At no time in our history has it been clearer that even though we are all human beings, every person has their own individual needs and preferences. This diversity is also present when it comes to protecting oneself and family during an everyday emergency or SHTF situation.
Situations Where an EDC Comes in Handy:
- Breakdown of the commuter train or your vehicle when you are to/from work
- Flooded or impassable highway leaves you stranded beside the road for hours
- Traffic jam that results from a vehicle accident blocking both sides of the Interstate
- Debris obstructing the highway requires you to take an alternate route through unfamiliar territory
- Sand or Dust storm makes driving unwise for several hours
- Hostage situation, shooting incident, or another terrorist act
- Personal assault or mugging
- Lost in the woods on a hike
- Ski trip gone wrong that results in injury or being stranded on the mountain
Rather than trying to determine if you or someone you know is or isn’t a prepper, think of it more like a prepper spectrum. Everyone is afraid of something on some level. People focus their time, energy, and money on the areas that most concern them. So, to talk effectively about the top 5 critical EDC items everyone must have, we first need a better look at the prepper spectrum.
EDC Differences for the Prepper Spectrum
When we think about prepping as a spectrum, you will find that there is a very broad range of preparedness in the world. On one end of the spectrum are the members of the often talked about “golden horde.” These are the people who just go through life on a day to day basis without being concerned about what might happen or how world events might negatively impact them.
Members in this range of the spectrum are either oblivious to potential danger or feel that bad things only happen to other people or that they are somehow invincible. They aren’t preparing, and they don’t even really see a need to be prepared. They deal with each situation and the consequences as they come. They may not know what EDC stands for and often leave the house with very little or their top 5 critical EDC items include only things such as car keys, a wallet, hairbrush, lip gloss, gum or mints, and a selfie stick and cell phone.
In the middle of the spectrum are people who like to be prepared for life’s common emergencies such as a car breakdown, a traffic jam, a power outage, or even a tornado. They are confident they can handle these little emergencies, and they aren’t concerned about being prepared on a wider scale or for a long-term crisis. The casual preppers are also in this section of the spectrum. At some point, they experienced a bad situation such as a car accident, flood, or another emergency where they weren’t prepared, or someone has convinced them of the need to prep. They read a lot about prepping and have a bug out bag full of gear and cool gadgets they just haven’t gotten around to trying yet.
Some people are what I will call natural preppers. They have developed a desire to return to self-reliant and organic ways of living such as homesteading or farming. These folks typically grow their food themselves, try to reduce their use of public utilities, and try to get most of what they need from their own labor.
For people in this section of the spectrum, self-sufficiency is a lifestyle choice, and they may or may not have any desire to “prep” for specific negative events. Since they may not spend as much time away from home, their EDC may be very minimalistic and include things that can save them time and steps by allowing them to do on the spot repairs around the homestead.
“Natural preppers” would be members of the Amish community, for example, or homesteaders who just want to escape the pressures and stress of a corporate lifestyle, or an urban lifestyle and return to a more minimalist life. In most cases, this group will survive an emergency or crisis because they are already living very self-sufficiently without a huge dependence on commercially available food or other products.
Also in this section of the spectrum are people who have likely been part of the prepping community for a year or several years. People in this category have read and learned a lot about prepping. They already have an EDC kit, and a good start or even a completed get home bag (GHB) and a bug out bag (BOB). They have some experience using the items in their kits or bags and have already gone through the beginning phase that I like to call the “gotta have it gadget” stage of prepping.
As people move even further along the prepping spectrum, their plans become more solid and thorough, and they have clear goals set for themselves in crucial areas. They may do regular practice drills for bug out trips or wilderness living, and they accumulate a vast amount of knowledge as well as skills and experience. They develop confidence and have proven that they can live self-sufficiently for several days or even longer continues to grow. They may begin to teach others that aren’t as far along on the spectrum as they are. Those living partially or totally off-grid regularly usually fall into this section of the spectrum.
On the far opposite end of the spectrum, you have the extreme preppers or Doomsday Preppers. These are those people who spend most their free time, energy, and money to prepare for an event or events they are certain are coming. Many may be ex-military who have seen first-hand the devastation and loss that war and other catastrophic events can inflict. Some of them build highly secured compounds or elaborate underground bunkers.
EDC Resource Categories
As you can see from just a few descriptions of people at different places along the spectrum people can need an entirely different set of critical EDC items. So, because of the diversity of today’s living environment and the variance in focus of different people along the prepper spectrum, it’s very difficult to identify the top 5 critical EDC items everyone must have.
Instead, below are the five categories of critical EDC resources with suggestions in each as to items you might choose to prioritize for your personal EDC kit once you identify where you are along the spectrum.
- Protection from Elements
What you need in your EDC kit to protect you from the elements will largely depend on the climate where you reside or expect to be during any given situation. The climate in your area and the types of weather related events that might occur will determine whether your focus is more on protection from the sun or insulation against the cold and rain or shelter from both.
- Wide-brimmed hat
- Disposable rain poncho or umbrella
- Mylar Emergency Blanket
- Wool gloves and hat
- Dressing in layers
- Fire striker, waterproof matches, or another fire starter
- Security and Repairs
What you need to keep yourself and your family comfortable and safe or to make needed repairs during an everyday emergency or SHTF situation will depend on your level of preparedness and your skill level. Now is the time to take that CCW or self-defense course you’ve meant to take.
- Firearm and ammunition
- Personal self-defense items such as pepper spray, or personal alarm, etc.
- Zip ties or pliable wire
- Duct Tape and/or Electrical tape
- Communication and Navigation
The planning of these two resource areas is critical during an emergency or SHTF situation. What you need to have as part of your EDC will depend on your communication and navigation plan. Consider where you will need to get to or from, how you might need to get there, and who would be going with you. To aid you with safe navigation and help you communicate with others in your family or group consider these items:
- A Cell Phone and an alternate form of communication
- Maps of the area
- A button compass
- Rite in the Rain Notebook
- Tactical Pen
- Medical and Personal Hygiene
Including the ability to meet your needs for personal hygiene or minor medical injuries as you go about your normal routine and during any emergency is extremely helpful. This category of resources may come in handy more frequently during your regular activities than you would expect.
- Gauze pads
- Ace bandage
- Butterfly bandage
- Magnifying glass
- Nail clippers
Personal care products
- Tampon or Pads
- Baby Wipes
- Access to Food & Water
What you choose to include for resources under this category will depend on how far you are from home or other resources you are confident will be available. The average person should not go more than three hours without water, and under extreme conditions like hiking out of a forest or walking for help following a vehicle break down, you can begin to feel symptoms of dehydration or hypothermia quickly. Include food such in your EDC for needed energy or even just a morale boost during trying times.
- Bottle of Water
- Sawyer Mini and Water Container
- Granola Bars
- Trail Mix
- Mixed Nuts
Once you’ve determined where you are on the prepper spectrum and which critical EDC items are necessary to meet your needs during an everyday emergency or survival situation, decide where and how you will carry your EDC items. This is again largely a matter of personal preference, but we’ve included some suggestions below to get you started:
Wearable EDC Items
- Paracord bracelet with button compass
- Lanyard with Whistle and USB drive
- Shoulder, waist, or ankle holster for firearm or knife
- Pocket organizers, belt pouches, or fanny packs can allow you to expand your EDC.
Expand What You Already Carry
One of the easiest ways to get in the habit of carrying your EDC kit on a daily basis is to simply expand the carrying capacity of the main items you already take with you every day. Below are some examples of EDC items you can add to the three items that most people carry with them daily already.
EDC Suggestions for Purse/Wallet
Chances are you’re already carrying a purse or wallet. Boost your EDC
- Boker Credit card knife
- Maxpedition Mini Pocket Organizer
- Sharpie Marker
- Tactical Pen by Off-Grid Tactical
- Sawyer Mini Water Filter
EDC Keychain Items
There are lots of mini-items you can add to your keychain which you already carry in your pocket or your purse. Obviously, you want to pay attention to the weight of your keychain, so it doesn’t become too heavy. But you’d be surprised at how helpful some of these mini EDC tools can be in an emergency.
- Binboll Survival Whistle
- Mini Multi-tool
- True Utility FireStash Mini Lighter
- Portable Camping Handsaw
- Compass (works great on o-ring or loop of purse too or even as a zipper pull on your jacket)
Cell Phone Apps or References
There are tons of apps that you can download and install right on your cell phone if you have space. You may need to add a large data card to hold them all, but in a pinch, as long as your phone has power using a solar charger, many of these will still work great. Obviously, those apps that utilize Internet or GPS to work properly will not function if the power grid goes down, but for most other emergencies these will work great and are better than nothing!
- SAS Survival Guide for Android is also available for iOS and Windows phones.
- Wild Edibles Forage App for iOS also available for Android
- Compass by Gamma Play
- The Brightest Flashlight by Mobile Flame
In addition to your wallet or purse, your cell phone, and keychain, you can carry additional items in your pockets using EDC pocket organizers. You can also carry EDC items on a lanyard around your neck, wear them on your wrist or ankle, or carry them in a jacket or shirt pocket. You may live in an area where you can wear a holster and carry a firearm or a knife.
Don’t be afraid to adjust your EDC to fit your personal needs, skill level, and the laws in your location. Most preppers are continually adjusting their EDC by swapping out one item that doesn’t work as they hoped for another one that will work better or is lighter to carry. The important thing is to keep modifying your EDC until you find the combination that works the best for you.