In 1995, I became a man. I don’t mean that in a creepy way (I was 12), but in my 12 year-old mind I became a man because that Summer while at Skymont Boy Scout Camp, I passed the Knife Safety Course. And it was this achievement of getting all the answers on a multiple-choice test which granted me the permission (and sacred responsibility) of carrying my first pocket knife.
Growing up in the South, every man I knew carried a pocket knife. They had pens in their breast pockets, hankies in their back pockets, and little tools tucked away on their person just in case they needed to slice, scribe, or fix things during their day.
In my 12-year-old estimation, these tools were not convenience. They were shibboleths. Symbols that one had entered the Sacred Masculine Order, and taken up the Responsibility of Usefulness.
As a 3rd generation Eagle Scout, it’s an order I’m still in (although enthusiastically non-gendered now). One where the pocket knife is the apotheosis of usefulness. But you should know, there’s a lot of shibboleths. Every one of them is in my pocket because it’s something I have used on either myself or someone else. And I’ve iterated through a lot of items over 23 years on my way to this list.
But really though, there’s a lot of stuff in my pockets.
My priorities in an Everyday Carry (EDC) item are:
- light weight
- low maintenance
- low profile
That means theres a lot of bead-blasted titanium, Dyneema, and almost everything is matte black and thin. I also want to be able to get to and operate just about everything with one hand. I use this stuff a lot which means over the years I’ve learned where I can skimp on weight, and where the extra weight is worth it for lower maintenance or more functionality. Here are some quick lessons I’ve learned the hard way:
- Don’t carry things you can’t afford to replace.
- Being useful means letting people bum stuff off you. Always have an extra pen (I carry two), phone chargers (2), lighters (2), sharp edges (2), pain killers (6), and stomach meds (6).
- Only carry things you’d be happy to “loan” to someone else indefinitely.
- Phones don’t replace a watch.
- You can never have enough Ranger Bands or safety pins.
- Casio Men’s DW5600MS-1CR G-Force Military Concept Black Digital Watch with a JaysandKays Adapter and Black on Black Zulu Band and a Ranger Band. Matte black goes with everything and GShocks never die.
Back Left Pocket
- Declan Microfiber Cloth. This useful multitasker is invaluable when wear glasses and you’re married to a crier. I also use them as pocket squares (fun tip: if you’re an ultralight packer like I am, carry 3–4 pocket squares on a trip and no one will notice you only brought one blazer) and I prefer the thicker M220 material because it cleans glasses and screens more easily and is softer and more absorbent on crying faces. I buy these when they’re on sale (usually less than $10) and have 5–6 because I am constantly leaving them with friends and strangers who need a hankie.
- Field Notes Expedition Notebook. These notebooks are not made from paper; they’re made of Yupo Synthetic Paper which makes them waterproof, tear proof, and generally indestructible. You can write on them with any type of pen or pencil. I actually used to carry a Muji Passport-sized notebook with blank pages, but lost a bunch of notes when it got wet while sailing. My only complaints with the Expedition is that I prefer blank pages (this notebook only comes in dot grid), and the pages are actually too tear proof. Now when I need to write a note to give to someone, I have to cut out the page with my pocket knife!
Back Right Pocket
Nothing. I never put things in this pocket because it’s useful as a place to temporarily put things when my hands are full.
Front Right Watch Pocket
- Spyderco Sage 2 Plain Edge. My favorite pocket knife. The 3 inch blade is made of CPM S30V steel with a full-flat ground edge that is easy to keep razor sharp. The titanium handle is light and narrow which means I never “feel” it in my pocket and it has a pocket clip that keeps it handy. I can open and close the frame-lock safely and effortlessly one-handed and honestly, it just feels like it was made for my hand. I should note that I have only carried Spydercos since I got my first Delica at 14 years old. I also have two smaller Spydercos (a 2.5in Techno and little 2.25in Dragonfly 2 in ZDP-189 steel). When I moved to the Bay Area, people not used to pocket knives started freaking when I opened boxes or loaned them my standard—and perfectly legal—3 inch blade, so now I carry the smaller ones when I know I’m going to be in situations that are more “knife sensitive.”
- Cow Shed Lip Balm. I love this stuff but can only get the “stick” form in the UK or when I fly United Business Class.
- Apple AirPods (with an Alumiclip). These damn things changed my life in a way that only my first iPhone did. They might be perfect. I am almost always wearing them and no, they never fall out of my ears. If you’re on the fence, get off it. Buy a pair now.
- I sometimes carry a FourSevens (RIP) Mini-Mkii flashlight in this pocket. It’s the smallest 1,000+ lumen flashlight you (used to be able to) get.
Front Right Pocket
- Karas Kustoms Bolt G2 with a Fisher Space Pen refill (medium, black). Space pens are pressurized so they write in any condition, but I mostly carry this as a fidget device because the bolt mechanism takes some finesse to use and is silent. That means I can manipulate it when my ADHD acts up and I need some tactile stimulus.
- iPhone 7 Plus (Space Grey, unlocked). I used to make fun of the Phablet, but now that I’ve gone Plus, I can’t imagine going back. I’m anxiously awaiting an iPhone X in a Plus-sized frame.
- Apple Silicon case in dark olive. I love the feel of it and the dark finish never looks dirty. Inside the case, I keep:
- $120 in cash
- A SIM tool
- A backup SIM card
- A photo of me and my wife with various important numbers written on the back.
Front Left Pocket
There’s a bunch of stuff in there, so let’s break it down by “module.”
- Keys on a shackle with a Schrade SCTPT Key Chain Pry Tool. A solid, titanium pry tool is useful for prying open things that you’d normally break a fingernail or a knife tip on. Plus, this one has a little notch that’s perfect for opening boxes (nothing dulls a knife faster than cardboard). And the little 1/4in hex-bit hole is also a perfect fit for the…
- Titanium Pocket Driver . An actual, full-sized Phillips and an actual flat-head driver come in super-handy all the time and this little thing disappears on my keychain.
- Delrin Capsule Case. This is where I keep 2 doses of my ADHD meds and some lactaid. Delrin is a self-lubricating plastic which means the cap threads on and off super easily and it’s waterproof without needing an o-ring. Don’t skimp on a cheap, Amazon pill case made from aluminum with a stupid rubber o-ring that will pop out in a week. This is one of the best $10 I’ve ever spent.
- I keep my keys handy with a TPC Titanium Pocket Clip that has an integrated flashlight. The little flashlight is useful for finding stuff that has fallen out of people’s pockets in movie theaters. Once or twice I’ve lost my phone in a deep theater seat and this has saved me a lot of hassle.
- My wallet is a SlimFold Minimalist Wallet. I needed the thinnest, bi-fold wallet I could find and this thing has not disappointed. So far, it’s the perfect wallet. Oh, and the only “weird” thing I carry in my wallet is stamps.
- The pouch itself is a zipper-pouch made of Ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (also known as “Dyneema”) Dyneema is a waterproof, non-abrasive wonder-material that is the strongest material in the world by weight. I’m more than a little obsessed with it, but the reason is makes a great pocket pouch is that since it’s so low-friction it doesn’t rip up the interior of my pockets like ballistic nylon would. It’s also the perfect size.
- Pills. Usually Sudafed, Benadryl, Claritin, Ibuprofen, and Activated Charcoal.
- TravelCard Charger. This little lifesaver is the dimensions of a credit card (but thicker), stores enough juice to recharge my iPhone7 Plus to about 70%, and has built in USB and lightning cables.
- Safety pin + Ranger Band. You can never have enough Ranger Bands. I’ve fixed so many broken things with Ranger Bands.
- Fisher Stowaway Pen. Yes, another pen. This one is in case someone “needs a pen” and I don’t want to loan them my Bolt. And it uses the same refill as the Bolt, so I can pop this refill in if the Bolt runs out (this will likely never happen as Fisher Space Pens are filled with magic and never, ever run dry).
- Matte Black Tsubota Pearl Queue Stick Lighter. Yes, that little thing is a lighter. A lighter smaller than a pen refill that can also stand on it’s end and serve as a candle. It’s ceramic and fucking beautiful.
- Clevx FoldIT USB Drive. Yes, that tiny little thing is the thinnest flash drive ever made. You actually have to fold it in half to make it thick enough to fit into a USB drive. It’s 16GB and has saved my ass when I’ve needed to do an emergency transfer of a slidedeck for a presentation.
- Victorinox Swiss Army Jetsetter 3. This is Swiss Army Knife with no knife. That means it’s TSA compliant. Scissors, tweezers, toothpick, mini-phillips head, and bottle opener.
- Tweezerman Cuticle Nippers. Great for hangnails and easily the item that the most people have tried to steal from me when I’ve loaned it to them.
The Green Pouch
My “Oh shit” pouch. Don’t ask where I carry this.
- Another Dyneema Zipper Pouch with a wire hoop and 3 strips of pre-cut duck tape inside.
- Blue Latex Gloves in vacuum-sealed plastic.
- A small plastic bag with wound seal, bandages, gauze, and alcohol prep pads.
- Pills. Charcoal, Imodium AD, Pepto Bismol, Benadryl, Sudafed, Aspirin.
- A lightning-to-micro USB adapter.
- A tiny ceramic knife.
- A Creaker Baseus Portable TPE Key Lightning Cable because it’s indestructible (I’ve crushed a few Nomads).
- Another Ranger band holding 25ft of Kevlar cord, 10ft of Shockcord, a bic mini lighter, and another safety pin.
- $400 cash in a plastic bag.