The items we keep in our pockets every day don’t wind up there by chance — they must pass a few tests and meet certain criteria to be part of our daily carry. In the first installment of my Beginner’s Guide to Everyday Carry, I touch upon certain EDC philosophies that direct this process — the “why” behind it all.
In this post, I present a well-rounded pocket drop with solid entry-level choices for each category of essentials. I delve deeper into what qualities make these items not just safe recommendations, but crowd favorites within our own EDC community as well. By the end of this guide, you should have a more concrete idea of what makes gear worthy of your pocket space, as well as easily accessible starting points to get your own everyday carry underway.
NOW That’s What I Call EDC
Considering these items fit in the average pant pocket, you’d think there wouldn’t be that many of them. But take a few moments to browse EDCs submitted by our awesome community, look around in our database, or even see trending products of the day on our site and you’ll discover there’s huge variety across the board.
Luckily, if you consider your daily items through a lens focused on the following characteristics, you’ll be better able to “tell” if a product can make the cut for your everyday carry.
- Accessibility: Your EDC should be “at the ready.” What’s the point of carrying all this stuff to make your life easier or your work more efficient when it takes even longer to get to it? Look for features that make the item easy to get to and put away, especially if you’re building an EDC for emergency situations too. Think pocket clips, keyring attachments, clicky pen tops, external card slots, and so on.
- Usability: Once your gear is out of your pocket, you need to be able to use it quickly, comfortably, and confidently. You don’t want to be wrestling your tools to get them open, and your hands shouldn’t feel sore after a quick fix. Good design doesn’t really need instruction. In the same way, your tools should feel intuitive and pleasant to use.
- Performance: If it’s going to be in your pocket every day, it'd better step up to the plate when it’s time to get to work. There are tools out there that are jack-of-all-trades or do just the bare minimum to get things done. That might work every once in a while, but for everyday use, aim for high performance to make sure each component of your EDC carries their weight, so to speak.
- Durability: Going down this checklist, you’ve ensured this item is easy to get to, easy to use, and good at what it does. But you want something that’s in it for the long haul, that can knock it out of the park 365 days of the year, or really come through when you’re in a pinch. Keep an eye out for tough materials and solid construction to make sure you’re really investing in gear that will pay for itself in usefulness rather than reupping on borderline disposable goods that wear out every few months.
- Carryability: Now you know this item can do everything above. You want it in your pocket. This part is obvious by the name of this whole thing anyway, but pay close attention to its size and weight. If it fits your pocket, it’s technically EDC, but also consider how it fits with the rest of your items — small differences in size or weight can make a huge impact overall. Lastly, make sure it’s comfortable in your pocket (and try not to sit on stuff, it’s bad for your back!). A lot of these things will be made of metal. Bulging keychains, pokey pens, and uncomfortably hard flat wallets are prime candidates to get the boot.
One last variable to consider is price (or in this case, value). For the purpose of this beginner’s guide, the examples shown here are fairly affordable for what they are. Note that inexpensive does not mean cheap!
Also, I personally find it best to “start small” so you can get a taste of what each tool or essential has to offer for your day to day, before committing or upgrading to something bigger or more expensive. You can see each item in my hand — something that pretty product shots in online stores don’t often do, for a bit more context (keep in mind, I don’t have really big hands…!). Let’s get started with the exciting stuff:
Knife, Light, & Multitool
There are so many knife designs that finding your first EDC blade can be a daunting task. The Ambitious makes for a great starting point. It’s by one of the best knife manufacturers in the biz, and it balances performance with ease of use. At 3.6” inches closed, it fits in your palm, while its 2.25” blade comes well under many knife length restriction laws. Despite its lower price point, the Ambitious still delivers decent materials in its low-maintenance, flat ground 8Cr13MoV steel and G-10 handles. Other features like its four-way pocket clip and easy one-hand operation via its liner lock and thumb hole make it a great knife to start with when learning the ropes.
Cheapy button keychain lights or even your phone’s flashlight app really only offer the bare minimum of what it means to be a flashlight. Modern lights commonly found in EDC go beyond simple illumination — they provide versatility in different modes and outputs, using higher quality LEDs to produce better performing beams. You’ll still have light, but you’ll have much more control of it, in significantly useful ways. The ThruNite Ti3 is one of the best entry-level options for experiencing the full modern light experience without resorting to a full-sized light. It can fit on your keychain, it runs on a single AAA battery, it’s made of lightweight but durable aluminum, and uses an industry standard CREE bulb. Its output levels are spaced from a sub-lumen Firefly mode to a max 120 lumen high, so you can appreciate how the amount of light you’re using matters, especially if this will be your first light. Another popular recommendation would be the Maratac AAA for an ultra compact, durable, straightforward light.
Multi-tools come in a mindboggling variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from single pieces of metal cleverly cut to feature different tools, to the larger, more traditional clam-shell folding form factor kind. The Dime falls in a nice sweet spot of functionality and portability in a more familiar form factor. It includes staple tools for most tasks, like spring-loaded pliers and scissors, screwdrivers, bottle opener, tweezers, and a unique plastic cutter designed to get through stubborn security packaging. You can keep one in your coin pocket or on your keychain to enjoy having so many tools at the ready without committing to the weight and bulk of larger and more expensive multitools.
Wallet & Keys
Nite-Ize S-Biner Slidelock
This locking S-Biner is a thoughtful upgrade from a gas station non-locking carabiner for only a few dollars more. Two important qualities in your keychain are retrievability and retention — you’ll want to get your keys quickly and easily, without worry of accidentally losing them. The S-Biner accomplishes this by having two independent gates. One can attach to your belt loop or D-ring on your bag, the other gate attaches your keys and other keychain gadgets (pro tip: foregoing split rings altogether like shown in the picture helps keys stack neatly and allows you to quickly slip them off without wrecking your fingernails). This version has a very simple, but nonetheless crucial locking mechanism — a welcome feature for those who prefer to clip their keys. If you’re the type to pocket tuck your keys, you can always grab one in a larger size.
TGT Wallet 2.0
Your average, leather bifold wallet usually ends up taking prime real estate in your pocket because it’s bulky by design. Dedicated slots for cards, a wasteful use of materials, and often extraneous pockets that end up stuffed with non-essentials all result in the Costanza Exploding Wallet Effect. In the world of everyday carry, “minimalist” wallets that do away with traditional design cues are all the rage, especially on Kickstarter. The TGT Wallet 2.0 (full review here) remains the most successful minimalist wallet on the crowdfunding platform to date, raising over $300K from backers looking for a more modern solution to carrying cards. It’s an option worth looking into if you want to start carrying only the essentials, and potentially doing away with carrying cash altogether. By keeping a barebones loop-and-pocket design, the TGT 2.0 conditions you to carry less, resulting in a stylish, slim, and more manageable carry. If you still prefer the familiar feeling of full-grain leather as opposed to the canvas, elastic, metal, and plastic that new wallets on the block tend to use, consider a crowd favorite in the Saddleback Leather ID Wallet ($39) as well.
Pen, Notebook, & Watch
Fisher Bullet Space Pen
The Fisher Bullet Space Pen unsurprisingly finds its way into the pockets of many adventurous EDCers thanks to its ideal size and pressurized ink cartridge. It allows the pen to write in zero gravity (hence the name Space Pen), underwater, and in other extreme conditions — but in everyday use its real value is its predictable reliability. While it isn’t the smoothest jotter, it’s still a pen many EDCers depend on for daily writing. Its “bullet” form factor allows for easy pocket-, purse-, or even wallet carry. Its metal body adds durability for daily use, but its smooth finish lets it play nicely with other pocketables. An optional pocket clip provides even easier access and an anti-roll function too, making sure the pen stays where you want it. In short, it’s a pen up to spec for astronauts, and a great all-around pen for daily carry.
Field Notes Memo Book
Most travel notebooks opt for black hardcovers and page sizes just out of pocket territory, but Field Notes are different. They’re considered by many EDCers to be the gold standard in pocket notebooks for their decently durable soft covers, thoughtful balance of page count and overall thickness, and all around quality. Field Notes also appeal to EDCers’ individualistic and collector sensibilities by offering tons of collectible cover and page designs. Find a design you like and slip this into your backpocket to have some paper always on hand in a package that’s way easier to carry than large, hardcover notebooks.
Seiko 5 SNK809 Automatic
For an everyday watch, you’d want something dependably accurate, easy to maintain, and versatile in its wearability. This Seiko 5 automatic flieger is just that, at an attractive price point for a first foray into the watch game. While affordable, Seiko is not “cheap.” In fact, the Seiko 5 here features an automatic movement, which means it’s powered by the motion of your wrist. This is perfect for daily duty, since it’d be on your arm all the time anyway. It also means you won’t need to worry about a dead battery like you would in quartz watches. At a modest 37mm, it’s also wearable for wrists of all sizes and it looks good on a variety of straps (we suggest a NATO or ZULU strap, like the leather one shown here) so it’ll be easy to fit into your best look.
By now, you should be up to speed on the driving principles behind EDC, and how they’re reflected in some real world examples of excellent gear presented in this guide. Stay tuned as I’ll cover how to develop and refine your EDC like an expert in the next installment of Carry Smarter.
If you found this guide helpful or particularly eye-opening, leave a comment below with what you learned! Feel free to share your own personal experiences with the essentials presented here, or suggest great beginner-friendly options that weren't on this list too.