EDC is about everyday preparedness, being ready to deal with any little problem likely to come your way. This is a list of the items worth taking your time to select and consider, making sure you have the best possible gear for the job. You get what pay for and you should remember the old adage: ‘buy once, cry once’.
This is probably one of the most important on the list. Yes a knife can be used for self defense, but a far better option for that is some kind of dedicated edc weapon (unless you want to carry a belt sheathed Fairbairn-Sykes knife around all the time…). Apart from fighting, a knife can be a prising tool, fire striker, window smasher, blade for cutting (meat, cloth, bandages etc.), the list goes on and on. In case you haven’t got it yet, you definitely need a knife.
A knife might be incorporated into a large multi tool (see the next point), or might be carried alone. Though the debate rages on the forums, it would be fair to say that if you want a really good knife, you’re pretty safe buying a really good multitool, but if you want the best knife out there you should buy from a dedicated knife brand. This approach can free up a slot of space in a big multi tool, which (if you’re happy with modding) can become another tool in your pocket.
The main considerations when buying are knife are: folding vs. fixed blade, length (including folded length), edge, handle and extra features.
The first is largely a choice dictated by intended use. If you need a survival/bushcraft knife to live in your bag and skin rabbits, then a fixed blade is the way to go. On the other hand, fixed blade knives make people more scared if you take one out in an office just to open a letter (another use of knives!). At the end of the day, if you’re talking about an EDC knife specifically, then you probably want a folding knife. They are easier to carry, easier to store, more likely to be legal in your jurisdiction, less likely to cause misunderstandings, and can do pretty much everything that a fixed blade could do (within the confines of EDC).
I will admit that for more ‘survival’ type uses, fixed blade knives are better in a few ways. If you need a knife for hunting, splitting wood, skinning animals, throwing or fighting then a fixed blade is the way to go. Otherwise a folder is almost certainly preferable.
The first think to ask about length is legality. Different countries (and sometimes different states or even counties) have very different laws, and if this is to be an EDC knife, you need to be able to confidently use it in front of anyone, anytime, even the police. After legality, the longer the better is a pretty good maxim because the longer the knife, the greater the cutting space, the more things you can do. This idea peaks at about three and a half inches where a knife can become bulky and unwieldy. Above that might be comfortable or better for you, but in general it’s a pretty good length.
There are single, double and hybrid edged knives. A (full length) double edge is designed for fighting and absolutely nothing else. If you need your edc knife for fighting (at the expense of being able to do pretty much anything else) then great, otherwise you should only use a single edge. These are far more versatile as you can use your thumbs to push on the back of the blade for very precise cuts. The difference between serrations and plain/straight edges is that serrations will cut through dense materials (especially thick or braided rope) much more easily and will hold an edge longer plain edges, but plain edges have far more uses overall and will give a cleaner cut. Plain edges are also easier to sharpen.
Whether hybrid (part serrated and part plain) edges are a good idea polarises opinion. It is certainly true that blades with the lower half of both sides of the blade sharpened are a bad idea because you can’t do any kind of careful, detailed work with them. Having a half and half blade is a completely personal choice, but in the opinion of the author it is a better idea to carry to carry a dedicated, plain edge knife and a multitool with a good saw blade. If you want real versatility, then get a Leatherman Surge, which can be fitted very easily with any universal fitting jigsaw blade, or any other tool with this fitting.
The handle of your knife is a very personal thing. A lot of people make their own handles, braided scales, or braid paracord handles around a skeleton knife (a knife with a space in the handle). Prime considerations are material, grip, shape, size (relative to the blade, if balance makes a difference to you) and looks.
Orange is a popular choice for handle colors because it is the last color to be visible as darkness falls (which is why it is used for the faces of diver’s watches). Consider what environment your knife is likely to be used in, if you work in and around water a lot, then you will want a handle which will not react badly to this. Rope, cork and wood will all degrade pretty quickly, but plastic and certain metals will stay strong. In the same example, if you work on the sea you definitely need a knife with a lanyard attachment point, because otherwise you will definitely lose it the worst possible time.
Extra features and gimmicks can be fun, but are generally not worth it if all you’re after is a good knife. Often adding an extra feature will require the manufacturer to make a compromise with the actual ‘knife’ part. A small window-smashing stud or a pocket clip probably will not make much of a difference, but a corkscrew or a screwdriver detracts from the knife itself. My recommendations for a knife:
- Value: Opinel No 08
- Mid Range: Benchmade Mini Griptillian Family (this is a ‘family’ of different knives, essentially one knife which can be customised with your chosen edge, blade and handle shape)
- All Out: Chris Reeve Inkosi
Carrying a is one of the elementaries of EDC. Like so many things on this list, it’s very versatile. Some come with a smashing spike on the bottom, or a ‘crown’ shaped spike on the end. Even a small flashlight can be held in a fist and used as brass knuckles, and a large one can be a small baton for self defense. Realistically though, the only thing that differentiates one torch from another is the light’s capabilities.
Highest brightness is the first thing to think about and is measured in lumens. About 1000 lumens is a good torch, anything above that is fun but not necessarily useful and will definitely be more expensive. A red light is a good idea for night vision (because red light will not burn your retina and depreciate your vision), or reading in the dark, but can strain your eyes if used for long periods.
The waterproofing of a torch is measured on the IPX scale, anything above four is good enough for everyday use, lifeboat sailors probably need something above 8. Safe bet brands for torches are (among others), Fenix, Nitecore and Sunwayman.
Some torches come with preset flashing functions, like strobing or flashing SOS in morse code. If you honestly believe you will need this then get one, otherwise don’t worry about the gimmicks, just look for a good torch and learn morse code yourself. My recommendations for a torch:
A multitool is just a small toolkit in your pocket. They come in all shapes and sizes, and can include pretty much any tool not already on the list. A few examples of less usual ones are the SAK Timekeeper, Polish Sapper’s Knife and this (whatever that is). If you are happy to make mods then the possibilities become literally endless., by taking a good ‘base tool’, and then putting in parts from other tools (or even making your own).
If you already carry a knife then a large multi tool probably isn’t the way to go. Instead a small, one-piece ‘keychain tool’ like the Gerber Shard or the Titaner Keychain Tool. If you have room in your pockets then there are three well known brands which make good multitools: Leatherman, SOG and Gerber. Which model of which brand you choose is completely down to what type of work you anticipate needing the tool for. My recommendations for a multitool:
- Value: Titaner Keychain Tool
- Mid Range: Leatherman Style CS and Evolution Victorinox S557
- All Out: SOG Powertool EOD
Pen (and Paper)
A pen should do one thing really well and that is writing. Writing lists, sketching maps, composing poems, whatever you need to get down on paper. EDC pens fall into camps: tactical and elegant.
The tactical pens tend to be overbuilt and incredibly hardwearing and are often compatible with space pen cartridges. A ‘space pen’ is a pen which uses pressurised cartridge technology and a gel-like ink, developed for space exploration. They can write upside down, in water (or other liquids) and at extreme temperatures. On earth a pencil can do all of these things as well, but won’t look as cool doing it. Tactical pens also often have a ‘crisis’ element to their design, such as a stud on one end which can be used for self defense or smashing windows, or a ‘DNA scop’ t help police identify an attacker who was scratched by it. Because these features are often the focus, they will be able to write, just not necessarily particularly well.
‘Elegant pens’ are just pens. What sets these apart is writing quality. Most of them are fountain pens or high-end ballpoints. If you want a truly huge range of colours, then buy a fountain pen with a piston filling mechanism or a converter in place of a cartridge, with which you can use any bottled ink (though it is very important not to use ‘Calligraphy’ or ‘Indian’ Ink which is very different from fountain pen ink). These Inks can even be mixed between brands to produce exactly what you want, there is even a commercially available invisible fountain pen ink.
Pencils are of course an option, and there are some beautiful, highly technically built mechanical pencils out there, next to the ones sold in packs of a hundred at your local supermarket which will do exactly the same thing. However, just like fountain pens there are nuances. Different pencil company guard the formulae for their graphite mixture jealously, and obviously different thicknesses of graphite will be different to write with. Palomino are popularly thought to make the ‘best pencil in the world’, which has a proprietary graphite mixture designed for smoothness and speed, slightly longer body, and an eraser which can be removed, extended and replaced.
Similarly, EDC notebooks are generally geared either towards ‘tacticool’’ or ‘elegance’. Waterproof paper can be very useful, especially if you work outdoors a lot and for the unbelievers, yes it really does work! When buying a notebook it is a good idea to consider the binding carefully. Wire spiral binding has a tendency to bend and deform, and traditional, fine bindings can split, especially if kept in a back pocket.
Paper quality is also an important factor. Waterproof paper is waterproof, but is also not great for writing on, especially with wet ink (such as in fountain pens). Try a few different papers and see what works for you, heavier, thicker paper tends to be more ‘satisfying’ to write on, especially with a fountain pen.
My recommendations for a pen:
My Recommendations for a pencil:
My recommendations for a notebook:
- Value: Rite In The Rain Pocket Top Spiral
- Mid Range: Field Notes Memo Book
- All Out: Pacific and West Large refillable Wood Notebook
A watch should tell the time. Anything else is secondary, but none the less worth considering.
Primarily when choosing a watch, ask whether you want analogue or digital. Analogue watches have a certain charm about them, and most watches which do not require batteries or winding are analogue (more on that later). On the other hand, digital watches can obviously be much more accurate and (especially if set to an international standard clock) can be so for much longer without adjustment.
There are few elegant digital watches, but they are very often worth it if you want to trade elegance for functionality. For example, the G-shock range by Casio boast some of the most advanced digital watch functions and extras in the world, and consequently look like they have fallen out of a William Gibson novel.
If you opt for an analogue, look first for a chronometre within your price range. If a watch is a chronometre, this means it has passed intense, rigorous precision testing over fifteen days by the COSC (the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute). Watches which are not chronometres might be great, but you can never quite be sure. The equivalent for digital watches is a radio setting system, where the watch is set via a radio link relative to an internationally accepted standard time, such as GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).
For EDC, survival or prepping uses, the next consideration is water resistance. This is measured in metres and ATM. Thirty metres (3 ATM) is safe for light splashes and light rain. Fifty metres (5 ATM) is safe to wear fully submerged in water, while swimming without diving equipment and in all weather. One hundred metres (10 ATM) is suitable for shallow diving (not necessarily down to 100 metres) and 200 metres (20 ATM) is any non-deepsea diving. Anything above that is probably just overkill unless you happen to be a deep sea diver.
Extra features (called complications) on a watch are often desirable, but do not let a flashy gadget distract you from finding a genuinely good timepiece. Personally I recommend a good watch strap compass (see the compass item further down the list), though this will be easier if you start using a NATO, ZULU, or RAF strap. These straps come in a dazzling array of different colours and patterns and will fit any watch with a lug width (the length of the bar where the strap or bracelet is attached) between 18mm and 22mm. The vast majority of after-market accessories for watches are made with these straps in mind. The choice between NATO, ZULU and RAF is purely aesthetic, the only difference being the shape of the rings and the way the end of the strap is tucked away.
Complications common to a lot of digital watches are often measures of some kind: barometers, thermometers, digital compasses, humidity readouts and depth gauges can all be found if you really think they will be of use. A date is very common and is almost certainly worth it, as is automatic time-zone adjustment if you travel a lot. If you want a particular, more unusual complication then a watch for the profession which might use it the best place to look, for example some pilot’s watches come with functional slide rules or flight computers built into the dials around the edge. These can be useful for navigation and calculation outside of aviation as well of course.
An often overlooked feature when choosing watches is the power source. The best EDC analogue watches are automatic, meaning they are ‘charged’ by the movement of your wrist as you move around, and an increasingly common equivalent for digital watches is solar charging. Analogue watches which need to be wound every day take some getting used to but are not really a problem. Battery powered watches are very reliable, but are likely to fail on you at the most critical time and even it can very tricky to replace batteries even if you happen to have a spare with you. At the end of the day though, your ‘grail’ watch might not exist, so a tradeoff between you perfect features, functions and looks is inevitable. My Recommendations for watches:
- Value: CASIO AVIATOR MTP4500D-1A
- Mid Range: Timex Expedition Scout Chrono
- All Out: Casio Protrek PRW-5000-1ER
A phone needs no introduction. A dictaphone, camera, communication device, computer, calculator all in one. The big debate with phones is Apple vs Android and I will not weigh into that here.
What is important is that you take it with you. It is easy to keep a torch in your pocket if you are not using it but people take their phones out and use them all the time. A smaller phone is probably easier to EDC because it won’t have to live in your bag or back pocket, you can leave it in your pocket and only use it when it rings.
A backup phone (a cheap, indestructible Nokia is great) with a pay as you go SIM, kept in your bag and forgotten about until you need it is also a good idea. If you lose your main phone, or get mugged, then it gives you a much better chance of getting to help. The SpareOne phone was designed with exactly this in mind, and includes a dedicated panic button, alert signalling, SOS flashing lights and a glow-in-the-dark keypad. Claims that it will hold charge for 15 years have not had a chance to be tested.
Another important consideration is how you take care of your phone. Unless you have a CAT Phone (which will withstand anything and comes with a thermal imaging camera!) a case and a screen protector are both a good idea. Pelican are widely known as the last word in tough cases and make some excellent ones for phone protection. My recommendations for a screen protector:
A handkerchief, scarf, shemagh, keffiyeh or other large rectangle of fabric is one of the most versatile EDC items you can own. An improvised bandage, sling, filtration device, bundle-bag, face mask, blanket, mosquito net, towel, signal flag, pillow… there are so many uses for it.
I would recommend a ‘shemagh’ (also called a ‘keffiyeh’) which is a square scarf, worn folded or rolled, originating in the Middle East. It’s worth spending money on one of these (the cheap ones are two bucks, the good ones are about seven) because they will be of a slightly higher quality fabric, so they are a bit thicker and more hard wearing. This means they make better pillows, blankets and towels, and will keep you warmer if you ever need it to.
A good mod is to stitch paracord along each edge, then join the four cords at the corners with lanyard knots. Apart from looking cool, this also stops the edges from fraying and strengthens the whole thing enough that it can be twisted and used as a rope. My recommendations for a ‘cloth’:
There is a great satisfaction in having a small compass with you and always knowing where north is. Which compass you choose depends on how much space you can devote to it. Some watches come with a built in compass and with respect to these it’s generally true that the magnetic/analogue ones are alright, and the digital versions aren’t precise enough to be worth bothering with.
If you want something very small, a Suunto Clipper is a great compass which can be threaded onto a watch strap (a NATO or ZULU strap works best). For something a little bigger a Cammenga is the industry standard (though do not be tempted by their watch strap version, it has a reputation for breaking easily). Cammenga compasses are issued to the US army, and are at the expensive end of compasses, but there really isn’t anything better. For something in the middle, then anything made by Silva is a good way to go.
When buying a compass, it is tempting to go for a high end model with tritium illumination rather than the cheaper phosphorous. Though it seems like a good idea, for long term use phosphorescence is actually preferable as its functionality will never run out, whereas Tritium will only last about twelve years before its luminescence halves. If you intend on having your compass for a while, phosphorescence is the way to go.
Also, when buying compases be careful not to be caught out by the difference between mils and degrees. Most compasses come with measurement in degrees, but those manufactured specifically for the military which are often the best) may use mils, a unit used only in military contexts. If you have experience of mils or are happy to learn then great, otherwise make sure you buy a compass which will be comprehensible to you! My recommendations for a compass:
Carrying cash is invaluable (or at least as valuable as the cash you have). Some shops take card, but everyone takes cash. It is certainly not unheard of for ATMs to simply stop working, and in a situation like that, having a hundred bucks could literally save your life. If you are in a nation with a hard currency (a currency which has international confidence and is not likely to suddenly depreciate) such as America, Japan or the UK then carrying around 100 of the local currency is probably safe.
In a non-hard currency country having about $100 worth of the local currency and the same in US dollars (or a different hard currency) is a good idea because if the local currency suddenly goes down, you have a reserve which will be accepted (or at least tradeable) everywhere.
Choose your wallet carefully. If you keep cards with contactless technology in it, then RFID protection is a must. There are some excellent options to be found quite cheaply for this. Try to keep the wallet as slim as possible, especially if you keep it in your back pocket. This is made easier by using a wallet with few slots but with several cards in each, as well as by photographing important receipts on a phone instead of keeping hard copies. If you do this make sure to backup your receipts. Waterproofing or waterproof lining will save your precious bills, but leather does develop a shiny water resistant patina over time which makes this less necessary.
Some wallets also have hidden pockets, for those little things which might come in handy. Survival kits, escape and evasion, lockpicks, whatever you might need.
Finally, some tactical theorists recommend carrying a ‘dud’ fake wallet, a cheap wallet with a few bucks worth of notes and a couple of out of date credit cards in it, in case of mugging. Hand over ‘your wallet’, the mugger gets maybe four or five dollars, and you get away unhurt, with your bank account intact. If you decide to go for this, just make sure to to have your real wallet anywhere to obvious.
My recommendations for a wallet:
- Value: Recycled Firefighter Fire Hose Sargent
- Mid Range: ITS Hypalon Concealment Job
- All Out: Bellroy Note Sleeve
If you smoke this one is obvious, but for the rest of us fire can be useful as well, for melting paracord, for lighting candles, for lighting somebody else’s cigarette. Clearly a fire source is invaluable in a survival situation, and the old saying ‘two is one, one is none’ seems appropriate to remind us that a backup is never a bad idea.
When considering different fire sources there are three options: striker (magnesium, ferro rod, flint and steel), matches or lighter. Fire Strikers are reliable in that they always do what they are meant to and do it for years on end without running out, but are not particularly useful in EDC terms because they require a tinder ball and a certain amount of time to use.
Instead, a lighter backed up by a box of matches is preferable. The lighter should be easy to use and refillable and if possible you should carry a canister of spare fuel. Though a rare few lighters (the Douglass Field Lighter for one) have this function built in, an old Scouts is to keep a few spare flints in the bottom of of the case next the felt or cotton packing usually found in field lighters. Equivalent to this is the Fuel Cannister produced by Zippo, which puts a full refill for your lighter in a tiny capsule.
Waterproof matches are obviously the preferable type, and ‘NATO’ or ‘storm’ matches are by far the best. These can be lit in any weather conditions and will burn steadily for a seconds. Most brands will come in a waterproof case with a built in striker for ease of use.
My recommendations for fire:
- Value: UCO Stormproof Match Kit w/25 Matches
- Mid Range: Zippo Classic
- All Out: Douglass Field Lighter
Needle and Thread
A needle and thread are a first aid kit for your clothes and gear. Like most EDC gear (though this is often overlooked in the case of repair kits) the cheap ‘kits’ bought for a few bucks from an army surplus store. These kits tend to have three or four different colours of very thin cotton thread, and maybe two tailors needles which will bend and snap under any hard use. For lightweight fabric, these will just about do if nothing else is available, but should otherwise be avoided at all costs!
Especially if you have any kind of nylon, leather, cordura or thick canvas equipment with you, you need to carry sailmaker’s needles. These are needles which were specifically designed for forcing through thick layers of canvas for patching and preparing sails on ships and have a distinctive triangular cross section near the tip and are generally made of a higher grade steel than cheaper needles. A good range of sizes is important, especially for sewing non-woven fabrics where a large needle will create to big hole for fine threads. There is only one manufacturer of sailmaker’s needles worth talking about and that is WH Smith & Sons.
Man made threads are recommended for their strength and can be found most easily by searching by application (for example looking for ‘leatherwork thread’). Braided threads are rarer then twisted, but stronger and less likely to unravel or split when being used. Kevlar thread is very strong and cheaply available in a huge range of colours, though generally a black and white spool should be sufficient. Buying waxed thread should not make much difference to price but can be invaluable if you need you seam to be waterproof as the wax forms a seal with the clothing.
Another alternative is whipping twine. This is a type of very strong, normally white twisted cord made of Polyester, which is traditionally used for whipping the ends of ropes, but the thinner gauges are extremely effective thread.
‘EDC capsules’, come in all shapes and sizes and are the best way to store all of your sewing supplies. The needles below come in a waterproof tube which will serve this purpose. Unless the full spool of thread will fit in your sewing kit, cut off as much as will fit, cil it like a rope and jam it in next to the needles. If even this fails, then wrapping the thread around the outside of the tube will also work, but might damage the thread if it gets snagged or wet.
My recommendation for needles is the WH Smith and Son Sailmakers Needles 20 Pack.
My recommendations for thread:
In a pockets context, a few plasters, maybe a more serious dressing and (very importantly) a bar of kendal mint cake and some painkillers are all that is necessary. If you have an EDC bag then you have space for a much more advanced kit. Good items to keep in here are sterile water and eye dressings, QuickClot or a similar clotting agent, common pills and painkillers (including anti-histamine), disposable sterile gloves, alcohol-free wet wipes, antiseptic cream, insect bite cream and midge deterrent spray as well as more plasters and dressings. Go heavy on the latter as you will use them more than anything else and keep a variety of shapes and sizes.
NATO dressings deserve a special mention; also known as Israeli bandages, these are a dressing which was developed by a trainee medic in Israel when he noticed that the traditional approach to dealing with wounds which would not clot on their own (grabbing a stone and using it to apply pressure) had not moved on since 1938. His response was to develop a bandage dressing with a built in pressure bar to deal with the problem.
With no track record in business, the four person startup company formed to market the bandage once it was developed has gone from selling an unproven product to producing and selling two million bandages a year. NATO bandages can also be used for wounds which do not require pressure and have a thick dressing built in, so keeping one in your kit is elementary. For cutting dressings and bandages a pair of bandage shears are worth it, and everything should be kept together in order in a single pouch or box for speed.
Keep items related to more urgent problems at the top of kit, so dressings and clotting agent should be the easiest to reach, while painkillers and pills can stay at at the bottom. As with everything else on this list, make sure you have a knowledge of how to use our equipment and supplies before carrying them around. See the Knowledge and Skills section for recommendations on this. My recommendations for First Aid:
- Value: WH Tactical Ouch Pouch
- Mid Range: ITS Boo Boo Kit
- All Out: WH Tactical Get Home Alive Medical Kit
Carrying a weapon is a contentious issue for many EDCers. There are three approaches, all of which are important to consider. The first is not carrying any dedicated weapon at all. This is generally an ethical or practical decision; ethical because some people do not believe in carrying weapons, practical because EDC weapons are illegal in some parts of the world. Perhaps counter intuitively, a weapon (especially one with a stigma attached to it, such as a gun or a large knife) may actually serve only to alienate those of a more peaceful bent, especially in a trauma situation where animal instincts can override rational thinking. Learning martial arts and self defense, especially learning how to improvise weapons from bottles, torches, multi tools or other EDC items can be a very effective weapon in itself and is important even if you do choose to ‘go equipped’.
If for whatever reason you do choose to carry a weapon then before anything else make absolutely certain that what you are carrying is legal and reasonable.
Hand and range (or projectile) weapons are the two categories to consider first. Hand weapons are easier to carry, never require reloading (though a taser will require recharging) and are generally easier to get hold of in most locations than a gun or slingshot (the only realistic EDC ranged weapons).
The most commonly legal weapon, and the easiest to conceal and improvise is a Kubotan, yawara or hand stick. This is a small baton of about the length of a large pen (a pen can be used in exactly the same way, just with slightly less force) which is used as a ‘force multiplier’.
This type of weapon, under different names, appears in most weapons fighting system across the globe. These are often kept on a keychain or in a bag because they are small and easy to store, but really this is bad practice and any weapon should always be kept wherever it can be drawn as quickly as possible, from as many positions as possible. A Kubotan can be easily improvised from many EDC items: flashlights, tactical pens, multi tools and even a phone all make excellent self defense tools in a pinch, and even using your keys as brass knuckles is far better than nothing.
The next step up from a Kubotan is a knife. As noted above a small EDC pocket knife will not be sufficient for true use as a weapon. Folding knives generally take too long to open, so fixed blade knives are preferable. A happy medium can be sought in flick knives, which often have a blade with a double edge from about halfway up to the tip. Coupled with the speed and concealability of the folding mechanism, these are ideal light weapons, and a special mention must go to Frank Beltrame, one of the last artisan makers of traditional stiletto knives left in Italy.
For something a little heavier a large fixed blade knife is the only sensible choice. Double edge blades will do far more damage to an assailant and will be more off-putting even before engagement. As with a kubotan one of the most important factors is where the knife is kept. Again legality comes into play as intentionally concealing weapons is illegal in many parts of the world, so bear this in mind when choosing carry positions, especially when travelling. Keep the knife in a strong sheath, ideally water resistant to avoid corroding the blade; Nylon, leather and Kydex are the best material for this, and better known knife brands often have aftermarket sheaths available from artisans.
If you decide to carry a knife make sure you understand fully how to use it for self defense and what the consequences will be. Try to find a class in your area which teaches knife fighting, ideally as part of a full self defense system such as Escrima or Krav Maga. If you neglect to educate yourself, then carrying a knife will only become a danger to you and those around you.
Finally, you might decide to carry a ranged weapon. Ranged weapons are by far the most versatile of the group. They can attack at distances up to hundreds of yards, but also have enough heft to be used as blunt instruments for hand to hand fighting. The most accurate are sniper rifles, but for the sake of EDC a short barrelled handgun is the upper limit of usefulness.
Be careful to choose a gun which you can carry comfortably. You hope never to have to use this, so you you will probably be wearing it close to you for long periods of time. Because of this, once you have chosen your weapon your holster is a just as important, and many people choose to make their own in the interest of perfect customizability. Though revolvers are generally more reliable and look cool, pistols (which are just defined by the ATF as handguns which do not have a revolving cylinder) are slimmer in profile and offer better options for carry, without compromising on short range accuracy enough to matter for a civilian. My recommendations for a weapon:
Knowledge and Skills
Knowledge weighs nothing, the old adage still rings true today. Having a compass is great, but being able to look up at the sun (or moon, or stars) and know where North is won’t cost you a penny. Neither will knowing First Aid, even in you don’t happen to carry a defibrillator around with you.
A good start is a decent grounding in knots, First Aid (you need to know how to use that stuff after all), self defense (and defense of other people if you want to be a bit more advanced), survival, map reading, navigation and languages. The Red Cross and similar organisations offer courses in First Aid, so search for one in your local area and know that a hands-on course is always preferable to one online. This principle applies to most other emergency services as well, so you can probably find a sea survival course with the Coastguard, or a situation diffusal course endorsed by the Police.
Which self defense system to learn and how best to train is a huge debate, but Jiu Jitsu, Krav Maga and Taekwondo are all good places to start. The Tracker School, run by Tom Brown Jr., who’s training lineage goes back to an Apache Native American, is a world standard in Survival and Bushcraft training. Incidentally , some of his courses include basic self defense, especially against wild animals. Languages could include Semaphore, Morse Code, Braille and a decent working knowledge of the local language wherever you are.