In prepping, we tend to put a lot of thought into big picture planning. We gather food supplies, medical supplies, fuel and water. We carefully rat hole these items at our chosen refuge, and continue storing, maintaining and rotating our stockpiles. We even consider the event that we may have to leave this refuge at some point, and assemble bug-out bags (BOBs) and off-premises caches for this contingency.
Many of us plan on the possibility that we may not be home when the balloon goes up, and we either keep our BOB in the car or assemble get-home kits for the stated purpose. But crises are a fickle lot, and the odds that they will be cooperative in their timing and have us handy to our gear when they take place are not particularly in our favor. Add this to the fact that there are a wide range of smaller catastrophes that can take place at any time and it becomes clear that keeping some amount of survival and emergency gear on our person at all times is not the worst idea we could have.
Unless you are in a position to carry your BOB on your back at all times, you should give some thought as to what you load your pockets or purse with each morning before you leave the house. Every Day Carry (EDC) items should be calculated to give you a survival edge and help meet basic needs if you are cut off from everything except what you have on your person at any given moment.
The backbone of my EDC gear is what I have come to think of as my “Caveman Kit”. This is a small selection of gear that can accomplish the three basic skills that have been helping humans to survive for untold millennia. These skills are cutting, tying and burning. With these skills covered, you can start a fire for warmth, you can cook, and you can make water safe to drink. You can improvise shelter, catch fish and small game, fix a broken shoe lace or pack strap, or create weapons to defend yourself. With these skills, and a well-stocked cranial survival kit (chock full of knowledge), you can improve your odds in almost any circumstance.
1. Burning. Where burning is concerned, most experts will agree that it is a good idea to have at least two means of starting a fire with you at all times. I always keep a disposable butane lighter with me; these are a very inexpensive piece of equipment, and serve well until conditions get too wet or windy. As a backup, I keep either a blast match or other ferrocerium fire steel. These fire starters will throw HOT sparks in any conditions, and coupled with good tinder will get your fire going in no time. It is a good idea to have a couple cubes of wet fire, a trioxane fuel tab, or even a small bag of dryer lint with you to serve as tinder. If you opt for matches, make sure they are waterproof and strike anywhere; hurricane matches are as good as it gets. Practice making fire; it isn’t always as easy as you think, and fire steels in particular require practice. Fire building techniques are a must in the cranial tool box.
2. Tying. For tying, you should keep a length of cordage with you. Paracord bracelets are a very convenient way to have 6-10 feet of 550 paracord with you at all times. I wear mine 24/7, even when I step into my pleated slacks and button down shirt to venture into the community college where I teach part-time. These bracelets go with just about any attire without looking conspicuously out of place, and paracord is truly the duct tape of string. I have used paracord to replace a broken boot lace, to fix a duffle bag strap that broke while I was rushing through an airport, and to fix the handle on a plastic pumpkin that broke on a trick-or-treat mission with my kids. In more extreme times, paracord can be used to make a tent out of a tarp, to catch a fish, or to lash together just about anything that needs lashing. Your ingenuity is the only limit with this stuff, and a good set of knots should be stored away in your knowledge base.
3. Cutting. I don’t even know where to start with cutting. To say that there are a million and one uses for a good blade is probably an understatement. I won’t even go into them because if you can’t think of at least a hundred in 30 seconds or less you should probably give up prepping! I tend to carry a pocket knife, and lean towards trappers or stockmen. These styles have been around a long time for a reason, they are terribly versatile. In addition to my pocket knife, I like to keep a larger fixed blade or folder on my belt. Even in professional attire, I don’t think that a three inch lock blade in a plain sheath is too out of place. When I am dressed more casually a medium sized, full tang (I am not a fan of hollow handled “survival knives”; I find them to be too weak) bush craft style knife seldom draws comment. Lately, I have become fond of karambits, as they are strong, functional and an incredibly effective cutting and slashing weapon. Aside from the utilitarian functions, never underestimate the defensive capabilities of your knife. When circumstances prevent me from carrying my handgun, you can bet I have a decent blade with me. Devote time to learning and practicing defensive blade work, and file these skills away in your cranial tool kit.
These items form the basics of a very effective survival kit, and rank even higher than a certain credit card on the “don’t leave home without it” scale. From here, you can add gear to suit your tastes, needs and pocket size. I feel that a Leatherman tool is a good addition, and keep one on my belt at all times. The trusty old P38 can opener is right at home on your key ring, and a handcuff key can live there too (just saying…). If you are permitted, a concealed handgun is also a very good idea. The pocket that doesn’t hold your wallet can hold a space blanket and/or an emergency poncho; these two items can be used to create effective shelter and body heat maintenance when combined with your paracord. A small flashlight fits easily in a pocket and could be invaluable if you are caught out after dark.
In addition to your gear you should always dress for your season and climate, even if you are planning on spending most of your time indoors. Always wear the sturdiest and most comfortable shoes that your dress code permits; your Italian loafers may look great but you wouldn’t want to walk 15 miles in them. You probably won’t be able to carry it at all times but keep a water bottle or two (at least one with a filter) close by, in your car or desk, along with a few thousand calories worth of rations (protein bars, jerky, trail mix, things of that nature).
Preparedness is a full-time occupation. With a little forethought you can load your pockets with the basics, without loading them down. Most importantly, never forget that your most important survival tool rides under your hat. Make sure it is full at all times.