Building My Own DIY Everyday Carry (EDC) Kit: A Step-By-Step Journey

As is true of any subculture, there are many schools of thought within the Prepper / Survivalist community, many of which tend to overlap one another. A growing trend these days revolves around the phenomenon of the ubiquitous everyday carry (EDC) kit, so much so that entire websites are dedicated simply to this single facet of the greater picture that is emergency preparedness. Needless to say, I have been feeling the pressure to build one of these myself for quite a while now, so that’s what I’m going to do. I’m doing it in stages, little by little, and I’m going to document each stage here on Backwoods Survival Blog as I proceed.

First off, what is an everyday carry (EDC) kit? The simplest answer possible is that it is a collection of tools that you carry with you on your person everyday and that are specifically geared toward assisting you in overcoming obstacles that you might find yourself facing. Things you know you’re going to use every day need to be part of your everyday carry kit, and – with a mind toward emergency preparedness – you also need to take the time to weigh those scenarios that could present themselves to you, even if not every single day. That’s how you become prepared.

Everyone has their opinion as to what sort of case ought to house the kit. It needs to be large enough for you to be able to carry the things you need, while also remaining a sufficiently small size as to allow you to carry it on your person all the time without a great deal of difficulty. The fact of the matter is that, if it becomes a great inconvenience, human nature will prevail and you’ll end up leaving it at home, which utterly goes against the entire concept of everyday carry. The other important factor that I wanted to concentrate on, as I do with pretty much everything else I deal with with respect to emergency preparedness, was to keep things at as low a cost as possible. We all know that there are folks within our community who adopt the mindset that being prepared means you have to spend thousands of dollars, but I have never been one of those people.

In my case, a light bulb went off over my head as I was going through an old box and found this old day-planner (pictured to the right) that I’ve probably had since college. Nobody uses these things anymore. They’re completely obsolete now that most people carry around what once would have been considered a supercomputer in their pockets (smart phones). No one needs a paper calendar anymore. And, as I was just on the verge of thinking about tossing this old thing in the garbage, I decided to repurpose it. I ripped pretty much anything out of it that I didn’t think I could use and was left with what is essentially a small leather case that zips and has a bunch of useful compartments. Perfect for my purposes. If I were purchasing my case new, however, I would have chosen the Maxpedition EDC Pocket Organizer.

It came with this little ruler inside it. I’m not sure if it will be all that useful, but it takes up almost no room in the case whatsoever. There isn’t really much to say about something like that. I’m essentially keeping it because it isn’t inconvenient to do so, and I imagine it may have some utility somewhere down the line. You never know when you might need to measure something small or have a guide to help you draw a straight line.

Next, I added this very good ink pen and a small pad of Post-it notes. I had a bunch of these lying around, and they also take up very little space. You never know when you could be stuck out somewhere, possibly even separated from your companions, and need to leave notes to help guide them to where you are or let them know where you’re going. These may never get used either, but until I’m out of room and need to start dumping things to make room for better stuff, I’ll leave them in there.

And the last thing I added today were 2 large, heavy-duty 30 gallon garbage bags. Garbage bags, tarps, plastic sheeting, etc. can have probably hundreds of different uses. As needed, these could be cut or torn to make a rain poncho or waterproof roofing material for a temporary woodland shelter. Given some sort of container, they could even be fashioned into a rain catch to get you some fresh water at great need. Granted, this isn’t food-grade plastic by any means, but in a pinch you do what you have to do to avoid dehydration.

When Fate places you in a situation where you might be forced to attempt survival, while stranded somewhere out in the wild, few things are as important as the ability to have a fire. This lifesaver keeps you warm in the dead of winter, sterilizes water and cooks food, keeps away wild animals, and can actually go a long way toward reducing stress on what would undoubtedly be already frayed nerves by giving you a sense of security. I doubt anyone would dispute the idea that it would be rough to be stuck in an unfamiliar setting and be essentially blind in the midst of a living forest after the sun goes down. So, needless to say, it is my belief that no Everyday Carry (EDC) Kit is complete without including the essentials that give you the ability to have fire on your side.

Below, you will find the makings of the small firestarter kit I will be building to include in my EDC:

A few of these items are obviously self-explanatory. The Ziploc baggie will simply be used to add an extra layer of waterproofing protection to some of the items that make up the kit. Being a strong believer in redundancy as part of the belief that “two is one and one is none” when it comes to emergency preparedness items, I have decided to include two ways of actually lighting a fire: a typical disposable cigarette lighter as well as waterproof matches. I’m sure that it would have been far sexier to go with some sort of fancy magnesium fire starter, but one of the goals of this DIY project from the beginning has been to assemble a decent EDC kit for very little money, so I went with far cheaper “quick and dirty” solutions.  The empty Altoids tin is destined, of course, to house my fire starting materials, but I’m sure you might be wondering about the cotton balls.

What you are seeing in the picture are four typical cotton balls that I have infused with normal OTC hand sanitizer by soaking them and allowing them to dry. These take a flame quite easily and hold it for a decent amount of time, increasing the likelihood that whatever dry tinder you have been able to gather will ignite into a fire for you. Take a look at the test I conducted via my YouTube video below:

As you can see in my video, this cotton ball flares up immediately and burns for just under two full minutes, giving off a surprising amount of heat as well as a fairly pleasant scent that wasn’t terribly unlike roasted marshmallows. It is my belief that these would help you get a fire going even in wetter conditions where you might only be able to find a small amount of dry materials with which to work. YMMV.

Pictured to the right is a close-up of the Stormproof brand waterproof and windproof matches I used. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to buy any quantity smaller than 25 matches, yet the Altoids tin is nowhere near large enough to hold the entire box as well as all of the other materials I wanted to include. As a means of getting around this, I took 12 of these matches (half of what remained after testing out one of them) and wrapped them in some of the leftover plastic packaging to add an extra layer of protection against moisture. Being forced not to include the box inside my kit also put me in a bad place with respect to how to strike these matches, since I didn’t think ahead and buy ones that were guaranteed as “strike anywhere.” I was able to get around this, however, since these Stormproof matches did come with two extra strikers protected in plastic. I was able simply to include the two extra strikers in the bottom of the Altoids tin.

Below, you can see what the tin looks like packed:

Completed firestarter kit

What you are seeing in the picture above is a disposable cigarette lighter, 12 waterproof and windproof matches with two strikers, and two cotton balls infused with hand sanitizer to act as a jump starter for a fire. Unfortunately, I could only include the two cotton balls and had to discard the remaining two I had prepared. They expanded and became more stiff and less pliable as they dried, and so all four of them would no longer compress sufficiently to fit inside the Altoids tin.

Even with the that setback, however, I feel comfortable in the knowledge that my own personal DIY Everyday Carry (EDC) Kit now contains at least two different ways I can build a fire at need, including at least a few at times when it might be difficult to find a great deal of dry tinder with which to work. Needless to say, knowing that I have this capability at my disposal at all times goes a great deal toward increasing my own feelings of security and keeps me well prepared for survival in an emergency.

No respectable Everyday Carry (EDC) kit could possibly be considered complete without the addition of two vital elements: lighting and a cutting tool. The entire purpose of carrying such a kit on your person at all times is to ensure in yourself a greater level of readiness so that, whatever situation might arise, you can be confident that you have tools at hand which will both assist in your survival as well as getting you home to where the rest of your emergency preparedness supplies are stored. To that end, I have included an LED pen light as well as an interesting little knife that I’ll talk about a bit more later.

First off, the LED pen light is an Energizer brand item that I pulled off the shelf of the camping section of my local Walmart. No real bells and whistles or any huge brand name well known for outdoor equipment or anything like that. Remember, one of my goals is to build this kit as economically as possible, saving money wherever I can. That being said and not being able to speak yet as to its longevity, I’m pretty happy with this purchase. It isn’t the brightest penlight you’ll find at only 21 lumens, but that is plenty enough. I’m not considering this as a tool to use while I’m doing brain surgery; it’s just a handy little light that will allow a person to see after dark if they are stranded somewhere. Also, I consider it a big advantage that it runs on AAA batteries, which are exceedingly easy to come across just about anywhere. Also, being a penlight, it takes up very little room inside my EDC case, yet has a pretty sturdy metallic body that gives it a nice feel in the hand.

The knife you see in the photo, however, requires a bit more explanation. What you’re seeing there is called a Micro Knife. It’s one of those As Seen On TV things, basically a knife that folds down to the size of a credit card but is usable like a typical pocketknife. You can see the advertisement for it in the video below: 

My thoughts on this knife represent somewhat mixed feelings. The bones of it are that what you’re looking at is basically a fairly decent quality 2.5 inch surgical steel blade packaged with a handle that has to be pretty much the cheapest plastic imaginable. It is actually very malleable as opposed to being like a credit card, but the whole thing does fold down to the size of a credit card, which – realistically – is precisely how it is being marketed. Also, once you snap the two sides of the handle together it is stiffened just enough to provide you with a halfway decent handle to hold it by; it just isn’t great.

Here’s the deal: You can’t buy something like this and expect it to compare with an $80 outdoor knife. That’s just stupidity. These things are made in China, after all. It isn’t even as sturdy as your typical pocketknife, but what it is is a very small knife that takes up virtually no room at all wherever you are intending to store it. Mine needed sharpened a bit out of the box, but I feel pretty confident with the way it cuts now. Plus, I consider this only to be at backup for having a better knife that you wear on your belt. Remember, emergency preparedness is all about redundancy and having a minimum of one backup for every item of importance (preferably more than one). For the purposes of this small Everyday Carry (EDC) kit and as a backup blade for another knife, I can say that I’m fairly happy with it as well.

By the way, when talking about a good knife to keep on your belt, I recommend the Camillus Les Stroud signature edition SK Arctic knife. It is a very sturdy tool, perfectly affordable, and it is simple without a lot of unnecessary bells and whistles, which is something I really like. The blade is carbon nitride titanium-bonded 440 steel with a no-stick coating. It is full tang construction, so it isn’t going to snap off the first time you attempt to use it out in the field and the hilt is made of rubber and hard plastic that provides a nice grip. The sheath is also made from sturdy materials and likewise serves as a holder for the only other big feature included, which is a little fire striker rod you can use along with the knife to get yourself some sparks to start a campfire out in the field. The only thing I don’t like about this knife is the yellow trim, but you have to understand that Les Stroud’s focus on survival is geared toward folks stuck out in the bush somewhere trying to make it home, so a bright yellow that makes you more visible is actually considered a good thing whereas you and I might consider that to be a hindrance. Either way, such a thing is easily corrected with a little black shoe polish or even some black electrical tape, and you’ve got yourself both a really good knife and a fire striker for not a lot of money. Something to consider.

Or, if you aren’t adverse to carrying something larger (which, admittedly, might not be best as an everyday carry option), a really great knife to have access to is the versatile, multi-use kukri

Emergency preparedness often centers on ways to be ready to survive truly dangerous situations, but every emergency we face doesn’t necessarily have to be a life or death proposition. Plenty of times, things just go awry and require a bit of tinkering to get everything back on track. With that in mind and understanding the space requirements I’m faced with, I chose to include this Stanley brand multi-head screwdriver to my Everyday Carry (EDC) kit. The heads are interchangeable, so it is possible to deal with any number of different issues with which I might find myself faced, and – because the additional pieces are stored in the screwdriver’s handle – it doesn’t take up nearly as much room as a typical set would. Being that I will be carrying this kit on my person at all times, having a tool like this as a part of it makes me feel much more secure, and it cost only around $4.

In addition, someone commented way back on the first installment of this series, where I included an ink pen, that I needed to dump it in favor of a pencil. Including a writing utensil in my small kit in order to be able to leave notes, draw a recon map, etc. on the tiny Post-it pad I was also adding was important to me. I agree, after having given it some thought, that it might be foolish of me to place my dependence solely on the pen, so I felt like giving a nod to that wisdom from one of my readers. Still, I can see myself getting much more use out of the pen as I carry this kit around with me daily, so I don’t want to get rid of it either. For some reason, I have always hated pencils. As a compromise and in keeping with the wisdom of redundancy we always talk about, I just added the pencil you see in the photo as a backup for my trusty ink pen. 

Something we don’t often talk about when it comes to survival is that comfort can sometimes play a big role. The idea of being comfortable in a survival situation may sound crazy, but what I’m referring to are the “comforts of home,” the little things that might help to keep you going. Current science is telling us that people actually become better problem solvers when they are in a good mood, so this is nothing at which we should scoff. To that end, I am adding what you see in the included photo to my Everyday Carry (EDC) kit.

Obviously, the hard candies are meant to provide a sweet-tasting treat to help keep my spirits up in the event I’m stranded somewhere or having to make my way home on foot over land. In addition, they will help keep my mouth from becoming as dry. Room within the free carrying case I repurposed for this project is at a premium at this point, so I’m only adding five pieces of candy at this time. If there’s room later, after I have put in everything I absolutely need, I may add more.

Also pictured are two packets of powdered drink mix in different flavors, namely iced tea with lemon and cherry. These are, of course, the Walmart store brand, but they are essentially identical to Crystal Light brand drink mix. This means that the caloric content is miniscule, but they aren’t being included for the sake of nutrition. Being the store brand, these are quite a bit cheaper, and they serve the dual purpose of providing a pleasant-tasting experience as well as being able to disguise the potentially poor taste of any water a person surviving in the bush might be forced to drink. Some methods of treating water (such as with iodine) can sometimes leave it with a bad taste, and even just water that you have boiled is sometimes described as having a “flat” flavor. In fact, you may even come across a perfectly safe source of water to drink, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be clean water, so having with you the means by which to flavor it can be a great help.

You’ll need your own container, obviously. These packets are meant to be poured directly into the bottle of water and shaken to mix the drink. Needless to say, there’s no room in my particular Everyday Carry (EDC) kit for a bottle or container, but plastic bottles aren’t hard to come by. Most automobiles end up with a few in the floorboards, etc., and my own personal bug-out bag (which does contain a bottle) lives in my vehicle as an emergency car survival kit, so I’ll end up using that one, I’m sure. If caught away from my car, I’ll have to forage for one. Each of these packets makes 2 quarts, so pouring half of one into a 20-24 ounce soda bottle would work. It would just be a bit strong, which is how I prefer to drink it anyway. I’ll include a paperclip as well, so that each packet can be folded over and secured after half of it is used. 

One thing that will remain true pretty much universally, no matter what survival expert is giving you advice, is the understanding that very few things are more useful in an emergency than cordage (i.e. rope, bungee cable, utility cord, paracord, etc.). As a result, no self-respecting Everyday Carry (EDC) kit should be without this versatile resource.

This is what a 50′ roll of utility cord looks like. No way in Hell I’m getting all of this into my already-stuffed EDC, so I’ll have no choice but to get crafty.

Unfortunately (and as I’ve stated before), my choice to repurpose an old, otherwise useless day planner in order to serve as a case for my Everyday Carry (EDC) kithas resulted in a bit of a space issue that I’m currently having to work around when deciding what I can and cannot include in my kit. It sucks, but such things are the way of the world. Worst-case scenario, if I feel as though I’m being too restricted by this issue, I may eventually go ahead and purchase a satchel or backpack within which this small case can reside as well as providing more room for additional items. That’s a ways down the road, however, and our subject today is talking about getting as much of this cordage as possible into my kit.

In order to achieve this, I worked it out to be able to fit somewhere around 20′ (somewhat of a rough estimate) into my EDC kitas well as several strips of duct tape, which also has myriad uses and could come in very handy in any type of emergency situation. As you can see from looking at the photos, I simply unspooled the roll of utility cord and secured it with duct tape in rows that are meant both to 1) Fit within the confines of my EDC case as well as 2) Lie as flat as possible to help with the issue I’m having of stretching the old day planner.

The rows you see are roughly 6″ long, arranged as 20 rows to equal around 10′. Then the process is repeated a second time, resulting in what you see in the photo above. And, lastly, one section is simply closed over the top of the other in the same way that a door swings on its hinge, resulting in roughly 20′ of cordage as well as a bunch of very useful strips of duct tape packed into a fairly small space as pictured below:

Completely putting aside modern day conventions, cleanliness really is a very good idea. What’s the old saying about it being next to godliness? There’s a reason ancient cultures embedded the idea into their very religious teachings: being clean (or, more accurately, the opposite) can have a real impact on health concerns. One of the major reasons, in fact, given for Europe finally pulling itself out of the depths of the Black Plague era is often attributed to the teachings of the man most of us know as Nostradamus and think of only as someone who gave prophecies. The story goes that he went around and tried to teach people how being clean would help stop the spread of the disease, including burning bodies of the infected, rather than either following the typical Christian practice of burial or simply closing the person’s home up and leaving them to rot inside (also known to be a font of sickness). Anyway, my point is that being clean has real practical value, rather than simply being a bow to modern sensibilities

In that spirit, you can look at the picture above and see the items I’ve added to my Everyday Carry (EDC) kit for the sake of cleanliness. That’s a small bottle of hand sanitizer as well as some toothpaste, both of which are in tiny travel sizes. The toothpaste I will, of course, take out of the box; just forgot to do that before taking the picture. Luckily, the hand sanitizer is going to work out well for me with my space limitations; as you can see, it’s got a nifty little tail attached to a plastic casing that holds the bottle and allows you to clip it to a zipper. So, I can include this in my EDC kit without worrying about the internal space it’s going to take up (which is beginning to become a problem I may have to deal with soon).

My hopes were to also acquire a small travel size toothbrush, but I’ve been to several stores and haven’t been able to locate one (I don’t really relish the idea of buying one online and paying shipping charges for something so tiny). I’m still going to keep looking to try to get one, but the truth is that having it really is only a convenience. One can just as easily use the toothpaste with a finger or small twig to get the same job done, perhaps not quite as well but better than nothing. Even just squirting some of the toothpaste in your mouth and swishing it around would be better than not having it at all. And, as far as using a twig or something like that goes, that was pretty standard fare for those who bothered taking care of their teeth in the Old World. Even before there was any such thing as toothpaste, people used the stems of certain aromatic plants to scrape gunk off of their teeth and give their mouth a more fresh scent and flavor, so there are numerous options available, even in the event that I’m not able to locate a suitably small toothbrush for my EDC kit.