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Thursday, April 1, 2010

The EDC Bag

Your EDC bag is one of your most important preps. 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:
  • 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 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."

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