The Best EDC (Everyday Carry) Bags and Backpacks

After writing a comprehensive article on the various EDC items you may choose to carry every day, it only makes sense to expand on that topic with an article on the best EDC bag or pack. For some preppers, the things they carry in their pockets and on the belt is enough, but not for us.

Grey Ghost Gear Hideout pack, stowed
Grey Ghost Gear Hideout pack, stowed

We’re going to raise the bar in this article and with it our level of preparedness to increase our chances of surviving critical events and getting home safely when it hits the fan.

But first…

What does EDC stand for? Simply put, EDC stands for EveryDay Carry, and it refers to the (survival) items you carry with you every day as you go to work, run errands or travel.

Here’s another good question…

What’s an EDC bag? An everyday carry “bag” is a place for you to deposit the survival items that you carry with you every day. If you want to prepare yourself for a variety of disasters and emergencies, you’ll need to carry more items than everyone else.

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.

The next step would be to make a list of all of the EDC items you might need. This way you’ll know how much stuff you need to carry so you make the right choice for a bag.

Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to pick your bag! Now, I’ll give you lots of bag suggestion sin a minute, but before I do, there’re a few rules you need to keep in mind..

Rules for Picking the Perfect EDC Bag or Backpack

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: Know How Much You can Carry

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…

  • ✅ 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 to fit a wide variety of survival items. try to avoid bags and backpacks that only have one large compartment.
  • ✅ It should allow you to run with it, if the situation calls for it. Try to imagine the exact way in which you’ll hold your bag as you’re running.
  • ✅ Have an adjustable fit, so you can carry it comfortable.
  • ✅ Allow full freedom of movement.
  • ✅ Zippers that are resistant to corrosion, because you don’t want to replace your bag every few years. A good one could last a lifetime.
  • Optional: Have internal/external MOLLE webbing to allow you to attach pouches for specific tasks.
  • Optional: If you can afford a bag with waterproof containers, that’d be amazing. If not, you can use Ziploc bags to waterproof some of your most sensitive survival items.

EDC Bags to Avoid

  • Avoid bags that are too large that you would normally use as get-home bags or BOBs. You should keep your EDC items to a minimum because the more you have, the harder they’ll be to carry… and the last thing you’ll want to do when running from a disaster is to abandon your bag.
  • Avoid cheap and poor quality bags. These go hand in hand. You want something sturdy, that doesn’t wear of over time from daily use.
  • Avoid bags with one compartment.
  • Avoid Elastic straps. These will loosen over time.
  • Camouflage bags – you’re just asking for it.

The List of the Best EDC Bags

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.

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.

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.

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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.

edc bag for ladies

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.

GRAY MAN: Top 3 BEST Everyday Carry Backpacks | EDC Bags 2018

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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Belt Pouch

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.

Recommendation: 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.

Duffle Bags

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:

a MOLLE edc bag
a MOLLE edc bag


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.

Recommendation: The 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.

Pocket Organizers

Maxpedition Fatty Pocket Organizer – This 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. Maxpedition makes amazing pocket organizers.

Not much of a list, right? That’s because any bag or pocket, no matter how small, can be used to stash your survival items!

small bag filled with supplies

Other Places to Keep 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.
bag pockets with devices and a notebook
bag pockets with devices and a notebook

Final Words

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!

22 thoughts on “The Best EDC (Everyday Carry) Bags and Backpacks”

  1. Nick from

    Altough i like the messenger bag is would go for the tactical backpack if there would be something happening. The tactical bag can still look like a schoolbag and not raise any suspicion in you leave out the camouflage pattern.

  2. I like the tactical sling bags
    5.11 moab 6 or 10
    Vanquest javelin 3.0
    If price is an issue there are 1/3rd cost for like bags.
    The most important thing that people fail at is buying the bag first… rookie mistake, get everything you plan to carry and go from there.

  3. A lot of good ideas. For me, my EDC is ultra simple, a multi-tool on my belt, folding knife in my pocket and a smart phone. When in my corporate atire I keep a multi-tool in my briefcase. Where I live, this is more than adequate.

  4. My EDC is a Domke F-803 camera satchel. Dimensions are 13.5X10X3.5 inches, no overt badging, lightly padded sides and bottom with a removable padded insert, and 5 other pockets around the outside of the bag. Material is heavy-weight cotton canvas (mine is plain black). I have found this bag to be just about perfect for my normal EDC stuff (including a large iPad or small Mac book). Plus, when I need a “grey man” camera bag, it’s great for that too. Great site. Keep up the good work.

  5. I have a condor pouch where I keep a couple of pens, multi tool, note pad, lighter, spare pair of contact lenses, chap stick, wallet, basic first aid kit and packs of instant coffee (big coffee drinker). The nice thing about it is that I can throw it into my back pack that I use for work or backpack I use for my kids diapers, spare clothes, etc.

  6. I like to use a multiple pocketed book bag that is well made. People nowadays carry these with them to transport a variety of things; lunches, books, paperwork, and whatever else they think they need. With something that blends in so well with society no matter where you reside I think it is best.

  7. I have the Oakley Icon 2.0. It’s a good pack and very durable; I’ve used mine in Afghanistan. The only problem is that it doesn’t have many pockets. Two outside pockets and a few smaller inside the flap that are mainly good for holding pens/pencils and maybe a small GPS. If someone does go that route (this will probably work for most other backpacks too) take it to a tailor shop and have them sew the soft side of velcro onto the back panel where the laptop pouch is. Then you can fabric glue the rough side to pouches you’ll use for your gear. It’s better than having everything in a pile in the bottom and it will help you distribute the weight.

  8. Cannae pro gear is a great place to check out, they literally have all the styles of bags mentioned. Satchel, messenger, sling, day pack, duffel, backpack, rucksack, even range gear. Some with helmet carriers for motorcycle riders. Some are even made for the gray man to blend in.

  9. Don’t forget a guitar case or any instrument case that can accommadate the needed items. Even a tool belt with numerous pockets and double as an EDC. Anything that serves an EDC purpose would suffice.

  10. i am 70 years old. i carry an old leather backpack i have had for over 20 years. it is a little heavy even when empty but it holds everything i need. i can even get a thermos in it.

  11. William Gustin

    Thank you for the advice and options. For those looking for a more upscale but durable travel bag (airport or frequent traveler) for EDC options I’d consider Tom Bihn bags a potential win. Lots of choices. Look them up online.

  12. I carry a black leather backpack with three external pockets, several internal pockets and one pocket is zippered. It holds a lot, carrys easily slung over a shoulder or put on as the back pack that it is. I can clip on a water bottle. My keys clip on the front closure with “stuff” on the keys and little $1LED flashlight from WM. There is a strong loop on the top. Its strong enough to hang the filled bag. I can grab and carry by that handle/ loop.
    My husband has Alzheimer’s and needs tubing and lubricants to urinate. One outside pack holds a zipper pouch he can carry in a pocket and extras to refill the little pack.
    Another outside pocket has notebook, pens, manicure set, folding comb/ brush, multi tool and much more. Larger outside pocket has changeable seasonal items including snack bars and dried fruit for both of us to travel comfortable. A couple of disposable razors. At 72 my chin needs a touch up. Hubby has facial hair but trims around it. We both have travel toothbrushes that the cover is also the handle.. A tiny plastic container has baking soda. I use it for deodorant and toothpaste. Another tiny container had two days of meds for both of us. There is a 1/4 oz bottle of his favorite cologne. Part of that stuff is wrapped in two wash clothes and sealed in a Ziploc sandwich bag. In the bottom of the inside there is a zip lock bag with one change of underwear for both of us. A sandwich bag with a couple of panty liners, packets of alcohol wipes, bandaids, a tube of antibiotic ointment and 3 lip balm tubes. A sandwich bag of baby wipes. Two very thin material knit tops- one for each of us. And really most of the interior is empty.
    The upper pocket on the back side inside holds My cardcase that is my wallet. Cards and folded bills inside. There is a tiny pack of facial tissues and Another notebook and 2 pens. A larger very sharp folded knife. Two more empty inside pockets. Plenty of room to carry two knit pants and 2 pr socks. We’ve stayed at motels overnight comfortably twice. One bag covering for two of us. He can’t be left alone anymore. I’d keep a folding bike in the trunk of my car but I can’t leave him alone anywhere anymore.
    In the car is a box that could be used to campout and cookout if stuck in the car on the road. There are seasonal clothing, TP, water, flavors for water bottles to make warm water more palatable, snacks and easy foods, Seasonal blankets, one or two tarps always, fire starter, solar charger for a phone, and more. We’d be ok for 3 days of simple meals but should add more water to last that long. I’d like to add a CB radio or ham radio and my cranked weather band radio. Need to add a different set of cups and plates. I gave ours away yesterday. Were eating our way through a box of oatmeal to replace the two roll box of TP I recently gave away. Sugar packets, condiment packets keep well for a year… To add to teas and meals cooked outside. All vehicles have seasonal upkeep items like a snowmelt spray can with a scraper on the top. Oil and coolant and power stearing fluid. A set of tools, tire tools. A spare tire. A jack. All the common basics plus the special box. The car firstaid box is in a front door pocket.

    1. Young lady, your commitment to your husband is not only commendable but laudable. So many people get married these days and forget those vows “For better or worse, ’til death do us part.”

      I would be proud to call you friend.


  13. Single colour backpack, and be OVERT about carrying a hydration bladder with the drinking tube clearly visible. You don’t need to fill it if you don’t want to, as long as it has enough fluid to get a drink from and create the illusion of being full
    Such packs are usually of a stiffer fabric and don’t compact flat so people won’t question its bulk
    Carry your lunch in it if possible
    Carry a lunch box with snacks
    Play the convenience or laziness card. I carry it for convenience as it leaves my hands free (convenience card) or, because I can’t be bothered carrying or constantly filling bottles (laziness card)
    People will assume that’s all that you’re carrying and you don’t make them any wiser

  14. One of the things a person might do if they do get a new bag, but before they begin using it for EDC items, have a few odds and ends in it, for work, or the kids, or the weekend, whatever, and make sure people get a good look at it and what is inside. That way, when you start carrying EDC in it and keep it closed and mostly out of sight, chances are people will not think twice about the bag and what you might have added to it.

    I have most of my EDC on me most of the time, with a handful of exceptions. And when I have doctor appointments and know I will be weighed I unload things into the sling bag I use for the other few things I like to have with me. I use a rolling walker so I can usually carry the bag in it, except places where they think you might walk out with things. And government places, of course.

    It works very well for me. It is tan/brown nylon, though I would like to have a leather one. They are just too expensive.

    Just my opinion.

  15. North Face makes some extremely solid EDC options, and they are so ubiquitious that they blend in very well, since every other high school and college student seems to have one. Well organized packs that last forever. I’m on my 14th year with my 32liter Surge EDC, and it has been carried Every Single Day of that 14 years, everywhere from hiking backcountry of Alaska to living under my desk at work. Still looks new.

    Also some great haversack designs out there that you can buy or make yourself. Blackie Thomas has a great design, and Dave Canterbury with Pathfinder demos a loadout with one as well.

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