In today’s social, economic, and political climate, personal safety is an important focus for the average citizen. Always having the right self-defense tools with you can ensure your well-being and safety in any situation.
Everyday Carry (EDC) are the essential items you carry throughout your day that can support your self-defense and preparedness efforts. With the right tools, such as knives, flashlights, and defensive sprays, you can assemble an EDC kit that keeps you ready to defend yourself whenever necessary.
What is EDC?
EDC are items you always bring with you, typically in your pockets or on a belt. While EDC can refer to your smartphone, a pocketknife, mini-flashlight, or pens, it can also include self-defense tools, like knives, brass knuckles, and guns.
Each item in your EDC kit should serve multiple purposes. For example, a multitool is an excellent EDC item because it contains pliers, blades, and screwdrivers. These can help you act in self-defense, open items, or tighten screws. A tactical flashlight also works well as an EDC item because it can help you navigate the dark, blind potential attackers, and provide light in a blackout.
The Role of EDC in Preparedness
If you are familiar with preparedness, you may already know concepts such as the get-home bag (GHB), the bug-out bag (BOB), or the “I’m never coming home” bag (INCH).
While each kit is suited for different emergencies, levels of self-defense, and applications, EDC kits require a different approach.
- Get-home bags (GHBs) contain enough supplies to prepare for short-term emergencies, ensuring you survive away from home for up to 24 hours.
- Bug-out bags (BOBs) are designed to let you survive 3 to 7 days away from home, making them suitable for medium-term emergencies.
- I’m Never Coming Home (INCH) bags are for long-term emergencies or SHTF scenarios, during which you don’t expect to return home after evacuating.
An EDC kit is not intended to replace more comprehensive kits and bags like GHBs, BOBs, and INCH bags. EDC kits are limited to what you can comfortably carry in your pockets and on your belt, prioritizing accessibility. All EDC items should be easy to carry, rapidly deployed when needed, and either inconspicuous or easy to conceal.
How to Build an EDC Kit for Self-Defense
While most people carry EDC items, not everyone has an EDC kit. An everyday carry kit is a carefully curated selection of objects to help you get through an average day outside your home. Building an EDC kit for self-defense can provide you with the following benefits in an unexpected situation:
- Keeps you safe: Self-defense EDC kits must include at least one self-defense weapon you can count on, such as a knife, a firearm, or a less-than-lethal option.
- Is useful daily: While choosing the right self-defense weapons is essential when building a self-defense kit, don’t forget that an EDC kit must contain other items. Think of everything you need or can’t do without when you leave home, and adapt your items to your needs.
- It lets you be prepared: Over 85% of Americans own and carry a smartphone daily. However, reception isn’t guaranteed everywhere or at all times, especially if you enjoy the outdoors often. If you can’t call for help or get to safety, your EDC items should help you stay prepared for any eventuality.
What Items to Have in a Self-Defense EDC Kit?
EDC kits oriented around self-defense contain at least one weapon or tool that can be used as a weapon. These items can help you survive a dangerous encounter and give you a fighting chance against potential assailants.
Law-abiding American citizens can access numerous tools suitable for personal defense. These tools can be broken down into two categories: lethal and non-lethal.
Lethal Self-Defense Weapons
Although any weapon can be potentially lethal, a lethal weapon or deadly weapon is a tool or instrument capable of or designed to cause death or serious bodily harm to a target. Legally, using any weapon capable of causing death or serious bodily harm constitutes deadly force, as defined in the Code of Federal Regulations.
While federal law regulates the use of deadly force by law enforcement officers, every state and jurisdiction in the United States defines deadly force similarly in civilian self-defense. When creating your EDC kit, research your state and local laws to understand the rules surrounding the use of lethal force for self-protection in your area.
The two primary categories of lethal self-defense weapons are firearms and knives.
Firearms are the most powerful and effective personal self-defense weapon. No other self-defense tool offers the same combination of lethality and portability as guns, making them the top choice for many Americans.
While firearms encompass long guns such as rifles and shotguns, they are impractical for EDC applications due to their size and weight. The most practical choices are handguns: semi-automatic pistols, revolvers, and derringers.
For EDC applications, the firearm you choose should meet these criteria:
- Small and lightweight enough to carry on your belt every day
- Chambered in a sufficiently potent cartridge for self-defense
- Loaded with ammunition designed or suited for self-defense
- If concealment is a concern, it should be sufficiently compact to carry without being noticed by passers-by
The laws and regulations regarding concealed carry differ at federal and state levels. While all 50 states have provisions allowing individuals to carry firearms in public for personal protection, the specific requirements for open and concealed carry can vary. Including a gun in your everyday carry (EDC) kit may be impractical.
Thoroughly research the applicable local and state gun laws before selecting a firearm for EDC purposes. This step is essential to ensure you can legally carry your preferred firearms and comply with your jurisdiction’s specific requirements.
A knife is one of the most versatile items you can add to your EDC kit. While it doesn’t have the range or lethality of a firearm as a self-defense weapon, it offers several other self-defense advantages. If you intend to carry a knife for self-defense, research your state and local knife laws to ensure your preferred knives are legal to possess and carry.
Self defense knives are available in various sizes and types, from traditional fixed-blade hunting knives to highly compact and practical folding-blade models. A knife can be a powerful self-defense tool in skilled hands, particularly during close-quarters combat.
Besides their uses as self-defense weapons, an EDC knife is a highly versatile tool for everyday applications. Knives are ideal for opening letters and packages, cutting or peeling food, tearing open boxes and packaging cleanly, or cutting rope and string.
If you enjoy fishing, your EDC self-defense knife is perfect for line cutting or hook removal. It can even help you perform basic first-aid tasks, such as cutting bandages or removing splinters.
Learn more about how to use a knife for self defense.
There are different types of pocket knives you can use for EDC. You can carry fixed or folding blades with various blade lengths and shapes and different grip or handle materials. EDC knives may include optional features such as rope-cutting serrations, a glass-breaking tip, tool-free blade replacement, and one-handed blade deployment.
The "Blackout" A/O Rescue Knife is an exceptional choice for a multipurpose everyday carry (EDC) tool. Its spring-assisted mechanism and heavy-duty construction make it suitable for various tasks. Whether you need to break a car window in an emergency, cut through a seatbelt quickly, or tackle everyday cutting tasks with its versatile semi-serrated drop point blade, this knife is designed to handle it all.
Less-than-Lethal EDC Self-Defense Tools
According to the use-of-force continuum commonly taught to law enforcement officers, not all self-defense scenarios require lethal weapons. A complete EDC kit should contain at least one less-than-lethal (LTL) option to allow you to handle threats where deadly force may be unnecessary or considered excessive.
Although less-than-lethal weapons are sometimes marketed as “non-lethal,” using them in self-defense still constitutes the use of force. This means that improper or excessive use can still potentially cause death or grievous bodily harm.
Numerous less-than-lethal tools, such as defensive sprays, batons, stun devices, palm weapons, tactical flashlights, knuckle weapons, and personal alarms, are available.
However, before packing LTL tools in your EDC kit, know if they are legal in your state. States such as California, Illinois, Michigan, and Vermont have banned the possession, sale, or use of brass knuckles, while in Hawaii and Rhode Island, it is illegal to own a stun gun.
A defensive spray is an aerosol or pressurized device capable of spraying irritants. Most defensive sprays are intended for use against an assailant’s eyes, temporarily blinding them and causing shortness of breath to stop them from fighting.
Defensive sprays are often labeled as pepper spray, capsicum spray, and capsaicin spray; however, they all contain the same incapacitating compound: Oleoresin Capsicum (OC). Besides OC, defensive sprays use other compounds with similar effects, such as 2-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile (tear gas) or chloroacetophenone (mace).
Some defensive sprays fire thicker gels instead of liquid sprays, which are less affected by wind or air movement. This feature can make pepper gels safer to use outdoors.
Defensive sprays are practical for EDC kits because they come in numerous shapes and canister sizes. Smaller-sized models are lightweight and compact enough to be carried on a keychain.
While some law enforcement agencies continue issuing classic fixed batons such as the tonfa, the most practical models used by civilians and police today are expandable batons.
An expandable baton is the blunt weapon equivalent of a folding knife. When collapsed, it becomes a small, lightweight cylindrical object easily carried on the belt or in a pocket.
Most models exceed 20” in length when fully expanded, turning into an effective self-defense weapon. These characteristics make batons an excellent less-than-lethal option for EDC purposes.
As a striking weapon, the expandable baton allows you to perform two self-defense moves: pain and immobilization. Striking the muscles of an assailant’s arms or legs, such as the forearms, biceps, thighs, or calves, is sufficient to cause pain while reducing lethal danger.
Strikes to the joints, such as the hands and knees, or vital areas, like the head, chest, and back, can cause more debilitating and immobilizing injuries with a higher risk of lethality.
A stun device is a self-defense weapon harnessing electric shocks to cause pain to an assailant. The most well-known brand of stun guns is TASER, which can project electrically charged prongs from a maximum distance of 15 feet. Law enforcement-only models have double the effective range and can fire prongs from 45 feet.
Other stun devices are close-contact weapons requiring the user to directly touch or strike the target. They include the following types.
- Stun gun: A box-shaped object with two metal prongs. When fired, electricity visibly flows between the prongs, emitting a loud snapping noise that can be used for intimidation. Shop our stun guns for self defense for excellent daily carry options.
- Stun baton: Combines the practicality of a standard self-defense baton with the prongs of a stun gun. Some models include extra functions, such as a flashlight or an expandable design.
- Stun knife: Some companies produce plastic, non-cutting knives with electrically charged edges, letting the user combine knife fighting techniques with a less-than-lethal option.
While stun devices vary in size and length, most are suitable options for EDC kits. You can carry most stun devices on your belt with a clip attachment. Some stun guns are designed for pocket carry and have approximately the same dimensions as a large lighter, making them ideal for everyday carry.
A palm weapon is a stick-shaped object designed to help the user hit an attacker’s pressure points. Common palm weapons include the kubotan, the tactical pen, the Filipino palm stick, and the yawara.
If you are familiar with knife grips, you can use many of the same hand grips when fighting with a palm weapon. The difference is the intended striking surface; instead of projecting a blade’s point or edge at the target, you simply let one exposed end of your palm weapon stick out of your hand.
You can use a palm weapon to perform self-defense moves like strikes, restraints, and locks with proper training and practice. You can also use it as a fist-loading tool and punch the assailant while gripping it, increasing your striking power and reducing the likelihood of damaging or breaking your hand.
Palm weapons are excellent additions to an EDC kit because they resemble non-descript keyfobs and aren’t explicitly prohibited or restricted by any jurisdiction in the United States.
A tactical flashlight is a type of flashlight with a design and functionality oriented toward combat and self-defense. While tactical flashlights have the same basic illumination functions as standard models, they come with extra features making them more useful in self-defense contexts.
Originally, tactical flashlights were designed for use with firearms. They were compact enough to be held in one hand, allowing the other hand to hold a handgun, yet powerful enough to illuminate a dark area. These design characteristics make tactical flashlights excellent for EDC kits.
Modern tactical flashlights are often made of sturdy materials, such as steel or aircraft-grade aluminum. They are sufficiently durable to resist hard impacts and can even be used as striking weapons in a pinch.
Tactical flashlights also feature alternative illumination modes intended to blind or disorient an assailant, such as multiple brightness levels or strobe functions. Our ReadyWise Multi-Functional Survival Flashlight can function as a seatbelt cutter, LED flashlight, mobile phone charger, and hammer to break glass like a windshield.
A knuckle weapon is a category of self-defense tools encompassing brass knuckles, kitty claws, self-defense keychains, single-finger dusters, and weapons of similar designs. All knuckle weapons, regardless of type and style, are designed to enhance the wearer’s striking power by making punches more painful.
- Brass knuckles: Also called knuckle dusters or iron fists, brass knuckles are metal or plastic objects with rings for each finger other than the thumb. When worn around the fingers, the metal surface protects the wearer’s hand upon impact while distributing the force of a punch over a smaller and harder surface, increasing damage.
- Single-finger dusters: These are similar to classic brass knuckles but comprise a single ring covering only one finger. They can distribute the force of a punch over an even smaller surface at the cost of protecting less of the wearer’s hand. Their small size makes them easy to carry and include in an EDC kit.
- Kitty claws: Kitty claws are flat plastic items with two finger holes, and two pointed ears, resembling a cat's head. They function like brass knuckles but distribute the force into the points, forming stabbing edges.
- Claw weapons: Claw items, such as the Indian bagh nakh, feature grips or rings for your fingers and a set of sharp claws. These weapons are intended to cause damage through scratching motions, similar to a cat’s or tiger’s claws.
A personal alarm, signaling device, or safety alarm is a self-defense tool designed to attract attention and deter potential attackers. They can be an excellent addition to an EDC kit because they are fully non-lethal, providing an option above verbal warnings but under a less-than-lethal weapon.
A personal alarm is a compact noise-making device that can fit on a keychain. When activated, it produces a strident sound reminiscent of an alarm siren, ranging between 120 and 140 dB in volume. Because they are noise-makers and not weapons, they are also 100% legal to possess and use anywhere in the United States.
A manual whistle can also serve as a type of personal alarm. Our 64 Piece Survival Backpack has a 5-in-1 Survival Whistle that you can use to sound the alarm if you are in a dangerous situation.
Many personal alarms also function as flashlights. Some incorporate features seen on full-sized tactical flashlights, such as a strobe mode, to help deter attackers more effectively.
Non-violent Self-Defense Items to Consider
While your phone, wallet, keys, and self-defense tools are essential parts of your everyday carry kit, you may need more to prepare for an emergency or a self-defense situation. Consider adding some of these items to your EDC kit to enhance your preparedness:
- A multitool: If you routinely repair or tinker with household items, your vehicle, or other machines and equipment, an EDC multitool is an excellent addition to your kit. Multitool functions include a knife blade, pliers, screwdriver, can opener, bottle opener, and many more, depending on the design.
- Rainproof pen and paper: A rainproof pen and notepad let you take notes even under the harshest weather conditions, making them ideal for an all-weather EDC kit.
- Fire-starting tools: A lighter, some waterproof matches, or a pocket fire-starting kit can help you start a fire in an emergency, keeping you warm and improving your chances of survival.
- Individual first aid kit (IFAK): Small IFAKs contain everything you need to save your own life or another person’s while fitting easily on your belt. An IFAK, like our Bug Out First Aid Kit, can provide vital first aid after a fight. This kit contains 183 pieces of first aid gear, such as bandages, gauze, tweezers, and a first aid guide. With proper training and the right first-aid items, an IFAK can help stabilize an injured person while waiting for EMTs.
- A paracord bracelet: Besides being a fashionable accessory for preparedness enthusiasts, a paracord bracelet is a source of durable rope with many emergency uses. You can use the paracord to build a rescue line, haul items, and even create a makeshift tourniquet to stop bleeding if an attack occurs.
Skills to Complement Your EDC Gear
While having the right tools is essential to prepare for an emergency, they will be useless without the right skills and mindset. Complement your EDC kit by building the right skill sets, from general physical fitness to specialized training.
General Physical Fitness
While it is common to view self-defense weapons as a force multiplier or an equalizer, the reality is that your ability to defend yourself and others depends on your overall physical fitness. Preparing for a self-defense scenario means preparing for the possibility of a violent, physical encounter with one or multiple attackers who are likely to be strong, fast, and armed.
Good physical fitness is essential to self-defense preparedness for three reasons: minimizing injuries, practicing more efficiently, and building confidence.
- Good physical fitness minimizes injury: Exercising and keeping fit isn’t just about strengthening your muscles or maintaining a healthy weight. It also builds the endurance needed to survive a self-defense encounter. Even if you have access to the best and most expensive EDC gear, many self-defense scenarios can be resolved if you simply have the endurance to run away. If you must fight, good fitness lets you endure more hits, recover from injuries faster, and improve your chances of survival.
- Being fit makes you more effective: Many self-defense tools are more effective if you have the strength to perform life-saving or confrontation-ending techniques. For instance, improving your strength lets you hit harder, keep an assailant in a lock for longer, and reduce the time it takes to take an opponent down.
- Fitness builds confidence: Following a regular fitness regimen or physical training program lets you push yourself continually, helping you build confidence and willpower. These traits are the basis of perseverance and mental toughness, which help you stay in the fight and survive a self-defense situation.
Taking up a martial art form has numerous benefits for self-defense applications. Martial arts training can teach you many skills and provide your body and mind with the workout and training necessary to prepare for a fight.
Some of the most effective martial arts for self-protection include taekwondo, judo, karate, boxing, combat sambo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ), Muay Thai, Krav Maga, and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).
Each form focuses on different techniques and methods to take an opponent down. For example, boxing and taekwondo primarily use striking; boxing focuses on using your fists, and taekwondo centers around kicking.
Training and Practice with Your EDC Items
Having the best gear in your EDC kit isn’t enough. You must ensure you know how to use each piece of equipment you carry as efficiently as possible in an emergency.
Many recommended EDC items require training to use safely and efficiently, without which you may endanger yourself or others. For example, carrying a firearm or a knife for self-defense without training or practicing increases the risk of losing your weapon or having it turned against you by your assailant.
Review each item in your kit and train or practice with them regularly. Consider online or in-person self-defense classes that offer general tips on self-defense or search for weapon-specific training in your local area or online.
Non-self-defense EDC items also require training to use safely, such as IFAKs. Consider taking a first aid for severe trauma (FAST) course, like those offered by the American Red Cross.
Situational Awareness and Threat Avoidance
Situational awareness is about recognizing and remaining aware of where you are and what is happening in your environment. In self-defense, situational awareness is about recognizing potential threats and dangers, forming a plan to avoid or deal with the threat, and preparing to execute that plan.
Situational awareness can mean using improvised tools if you can’t access those in your EDC kit. For example, you can use a pen as a striking tool or a belt for restraining or creating a makeshift tourniquet.
The best way to develop your situational awareness skills is to visualize different mindsets using the Cooper Color Code. Developed by USMC Col. Jeff Cooper, the Cooper Color Code is a guide to help you shift from different states of mind in response to potential or perceived threats.
The color code features four levels: white, yellow, orange, and red.
- Condition white: You are unaware of your surroundings or in a non-alert state, making you unprepared for a violent confrontation. If you are attacked while in condition white, you will likely be hurt or killed unless the attacker is inept or makes a critical mistake.
- Condition yellow: Jeff Cooper recommends always being in this state when out of your home. At this stage, you are in a state of “relaxed alert;” there is no specific threat, but you are preparing for the possibility and observing your surroundings accordingly.
- Condition orange: You have identified a potential threat or emergency, such as an individual acting strangely or dangerously. At this stage, you are focusing on the potential threat and establishing a plan of action to protect yourself (“If that person does X, I will do Y.”). If the threat is unfounded, shift back to yellow.
- Condition red: The potential threat you identified while in orange has been confirmed, meaning you must execute the plan to defend yourself. In this stage, you are actively fighting or dealing with the threat.
Survival is the most important objective when dealing with a potential threat or self-defense scenario. Even if you cannot avoid the threat entirely, it doesn’t mean you have to prepare to fight. Verbal communication and de-escalation techniques can help you turn a potentially aggressive person into a non-threat.
If you are dealing with an angry, aggressive, or otherwise potentially threatening person, cannot avoid them by walking away, but aren’t yet engaged in an active confrontation, following the principles of de-escalation can help you survive the encounter.
- Keep cool: Don’t appear frightened, but avoid being aggressive.
- Keep a non-confrontational tone: Speak calmly, remain receptive, and adopt an amicable tone. Avoid sounding threatening and don’t argue or challenge them.
- Keep your distance: Besides maintaining your personal space, keeping your distance gives you time to react if an aggressive person tries hitting you.
- Give them an out: Aggressive individuals are likelier to back off if provided a way to bow out without feeling humiliated. For example, if you accidentally spill their drink, offering to buy them a new one can mollify them. If you are accused of something you didn’t do, offer apologies, even if they are in the wrong.
- Don’t turn your back too quickly: If you can walk away, do so as soon as possible, but don’t relax until you are safe. If the aggressive person backs away, observe where they go to ensure they leave the area and can no longer pose a threat to you.
Additional Tips and Considerations for Your EDC Kit
There is no one-size-fits-all EDC kit that is effective for everyone in all situations. Keep your kit modular, adapting it to your needs, geographic area, lifestyle, attire, and personal risk tolerance.
When choosing items and self-defense tools to include in your EDC kit, consider your environment and what you are most likely to need in an emergency. For example, if you live in an urban or suburban area, emergency service response times will likely be faster than in a rural area. However, rural areas are less likely to have city or local ordinances prohibiting you from carrying specific weapons or self-defense tools.
Consider your local crime rates when putting together an EDC pack. Research the types and frequency of crimes in your area to help you understand what threats you are most likely to face and which items to add to your kit.
For example, in a high crime rate area, prioritize EDC tools that can help you in emergencies, such as pepper spray, personal alarms, and a reliable flashlight. For areas with lower crime, consider including items like a small first aid kit, a multitool for practical tasks, a portable phone charger, and a flashlight for unexpected power outages.
Personal risk tolerance will impact the tools you choose for your EDC kit. Some individuals may prefer lethal self-defense tools, such as a folding knife or tactical pen, to handle potential threats. While these offer a high level of protection, their use can escalate a situation and result in legal consequences.
If you have a low-risk tolerance, you may choose non-lethal options like a personal alarm or pepper spray. These offer slightly less protection if an assailant attacks you with lethal force but can protect you without escalating an attack for non-lethal encounters.
Consider your comfort level with these tools and your skill and training in using them effectively. Choose tools that align with your abilities, allowing you to handle them in high-pressure situations confidently.
For example, do not carry a firearm if you have not had the appropriate training and certification required by your state. Instead, opt for a non-lethal option like pepper spray that requires minimal experience to use.
Lifestyle and Daily Activities
Your lifestyle and daily activities should help you determine what items to include in your EDC kit. Consider where you spend most of your day, whether at home, the office, in the field, or out in public.
Your environment, such as living in nice areas or seedy environments, can influence the personal safety measures you need. Additionally, think about the spaces you frequent; close quarters may require compact tools for self-defense, such as a knife, while open areas may mean you need longer-range options, such as personal alarms or tasers.
Tailor your EDC kit to align with your lifestyle and daily routines to ensure you’re adequately prepared for any situation. For instance, if you are an angler, you may find carrying spare fishing lines or an EDC filet knife useful. If you are a mechanic or an automotive enthusiast, a multitool and a tactical flashlight may be among your most commonly used EDC items.
Attire and Clothing
Consider your attire and clothing when selecting tools for your everyday carry (EDC) kit. Choose compact tools that can be easily concealed and won’t weigh you down. Ensure your tools are compatible with your clothing and don’t cause discomfort or restrict movement.
Experiment with different carry methods, such as using a dedicated EDC pouch or hidden compartments in backpacks or briefcases, to incorporate your EDC tools into your work routine while maintaining a professional appearance.
For attire that doesn’t allow a proper belt to carry a knife or handgun, consider alternative carry methods, such as pocket carry, belly band holsters, knife pouches, or off-body carry.
Shop Self-Defense EDC Knives and Gear at Uppercut Tactical
At Uppercut Tactical, utility and preparedness are part of our core values. Shop our large selection of high-quality knives and preparedness gear to build the ideal self-defense EDC kit. We are committed to helping you be prepared for any emergency, from daily threats to SHTF situations.
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