What is Everyday Carry: how to be prepared for anything at anytime

Everyday carry items
Everyday carry items need to win their place in your pocket by being useful and versatile (Image credit: Getty)

As a description of a way of life – or, at the very least, a booming trend for several dozen years and, more recently, a massive subculture on Instagram – you’re likely no stranger to the term ‘Everyday Carry’ (EDC).

With roots reaching into both the Boy Scout movement and the tactical and survivalist subcultures, EDC merges the worlds of the practical and the aspirational. It covers a wide range of ‘handy’ and ‘necessary’ items a person might carry around with them on a daily basis, from mini flashlights to multitools, and myriad things in between.  

EDC was typically conceived as a collection of kit to be carried together in one place on your person, like in a pocket, or maybe on a belt – whether you’re in the wilds or on the street. But, by some definitions, EDC also stretches to include items such as wallets, medical bracelets, pocket kerchiefs, dog tags, headphones, and sunglasses, which may be worn anywhere on the body.


Everyday Carry takes practical preparedness to a level well beyond the Boy Scout. To subscribers of the concept, it makes getting out and leaving the house more enjoyable and safe. Especially during pandemic times, it’s the little things that can make all the difference.

Depending on the carriers’ philosophy, their EDC can be a toolkit, a status symbol, an accessory, a lifesaver, or a daily curation of personal style. The collection of items they carry is a choice they make every day and a form of personal expression. 

Multi-functionality is key to a good EDC inclusion. High-end smartwatches and phones are definitely top-ranking items, along with multitools, penknives, penlights, and a variety of keyring tools. 

The evolution of Everyday Carry

EDC morphed into the lifestyle space from the tactical and outdoor world, as enthusiasts of things like penknives, multitools, lighters, and other handy out-of-house items, became some of the first to adopt the term. The evolution of ever smaller, sleeker, lighter-weight toys, tools, accessories and devices then continued to drive the trend. 

Rules about what you can legally carry vary vastly around the world, just as the list of items you might genuinely need to use will differ enormously from place to place. The Everyday Carry choices of someone who spends a large percentage of their time in the backwoods will obviously be very different from those of a sailor, whose needs will vary vastly from the typical city dweller.

Inevitably, controversial and illicit items can also form part of the picture – especially when it comes to blades and anything designed for self-protection – and there’s always been a bit of an edge to the EDC concept. Of course, this is all part of its popularity and mystique, and a no doubt a major driver for the widespread social media following EDC enjoys. 

I admit, I’m guilty as hell – when I see someone on Instagram showing off their new pocket knife or other life-improving device using the hashtag #EDC, I often find myself needing that item.

Everyday carry items

Some of the best EDC items have multiple uses (Image credit: Getty)

Storage and Carry

Sometimes I get hung up on EDC being relegated to pockets, like a ‘gentleman’s carry’ if you will – given the ongoing lack of pockets in women’s clothing. Pocket-sized EDC restricts your carry to a small but reasonable assortment of low-profile items that won’t bog you down while you’re running to the subway, skateboarding to work, getting in and out of the car running errands, or out hiking or biking. 

But if you consider that the foundation stones of EDC are preparedness and utility, then it is really about what you grab every single day before walking out the door, which might be used to carry tools, cash or gadgets. And for many people, that extends to the belt, the purse, the fanny pack, or even footwear. 

And larger items – such as bigger flashlights, personal protection devices, tablets and computers – will often require a storage-and-carry solution off the body (such as a backpack), but these items nonetheless remain essential EDC for some people.

Personally, I think when you start talking about daypacks, pocket vests, and other bags and strap accessories, you are venturing away from the core of true EDC – but it is a subjective and much-debated topic, and people’s opinions are typically informed by their lifestyle. 

The end-use or purpose of each EDC item, frequency of use, and need for quick access, determines exactly how and where you store it on your body. As an Instagram subculture all its own, you’ll see and find a lot of varying but staunchly held opinions on how, when and where to carry particular EDC items. 

And the beauty is, there’s no wrong way. Everyday Carry is just as much about personal expression and daily curation as it is about practicality. A engraved Zippo lighter could be as essential to your daily adventures as your contact lenses, whereas others won’t leave home without a flashlight, or a compass – you can make it your own (but be sure to stay within the law). 

Smartphones as EDC

While smartphones are now pretty much carried by everyone all the time – and therefore, by definition, you will see smartphones in this category – I tend to think of them as something additional to one’s EDC. I mean let’s face it, I have to have my smartphone on me all the time; I don’t necessarily have to have my multitool on me to get through my day. 

That said, smartphone cases definitely fall into the realm of personal carrying devices, tools and accessories, and can add innumerable style points, function and aesthetics to your EDC on any given day. 

One of the beautiful things about one’s EDC is that it’s fluid. It evolves over time, with you and your personality, with your daily habits and with technology. You wouldn’t be carrying around a flashlight that required batteries and incandescent bulbs now would you? But you might have a super sleek little key ring LED flashlight in your pocket – and you probably already do.

Aaron Bible

A writer, photographer and adventurer with two decades experience as a multimedia developer, curator, and award-winning journalist, Aaron is a former contributing editor at Backpacker, a contributing editor at Elevation Outdoors magazine and regular contributing writer and photographer to many others including Men's Health and Freeskier. Aaron lives with his family in the high-country of Nederland, Colorado, where he and his wife are raising two kids to love thin air, fresh powder, and the flow state. He always carries extra gloves, hats and socks in the backcountry due to multiple episodes of past trauma over the last 30 years. Follow his adventures at @definitelywild