Two Is One, One Is None: All About Backups

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If you've been into everyday carry for a while now, you’ve probably heard the saying “two is one, one is none." In other words, it means you should carry a backup. If you’re only carrying one critical item (like a knife or flashlight) and it breaks or goes missing, then you’re out of luck. By carrying a backup (whether it be on your person, or in a pouch/bag) you can ensure that you’ll never be stranded without the tools you need. In this guide, we’ll explain the benefits of following the “two is one…” mantra, how to put it into practice, and some solid gear recommendations to get you started.

Why Carry a Backup?

While minimalism can work well in your EDC, you might also benefit from some thoughtful redundancy. To learn more about that, check out this article on the topic. There are many upsides to having backup items, but the main points boil down to these three:

  • In Case of Main Tool Failure: When you put your gear through the wringer day in and day out, there's a chance your gear can fail. Whether it's something with moving parts like a folding knife or something with batteries or electronics like a flashlight, a backup item gives you some insurance. For example, if your flashlight battery dies, you don’t want to be left in the dark. Simple things like carrying an additional battery or keeping a small light on your keychain make great fixes.

  • Increased Versatility with Complementary Functions: That serrated tanto knife you carry may not be ideal of all situations. Something in a different size or with complementary functions (for example, a small plain edge blade for precision work) can help your EDC cover a wider range of tasks.

  • To Help Others Stay Prepared: If a friend needs to borrow a knife, light, or multitool, you can be prepared. Plus, why trust someone else with your favorite EDC if you can just hand them your beater knife.

Recommended Backup Items

We don't mean to say that you should necessarily have a backup of everything in your EDC. Not everyone needs two cell phones, for example. Backups of some items are more popular than others and it's usually because they're small enough to keep handy but functional enough to work in a pinch. If you're not sure where your EDC could use some redundancy, start here:

  • Knife: There's such a large variety of knives out there with specialized blade shapes and steels for every kind of task. And since a knife is a staple tool in many EDCs, having a backup only adds versatility to your EDC. Spyderco’s affordable line of liner lock folders make excellent backups. The Tenacious looks especially sharp in this limited edition with green G10 scales.

  • Flashlight: It can be risky to rely on a single flashlight in an emergency, especially since batteries can deplete sooner than you'd expect. For a ton of lumens in a small package, the Nitecore TIP makes a great backup, keychain carry or not. It’s got a metal chassis and is rechargeable via USB.

  • Pen: You might be prepared with your own EDC pen, but it doesn't hurt to have a spare to loan out or if your main jotter goes missing. For a backup pen, consider something small that can live on your keychain. The Pico Pen is a solid metal option that’ll stand up to being bounced around with your keys.

  • Multi-tool: You can't argue the sheer performance of a full-sized multi-tool. But because they're so big, they can be too bulky to carry everywhere or even overkill for light tasks. As a complementary backup, a Swiss Army Knife like the Victorinox Pioneer X is a solid, lightweight multitool with a ton of functions. You can use its main blade for cutting through tape and cardboard, or keep it pristine for when you need a sharp, precise blade.

  • Payment method/cash: There are fewer things worse than being out without your wallet. The True Utility Cash Stash is an excellent way to always have some cash on hand. Tuck an extra $20 into the capsule, attach it to your keys, and forget about it until you need it.

What to Look for in a Backup


When choosing a set of backups, there are a few key considerations. You might want to have maximum redundancy (like two bigger, fully functional knives) or something a little more versatile (like a knife paired with a multi-tool that also has a blade). It’s important to consider your daily tasks, what gear you use on a regular basis, and what you’d be absolutely lost without. 

There’s no right way to choose backup gear, so take a closer look at your specific needs. An IT person who’s always looking for wires in the walls may want to carry a backup flashlight, while someone working on a construction site may want two heavy duty knives. Keep in mind, there’s no wrong way to put together a backup kit.

How to Carry Your Backups

Pocket space usually comes at a premium for EDCers. Instead of weighing down your jacket or jeans, consider these convenient ways to carry backup gear:

  • In an EDC Pouch: It’s no secret that we are a fan of EDC pouches. These organizers are excellent for a backup kit thanks to their tidy internal organization and compact size. You can find ideas on what to fill your pouch with in this guide.

  • On a Keychain Rig: Since most of us carry a keychain, why not add some extra utility? Smaller gear like one piece multitools, compact keychain pens, Swiss army knives, and more can all be added to your keychain without taking up a ton of room.

  • In a Bag: This might be a no-brainer, but it’s definitely worth mentioning. By keeping a dedicated backup or two in your daily bag, you’ll never be without crucial gear. Keeping backups in your bag is especially useful if you forget something. Our tactical bag guide has got you covered if you're still looking for the perfect EDC.

  • In Your Car: Keeping a dedicated emergency kit in your vehicle is always a good idea. Why not throw in a few EDC essentials as well? You never know when a multitool will come in handy. Plus, if you’re going somewhere, there’s a good chance you’re getting there in your car.

Remember, where you keep your backup is just as important. The same way you might back up your data on a physical hard drive and on the cloud, you don't want to keep all your EDC eggs in one basket. If you carry a spare key, for example, you wouldn't put it on the same keychain you might lose. Spread things out and try to balance security and access to cover your bases.

Do you subscribe to the mantra of “two is one, one is none?" Let us know why (or why not) in the comments below. Make sure to tell us what your favorite backup gear is too!

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"Two is one and one is none" is a tacticool mantra pushed by the thousands of military and survival equipment companies to sell people more stuff. I prefer complementary equipment. 90% thre people on this website use their knives to open their Amazon paper boxes of double and triple pieces of identical type of equipment.
Two is one and one is none is true of time or location crucial equipment. A professionals tools for example. In today's urban world very little of EDC fits that category. In fact the most likely items which could qualify are the wallet and possibly a phone, the items people are least likely to carry backups for. Backup for a blade, for most uses, is what the 90% of the developed world who don't carry knives use. Scissors, a key, a kitchen knife, teeth.
I meant critical, not crucial in my first sentence. I wish there was the possibility to edit these comments. :)
Once you refresh the page the edit icon shows up.

I just don't get the fascination with blades on EDC. Some folks here have 4.
4??? Some folks here have hundreds...
Hundreds in their pockets?
I live in a big city without a car, sometimes when things go pear-shaped having two of something does come in handy. I limit my carry by using an 8L backpack, but I still carry "extra" items which have helped me perform first aid on myself or others, protected me from bad weather, and saved me needing to buy something overpriced on the fly.

I don't carry a knife because of strict laws where I am, but extra meds and first aid supplies, extra handkerchiefs, extra headphones, extra reusable bags, extra rain gear, extra chargers have all come in handy several times.
Exactly! EDC isn't about carrying a knife, flashlight, etc... it's about what YOU carry, every day, that works for you! Me, I have carried a pocketknife every day, everywhere that I leagally could, for over 45 years now, but that's what I find useful and edc. If what you need every day is different, cool! That's your edc!
I can't speak to that. But Many people own several knives and rotate depending on their mood, daily tasks or location.
I think this is a good article in that it gets you to think about the "what ifs" and contemplate what you really need in your pockets. I agree with the principle that it is always good to have a "plan B", and I believe that is what is at the heart of the "one is none" mantra. But personally I just don't subscribe to the train of thought that your plan B has to be carried on you everyday. If you take the time to give it some thought, you can have a plan B that is readily available, although not weighing down your pockets. I like the points Ed makes near the lower half of the article speaking to keeping back-ups, but in a bag or your vehicle.

I would go so far as to recommend using a risk matrix to validate your carry. What is the probability that you will need an item, vs the severity of harm if you are caught without... I think you will find that in most situations the low-probability / high-severity risks are easily mitigated by stashing back-ups and non-essential items in your glovebox and walking a few extra steps to your vehicle when the situation arises. Personally, I would rather take the extra few steps 0.1% of the time rather than carry that dead weight 99.9% of the time, but I respect that not every circumstance favors my preference.
While there's no denying that the "two is one, one is none" principle has been appropriated as a sales pitch by gear vendors, there's nothing intrinsically "tacticool" about it. At bottom it's just a restatement of Murphy's Law: things *will* go pear-shaped, usually in the worst possible time/place/manner. Having single points of failure in your most critical gear is, therefore, bad.

There's a natural tension between weight/bulk/frugality and redundancy, and it's certainly possible to take the latter to a ridiculous extreme. It's more than fair to debate whether you really *need* a backup for a particular piece of gear given your risk matrix; and, even if you do, whether you wouldn't be better off stashing it in a dump pouch or glove box rather than carrying it on your person. But that's no reason to sneer at the very idea of redundancy, or at people who take it more seriously than you do.

Also? I'm pretty sure you don't have the faintest idea what 90% of the people on this site use their knives for, champ.
Yeah, my Swiss army classic on my keychain is about as 'tacticool' as it gets. But it is my backup for my pocket knife, usually a Swiss army tinker.
Being that I live in the country away from any cities the "two in one and one is none" mantra is with me all the time for things I go through like propane, food and fuel. As for my EDC, not so much. I'm no longer in the line of work where the failure of an EDC item could be crucial to my well being and that of any partners. The only thing I carry two of are knifes and the two knives I carry serve separate functions. One is a single blade thumb open lock back while the other is a multi tool.

The best thing about this article is that it gets people thinking about backups. While the focus may be on EDC the premise transfers to other life functions. As I was told years ago "it's always better to have and not need then need and not have."
Two is one, one is none, three for me. One set of knife, torch, pen and fire lighting on person. Back up set on a keychain. Plus a full set in the car.
I carry two blade plus my multi tool. I also carry a spare AA battery for my flashlight, plus I have my phone light as well. I do work in construction and use my EDC on a regular basis. Every EDC is different and I believe at a certain point, that if you haven't used a tool in a long time, maybe adjust your carry.
My favorite piece of backup gear is the Survival Belt, by Slide Belts. It's a bomb-proof belt (thermoplastic polyurethane alloy layered around a web core) that can be used as an expedient strap, and the buckle conceals an AUS-8 knife blade with a liner lock, a bottle opener, an LED flashlight, and a ferrocerium rod. All in all it's a nice piece of wearable redundancy for the basics that I keep in my pockets, without adding much in the way of weight or bulk.
Have a link for the EDC that is the main picture? Want to see where to get a couple of those items.
The essence of having an EDC is preparedness. So the mantra "Two is one and one is none" makes a lot of sense for EDCers to follow. Having redundancy is never a bad thing. We just need to spread them well enough to fit our needs without looking like a commando getting ready for war 😄

With regard to preparedness, I just follow one rule: "I'd rather have it with me and not need it, than to need it and not have it with me."

Nice read! More power to you guys!
I like EDC that is minimal and fits in my pocket,so I try to keep EDC lightweight and minimal.But it is certainly a problem that the flashlight breaks down in the dark or the pen's ink runs out when I want to take notes.I agree with the idea of "Plan B", but not everyone wants to thicken pockets or enlarge bags.Backup is a great idea, but it can not be a basis for denying minimalism. The opposite is also the same.
I've literally never had a failure of any of the pieces that people insist on carrying 2 of. If you have a proper knife and don't use it like a caveman there's no reason it shouldn't last 20+ years. What's next 3 is one 2 is none, give me a break. These are the same people that walk around with a concealed weapon and 2 magazines for fear of attacking dinosaurs or zombies. I'll take my chances with one.
I stopped looking at the EDC posts because of the backup items that people claim to carry. I refuse to believe some carry what they post in the photos.
Bear in mind that some of these tools end up in organizers and bags. But they go with the owner and are considered by many to still be EDC.
They never say what's in a backpack or vehicle so I assume it's all on person.
I agree that often some of the stuff folks are claiming to carry would be overkill to say the least, and in some cases down right impossible to have in their pockets at all time. And as somewhat of a minimalist, sometimes I even have myself a laugh. But in the end I find value in most every post and everyone's different perspective. The more gear people post, the better the chances are that I might come across that one really great item I would have otherwise never known about. Also, I realize my EDC style might not work for everyone. So I am often fascinated by what folks in other professions or circumstances find useful and how they equip their pockets.
Yeah I always wonder what all people need to cut. I carry one knife, usually a small traditional or something similar with a 2-2.5" blade, keys, wallet, phone, watch. I'm a little bit OCD in that I really struggle to carry two of anything - putting a SAK in my pocket makes me want to take the bottle opener off my keychain, and I've dropped a flashlight all together now that summer's here and I have one on my cell phone. A lot of these pocket dumps are comical to me, but it's always fun to see what people have :)
Who makes the coyote pouch in the fourth photo next to the taped up first aid kit. Thanks.
The submitter didn't specify in their original post. Here's a link: http://everydaycarry.com/posts/21883/edcvehicle-bag
Is that a Klarus XT2C in the second picture?