Build Your Own EDC System

by Frank Martin

One of my favorite little voyeuristic activities is wandering around the gallery over at Every Day Carry (EDC). The assortment of things someone chooses to carry on a regular basis says a lot about them. Look at enough of these pictures though, and you can’t help but wonder about the logic behind the collection. The majority of the time its whats useful to the person on a regular basis (hence EDC) when you’re just starting to get a collection of tools together, where to start and what to prioritize can be a bit intimidating. What follows are my own thoughts on the subject, and some ideas about how to go about effectively accumulating your gear.

The “Naked Without” Tier:

As I mentioned last week, these are the things most people carry, and its where the focus should be at the beginning. These are the items most people would probably feel naked without: cell phone, keychain, wallet. Wristwatches seem to be less common than they used to be. A good hat is optional, but if you live somewhere where it rains a lot, like I do, or where its hot and sunny on a regular basis, it can be a good thing to have.

If you don’t have a watch, I highly recommend getting one. It looks a lot more professional to glance at a wrist than shove a hand in a pocket to dig out a phone. A good watch won’t actually set you back that much either. The Timex Weekender, my current EDC watch is about $30 on Amazon.

In terms of upgrading things in tier one for EDC gadgets, the most enjoyable place to start is the keyring. While its entirely possible to get the dreaded “prepare bulge” by loading all kinds of neat gadgets on, focusing on a small number can be incredibly useful. I bought myself a True Utility telescoping pen, Victorinox Classic SD, Leatherman Brewzer (glorified bottle opener), and True Utility Tiny Torch because I found myself needing these specific tools at some time or another when I didn’t have tier 2 with me. Considering upgrading the keychain itself can also be useful. A traditional split ring will do a number on your fingers trying to get tools like the Leatherman Brewzer on.

the Tool tier:

A good pen/pocket notebook as well as a full size pocket knife, folding blade knife, and multi-tool should have pride of place here. Using any or all of these tools is at least in part personal preference, but at least get your hands on a pen you like and a pocket notebook, as well as a pocket knife. All these items can be had for under $20 each and still be quality pieces, but you can also easily spend between $50-$100 for a good mid-range pocket knife or pen. While not technically a tool, a handkerchief or bandana can be useful for anything from something to blow your nose with to a tourniquet.

the Jacket:

Think of tier three as mid size items, things that would be too big to carry in your pants or shirt pocket, but could fit nicely in a jacket pocket. I carry a Kindle Paperwhite, as well as a mini maglite in tier three, and move my phone from my pants pocket to the inside pocket of my jacket. I’d carry the flashlight in tier 2 but its a bit big for a pocket carry flashlight and doesn’t have a pocket clip. Sometimes I put the office/tools kit from my backpack into a jacket pocket, but my jacket has nice big cargo pockets on the outside, so this might not work for everyone.

the EDC Backpack:

The last tier is the ever useful EDC backpack. I jokingly call it the real world bag of holding. Mine currently has a number of things including basic short term survival needs (shelter, water, food) in the form of a thin wind/rain proof shell, a reusable water bottle, and various energy bars. The idea isn’t to be a 72 hour survival cash, but a get through the day resource. After all, how often do you feel hungry or thirsty or get caught out in the weather during a normal day? This is the first thing that should be taken care of. I also carry a med kit, Dopp kit, and office/tools kit

A first aid kit can be a good resource to have on hand, and you can get a decent starter kit mostly of various bandaids at a dollar store. This’ll take care of most paper cuts and minor injuries, though anything beyond low-level office mayhem will need a sturdier kit, various options being available on Amazon.

One thing that can be incredibly useful is a tool kit. Mine is held in a Vanquest Personal Pocket Maximizer and includes a collection of items: a blank pocket notebook, various mechanical pencils, pens, and highlighters, and a glasses cloth tucked into the outside pocket. I chose the Vanquest organizer over the Maxpedition EDC Pocket Organizer, my original choice, after watching this video where Urban Prepper drags both behind his SUV and the Vanquest comes out basically unscathed while the Maxpedition is shredded.

Though it might seem weird, I also carry my Dopp kit with me on a regular basis. If I get a cold I’ve always got cough drops and zinc lozenges with me, and if I get something in my teeth I’ve got a way to get it out (in addition to either of the tooth picks in my Victorinox Classic SD and Spartan II pocket knives). The pack really is my EVERY Day Carry, which means it functions as one of two carry ons when I travel. All I need to do to pack is put some clothes in a duffel bag and I’m good to go.

I try not to overload the pack because I like having the main compartment available for a backpack’s traditional use of carrying stuff, and I walk and ride the bus everywhere, so it gets heavy fast. If I go grocery shopping or wander a store I almost never get a bag these days and just stuff whatever items I buy in the pack.


When putting a collection of EDC gear together, definitely start with tiers one and two. Focus on at least getting something at first over getting the perfect thing. After all, its better to have a serviceable tool than not have your perfect dream tool. Focus first on getting tools to address needs you already have or discover before expanding out to get your hands on, for example, a multitool, which isn’t as important as making sure you have a pen, so invest in a keychain backup pen before spending money on a Leatherman. After you get squared away with the three survival basics for a backpack, I highly recommend assembling a Dopp kit and a tool kit. Remember, the point of EDC is to make life easier, so focus on tools that will actually be of use in your day to day activities before springing for a $200 Leatherman.