What do you carry with you everyday? It’s a question most have probably never thought much about. For years, my daily ritual as I crossed the threshold of my home in the morning has been going over my mental checklist: “keys, phone, wallet” coupled with a three pat check of my person to ensure all items are present and accounted for. These days though, it looks a little bit more like “keys, phone, wallet, watch, lighter, sunglasses, knife, laptop, flashlight, pen, notepad, headphones…” Needless to say, the accompanying pocket pat routine that goes along with this list can cause someone to suddenly appear struck by the fear that they are covered by dozens of spiders.
Welcome to the EDC lifestyle.
An EDC (or everyday carry) item is anything considered essential in one’s everyday life, and the community of people who are passionate about those items is growing. EDC postings are popular all over the internet and social media. The EDC subreddit has 70,000 subscribers, blogs recommending everyday essentials abound, and folks post 20-minute flashlight reviews to YouTube.
My first entrée into this subculture was from Qurban Naylor, who regularly posts “pocket dumps” on Instagram. “A pocket dump is basically what a gentleman, lady, collector, tactical type of person, or nerd has in their pocket on a certain day,” says Naylor. “Showing off those items you put together that day in terms of colour, utility, and organization is what it’s all about.”
These kinds of posts are very popular on Instagram, a cursory search for #pocketdump returns 120,000 results. One thing these pictures make clear is that EDC is often as much about form as it is function. Based on the people I’ve met, there are two distinct groups of EDCers: the style guys, and the disaster preppers. For the stylish, the goal is finding unique items that express something about the carrier (think vintage Zippos and hand-made pocket knives). The disaster prepper takes things to a whole different level. Three day survival kits are de rigueur for preppers (three days being the hypothetical amount of time it would take for help to arrive in the event of a cataclysmic event) but can also be as small as an Altoid tin.
Naylor keeps a “bug out bag” of gear in his truck at all times. “I have first aid, escape tools and survival gear if I needed to spend the night in the woods, and I’m planning to build a three day bag when I have more cash,” says Naylor, adding “But for me it’s more of an urban emergency bag… for sleepovers.”
The type of disaster that preppers are prepping for is largely unclear. Judging from the gear posted online, they seem to be anticipating a scenario where they will be required to perform a lot of cutting, stabbing, prying, and glass-breaking. Less sexy, more practical items are often omitted. The government of Canada, for instance, recommends that every household have a 72-hour emergency kit, including clothes, two litres of water per person per day, canned food, and a first aid kit. These recommended items don’t quite fit with the mainstream EDC ethos. Especially if you contrast the government of Canada list with those of (the admittedly cuckoo-sounding) “Off the Grid News,” which recommends TWO guns: a concealed handgun on your person and another in your car. “Try to choose something that is big enough to be intimidating, fires a popular round, and is common enough to find parts. (If the grid goes down while you’re driving, this could be the only gun you have).”
It’s certainly true that amidst all the knives, lights, and tools in the pictures online, handguns are conspicuously present. Canadian carry laws are quite strict regarding who can have a gun on their person, but in the US all 50 states have legislation making it perfectly legal to carry a concealed firearm in public. If that weren’t terrifying enough, a 25 million volt stun gun (in hot pink!) can be purchased on Amazon.com for $10.98, provided you have a US shipping address.
Bob Gross is a student and amateur EDC enthusiast who wishes Canada would follow suit. “It’s not like it’s unregulated down there [in the US], people still have to apply for concealed-carry permits,” says Gross. “In Canada right now, the only way I could carry even a pistol would be in a locked box while traveling to a shooting range, which I would have to have a membership to.”
Whatever the reason for getting into it, EDC clearly can become an obsession at some point. I’ve talked with guys (yes, EDC is an almost exclusively male phenomenon in my experience and a search for #pursedump returned less than 500 results on Instagram) who don’t think twice about dropping $400 on knives, despite the fact that they already own 12 others. I’ve personally added a small folding knife and a compact flashlight into my life and found them extremely useful. They’re the kind of things that you don’t realize how much you’ll use until you carry them. The first time you have to open one of those demonic rigid clamshell containers and realize you have a knife on you can cause pure joy. And as everyday.com points out, “You would bring an umbrella with you for a 50% chance of rain, so why wouldn’t you bring a flashlight for 100% chance of darkness every night?”
Just know that if you go beyond these few simple items, you are opening the door into a very expensive new addiction.