As the currently-popular Steven Crowder meme goes, “change my mind”. In the interests of upping everyone’s basic preparedness, I hereby proffer the following five items that practically no human has any reason to not have with them or within arm’s reach every day – day in, day out. When the balloon goes up, these five items will provide a good head start on improving your lot in life when combined with knowledge and experience.
By Drew, contributing author to SHTFblog and Survival Cache
You’ll notice that I did not include other items, such as firearms, in the list – not everybody needs, wants, or can have a gun. Also excluded are no-brainer given items, such as your cellphone, or car keys; this article assumes you have these things with you at most times as a matter of lifestyle. As the title says – you have no excuse not to carry some derivative of these five items – not even lack of money. I’ll offer budget and higher-end examples of each item where applicable. Unless noted otherwise, all items recommended on this list are products I have personally used or carry every day – and know work well.
Think there’s another item that should be on this list, or do you think I’m full of shit? Change my mind in the comments below.
A good EDC knife – fixed blade or folder – is, in my opinion, the most important survival item on this list – for reasons you’ve surely heard multitudes of times on the hallowed pages of SHTFblog and SurvivalCache. Folding blades with pocket clips are more convenient to have and conceal on your person at all times, but fixed blade knives are usually sturdier. There are proponents to both serrated blade and non-serrated edge knives, and each admittedly have their advantages under certain circumstances. Folding knives are my choice for general EDC use – and they’re easier for people to overlook in a business/office environment, and therefore easier to have on my person under all circumstances.
Budget Knife: Gerber EVO folder, $31.53 – before I stepped up to the Benchmade below, I carried one of these Gerbers every day. They’re great little knives, and stood up to most of what I threw at them. The one I have used withstood probably three years of heavy use, and was rotated out of commission when the blade bent after using it to pry a very stuck thermostat housing off an Oldsmobile small block V8. I’m happy to report I could use the knife still if I needed it, the blade is just slightly bent. Never snapped though! Good knives, great price.
Preferred Knife: Benchmade Mini-Griptilian 556: $106.25 – I finally got tired of Doc Montana telling me how awesome Benchmade knives were, and finally ponied up and bought one. The Benchmade Mini- Griptilian is a lower-end knife in the Benchmade lineup, but in my eyes, it’s a Cadillac in a world of Ford Tempo Bear Grylls-branded blades. The Mini-Griptilian’s D2 steel blade takes and holds an edge like a champ, the polymer handles are sturdy and can open bottles with ease, and the Axis lock is a superb method of blade release. Plus, at any time in the life of the knife, you can send it back to Benchmade, and for the cost of the shipping to the factory, Benchmade’s LifeSharp Service will give the knife a complete tune-up, replacing any parts that need to be replaced, and returning the knife to you stunningly sharp. They even pay return shipping. Yeah, you throw out a Benjamin to own one, but Benchmade unequivocally stands behind their product. Seriously – get a Benchmade. It will be the best EDC decision you’ve ever made.
Why carry a handkerchief? In the past 24 hours I’ve used mine to (of course) wipe my nose, clean up spilled eggnog courtesy of my 5-year-old, hold a hot pan handle, and wipe mud off my work shoes. In a survival situation, you can use it to filter sediment from water before purifying and drinking, pick up a hot metal container that you’ve been cooking with, cut up for bandages, (theoretically) use as a tourniquet, use as tinder, wipe blood off your blade…the list goes on. The handkerchief is eminently practical and underappreciated.
Budget Bandanna – Pretty much any piece of cloth that’s applicable for the task. Usually purpose-made bandannas have paisley prints. Ooh, ahh.
Preferred bandanna – Superesse Straps Filter Bandanna (or other Superesse offering) – If you’re a fan of the “wearable kit” phenomenon, nobody does it better than Superesse Straps. A veteran-owned company, Superesse Straps is always running hard coming up with new ways to incorporate survival gear into paracord bracelets, tins…and handkerchiefs. Superesse’s “hanks” are extremely rugged and incorporate innovation to “theme” your handkerchief. Want your bandana to incorporate a 1 micron filter for water and/or air filtration? They have a hank for that. Want a zipper to turn your handkerchief into a pouch for EDC items? They do that as well. Oh, you’d like your hanky to utilize an nickel/copper cloth to protect your valuables from skimming thefts and possibly EMP? What do you know….Superesse does that too. The customizable Superesse Straps Hanks are a bit on the pricey side for something designed to blow your nose with, yes…but Superesse’s products have evolved into an incognito product that is far more useful in a survival situation than just catching snot…though it does that very well, too.
Until you carry a flashlight every day, you never know how much you need one on a daily basis.I always thought it was borderline ridiculous to carry a flashlight to an office job, but then I tried it, and suddenly I was using it to look behind my computer for the USB port for my wireless mouse dongle, using the light to look under my desk for the pen I just dropped, and lit my way to my truck in the parking lot when the maintenance guys forgot to replace the lot light bulbs. Soon, people were asking me to borrow my light. In a survival situation, having a few lumens ready to go at the flick of a switch obviously has myriad benefits. Look for lights with charging capability or use rechargeable batteries so you can have the light’s juice reserves topped off when you head out the door – or, of course, carry a spare battery.
Budget Light – Streamlight MicroStream – $34.79 for a 2-pack – I have carried and sang the praises of these little lights for years. They run on a single easily-obtained AAA battery, they throw a usable 35 lumens, and they have a simple on/off tailcap switch – no strobes, varying power levels, or other cluttering features. A dual-direction clip allows you to attach the light to your pants pocket like a clip knife, or you can couple the light onto the brim of your hat to use like a headlamp. Sturdy, simple, small, useful. A great little light to have on your person every day.
Preferred Light – Fenix PD35TAC – $57.90 (a STEAL!) Though admittedly much larger than the Streamlight Microstream above, the Fenix PD35TAC is a stellar light. Almost too big to carry everyday, its bulk – roughly 1 inch in diameter by 6 inches long – makes it possible for the dual CR123A battery payload to throw a scorching 1000 lumens in the turbo mode. The light offers a button to switch the level of illumination – from a juice-sipping 8 lumen low level, up through stages of 60, 200, and 500 lumens. The crenellated bezel offers some bad-breath-range defensive capability, and the machined aluminum casing ensures that if you had to, you could probably bludgeon a mule deer to death with the light. Fenix offers some neat USB-rechargeable 18650 batteries that drop right in the PD35TAC to boot. My PD35TAC goes with me everywhere I go unless its “no, it’s a flashlight, I’m not happy to see you” size means having it in my pocket would cause me to receive undue attention.
A lighter means fire. Plain and simple. Lighters can be carried everywhere without raising any suspicion, and are simpler in operation and sturdier than carrying matches. Keep a lighter (mostly) dry and you’ll have fire when you need it – whether your needs include starting a life-saving fire in the wilderness, or giving a light to a babe at a bus stop.
Budget Lighter AND Preferred Lighter: Bic Classic plastic lighter, 8-pack for $8.91 – While there are a bazillion other lighter types out there at countless convenience store counters, the good ol’ standby Bic works as long as it has fuel and the spark wheel is dry. Be sure to wrap a zip-tie or rubber band underneath the gas button to help prevent premature gas release in your pocket. It sucks pulling your lighter out to use it only to find that all the butane that was inside somehow made its way outside.
In these days of mass shooters and teens playing video games on their cellphones while piloting a car on the highway, tourniquets are now accepted – and desired – tools of the EDC world. Ten years ago, an everyday guy or gal carrying a tourniquet around might be considered a wacko or alarmist, but now you can carry one without even raising an eyebrow. I put tourniquets in my carry-on luggage while flying, and I’ve had TSA inspectors thank me for having a tourniquet with me. Tourniquets are now an absolute necessity to have on your person or very nearby, and they are no longer considered a last-ditch desperate lifesaving measure; indeed, immediate tourniquet application is now credited to saving an incredible amount of lives on the recent battlefields. Get many, learn how to use them, carry them. You’ll save your life or someone else’s. Also: buy purpose-made tourniquets that are designed to stop blood flow! Just depending on your Target-bought nine-dollar reversible-color dress belt to staunch the flow of a massive bleeding wound means you will probably die. Get the right tourniquet, train with it frequently to ensure you can use it one-handed or weak-handed if needed. It’s only your life we’re talking about here.
I’m not going to offer a budget/preferred option for tourniquets – there are a few options out there that work. Review the types and your needs and buy accordingly. I personally carry RE Factor RATS tourniquets since they’re simple and don’t require a ton of dexterity to deploy – plus their elastic band nature means they will fit a variety of sizes of people from small children (my immediate concern) to larger people – and the thin width of the elastic band means that pulling tension will cut through and apply pressure, even through light clothing or body fat. CATS and SOFTT tourniquets also work very well – I suggest reading Doc Montana’s article on tourniquets for starters, and going from there, do your research by starting here. Since the tourniquet has but one use – saving your ass from bleeding out – research and practice on using your TQs is absolutely essential.