistle or other signaling device.
  • A USB Thumbdrive or portable hard drive. With important files encrypted with TrueCrypt.
  • A spare knife. If you can legally do it and have the space to do so, a small fixed blade like the RC-3 or even a cheap Mora knife can come in quite handy.
  • A laptop and cords. This is of dependent on what you do for a living. Some people need to carry a laptop around with them, some don't. They are a major source of weight, so weigh the pluses and minuses carefully. Lightweight, durable and long battery life are the top criteria for an EDC laptop. Get a good protective case, too.
  • Electronic backups: Phone chargers, extra batteries and connector cables for your electronics. Those little battery backups are handy too, in case you aren't near an outlet or power goes out.
  • A small powerstrip/surge protector. Dependent on whether you're going to carry a laptop and what other electronics you have to charge. The Belkin is the most popular and has two ports for charging USB devices.
  • Extra clothes. YMMV on this one, although a jacket is nice to have around. If you have a messy job, frequently spill all over yourself, or often take spontaneous overnight trips, a change of clothes may keep you from looking like a complete slob.
That's a good start, I think. Again, watch the weight and bulk of your pack. Keep things organized. And carry a bag with an average, boring, "grey man" look, not one that screams "I am an action hero."

NOTE: Click here to read more EDC bag related posts.


  1. Ok, you kinda lost me on this one. First you talk about not arming up your bag for war then you almost kit out a battlebag with some of the kit you picked.

    Interesting. If you just added a couple of magazines, re-inserted the zip ties and a combat knife we'd have the same thing....oh and I don't get the prohibition you place on the tactical look!

    Have you seen some of the fashions these kids have? The only people that would notice are those similarly equipped. The only real problem with it might be unwarranted police attention.

  2. Solomon -

    This was a list of "possible" things you could pack--some of it may or may not make sense for you carry.

    Having a few spare pistol magazines or speed strips of ammo does not make it a war bag. Or even a full sized pistol to back up a pocket or subcompact that you carry on-person. There are people who plan to EDC a folding stock rifle, combat knife, full blow out kit, six rifle magazines, smoke grenades and the like.

    By tactical looking bags, I'm talking about the TAD Dispatch bag, the EMDOM TNT bag and similar. Camo, lots of MOLLE, anything with visible magazine pouches, that kind of thing.

    If you're trying to blend in with a bunch of teenagers, then the tactical look may pass. But a camo/tactical looking bag will stand out amongst most "grown ups". Think about it--when would camo come in handy during an EDC situation? None that I can think of. Plus, it will draw questions and attention--as you noted from police officers and similarly equipped! I would think well informed criminals would note it as well--it shouts "I HAVE A GUN!"

    If you're in the military or law enforcement, go for it. If you're a civilian, there's no need for an uber-tactical looking bag--there are plenty of quality, durable, "civilian" looking packs on the market.

    If you want a tactical bag, get it in a solid color. Black blends in the best. There are some great "discreet" looking tactical bags out there, too.

  3. Duct tape your knife to the M60 and throw away the bag.
    Just kiddin'
    M1 Garand is better. Minimum 4 bandoleers, with the good stuff, olive drab, one each.
    Shoulder bag, filled with more good stuff, canvas, with Che's picture on it so you won't upset the commies.
    Mountain rifleman

  4. I guess it depends on how far away you are from home. My work is 14 miles so I can walk it in a few hours if I had to. As I'm in the DC area, tactical gear won't turn any heads as thousands are in uniform. Even outside this area I don't think a tactical bag alone would ever make me think someone had a firearm in it. At any rate, I have water in my cubicle, running shoes and MP3 player w/radio in my gym bag, and a flashlight/tools/etc. in my truck.

  5. Suburban Survivalist -

    D.C. is a unique combo of military presence and strict gun control, so you could certainly more easily get away with a multicam tactical bag if you wanted to...but again, I'm advocating the "grey" urban camouflage--blending in with the masses.

  6. Just-Some-Guy in VirginiaApril 01, 2010

    Nice article, keep up the good work.

    Growing up in the middle of nowhere taught me to carry a pack for the better part of my adult life. My problem was that most clothes (especially jeans) weigh a ton and take lots of space. I used to only carry an extra shirt until last year when I a friend tipped me about lightweight hiking clothes (check out GearZone.com). While it tends to make me look like I'm headed for the gym, a full hiking outfit will easily weigh under a pound and pack down nicely. And since they are emergency clothes, the off-to-the-gym look would tend to support the "I'm just some guy" role for which I'm shooting.

    As for water, I carry that in my fanny pack (which is either in the car or on my waist), along with my gun accessories, but I carry water purification tabs in the main pack.

    As far as gun stuff is concerned, I suggest to everyone that unless they can keep the pack literally strapped on at all times, or locked in the car, carrying expensive accessories is a costly mistake should it walk away. Further, any clear text that could identify you is a bad move. I had one pack walk away from me some years ago and a few weeks later my apartment was robbed.

    Perhaps it was coincidence or the fact that I had packed some papers with name and address (this was before flash drives and inexpensive CD burners) and some real nice equipment; all of which may have marked me as a juicy and easy to find target.

  7. AnonymousJuly 18, 2010

    Don't under estimate the value of blending in. Maybe a few scuff marks and a little dirt on a very plain looking bag would make you less attractive to a thief or LEO. It is a whole lot easier to avoid problems then it is to get out of them. Look around where you live and see what others carry especially school/college kids for some ideas. You are wrong if you don't think a military style bag won't attract attention.

  8. I keep a water-proof container of q-tips/cotton swaps in my bag. It holds about 10. They come in handy. I never see them mentioned specifically.

  9. I didn't see Gloves mentioned. I keep mechanics easy-on gloves in my pack and another pair in my car. They provide moderate protection if you have to work on your car, touch things that are hot or move debris.

  10. Agreed! I have a pair of the Mechanix gloves in my bag as well; great to have around!

  11. I see bandannas metioned but never a respirator type mask. They are super lightweight and often come in multiple packs.

  12. whyteknight666October 13, 2010

    so much great intel here...my ECD has turned to a GMH since i my job is so close...minor first aid including basic meds,folding knife,basic fire starter,550,multi-tool,however a more extensive GMH in my travel vehicle for just incase i must regroup with the Mrs. to get her home...for me this all started with 911

  13. the extra clothes I have found hat and gloves are really good for any chilly weather. The hat because you loose massive amounts of heat through your head. The gloves, if you get leather, can work to protect your hands from puncture as well as the cold.

  14. I live in a small town called Amarillo the information was good im just started my edc pack all that i have right now is a knife,(smith in westen)flash light, pen, notebook, flint,bic lighther,chapstick,gloves,map,extura wach,gum,and cell phone if you can give me eney good ideas ill take them

  15. Really enjoyed reading these postings. One idea for your readers incorporates the most mundane "low-key" EDC carrier ever. Purchase a fabric covered (bright blue or red) cooler, complete with mesh side pockets. The main compartment consists of removable plastic, forming a nice, roomy storage area. And hey, if worse comes to worse you can always use it for its intended purpose.

    Jim Corcoran
    Lakewood, CA

  16. @James - oddly enough I just organized a red soft insulated cooler for my EDC a couple days ago. I am in the Southeast US so hot humid weather is the norm. I keep 2 bottles of water and a few food items in the main compartment along with an emergency candle, flashlight, electrical tape, tums, and a 12-hour light stick. Outer pockets (not insulated) contain 100' paracord, an emergency space blanket, several 1st aid items, matches, lighter, magnesium fire starter, and a couple of those small klenax packets which can serve as tp in an emergency. It can be carried anywaher very low profile!

  17. Mark,
    Good call on the cooler. Two additional advantages. First, if dropped in water it will float. Second, I discovered the area between the plastic inner shell and the padded outer shell will hold flat objects (maps, space blanket, money, etc). If you are in CCW mode, a flat semi-auto will wedge nicely and remain in place.
    Stay in the fight.... JC

  18. hi I saw your post about nontactical bags. I use one and I was wondering why you don't recommend using them. thanks

  19. Jrod526 -

    If you work/operate in an environment where a tactical bag doesn't stick out like a sore thumb, then go for it. If you're an average Joe, I recommend steering away from them because they do tend to draw lots of attention, looks and questions. YMMV.

  20. I saw in SAMS club a "Swissgear" backpack, it looked quite functional and well made with many pockets, but didn't scream" paramilitary" They were in plain colors, mostly black and dark red.

  21. Eric the redAugust 12, 2011

    My main vehicle is my mountain bike so my EDC bag also has a bike lock, an allen key, and a tube repair kit. Most of you who ride probably do the same, but just something to think about.

    1. Also, if you have room, a bike pump, a chain tool and a half-link are useful

  22. There's always a place in my EDC for a multi tool and/or a small swiss army knife. A hellofa lot of ways to use it, from fixing things to tighten loose screws... And a stitching kit. It came handy for quick repairs.

  23. a dark pack is best in any situation. Just to throw this in: EDC is not GMH; GMH is not BOB; but both EDC and GMH and a successful trip home make BOB or Bug In; if you plan well, your vehicle will have supplies for days/weeks. Keep a 2-way radio with you ..test them and then take the batteries out, make sure your spouse/mom/sis/best boy friend know your freq. and chan plan if shtf. if you plan worse backwards ??? try it and mmake a plan....

  24. Quite funny, this list. I carry most, if not all, of everything on this list when I go to work. After all, I DO indeed live out of my bags when I'm there. I work onboard Amtr@k trains, so if I forgot something I'm rather SOL.

  25. Experience and Skill eliminate the need for a lot of extras, especially bullets. if you are ACTUALLY proficient in shooting in combat situations, you dont need a whole kit of ammo, mostly because by the time you have developed that experience you will have developed the good judgment to pick and choose your battles.... not that i have 7 years of experience in this or anything.

    1. Good call for actual gunfight. However, for flanking movement, extra ammunition is vital. Not to mention, long-term survival.

      Stay in the fight.


  26. I RESENT THE "DETROIT" COMMENT! . . . just kidding . . . it's the truth . . . more dangerous areas call for other considerations :)

    great article

  27. So I guess I need an M60 (I'm from Detroit)

  28. Don't know if i missed it in my reading, i also carry a small pocket survival guide and a wild edibles playing card pack with color photos and use and descriptions.

  29. Just a thought for light wieght fire starting. I see alot of people talking about bic lighters, as a smoker I know that a decent breeze can make starting a fire more difficult. Has anyone thought of tossing some cotton balls, a piece of 000 steel wool (soapless kind) and a small 12v battery (the kind used in smoke detectors) Super easy to use even in wind and light rain.
    Just a thought.

  30. This is a well thought out list for alot of folks. I carry a pack with me daily, whether I go to work, to the mountains or to another town. I consider it a get home bag with few items that live in it, but they make sense to me. I agree whole heartedly with the blend in look. I can think of a few people around here who are balls to the wall tactcal mall ninjas just waiting for society to collapse so they can take to the streets in their tactical gear to do God knows what. My guess is get shot and robbed, but I shall not judge. I feel it is better to look like everyone else, and having both a college and university in town, backpacks are a very common sight here. The pack I chose has only one large main compartment and one exterior pocket. But it still holds everything with room to add more stuff as I see fit. And depending what I'm doing or where I'm going, I swap out this or that, but the list that follows lives in there:
    *Snare wire
    *Folding knife
    *Folding saw
    *Henry AR-7
    *50 rounds .22 LR ammunition in plastic container
    *Stainless steel water bottle
    *A small first aid kit in a Zip-lok bag with bandages, pain killers, scissors, tweezers, Quick-clot, etc
    *A small tarp
    *Plastic bags
    *Compact bino's

    This pack doesn't weight much and has room to strap on my rain coat. It complements my regular EDC gear which is on my ALWAYS. That is a multi-tool, either a fixed blade or a folding knife, a flashlight and a lighter. In my parka is another folder. In my vehicle I keep a good load of stuff as well, including a shovel, tow rope, ax, machete, take down fishing rod, full tool box and another folding knife and fire steel in a pouch as a quick grab'n'go item. There is also a large tarp, cold weather vest and hi-vis vest. My goal is to get home and come up with a plan when there. That is all I focus on and why I keep what I do in my pack, in my vehicle and on my person. God bless and stay safe.

  31. A short list of EDC items follows:
    *Glock 22 w/2 spare mags
    *Cold Steel Master Hunter
    *550 cord
    *AquaMira Survival Straw
    *Five ways to make fire
    *Wool Buff (OD)
    *Blackhawk Gloves
    *6 Cliff Bars
    *Blowout Kit (Tourinquet, Coban, QuikClot, etc)
    *Wet wipes
    *Hand Sanitizer
    *Flashlight (Streamlight Polytach)
    *Knife sharpener (Lansky compact)
    *Med Kit (Ibuprofen, Benedryl, Imodium, BandAids, etc)
    *Leatherman PST
    *Cammenga Lensatic Compass
    *Compact reading glasses
    *Paper & Pencil (Good tinder)

  32. Lots of good suggestions above.

    I suggest a Hello Kitty or I Love John Tesh backpack. No one will ever imagine your pack is kitted out with your collection of semi automatic weapons, grenades, Molotov cocktails, etc.

    Tell everyone you meet you have a plethora of serious communicable diseases. This will encourage people to not engage with you. :-]

    If they still insist in getting inside your personal space, for those who are not comfortable carrying around firearms or those who want to enhance their personal portable arsenal, consider adding a taser and pepper spray.

    I think a must have even in this day of all sorts of high tech communications systems is an old school solar and/or hand cranked radio since power/communications systems may be down and all those smart phones will become instantly dumb.

    Also, since power may not be available to charge your phones, mp3 players, tablets, laptops, etc., consider a solar charger. I have a friend who does NGO work in remote places and this is an essential part of his travel pack. He also uses a netbook -- which are much smaller and lighter than laptops and far less expensive. You can probably pick up used ones for under $150.

    If you're really hardcore, get a sat phone. You can then call your mercenary friends to come rescue you while you sip your mocha latte you concocted from the instant coffee and powered milk you mixed in the steel thermos you bolted onto your car engine. :)

    I tease a bit about the extreme measures people go to but I must point the finger at myself first: I'm still using stuff I have from my Y2K stash. :-)

  33. One other thing I meant to add especially for first aid. I can picture all the guys faces cringing but tampons are lifesaving. Especially for bullet wounds as they are highly absorbing and can expand. If not in your EDC, then they should be included in a first aid kit somewhere. Same with maxipads. Bandages are expensive, fem hygiene products are not by comparison. While they may not be sterilized in the same way bandages are packaged, they can still be used for wound care in emergencies.

    Also a bic pen or any pen in which the pen barrel can be used as a trach device for airflow or as a fluid removing conduit. Plastic straws may work in a pinch.

    And a sewing kit. Can always be used to stitch up serious wounds. Super glue is good for smaller cuts.

    While not as effective as over the counter antibacterial cremes, etc., honey has natural antibacterial and antibiotic qualities. Manuka honey from New Zealand has the highest amount and has been used in wound treatment (there is a medicinal grade) but it is very expensive.