Buying lots of tacticool gear looks cool, feels cool and will probably make you feel safer and more prepared, but will not actually help unless you have carefully considered what you need, what you want and how best to get it. A false sense of security will probably do you more harm than knowing that you are unprepared.
Having said that, there is nothing inherently wrong with tacticool gear, and we all like looking cool, as long that doesn’t get too much in the way of everything else. This article will set out the basics of working out what to carry, and how to carry it, as well how to use what you have and what is around you.
What is an EDC Strategy?
Your strategy informs your gear. You probably already know what this means but have not formalized your conception of it. Say for example you happen to be a ‘minimalist’ EDCer with a few, high quality, expensive things in your pockets day to day.
This description of your EDC informs you that your strategy is ‘Buy Once, Cry Once’ (BOCO), the philosophy that it is better to buy a really good product (though probably at a higher cost) once than to buy the same cheap thing again and again whenever it breaks; as well as minimalistic, which generally means you prefer to know how to improvise a tool or solution for a problem then carrying something just in case.
Although they dictate each other to some extent, your strategy is made of two parts: what you carry (and when/where/in what circumstances that changes) and how you carry (tacticool backpack vs leather messenger or open vs concealed carry). Some people prefer to chuck everything in a single carry-sack, other like lots of pockets and compartments, but either way, if you have lots of gear you will need a bag.
So What Should your Strategy Be?
Your strategy will differ from other people’s, so this article will not attempt to give a ‘perfect recipe’ for the right mindset for choosing your gear. Instead, these are some good things to keep in mind for developing it yourself.
Before anything else your personal circumstances will dictate what it is possible for you to carry. Check the laws in your country, state and county and any bylaws in your local area, especially regarding guns, weapons in general and knives and other bladed tools.
Once you know what can be carried, consider what you actually need. Step one, consider your current, immediate situation and what might be useful in it. This essentially boils down to your job and most common situations at home and is likely to include a watch, pen, phone and any specialist tools you use in your work life.
Step two is think about what might happen. For example a lot of people – in countries where it is legal to – carry a handgun. Most of these hope very much never to be in a situation where the use of a handgun would even be considered. They also know that the likelihood is that one day a handgun will be necessary, so choose to carry.
A handgun is the first thing that comes under this heading, but guess what the first thing you need after a gunshot is? First aid. Yes, consider every possible circumstance and carry accordingly, but also consider what might happen if you were on the other side of that circumstance. Remember what John Owen said, that ‘a knife may cut the meat or the throat of a man’.
Also, remember that situations which will definitely occur are at one end of the spectrum and situations where you will need to use a gun are at the other, but there are areas in between. Things which are quite likely to happen, like cutting yourself and needing a plaster (especially if you carry a knife) or wanting to find something in the dark where a flashlight is useful (anyone who has ever lost their keys under s cinema seat will sympathize here).
Build your EDC in levels, which vary according to the type of circumstance (such as being nearer or further from home/safety). If you move from one room of your house to another, you really do not need a full pack with an overnight change of clothes, but you probably have a pocket knife and a torch on you all the time, wherever you are going. Looking at the issue from the other direction, it would be stupid to take a weekend break in an overseas city with only a pocket knife and a torch.
The lower the level, the more often you use the gear, but the less you can have. The first level is your pockets, so keep in there those things which are useful day in, day out. Try to make these multitools (in the sense of things with more than one purpose).
A knife is a great example. In fact, the number of times I use a knife as a ‘great example’ only goes to show how great an example it really is! It can cut, prepare food, gouge, pry, fight, be used as an impact tool and drive screws. And the list has only just begun. Of course, a multitool like a Leatherman or a Gerber is also good.
The next level up is a bag or pack. The contents of this can be split up into: bulkier equipment which you still need often (tablets, laptops, water bottles and bladders), spares (spare batteries, spare matches, lighter fluid) and add-ons (bits for a screwdriver socket) and larger versions of your pocket carry gear.
The last is often the least remarked upon. For instance you might carry a few plasters and maybe some basic painkillers in your pockets, but have a larger first aid kit with a range of dressings, drugs, bandages and other useful stuff in it. In the case of having a ‘limited version’ in you pockets (even if your pocket space is so small that it is limited to not existing at all!), a better, more comprehensive version in your pack is a great supplement.
This works on the nearer/further from safety principle: if you have something in your pockets, you need it, but it is likely that a bigger version would be preferable in a serious scenario. If you are near home/safety then the bigger version is probably available, but the further away you get, the less likely it is so the more important it is that you make sure you have access to it by carrying it yourself.
Finally, there is your vehicle, or VEDC. If it isn’t in your bag, it will fit in your car. Even a really big first aid kit, with all the gear you could possibly need will be pretty easy to accommodate in most trucks, next to a spare axe and a bottle of water. The truly critical stuff goes into your bag, but EDC ‘luxuries’ which you will always have time to go and get (as well as things like spare fuel, which are only useful in a vehicle) can be kept in your car.
If you want to really perfect your setup, then you can also consider your clothing as the very lowest level. Clothing has three functions: to keep you warm and safe, to hold things in your pockets, and to project an outward appearance which can make a real statement.
Depending on the situation, you may not care how you look, or conversely you may not care how utilitarian your pockets are so long as people think you look cool. The point is not really about one article giving you fashion tips, but training yourself to think critically about what you wear, based on why you want to wear it.
If you are happy to acknowledge that you just want to look cool in tacticool gear, that’s fine. Just don’t lie to yourself and pretend it isn’t true when it is. Early on in thinking about your EDC strategy, decide what your goals are and then work out what you might need to fulfill them. If you are an electrician and your goal is to make lots of money, then EDCing a hammer and a screwdriver is a good idea. EDCing a hammer otherwise cold get you some funny looks.
You will also find that you need to trade goals off against each other. Sure, it is very useful to EDC a multitool with a relatively large blade, but if you use it in the wrong setting (even just to open a box), you may get some very strange looks. You have to trade off the goal of being prepared with the goal of not being thought weird by your friends. How you deal with the trade off is up to you, but it worth considering.
Knowledge Weighs Nothing
Knowing is free and knowledge is power. Therefore (some) power is free. With the rise of the internet, finding out and learning are also now free. In some cases, you may not even need an EDC tool if you can learn the requisite skill or knowledge to replace it.
Having a big FAK is useful, but only if you know how to use what is inside, as well as all the diagnostic and situational skills which complement that. This philosophy extends from knowing where the nearest bathroom is all the way to learning a new language because it will be useful where you are going.
In brief, remember this:
- Circumstances. What can I do?
- Goals. What will I do?
- Levels. How will I do it?
- Knowledge. What should I know?