A quick look online proves I’m not alone in my passion for Every Day Carry Bags (a.k.a. EDC Bag). And thank goodness today we have way more options to choose from than the 90’s style fanny packs! Nowadays, there are dozens of EDC bag manufacturers, each with a unique lineup of styles and sizes. So many, in fact, deciding on the “best EDC bag” can feel a bit overwhelming. To be honest, it took me quite a while to settle on the right EDC bag for me. So today, I’m going to share with you the exact process I followed.
This guide will ensure you find the perfect EDC bag and avoid costly mistakes. There are five main steps to my EDC bag selection process:
- Determine your EDC items.
- Choose an appropriate EDC bag size.
- Select an EDC bag style.
- “Gray man” theory & Urban EDC bags
- Choose your EDC bag!
1 DETERMINE YOUR EDC ITEMS
The biggest mistake people make is buying their EDC bag before they know what’s going in it.
This means you’re not selecting the best tool for your specific needs. You’re making your plans fit the bag instead of your bag fitting your plans.
This is a recipe for disappointment!
You’ll end up with a bag far too big or too small, and without the features you need.
This means it won’t be as useful as it should be and you won’t want to carry it. Defeating the purpose of having an EDC bag in the first place!
So let’s go over a few of the most popular EDC items you may want to carry broken down into 3 main categories:
- The Standard Don’t-Leave-Home-Without Items
- The Mission Critical Tools and Devices
- The Convenience Matters Items
The Standard Don’t-Leave-Home-Withou Items
Ok, take a moment to think through all the situations you face daily. What tools do you absolutely NEED to succeed in those situations?
List all the items you’d turn around and head home if you forgot.
Sure, many of these will be the items that you “could” carry in your pockets. But, I also urge you to resist the temptation to add too many of these items to this list.
You want to keep it short and concise as this will be the primary load you carry EVERY day.
Some examples that fall in this category are:
Whether it’s a car, home or office, you’ll need them at some point.
I’ve found out the hard way, it’s difficult to get anything done without the contents of my wallet.
People didn’t have cell phones 50 years ago, and they somehow got through the day. But times have changed. The expectation of instantaneous communication is now part of daily life.
The Mission Critical Tools and Devices
Next, consider the tasks, challenges, and threats you might encounter during your day. This will help you choose the items that help get your job done, reduce your risks and help ensure your safety.
These are items that make your day harder or more dangerous to leave behind.
This might include:
Small specialty tools
If there’s a small tool you use frequently, it might be worth keeping a spare in your EDC in case you need it.
I used to keep a spare ultra-small screwdriver in my bag for adjusting delicate equipment. It was the only tool I knew I couldn’t borrow or improvise on the job.
There are plenty of reasons to carry a compact flashlight, both for work and for safety in the dark.
Survival whistles are compact, lightweight, and great for signaling for help.
Daily life carries certain risks.
Ones you can only properly mitigate with self-defense weapons. Whether that means a knife, pepper spray, or firearm, this can be an essential tool to have at the ready.
Cell phones are great, but they don’t always have service. Some situations call for direct communication, and a small radio receiver is perfect for this.
If you get your HAM license, you have access to all kinds of communication channels.
Small multi-use items
You might want to add a small roll of duct tape, some paracord, a good multitool. Think of the little odds and ends you reach for to solve all kinds of problems.
It’s a reality of daily life that some people have to carry a laptop computer throughout the day.
I go from meeting to meeting for a good part of the workday, so I have to count myself among them. I chose a smaller, lightweight laptop with good battery life so I can leave the cords at home.
The Convenience Matters Items
Finally, choose the convenience items that make your daily tasks easier. These aren’t critical items, but they’re ones that help your productivity and that you use frequently.
A few suggestions:
USB battery pack
If you depend on your cell phone, you know how quickly the battery can die.
If you’re not in the office throughout the day, it can be hard to recharge, so toss a USB battery pack in your EDC bag.
Notepad & tactical pen
I take lots of notes. Sure, some of it can be done with a notes app on my phone.
But a small paper notepad and tactical pen can be indispensable to share info or leave a note for someone.
Let me just say, if I forget my sunglasses on a hot bright day, I’m not a happy camper.
A small water bottle is another wise addition to your EDC. I use a collapsible one, so it stores small when I’m not using it.
NOT a necessity but headphones can help you focus on tasks or block out extraneous sounds.
Your EDC list will be different from mine based on the situations you face. These are things I’ve found I use often enough to warrant carrying.
However, I’m constantly reevaluating my EDC list. Determining if I still need to carry an item or to decide if I should upgrade to a newer, lighter version.
Over the years, I’ve found that some items which were once necessary no longer apply to a new daily routine.
Remember, these items shouldn’t be identical to the ones you carry in your Bug Out Bag. There may be some overlap, but your EDC bag should be much lighter because you’ll be taking it every day.
Think of it as the least amount of tools to get through a day. If you add too much, you’re weighing yourself down.
2 CHOOSE AN APPROPRIATE EDC BAG SIZE
Now that you have a well-rounded list of EDC items, it’s time to see how much space your load requires.
If you plan to carry some of these items in your pockets or on your belt, you can set them aside for now.
For example, I keep my cell phone and a folding knife in my pocket, so I don’t need space for them in my bag.
Often, the largest item in your EDC list is the thing that drives your bag selection. My EDC bag has to fit a 13″ laptop, so anything smaller isn’t a viable option.
If you carry rain gear, safety equipment, or heavy tools, you’ll face a similar situation.
EDC bags range from small organizer pouches to full backpacks. So bag choice is heavily influenced by the amount you need to carry.
I recommend choosing one on the smaller end of the range that fits your EDC items. This will do two things:
- Force you to stay organized
- Keep you from adding more items “just because their’s room.”
Once you’ve identified most the items, it’s time to think about how you like to organize the rest.
There should be a lot of organizational pockets inside a quality EDC bag. That way you have plenty of flexibility to organize in any way that suits you.
I keep most of my items sorted by use (electronics in one pocket, first aid in another, etc.) and by the frequency of use.
My car keys are in a secure external pocket. That way, I can grab them without digging through the rest of the bag.
But my cell phone battery stays near the bottom since I don’t need it as often.
3 SELECT AN EDC BAG STYLE
Just as there’s a wide range of features and sizes, there are also several different styles of bag.
I don’t mean “style” in the same sense as “fashion,” but more in the shape and functionality of the bag itself.
Depending on how you plan to use your EDC bag, you may prefer one style over another.
EDC Organizer Pouch
The smallest of EDC bags aren’t “bags” at all.
Instead, they are organizational pouches meant to fit in your pocket or on a belt. Most of them are under 1L in volume, roughly the size of a water bottle.
Due to the small size, an EDC organizer pouch is more discrete than many other options. If your EDC list is short and all the items are small, this can be a great option.
1 – VANQUEST FTIM-5×7 (Gen-2) Maximizer
The Vanquest Maximizer pouch is made from military grade 500-D Cordura Nylon. It’s 7″ tall, 5.5″ wide, and about 1.5″ deep.
It features fast pull-down access to keep all your tools and gear organized.
It has one external & two internal storage pockets with 24 elastic webbing slots.
2 – Orca Tactical MOLLE EDC Utility Pocket Pouch Bag
The Orca Tactical is a large pocket pouch at 8.5″ H x 6″ L x .25″ W. They claim it’s the largest MOLLE EDC Utility Pouch on the market.
Meaning tons of room to store your every day or tactical essentials.
This pouch is made from 600D polyester material with sturdy double stitching all around.
The sides include large interior pockets with elastic bands. Slots are included to hold smaller items such as a small flashlight, pens, pencils, a pocket knife, nail clippers, and small tools, etc.
Rear MOLLE straps make this EDC pocket pouch compatible with any tactical MOLLE gear. Works great attached to a belt.
3 – Barbarians Tactical MOLLE Utility Pouch
The Barbarians Tactical Pouch has dimensions of 11 x 7 x 1. It’s made from premium high-density 1000D nylon, which is durable, soft and water repellent.
It includes a zipper compartment and one large compartment. The elastic loops and instrument holders in the pouch keep tools organized and secure.
This Barbarians EDC Pouch includes a removable 7″ x 10.5″ vinyl sleeve to maps or critical documents safe.
It’s designed to hang the pouch on other MOLLE systems or a belt loop.
EDC Lumbar Pack
If you need a little more space but still want to avoid a pack on your shoulders, check out an EDC lumbar pack.
Unlike the formless “fanny pack” of the 1980s, these packs are well built and full of features. They have many inner compartments and water bottle pockets, to keep you organized.
They remain tight against your lower back and keep your gear from shifting back and forth while on the run.
When paired with a messenger bag shoulder strap, you can slip it to the front for quick access. Some are even compatible with backpack straps to haul around heavier loads.
4 – Mountainsmith Vibe Lumbar Pack
This Mountainsmith Lumbar Pack is made out of 610D HP Cordura.
It includes a 1.5″ adjustable waistbelt with a side buckle closure.
The wide main compartment makes for easy retrieval of your EDC items.
And the air mesh back panel helps to reduce overheating and sweating.
5 – G4Free Outdoor Tactical Pack
This G4Free Outdoor Tactical pack is made from high-density polyester fabric. Meaning it’s both lightweight and durable.
The 3 ways design, allows it to be used as a shoulder bag, waist pouch or handbag.
A Molle system allows you to add even more gear or pouches to the outside of it.
6 – Mountainsmith Day Lumbar Pack
The Mountainsmith Day Lumbar Pack is made from tough and durable 610D HP Cordura.
It includes a tuck-away waistbelt and a front panel bungee attachment system.
The outside also includes 2 side webbing compartments for quick access supply storage.
It also includes an interior foam padded sleeve for tablet carry and s>martphone compatible waistbelt pockets (fits up to iPhone 6+ and Galaxy S6).
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EDC Sling Bag
The next step up in size, the EDC sling bag is something between a lumbar pack and a backpack.
They’re designed to hug close to the upper body and swing around for quick access.
With the size increase, more features are available such as:
- a hydration system
- laptop sleeves
- concealed carry pockets
7 – REEBOW GEAR Tactical Sling Bag
This small tactical rover sling is made of durable 600D polyester.
It’s 12″ tall by 9.5 wide by 6″deep. Meaning it’s big enough to carry a 9.7 iPad.
Plus, it can easily carry all your other EDC gear such as a small notepad, keys, wallet, cell phone, flashlight, gloves, a bottle of water, chargers etc.
This bag also works well as a pistol range bag for 1-2 handguns and lots of ammo.
It includes an adjustable shoulder strap and also has two smaller straps to help reduce the sway of the bag while moving.
8 – 5.11 MOAB 6 Shoulder Sling Pack
The 5.11 Tactical Sling Backpack is fully customizable.
It has an adjustable cushioned shoulder strap and is made of water-resistant sturdy, lightweight 1050D nylon.
It includes a tech pocket at the shoulder, covert pocket at the rear, and a second double zip pocket.
Total carry volume capacity is about 11 liters.
This sling bag includes plenty of MOLLE and small stash pockets. Plus, it features a hydration pocket with pass-through port.
9 – Allen Tactical Lite Force Sling Pack
The Allen Tactical Sling Pack is made with concealed-carry in mind.
This unique sling design helps to keep your gear on your back.But you can also swing it to the front without removing the pack!
It has a carrying capacity of about 19 liters; plus, expandable carrying capacity with the extensive MOLLE web system.
It’s also considered a “hydration ready” pack.
Finally, for the more cumbersome loads, look into an EDC backpack.
If you’re committed to carrying a laptop and a decent about of other items, this may be your best (or only) choice.
These have ALL the options and features available. Plus, tons of space for all your EDC items, but they can get quite cumbersome if you’re not careful.
10 – 5.11 RUSH12 Tactical Backpack
The 5.11 RUSH12 features 16 individual compartments.
Including a very large main storage area and dedicated hydration pocket.
The sternum strap is adjustable and you get two external compression straps. Plus, a contoured yoke shoulder strap system.
All these add up to extreme carry comfort.
It’s made with a water-resistant, durable 1050D nylon.
The outside of the pack has wrap-around Molle, so it’s got plenty of expansion capabilities.
This assault pack is ready for any rescue or adventure for all of your gear and equipment.
12 – SOG TOC Backpack
As far as EDC backpacks go, this grey colored pack is about as good as it gets to blend into urban environments.
The SOG 20 Liter EDC Backpack features 2mm PE sheet suspension to distribute weight for extreme comfortability.
It also has a pass-through-the-side laptop compartment that doubles as hydration carry pouch (depending on your priority).
The sternum strap provides extra stability and includes a built-in whistle for instant emergency notifications.
It also has a series of webbing lash points for additional item carry.
12 – EVATAC Combat Backpack
This tactical EDC backpack is as tough as they come at a fantastic price point.
It has heavy-duty zippers, padded shoulder straps, a chest strap, and enough compartments to keep all your survival gear properly organized.
This bag includes a 40L storage capacity. Making it the perfect EDC bag for those who have a lot of gear haul around.
It’s made from thick, durable 600D Polyester.
It comes with heavy duty clips. Because your EDC bag is only as good as it’s clips.
It has padded shoulder straps and padded back panel for maximum comfort. Because a comfortable bag is essential, especially for daily use.
It has a quick lock chest strap securing the bag even while on the run or scrambling. This helps to prevent bag bouncing while on the move!
All compartments are waterproof. This is a must-have feature for high-quality tactical EDC bags.
It includes a total of 10 separate carry compartments. This allows for maximum organization!
Heck, it even has a dedicated padded laptop compartment. This helps protect your fragile items from bumps and knocks.
Interested? Check out my full video review of The Combat Bag from EVATAC:
4 “GRAY MAN” THEORY & URBAN EDC BAGS
If you’ve learned about “gray man” theory in emergency situations, you’ll know that blending into a crowd is wise.
You’re less likely to be identified as a threat (or a savior). That way, you can accomplish your objectives with the least amount of hassle.
This can mean the difference between:
- becoming sucked into the problem or
- slipping past unnoticed
However, you’re probably also wondering how an EDC bag fits into this idea.
Many EDC bags have a very distinct, tactical look.
These bags tell a story. They advertise to everyone you have resources inside.
This isn’t ideal if you plan to be discrete while out in public.
Even if you aren’t looking to blend into a crowd, sometimes the tactical look isn’t what you’re looking for.
In my office, a rugged pack covered in MOLLE looks out of place. It would set some of our clients on edge in a way a more streamlined bag wouldn’t.
Luckily, gear manufacturers today make EDC packs that blend into an office setting.
This stems from the rise of cycle commuters in the outdoor-friendly Western US. Nearly everyone on the street in cities like Portland and Seattle has a daypack or messenger bag.
EDC bags for all sorts of settings from rainy city streets to Silicone Valley boardrooms!
Whether you have to blend into a crowd or just fit into the company dress code, urban EDC bags are a great option.
5 PULLING THE TRIGGER – CHOOSING YOUR EDC BAG
At this point, you should have some answers to the following EDC questions:
- which items you want to carry daily
- how much space you need to carry them
- and which style of bag you like best
So now it’s time to choose the one that suits you.
Whether you buy online or in store, take the time to try packing your potential EDC bag to see how things fit. Sometimes you’ll find that dimensions aren’t accurate and a 15in laptop won’t fit in the “15in laptop sleeve”!
While you’re getting hands-on time with the bag, check for quality of construction and materials.
If you notice bad seams, crooked attachments, or other signs the bag wasn’t made with the highest care, return it immediately.
Remember, this is a bag you’ll carry daily and count on for years. If you see problems at the start, they’re not going to get better as time goes on.
Again, the process of selecting your EDC items and the best EDC bag to carry them is a very personal one. The features that work for me may not work for you.
It’s also a process. One you should revisit on occasion as your needs change. You may find yourself carrying different items to adapt to your daily tasks.
Remember, at the end of the day, you’re building yourself a toolkit to get through your everyday life.
It’s a whole lot easier to face those everyday challenges with an EDC bag full of your personal gear.