Thursday, February 16, 2012

Common Man EDC Challenge

Suppose NBC's Today Show, that bastion of mainstream everything, contacted you and said: "We want to do a segment on tools and gadgets that people carry.  We'd like you to recommend to us five things that you think everyone should carry on their person."  What would you say?

I thought about this in the process of choosing gifts for people.  I find that people are genuinely surprised when they find out how much nicer a lot of gear is than the stuff they carry or use.  Perfect case in point: my Mom wanted a flashlight, but wanted to spend around $25 or less. I could have recommended the old stand by, a Mag Light 2xAA, but instead I suggested she buy a Maratac 1xAA (actually I bought it for her for Mother's Day).  The price was about the same but the performance was light years better and it was a smaller device that used half as many batteries.  We all know about these things, but the vast majority of people don't.  So with that in mind, let's get to the challenge.

Assume the person has nothing other than cash and a credit card--no wallet, watch, phone or anything.  Also assume that the stuff will not be babied and cared for like we care for our stuff.  Finally assume that the person will want something that is as broadly useful and easy to maintain as possible.  Given those criteria what five things would you recommend for the "Common Man EDC Kit"?  Here are my five things:

1.  Newest iPhone: A cellphone is required in modern life.  I have been without a landline for about a decade now and it has been a wonderful transition.  A smartphone is probably not required, but it is so nice and the iPhone, well, it deserves all the praise and sales it gets.  Dead simple to use, hundreds of thousands of apps, and Siri is an amazingly useful feature.

2.  Big Skinny Wallet:  There are bigger wallets, more expensive wallets, wallets that will last longer, but no wallet is as slim, sturdy, and cheap as a Big Skinny.  I can't see spending hundreds of dollars on a wallet--I just thrash on mine way, way too much.  So this cheap wallet seems perfect to hand out to folks raised on fatty leather wallets from the anchor store at the mall.  They'll be pleasantly surprised to learn you can carry plenty in a well-designed wallet that uses state of the art materials.

3.  Leatherman PS4:  The everyman would probably not really embrace a Cold Steel Voyager Vaquero but everyone, even the everywoman could embrace the practicality of the Leatherman PS4.  Its the scissors folks.  Pliers + scissors + small blade = perfect common man EDC.

4.  4sevens (or foursevens) Preon I flashlight:  Go look around for a better combination of ease of use, performance, size and price.  I believe that you will be back having concluded that the Preon I is as good as it gets.  It has AAA batteries, no weirdo cells.  It also has both a clicky and a twisty, making it more suitable for more folks.

5.  Coated Aircraft Cable (for a keychain): This is one of those items that folks around me always look at and say "Oh, that's a good idea."  I would love to pretend it was mine, but folks in the know have been carrying keys this way for years.  The average person would be stunned and grateful for the upgrade from the run of the mill split ring. 

Things that almost made the cut:

1.  Spyderco Dragonfly II in VG-10: I didn't think the everyperson would need a dedicated knife if they had a decent blade in a compact package.  That is exactly what the PS4 offers, so I think you can skip recommending a knife.  Also, the average person has such a mental block when it comes to knives that they'd probably just opt to leave it at home.  For some reason a Leatherman does not stir up those negative sentiments.  

2.  Modded Zebra F-701 pen: I am not sure you still need a pen in this day and age.  Everything that you used a pen for at a store has been replaced with a signing pad.  There are some places like restaurants where a pen would be nice, but they usually provide you with one.  If there were a sixth item allowed, this would be it.  

3.  Black Cover-type notebook:  I really, really like my date book even with an iPhone to keep me on task.  That said, this is a safety blanket for me and not really an essential.  I like them, but I don't think you NEED one.  If the everyperson happened to be 80, then sub this in for an iPhone. 

4.  Victorinox Alox Cadet:  If Leatherman don't stir up the reaction a knife does, then the SAK only stirs up a little bit.  The alox handled knives are so thin and the blade so nicely shaped and sized I have a hard time not recommending them, but none have scissors or pliers, so the PS4 gets the nod.

5.  G-Shock Watch: Ten years ago this would be a must, but I have found that even when wearing a watch I check my phone more often.  This would be item 7 on the list, and a G-Shock is a good entry level watch--durable and easy to use with zero maintenance.  They are ugly as sin, but they work so well.  

6.  Chawly Changer:  If I lived in the city and needed change more, I would totally carry this.  It is really well made and nicely designed, but as it is I just don't use change that much.  It was stolen from my car recently and though I was pissed, I don't think I need a replacement. 

I think some might say that you should carry a gun and I think there is something to that, but as an everyday item, I don't think I would.  There is a lot of liability that goes along with a gun and in my job, going in an out of jails and courts, I can't see it.  Also, if I am picking EDC stuff for the common person, there are so many irrational anti-gun people out there that recommending it would do no good, so it is off the list.  I think others might say you need a First Aid Kit.  I think that isn't a bad idea, but it really is cheating the purpose of the thought experiment here.  The kit is almost certainly more than five items, so it is not really fair.  Also, I have never carried one and never regretted it, so I am not sure that even if I counted it as one thing, I would still opt for it.  

So there you have it, my EDC kit for the common person--five items everyone should carry. 

Reply in the comments section with your five.  I will give a random reply a coated aircraft cable key ring.  Nothing huge, but hopefully enough to generate the necessary effort to reply.


  1. I think your five essentials are truly the common man edc. However, I advise my friends and family to not be without the following -

    1. A cell phone

    2. A gun that fits you

    3. A reload

    4. A cutting tool of some variety

    5. A light of some sort

  2. Your five choices are VERY similar to mine. Regardless of that fact, here are my picks.

    1. Cellphone - A smartphone or just a standard phone. They are pretty much essential nowadays.

    2. Maratac/County Comm LA wallet (or any other thin wallet, really) - I had this wallet for a while before gifting it to a friend after purchasing my Inkleaf cardholder. Unobtrusive and great for the price.

    3. Leatherman PS4 - The jack of all trades is also the master in this case. Compact, extremely useful and inexpensive, this EDC tool can fulfill almost all your needs.

    4. Maratac AAA - Even flashlight impaired people should be able to grasp the twisty mode selection after a few minutes of experimentation. Multiple modes are very useful in almost all cases.

    5. Bullet space pen - Reliable, tiny, and affordable.

  3. A wallet (with ID, cards, cash) and a phone go without saying. Those are definitely items #1 and #2.

    After that, I would agree you need a multitool of some sort and a small light. Preon and Maratach are great choices. But for everyman, an even smaller (and cheaper) Fenix E05 would do the trick. It's tiny, good battery life, totally cheap, and you really don't need all those modes. 27 lumens is enough for most people's purposes.

    I like the Victorinox classic for a multitool. Great little blade, plus scissors, screwdrivers and tweezers. It's way smaller than the PS4, and does everyman really need pliers? For the size and weight, you can't beat the classic SAK.

    Keys are becoming less necessary with electronic and other keyless locks. If you don't have to have a keychain as your 5th item, then you can carry either a pen (urban environs) or water bottle (outdoor environs). I can still collect quick notes faster on paper than on my phone, so I'd be lost without a pen.

  4. Ah great choices Tony! I've been reading your blog too much, my selections would be very similar!

    1. Iphone (I admit it's the best phone on the market)

    2. Big Skinny Wallet - I use mine every day

    3. Spyderco Dragonfly - VG10 is fine for my purposes but I wouldn't turn one down in ZDP189 or a BM mini grip!

    4. Gerber Shard - you got me hooked on this thing. Nice and light, works as advertised. (Personally I prefer this OPMT + Knife over multi-tool + aircraft cable although I see your point.)

    5. Preon 2 - I gotta pretend to be different here... and well, the P2 is what I carry.

    Fun idea although I'm sorry mine isn't too different from yours!

  5. I just bought 3 Chawly Changers for friends...too cool! -Sean

  6. My choices are very similar:

    - T.H.E. Wallet (I love it)
    - Leatherman P4 Squirt. I preferred the pliers to scissors
    - Streamlight Stylus in my pocket; Fenix E05 on my key chain
    - iPhone 3GS (I'm holdin' out for the "5"!)
    - CASIO PAW-1300 watch (sucker does everything)

    thanks for the great posts!

  7. Curious as to what you do for a living "going in and out of courts and jails" as I do exactly the same as a bail bondsman, and while it's a pain in the #ss to constantly take it off to do so, I would never leave home without it.

  8. Awesome idea-

    Here's mt shot at it-

    1. Samsung Convoy (tough as nails)
    2. 'Minimalist' leather wallet from 'The Office of Minor Details'- Etsy site-$35/shipped (awesome wallet for cards and cash)
    3. Sanrenmu 763 knife- <$13/shipped (cheap, sharp and w/ an Axis style locking mechanism, also has a built-in can-opener as well- cool little bugger)
    4. Thrunite Ti- <$16 (two twisty levels 0.04/60 lumens- outstanding keychain light)
    5. Seiko SNK809 Automatic- <$75 (I actually got this one on Amazon for $54! This is the best auto that you can buy- my opinion)

    Your dead on with the PS4! I was pondering with a Victorinox Cadet and a Gerber Curve as well...

    This sure is a fun break from work!

  9. The best auto for the price in regards to the SNK809, the Orient would be a close 2nd. Also, the Thrunite Ti has excellent knurling. It sucks finger typing when you have big hands. ;)

  10. 1. Smartphone (for comms, reference, and a light if capable)

    2. Leathermen PS4 (just the pliers alone have saved me many times)

    3. True Utility Key Chain (great for carrying/detaching devices, and makes keys a friendlier occupant of pants pockets)

    4. Preon 1 or Maratac AAA (if cell isn't sufficient, or don't want to drain the battery on the mobile)

    I think these four would cover the bases for a "common person" carry. You could certainly consider a primary blade as a possible fifth option, I would recommend something like the Spyderco UKPK. It is on the smaller side, making it non-threatening, but it is still very capable, and it has a great low profile wire clip.

    Great site, excellent reviews, thanks for your efforts.

  11. 1. & 2. Wallet and cell/smart phone. I'm not gear-savvy about these items -- they don't excite me -- so whatever you like and can afford. I will say I prefer conventional brown leather men's wallets.

    3. Keychain flashlight. Go simple like the Fenix E05 or step up to something brighter and more complex like the Fenix LD01. The person WILL use the keychain light and appreciate it; bank on it.

    4. Leatherman PS4 - Gets you scissors, a cap lifter, screwdrivers, and pliers, in likely order of use. Incredibly small, light, and carryable. Again, in my experience if you get one of these for a non-EDC person you can expect later gratitude as they find much use.

    I disagree with Tony about the PS4's blade, though. It has come in handy for a couple of cutting tasks, but overall is a marginal performer, the worst tool on the multitool. Bad grind (chisel); not an aggressive cutter; weak slipjoint retention. The LM Juice's main blade is worlds better. Even a SAK Cadet is a big step up. So, I think our Everyperson with a PS4 will also find great value in:

    5. Spyderco Ladybug or Dragonfly - Ladybug is easily keychainable with the flashlight, comes sharp, and can do real work, unlike the PS4 blade. Get a purple or green handle. Non-knife people won't freak out; they'll find it cute.

    In "red state" America, where the locals will be somewhat less infantilized about knives, I have no problem recommending the Dragonfly for pants pocket-clipped carry. Awesome cutting tool with a discreet wire clip. (A UKPK with kool-aid color scales would be a good non-locking alternative.)

  12. NOTE: Depending on locale, I might drop either the primary knife or the multitool for a can of OC (pepper spray).

  13. 1. Some sort of phone, a smart phone is nice, but best if the phone is slim.

    2. Maxpedition Mico Wallet. Super, super thin. I rarely every carry cash and this wallet is good enough to carry a debit card, a credit card, and a form of ID.

    3. I really like using my TEC Clip. It is a little pricey for a key chain acessory, but it's well worth it.

    4. A small dedicated knife. I rarely every find myself using my PS4 (it is just a tad bit on the heavy side). Scissors sometimes comes in handy, but with the size on the PS4, a knife will do better. The Dragonfly ZDP is bit on the expensive side. I'd say the smaller Kershaw Ener-G is great. I'd really say go for a mini fix blade like the MSOPT or JP Toucan. Though, no one really makes one that's on the cheaper end.

    5. USB drive.

    These are pretty much my bare essential. I rarely, if ever, find myself going for my flashlight. I'm usually never in such a situation. I do have a JP Toucan and MiniX combo, but I just care that around for kicks and because the combo does work out really well. Though, it is a pricey little combo.

    Also, if I don't have a bottle opener, I can just use the spine of my folder as a Danish style opener.

    1. Random Number Generator says you win. Send me an email with your address.


  14. 1-Slim wallet

    2-House keys

    3- The Squirt PS4 (you are dead on with that)

    4-Fenix E05. It was better then my old mag lite but throws more light.

    5-An SAK Signature. Its a good backup knife/scissor and with a built in pen it has many uses.

    I used to carry a SAK Explorer plus. I liked having a bigger blade, but it was a tad bulky. Still love it though.

  15. 1. Smartphone. I personally prefer the Nokia N8, but there are plenty of good smartphones besides an iphone.

    2. Victorinox Midnite Manager - small SAK with LED light and a pen built in. If you prefer pliers, then the Squirt PS4, with:

    3. Fenix E01, E05, or LD01 light, depending on preference and budget.

    4. Bic lighter. The ability to start a fire can be a life saver, literally.

    5. Duct tape wrapped around a credit card. Has numerous uses, including patching yourself if you get a cut.

  16. when are you going to choose with a random reply for the cable ring? ;-)

  17. I have tried but a few people have not responded. So here is the deal, I will reply to the winner's comment (chosen at random). That person should email me with their address.

  18. Have to agree with your easement but you need a knife that is bigger than the ps4. i have one and found the knife too small to use in most situations making me go for my dedicated knife. I am not saying a dedicated knife would be better because you can get a Leatherman Juice that is over double the size and is nearly key chain carry (you have to have big pockets).

  19. Obviously, if you are in civilisation, a working smartphone with Internet access, your identification (DL/Passport), some cash, and a major credit card are the most important things you can have on your person, because with those, you can get anything else you might need or want!

    So, assuming we are going to exempt those items, then my choices for EDC would be:

    1. Bic lighter, regular size or mini. There is simply no device that offers a better combination of versatility and reliability when it comes to making a fire.

    2. Victorinox Rambler. Non scary, but very sharp and useful knife blade, excellent scissors (the best nail cutters ever!), bottle opener, nail file, Phillips and Flat screwdrivers, tweezers, and toothpick. Those are the essentials.

    3. Leatherman Serac S3. Low, medium, high, 1 cell that lasts seemingly forever in low mode, which is all you need for most tasks.

    4. Fisher Space Pen. I carry the Bullet model with the Titanium Nitride coating.

    These four items are *always* in the small makeup kit that goes in my handbag. As for the last item, well...I can't decide among several different items that are also always in my handbag:

    a. a compact umbrella
    b. a good hairbrush (or comb)
    c. a Storm whistle
    d. condoms and lube (Hey, you never know! A girl could get lucky! Yes, I know that's two different items. Sue me.)
    e. a small bottle of ibuprofen
    f. a pocket pack of tissues
    g. a small bottle of liquid hand sanitiser
    h. a small spray can of lysol
    i. a packet of toilet seat covers
    j. an REI synthetic hand towel
    k. a barrette or a ponytail elastic
    l. a bigger knife (usually, a Gerber AirFrame, sometimes a Gerber Yari)
    m. feminine hygiene products
    n. a 3" blanket pin or two

    Perhaps this list may surprise some of you, since it is my experience that people who throw about acronyms like "EDC" rarely, if ever, consider the needs of women. Each of the items I list here is always in my handbag, because I use it on something close to a daily basis. Only the umbrella, condoms, lube, and ibuprofen are not likely to be used each and every day, but they are exceedingly nice to have around when the need arises, and the need for them is usually unpredictable.

    These are not the only things I carry every day in my handbag, just the ones I consider most essential. I also carry:

    1. a nicer pen
    2. a complete set of Snow Peak titanium flatware (fork, spoon, knife, spork)
    3. a pair of stainless chopsticks
    4. hands-free device for my phone
    5. my vehicle keys, house keys, PO box keys, and storage unit keys, which hang on Wichard stainless sailboat snap shackles, so they can be separated for valet service. My keychain also includes a purse hook, for hanging expensive handbags from a table so they don't get dirty.
    6. my medications
    7. the aforementioned makeup kit (extensive, but small, fits in a 4x6 pouch. Includes at least two mirror compacts at all times.)
    8. my Filofax (which I use mainly as a notebook)
    9. a mini first aid kit (one of the little white plastic box J&J sets, which I replenish periodically. In that kit are always: diphenhydramine HCl, pseudoephedrine HCl, adhesive bandages, calcium carbonate antacid tablets, benzocaine or clove oil anaesthetic)
    10. emergency backup flat shoes, like Dr. Scholl's Fast Flats

    I am not opposed to carrying a firearm, but I find no need to do so in my daily routine, nor are carry permits forthcoming in my state. If I did, and it were legal to do so, my choice would probably be a Kahr Arms T40, loaded with personal defence ammunition.

    Well, there you have it! I hope that my little discussion here helps some of you guys, or at the very least, helps you plan for the needs of a significant other.

  20. One thing I forgot: Good sunglasses!