So, EDC bags and backpacks: Which one is right for you?
In order to answer this, we have to assess your needs and lifestyle. What kind of job do you have? Do you work from home or office? Is the environment permissive of personal bags, and weapons? If it isn’t is it legal to carry there? Do you travel a lot? Do you live in an urban, suburban or rural area? Are you a man or a woman? What is the company culture and attitude of fellow coworkers like? Do you have like-minded people around you that won’t raise their eyebrows if you start carrying a bag into the office daily? These are the questions you need to start asking yourself.
Rule #1: Blend In, Don’t Stick Out
Assess the dress code and type of bags you see in your office and around your building if you work in an urban area with many pedestrians. If you see nothing but classy messenger bags and leather briefcases, don’t expect to be incognito with a MOLLE-covered 3-day assault pack. You need to belong in order to go unnoticed and unchallenged. Some, however, do argue that the majority of folks out in the world don’t even pay attention to what people are carrying, owing to the perennial popularity of military-style items in popular fashion.
That may not be a risk you should take depending on your workplace environment. You don’t want a nosy, priggish coworker to see your slick-daddy tactical bag and start mocking you or worse, dropping a hint to HR. “Hey, John, what’s with this? Why do you carry this bulging tan military bag with you all over Not a gun in there, is there?! Ha Ha!” Yeah, not funny, or good.
Since you’ll be carrying this pack to and fro daily, even if it just to your vehicle and back depend on someone seeing it. You want their reaction to be one of complete lack of interest in the luggage.
You don’t want to attract the wrong of attention even from good people and neighbors, even if that attention is only “I bet he has a gun in there.” Be discreet. Don’t get all self-righteous and think that it is legal and a free country and if they don’t like it they can Molon Labe and whatever. Cool it. Be honest with yourself. Do you care about being discreet, about being low profile? If so, dress yourself and your gear accordingly. If you only care about legality, then by all means carry whatever you like.
Actions and decisions have social costs: If you have a job and friends you want to keep, handling things like this rudely or clumsily can cost you. It’s all about balance. This whole “not standing out” concept is also referred to as being a “gray man” (or woman!), by the way. It is often overused, but appropriate for our goal.
Rule #2: Carry the Essentials.
All that being said, your bag shouldn’t be too big. You don’t need to carry a hiking backpack with you at the office that’s chock full of all your gear. A smaller bag should not only conceal your wanted gear but also actually carry your laptop, documents, lunch and anything else you need on a daily work basis.
I also don’t recommend you get the absolute smallest bag possible, like some minimalist folks do. A larger one, such as a laptop bag, can serve double-duty, because after all we still have, you know, lives that we must attend to in between preparing for the implosion of society.
On the one hand, you want to have as many items with you as possible to defend against all possible contingencies. On the other, you don’t want too much stuff because it’ll weigh you down, turning your pack into a big, bulging question mark to others.
Short version: don’t feel obligated to fill every pouch, pocket and cranny in your bag with goodies. I know it’s tempting, but it’s best to keep everything as light and lean as possible. Think carefully before including something, and if you do, make sure it the task you have included it for is not best filled by another, dual-purpose item. Starting small also makes sure you don’t wind up with a bunch of gear you regret buying.
Rule #3: Choose the Right Bag or Pack
Ok, let’s talk about what you should look for when choosing an EDC bag to haul your kit. Aside from blending in to your environment, you must consider your stature and any disabilities that may prevent effective use of a pack. If you use a wheelchair for instance, a sling pack that you can pull to the front of your torso and still keep your hands free would be desirable.
If selecting a pack for very small-statured members of your group or for younger children your options may be limited from the choices listed later. In that case, keep in mind the following traits when selecting a specialized bag for the same purposes.
The Ideal EDC Bag Should…
The Ideal EDC Bag should:
- Be large enough only to hold your necessities with some room to spare for overflow.
- Be as light and durable as possible.
- Have an aesthetic that will blend in to your typical environment.
- Have plenty of pockets and compartments for organization according to your needs.
- Allow full freedom of movement.
- Optional: Have internal/external MOLLE webbing to allow you to attach pouches for specific tasks.
The Best Everyday Carry Bag for You
Below is my list of the best types of EDC bags that are out there. I trust you’re going to keep in mind the info from earlier in the article before making your choice, as well as what is pertinent to your situation.
The Laptop Bag
Don’t get hung up on the name: you don’t even have to own a laptop! These bags are often more than enough to carry the things you need and use on a daily basis, and feature multiple compartments and pouches for organization of “private” EDC gear. Their ubiquity in offices anywhere make them very discreet if you do not have to submit to searches upon entering and exiting the workplace.
A Messenger/Shoulder Bag (for Men)
This is possibly the most stylish EDC bag for guys. Before you go trashing these as a “man-purse” I think you should consider it even if you’re not dapper dapper dresser. Many guys are wearing messenger bags in cities so it’s easy to blend in when you have one.
Keep in mind that, again, the look and feel of the bag should match your surroundings. You don’t want anything too fancy if you work a blue-collar job as it will only attract attention. On the other hand, if you have a corporate job in a big city, one that’s more streamlined and stylish will work best. The best way to protect your survival items and yourself is to never stand out from the crowd.
If you’re not interested in the fashion aspect, you can go for a heavy duty option from a proven brand like Maxpedition. Their Veldspar Shoulder Bag is a flagship option and has great versatility. If you’re looking for something a little cheaper, the Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag is also great, and is also waterproof.
Sling Bag / Satchel
Typified by its smaller compact size compared to a messenger bag, Sling Bags ride on or behind the hip. If you’re looking for something small to carry around during an active day on your feet, how about the Maxpedition Fatboy Versipack or the WATERFLY Waist Bag? Lots and lots of good options in this category. Hey, they were good enough for Indiana Jones!
Big Purse (for the ladies)
Ladies, I know guys sometimes make fun of you for having big purses but you may consider getting even bigger ones: purses are the perfect cover for EDC items because even extra large purses don’t raise an eyebrow nearly anywhere. So it’s either that or sacrificing some of your less useful EDC items for a stylishly small purse. The choice is yours.
Trust me, no one is going to say anything when you show up with a big purse, unlike they would if you showed up with a big tactical backpack. Purses are socially acceptable, making them ideal EDC carry solutions if you can tolerate the weight increase from your gear.
Tablet Case with Storage
Not really a bag, but you think of it as an extension of your pockets. If you take your tablet with you every day, why not opt for a case that has some extra storage space? Some have room for a few cards and cash, or pens and small tools. Larger day planner-types may be able to conceal larger knives, or even small firearms. Whether you have an iPad or an Android tablet, there’re plenty of such cases to choose from.
Beware, these devices are often high-likelihood targets of theft, so don’t take any chances if carrying cash, cards or gear in one.
Backpack, Basic or Tactical
A traditional backpack is great because you get used to having weight on your back every day. It’s good practice for when you’ll have to hoof it “for real”. These come in all shapes, sizes, varieties and colors, and so you’ll have the most options when purchasing. Some of them are also meant to hold a laptop, meaning they have straps and padding to protect it from bumps. This is a great alternative to option #1, the laptop bag as they are seen everywhere around the world in one form or another.
If you live in a smaller town and use your car a lot, you can go for something a little more overt such as a tactical backpack. These are typically more rugged, and will allow you to pack more stuff in to cover a wider variety of scenarios. Choose a larger one you’ll also end up with something that will act as a get-home bag and even a BOB.
Below are a couple of backpacks that you should check out, but know that they represent only a tiny fraction of all the styles out there.
- the 5.11 Tactical Rush 12 – A smaller daypack sized tactical bag covered in MOLLE webbing for expansion. Has plenty of compartments and an internal admin organizer.
- FAMI Outdoor Tactical Shoulder Backpack – A budget option slingbag. This kind of pack is typified by the ability to easily pull the pack around to the front of your body to easily access contents while wearing it. They are also quicker to don and doff. Be cautious, as they are not as stable or comfortable as a traditional two-strap backpack, and will put a strain on your shoulder when heavily loaded.
Belt pouches are smaller and go around your waist but they’re more than enough to keep your EDC gear as well as some of the stuff you use every day, such as your keys and your phone. If you choose one of these, you’d better be able to fit the profile of “tourist” or else you will stick out like a sore thumb.
These work well enough as a supplement to another bag or when out jogging, biking or being active, but suffer from low capacity. You can’t even really fit a bottle of water on one of these.
When you have to bring everything. If you don’t mind carrying a lot of weight with you, and suspicion is not a concern, then a duffle bag may be just the ticket. These suffer from a lack of compartments, but excel at holding a lot of big, bulky items.
Packed smartly, you’ll still be able to access what you need easily. Choose a model that has compression straps and a “Y-Zip” setup or top-loader lid for added versatility. Voodoo Tactical makes a decent one, their Mammoth Deployment Duffle.
If you are planning to carry this like a backpack make sure you test it loaded with your chosen equipment to ensure the load does not shift.
A Camera Bag
If you’re a photographer, you’ve got a good excuse to tote such a bag with you at all times. These will fit somewhere between a sling bag and messenger bag in size, and you’ll need to go bigger than usual to make room for your extra equipment. Your biggest concern will be quality, heavy duty stitching: many are padded to the nines to protect delicate cameras and lenses, but are not designed to endure serious weight or tugging on straps and handles.
Like the tablet case above, these are common targets for a snatch attempt. Choose and pack accordingly.
Camera bag recommendations:
Bonus: MOLLE EDC Pouch
This one is just nifty. The fact that it’s MOLLE compatible means you can attach it to other tactical backpacks that are also compatible.
The beauty of it is that it’s specifically designed with survival situations in mind. So what you have is one large compartment where you can put the bulk of the items and smaller pockets where you can add the things you might need quick access to.
Other Places to Hide Your EDC Items
- Besides having an actual bag to keep your EDC items, you can stash some of them in other places such as:
• The front pockets of your shirt.
• The pockets of your cargo pants.
• On your wrist (think paracord bracelets).
• Your phone (software, like books, manuals and maps, as well as hardware integrated into specialty cases).
• Around your neck on a necklace or lanyard.
The Following Do NOT Make Good EDC Bags
- Large backpacks that you would normally use as get-home bags or BOBs.
- Camouflage bags – you’re just asking for it.
- Bags that are too small.
I hope you didn’t just scroll here for the list, and instead actually read the entire article! Below is a list of great bags and accessories for EDC. Look it over and see if any wouldn’t be perfect for your unique situation. Here goes:
- the Camelbak Urban Assault Pack– Known for their hydration bladders, Camelback also makes good packs. Has room for a laptop, a glasses compartment and of course room for a water bladder.
- the Tamrac 5788 Evolution 8 – This nifty bag combines camera bag aesthetics with the versatility of both a standard and sling pack: it’s convertible!
- the TT Medic Assault Pack – A little big and sorta tactical-looking, but some people love it. It is optimized for the medical role, but its internal, removable equipment holder will work well for carrying other tools.
- the Maxpedition Pygmy Falcon-II Backpack– A small, minimalist tactical pack, the Pygmy Falcon II has a couple of water bottle pouches and large compartment with dividers in conjunction with its smaller admin compartment. Note it is not designed to carry a bladder.
- the Tactical Tailor Operator Urban Pack – A basic day pack made with Tactical Tailor’s usual high quality. Features include a high-contrast orange lining internally to help you locate items easily.
- the Mountainsmith Red Rock 25 Backpack– A non-tactical offering, this pack has a waistbelt for added comfort and stability when going out heavily loaded. It also incorporates a ventilation system to help keep your back cool.
- BFG Dapper Insert Panel – This Velcro compatible panel is used to create an insert in an exsiting bag with the appropriate pouches. This can allow you to enhance an existing pack or create multiple loadout trays that you can swap in or out. Pretty nifty, and made by Blue Force Gear, so quality is assured.
- Field Operator’s Action Pack – This is about as big as you want ot go for an EDC pack, and even then it is pushing it for most environments. It is however made form extra-heavy 1200 Denier, so will hold up great against cutting and abrasion. Pockets and pouches galore.
- Quiksilver Men’s Lone Walker Waist Pack – A basic fanny pack. Large enough for the essentials, and a smaller firearm. Make sure you incorporate a holster if you plan to use it for carry.
- Messenger Bag for Laptop Briefcase Satchel – Very stylish and spacious, this is a good example of a bag that would be at home in the boardroom or at the coffee shop.
- Maxpedition Fatty Pocket Organizer – Not a pack, but a small pouch to help you organize your essentials inside a larger bag, or create subloads for hopping from one bag to another. Multiple colors could be an idea to help distinguish the purpose of a given pouch.
- Oakley Mens Icon Backpack – Oakley has long been a maker of quality eye pro and activewear apparel. Their packs are testament to this heritage. While the outlandish styling cues and outlandish colors are certainly more noticeable than others on this list, in the right setting an “aggressive mimicry” approach will blend in more, not less.
- OneTigris Compact MOLLE EDC Pouch – Another small pouch for organizing your smaller items, this one has the added advantage of being belt-mountable. If you like the idea of being able to “kit-up” when a crisis breaks open, you could move this out of your pack to your belt, freeing up space.
I hope by now you have a pretty good idea of what bag or pack to get for your daily commute into the world, whatever it looks like. And if you’re still in doubt because you may need one for certain types of activities and another one for other types, don’t hesitate to get two. The advantage of EDC bags as opposed to a true bug-out bag is that you can just take out the contents and quickly move it into your other bag, or stuff the whole pack into your BOB as a load cell.
So, what’s the best EDC bag for you? Only you can answer that by looking at your daily activities, and making a list of all the contingencies you might have to face.
Do you have a favorite type of bag? Have you settled on another kind of bag not on this list? Let us know in the comments section!
updated 04/25/2018 by Chad Nabors
updated 10/15/2018 by Chad Nabors