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.