Everyday Carry (EDC) has become an ubiquitous term in the personal defense community. As our society seems to become more dangerous and worrisome, the decision for many to keep with them a small collection of tools and personal protection items has spawned a micro-culture of products dedicated to daily protection. In the simplest terms, everyday carry are the items you keep with you at all times as means of protection, utility and preparedness in case of unanticipated events.

There are two primary schools of thought regarding everyday carry. The first, which I am not going to be discussing in great detail, is EDC from the perspective of a general preparedness mindset. While the preparedness mindset includes personal protection, it can also venture into other areas of situational readiness that is outside the scope of my article. The second, which I am going to discuss, focuses exclusively on daily personal protection of self and others.

With that said, let’s dig a bit deeper into EDC.

Everyday Carry for Personal Protection

To get started, here is a partial list of basic, everyday carry items:

  • gun and extra magazine
  • pepper spray
  • knife
  • keys
  • flashlight
  • cell phone

The Personal Defense Gun

Carry pistol and holster

Carry pistol and holster

The gun is the great equalizer. I don’t think I need to go over all of the positive attributes a gun possesses for keeping us safe. But I recognize that they are divisive as well. I’m going to leave the primary Second Amendment arguments out of the conversation, but let me just say that if you are talking about the ultimate protection tool, you cannot do better than a concealed handgun.

Because this is the New Jersey Personal Defense Academy, however, be aware that in the state of New Jersey you are not going to be carrying around a gun unless you are one of the ruling elite who hangs out with judges and gets them to sign off on your CCW permit. However, if you are traveling outside NJ there are many states that will allow you to carry concealed if you have the proper permit.

Pepper Spray Considerations

pepper spray

pepper spray

Finding the right kind to carry with you is very important. Some are spray, some are gel. The gels tend to “stick” to the assailant more but also may not give you as much coverage as a spray will. If you find yourself having to spray into the wind you’re going to have a bad day.

Some pepper spray comes with UV Dye in it, which will make identifying your attacker easier to do after the fact.

Be very aware of your local laws. In New Jersey, for example, the legal limit for pepper spray is three-quarters of one ounce (0.75). It’s not much, but I suppose it’s better than nothing. Anything more than that on your person and you’re breaking the law. (Man, I get so tired of explaining the ridiculous New Jersey nonsense for things we’re not allowed to do.) And when you carry it, don’t have it buried in the bottom of your purse; put it on your keychain or some place where it’s easily and quickly accessible.

Bear in mind that pepper spray does have a shelf life! I recommend you buy a new can every six to eight months to make sure you retain maximum effectiveness.

Also be sure to try it first! Don’t just buy pepper spray and stick it on your key ring without actually seeing what it can do. Buy one, try it out — in the air, not on a person — and see if you are comfortable with using it. If not, perhaps you should buy a different brand.

Knives

Karambit

A karambit knife

There are way too many types of knives on the market today to give a fair shake as to what you should or should not carry with you. Suffice it to say that a knife is a great tool for personal protection, so find one that fits comfortably in your hand and is easy to use. If it has a complicated latch for opening and closing you may not want to carry it if you have a baby carriage and a huge purse. If you keep one in your front jeans pocket you may want to make sure it’s small enough to carry comfortably.

I know I sound like a broken record, but just like pepper spray and guns you need to check the local law to see what you can and cannot have. There are many jurisdictions prohibiting the sale, use or carrying of certain types of knives such as switchblades, balisong (butterfly knives) and gravity-assist blades. New Jersey (surprise, surprise) is not a very knife-friendly state, so be sure you know what you can and cannot carry with you.

Keys are great because they are always on you and necessary to get into your house and car, so don’t rule them out for protection, either. They can be used with great effect on an attacker. Similarly, the use of a flashlight or cell phone camera is a great way to preemptively caution your assailant that perhaps you aren’t the best person to be messing with. (And for dialing 911 too, of course.)

The Professor's EDC

The Professor’s EDC

In order for your cell phone to be effective, it needs to be charged. So, if you absolutely must play Bejeweled every day, perhaps only play 600 games instead of 6,000 so you have some charge left in case you need to make a call. Also, having a charger in your car is an excellent idea. Hint, hint…

Some of these items are not for everyone. Many people don’t like guns and would never consider owning one, let alone carrying one. For others, knives are out of the question. Whatever your personal feelings are towards certain items, let me just say this: have something at your disposal as part of your EDC. Don’t be a victim just because it seems burdensome to carry a knife or pepper spray. (By the way, if you don’t want either, get your butt into a martial arts class!)

Expand Your EDC

If you are able to carry all of the primary EDC items, you are well on your way to being prepared. However, those are just the essentials; if you want to ensure more safety and readiness, consider other items such as:

  • whistle
  • pen
  • all-purpose tool
  • loose change to use a pay phone
  • a lighter
  • small first aid kit
  • aspirin

Remember, not everything related to personal protection needs to be a weapon, per se; a pen with a sturdy construction is a viable defense weapon to use to poke, prod and control with. An all-purpose tool is just great to have in general. How many times have you needed a small screwdriver? Protecting self and others doesn’t always entail fighting and self defense, right? (If you aren’t sure, the answer is “yes!”)

You may be asking yourself at what point everyday carry becomes overkill. It’s a completely valid question, and luckily the answer is quite simple. It becomes overkill when you have so much stuff that it has become unrealistic to keep it with you every day. If it’s gotten to the point where you are carrying a large backpack with you wherever you go, you may have gone a bit too far. EDC is to make sure you have the essentials for the majority of things that may happen to you on any given normal day.

With EDC Comes Responsibility

As with everything we do and discuss at NJPDA, responsibility is essential. Just because you have a tool at your disposal does not mean it should be your immediate go-to item should you find yourself in less-than-ideal circumstances. I would be verbal first, then if the situation escalates move to something like self defense, keys or pepper spray. Only in the most dangerous of situations would I consider knife or pistol. With great tools comes greater responsibility; carrying a gun or a knife (or anything else of that nature) should make you less willing to be involved in a confrontation, not more willing.

Furthermore, get training! If you are going to carry a gun or something similar, make sure you are proficient in its use.

The Caveat

As I wrap things up, it is necessary to include a few caveats so as to not get anyone (myself included) in trouble with the authorities. First, I am not a lawyer. I cannot tell you from a legal perspective what you are or are not allow to carry on your person in your home state or any state in which you intend to travel. Because we have readers in many countries around the world, you’re going to have to do your research and find out what your local law enforcement allows for.

Everything I spoke about today is for general information purposes only. I do not advocate what you should carry. The decisions are personal and yours to make alone. Whatever you carry, make sure you are responsible and ethical.

Final Thoughts

To reaffirm another overarching theme here at NJPDA, while I believe that everyday carry items are very helpful, the most important thing is to not do stupid things in stupid places with stupid people.

It is also important for me to state once again the importance of training. Having an item for protection means nothing if you don’t know how to use it and cannot walk through life with an ethical warrior/protector mindset. I honestly cannot emphasize this enough.

Mark's EDC Kit

An EDC kit from Mark from Golden, CO

Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of everyday carry for more than just personal protection as I mentioned in the Expand your EDC section. Though I kept the nature of this article mostly related to self defense, there is an awful lot to be said for being prepared in general. If you are a family of four or five and your car breaks down late at night on a less-traveled road, do you have water and snacks for the kids? Do you have a flat tire kit? Is your cell phone charged or just about to die? If you have to walk a distance to use a pay phone, do you have a pair of comfortable shoes to do so in? A small EDC bag or a get home kit in your car can be just as important for protection as the other items mentioned in this article. Something to consider…