survival items

My EDC—15 items you should never leave home without

In case you were wondering, here is my list of everyday carry (EDC) items. 

Note: I am not sponsored by or getting paid for mentioning any company, brand, or entity. I just happen to like some of these products. 

In addition to a comfortable pair of shoes (often Hoka’s or Cole-Haan’s) and out-of-this-world amazing socks (Darn Tough Socks), here’s what I carry on my person. I’m not going to go in the same order that many tactical guys and gals may. Why? Because the number one and number two items are, hands down, the most important things I can carry, and they might not list those things while I would. But also, I carry items other people don’t.

My brain. 

Some people can and do leave home without it. I’ve seen it. People can lose their minds. Whether that’s their normal go-to or they get high or uncontrollably intoxicated and have no control of themselves (or their bowels), it’s not a pretty sight to see. When people panic, they may lose their minds, too. Training the mind is essential. What should you do in an emergency? No number of items can replace knowledge.

My experience. 

Just like no amount of stuff can replace what you have in your brain housing group, to borrow a gun armorer term, your experience is worth A LOT, especially if you have high quality training and experience to lean on. Keep your head on a swivel and stay calm in the storm. Stress inoculation from high-speed training is crucial for doing the right thing at the right time. Remembering what to do and how to act given a certain set of circumstances could be the difference between winning and losing, whether it’s a gunfight or escaping a major natural or man-made disaster.

A wallet. 

An ID is important to have, so is a debit or credit card. I also like to carry a little cash just in case the electronic grid gets blown. I also have my retired police ID and a couple of Band-Aids. Inevitably, someone will get a small bloody scrape, and I’ll be able to patch it up quickly. What can I say? I’m a former Eagle Scout back when the national organization was still called Boy Scouts of America, so I’ve embraced the motto: Be prepared.

A handkerchief. 

I don’t use a handkerchief for blowing my nose just to stick it back in my pocket. That would be disgusting. But I’m an older guy so I can get away with carrying one and still being, well, cool. The thing is a handkerchief doesn’t take up hardly any space in my Carhartt, 5.11, or Prana pants pocket, but it is one of the best items to stop blood period. Stopping major blood with direct pressure or even shoving my handkerchief into a deep cut, if needed, would be a quick option to save someone’s life, even my own. When I wear a suit, I opt to wear a tie that I could use as a tourniquet, if needed.

A phone.

Commo is essential. And, by the way, when there’s a full-blown emergency, Millennials will want to record it on their phones. Me, I’ll use it to call 911. If something happens where all the phone lines or the major phone towers are inoperable, I’ll turn off my phone to conserve my battery power and only turn it on to send and receive SMS or text messages. Text messages will likely get through faster in an emergency, than other options. Having a single person all other family members or friends can reach out to to ensure I’m safe is important too. I’d let that person know my heart is still beating.

My keys. 

Transportation may be knocked out or limited depending upon the emergency, but I still need to drive. Besides, there’s enough survival equipment in my vehicle to go for several days. I could also grab a go bag from my vehicle and take off on foot, if needed. For my wife and daughters, I’d recommend keeping a good pair of walking shoes in the trunk of their cars, just in case they need to walk home or somewhere else for safety. Speaking of going home, I keep a house key with me. If the power goes out, your garage door might not open. It also won’t open if you happen to leave your garage door opener in your car (or if it is embedded into your car). 

A pen. 

It has been said that the pen is mightier than the sword. You can stab people in the eye socket with a good pen, if needed. You can take a pen on a plane, but you can’t take a sword on a plane. Plus, writing things can be important. Apparently, words matter, too.

A few 3X5 cards and/or a notepad. 

If you’re going to write stuff, it helps to have some paper. I usually take two or three 3×5 cards and shove them in my pocket. They often don’t last too many days before they’re torn and tattered, but it’s better than nothing. I sometimes carry a thin, small notepad with me, too. What can I say? Whether it’s jotting down notes from a phone call or writing down a license plate number of a vehicle, I need to write.

A knife. 

I’ve carried a knife for many years. Knives are extremely dangerous and extremely useful tools. My “flesh only” knife is my weapon. I carry an Emerson karambit on my nondominant side. I can open it one handed super-fast, and I can fillet away threats, if needed. This is my weapon retention blade. I like the tanto and the bullnose karambit as opposed to the traditional karambit claw blade as they allow me to do a backhand fist punch. With a karambit, I can have a two-handed grip on my pistol or perform immediate or remedial action while still holding my knife. It’s awesome.

Another knife. 

Because I have a “flesh only” blade, I carry an ultrasmall Swiss Army knife that has a file, scissors, a knife, and a pair of tweezers. That knife is a comfort knife for me that doesn’t take up any room at all and hardly weighs anything at all. In fact, I could attach it to my keyring if I wanted to. Mostly, I use it to open boxes and stuff.

A flashlight. 

If you can’t see, you’ll regret it. One of the best all-around lights I have carried for years and have used a lot is a Streamlight MicroStream LED penlight. This light uses a single AAA battery. You can also buy the one that is USB rechargeable. In fact, I just bought one. The light has a clip so it goes into my pocket well. I can also clip it on the brim of my baseball-style hat, if needed, and use it as a headlamp. I’ve bought dozens of them over the years and have given them away as gifts to friends and put in all of my kids’ go-bags and cars.

A gun. 

I’ve carried a gun for 25 years for a living. I’ve carried on duty and off duty. My go-to 9mm is the Sig Sauer P365. I love it. What an amazing gun. The 365X is awesome, too. I also love the XL. The only thing I wished Sig would have done is cut out the base of the X and the XL like the regular P365 so I could rip out the magazine, if needed, when performing remedial action. Other than that, the 365 is one of the best concealed carry guns on the market.

If I wanted to go a little smaller as far as guns go, I’d opt for the .380 Ruger LCP Max. It carries a lot of ammo for an ultra-super small gun, and I’m impressed with the size and how it handles.


I carry Speer Gold Dot JHP ammo because I have a lot of it; but if I had to buy more self defense rounds, I’d check out Sim-X Ammo. One word about Sim-X: Wow. Just wow. 

I carry an extra magazine in my support side pocket.

A holster.

My go-to holster is a StickyHolster. They rock. Because I carry an IWB holster, I have a good tactical belt that also looks nice. 

A belt. 

The best belt I’ve found is a Kore Essentials belt.

In sum, in addition to these 15 items, you should also wear clean underwear, pants, shirt, and so forth. I like wearing a hat to keep in heat from my bald head. For cold weather I really like Arc’teryx gear. It’s a little pricy, but it works incredibly well. 

Jeffrey Denning

Jeffrey has written award-winning articles for the Washington Times,, and other publications. He is the author of seven books, including Warrior SOS: Military Veterans’ Stories of Faith, Emotional Survival and Living with PTSD. He teaches courses on peer support, suicide prevention, and other mental wellness and resilience to public safety professionals. If you would like Jeff to speak at your event or training please contact him HERE.

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