A Diet Plan for Your EDC
Tony Sculimbrene 06.19.13
Let’s play a game. Take this little quiz, it takes about 30 seconds:
1. Do you have a bag on your person that contains things like a water filtration system, a method for lighting fires, and/or a fixed blade with more than 4″ of blade length?
2. Do you carry a backup knife with you?
3. Do you carry a backup flashlight with you?
4. Do you carry an emergency kit in an Altoids tin?
5. Do you have more than two mini tools on your keychain?
6. Does your EDC weigh more than five pounds?
7. Does your EDC have more than ten things in it?
8. Do you often wish that you had pants with more pockets or great load-bearing capacity?
9. Do you have a fanny pack with a Leatherman in it, and do you wear it all of the time?
10. Are the edges on your pockets worn out from pocket clips?
If you answered yes to more than two of those questions, keep reading. If you answered yes to more than 8 of those questions, go apologize to your significant other and then keep reading.
People interested in EDC stuff are generally the prepared type. They’re the people that folks go to when they need a hand or a screwdriver. “Go ask (insert your name here) he will be able to help you.” This is great, but sometimes we go overboard. About two and half years ago I went overboard, gathering up neat gadgets for a bag. Then at some point I stopped and I realized that the stuff I was carrying was not stuff I used. It was a way to have my collection of gear and gadgets with me. It was the adult male equivalent of the security blanket, except instead of calling it my binky I called it my Bail Out Bag because, you know, that sounds way cooler.
There are a few quippy sayings out there that a lot of people use to guide what they carry with them everyday. One is “better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.” The other, derived from military experience is “two is one and one is none.” Both are prevalent approaches to EDC, but absent special circumstances, such as a job that demands certain gear, I think they are terrible approaches to determining what to carry. They are bad approaches because they are not limiting principles–they can be used to justify carrying just about anything. Snake anti-vemon is perhaps the very best “need it and not have it” item I can think of, but if you are at the point of considering whether or not to carry snake anti-venom on a daily basis then something has gone very wrong. You are not in need of a bigger bag, but a psychiatric diagnosis.
Don’t get me wrong–I want to be prepared. I just don’t want to have to wear suspenders and a belt to hold up my pants. There are times I carry my bag full of supplies and gear with me. On long hikes I have a bag with supplies. If weather is bad and I am traveling long distances I have my bag. But for regular jaunts to work or around town, I’ve pared down my EDC to the essentials–a wallet, sometimes a watch, smartphone, keys, knife and flashlight. At work, I toss a pen into the mix.
No keychain full of crazy pico-sized tools, no backup to a backup. I carry just what I need and nothing more. I also have stuff stashed all over the place. I have lights in critical places in my house, like the electrical panel and my nightstand. I have a multitool and a light in my car. I have a first aid kit in my car as well. My bag lives in my closet, partial empty, but still with some basics. How did I get here?
Well, it was part of a process.
An exercise to help you slim down
Two or three years ago, after a year as an EDC dilettante, I decided to go all-in. I made a list of gear I wanted to carry and did research on the best versions of each piece of gear I could afford. It was at the point that I was dropping $60 on a Bruton lighter that I realized I had gone crazy. I was no longer buying things to use, but really collecting things. Being a collector is fine, but that is not what I wanted to do. I wanted to be prepared. I was prepared, but encumbered and weighed down by gear that stood no realistic chance of being used. So I decided I would keep track of everything I used over a two-week period (here is another week when I documented what I used out of my EDC for purposes of illustration on my website). At the end of that period I evaluated what I would keep and what I wouldn’t.
I found that I did not use the keychain tool all that much, and not at all if you excluded its use as a bottle opener. I will admit that the keychain tool I had at the time, an Atwood Atwrench lacked a Phillips driver and a snag edge, something commonly found on newer keychain tools). I found that I never used my backup flashlight or the lighter. In fact, I never used the bag or its contents at all. I also found that I used my flashlight for very specific tasks, none of which required a great deal of throw (the ability to illuminate things far away). Instead it was all about flood (close up illumination) and good color rendering (or color accuracy). I also found that I never needed a folding knife longer than 3 inches. With this information, I just cut out a bunch of stuff. I sold a healthy portion of the gear and changed my bag from an everyday companion to an emergency thing.
The two-week gear diary exercise is incredibly helpful. It helps you figure out what you really need versus what you want or think you need. There are some caveats, though. For example, if I needed an Epi-Pen it would, hopefully, not get used once every two weeks, but I will still keep it with me. Additionally, when specific tasks happen e.g. spring landscaping or large home maintenance projects) my carry changes. So it’s best to choose as representative a two week period as possible, not times when you are on vacation or the like. Finally, I would imagine that folks that have jobs that require specific gear, like law enforcement, or people with greater self-defense needs than myself, would probably carry more stuff, for example a firearm, even if it wasn’t used. But with these limitations in mind, the two-week gear diary can help you rid yourself of security blanket items and get you back to what you use and need.