The everyday carry emergency kit (sometimes abbreviated as EDC) is what I carry in my pockets, or what a woman might carry in her purse.  This emergency kit would be on your person at all times when you are out of the house.

This pocket survival kit is Level 1 in my five-level disaster emergency kit hierarchy.  (See my emergency kits page for an explanation of each level of my tiered disaster kit structure.)

The goal of this kit is to be small and convenient so that you always have it with you.  I personally find bulging pockets uncomfortable, thus, this kit consists of just a few basic items.  (This is not an exhaustive list of everything I carry in my pockets, but only the items that I consider to be part of my everyday carry emergency kit.)

A checklist is available on separate page for easy printing and quick reference.

Everyday Carry vs. Wilderness Survival Kit

This is not a wilderness survival kit.  I carry a number of additional items on my person when venturing into the woods. Some of these would include fire starter, navigation components, additional signaling devices, etc.

Cell phone

Cell phones can be extremely useful – even lifesaving – in emergency situations. Help can be called for, rescue efforts coordinated, and reunion with separated family members can be arranged.

Cell Phone - Everyday Carry Emergency Kit - Disaster Survival Guide

However, cell phones don’t always work after disasters due to tower outages or system overloading, so don’t plan to rely on them exclusively. Make sure you keep it charged as a dead battery will make the phone worthless.

Learn to text message as texts often go through when a call won’t. Text messages usually transmit on a control channel, which may be available even though all voice channels are taken. Another good reason to carry a cell phone is to receive timely weather alert texts. See my discussion on how to sign up for weather alertson my tornado safety page.

Handkerchief or Bandana

A handkerchief or bandana is a multi-use wonder. While I use mine primarily to blow my nose and clean up messy kids, it can be used (depending on the size) as a head covering, a sweatband, a washcloth, a potholder, a tourniquet, a bandage, a signaling device (if it is brightly colored), a dust mask, and the list goes on.

The bandana is a bit more versatile than a handkerchief, due to its larger size, but it is also a bit bulkier.  I carry a handkerchief in my pocket and a bandana in my personal emergency kit.


Pen - Everyday Carry Emergency Kit - Disaster Survival Guide

Besides the obvious applications of a pen (i.e. writing) it can be used for self defense as an improvised Kubotan (sometimes spelled Kubatan and also known as a Yawara stick). Proper training would be necessary to make effective use of this as a self defense weapon, however. While there are a number of resources on the internet relating to Kubotan technique, you really need in-person training to effectively learn any self defense or martial arts techniques.  Look in the phone book for training centers in your area.

There are a number of “tactical” pens on the market geared toward self defense use.  One such pen is the Sharkie by Cold Steel, but, in my opinion it looks a bit too much like a weapon and is impractical to us as a pen since it has a screw on lid.

I prefer instead a standard, but sturdy, pen that was primarily designed for writing.

Key Ring

The following items I carry on my key ring.  I have several split rings attached together so I can easily remove items as needed. I’ve been looking for a quality (and affordable) valet key ring with many removal “knobs,” but I have yet to find a satisfactory option.

Pocket Knife

A knife is one of the most basic tools of humankind. The modern multi-tooled knives are even more useful than the single blade knives.

Victorinox Swiss Army Classic Pocket Knife - Everyday Carry Emergency Kit - Disaster Survival Guide

Victorinox Swiss Army Classic Pocket Knife

For the keychain, I’m partial to the Victorinox Swiss Army Classic pocket knife.  It is Victorinox’s smallest knife (about 2 inches/6 cm when closed), but incredibly useful with a knife, scissors, nail file, screw driver, tooth pick, and tweezers.  Victorinox knives also carry a lifetime warranty, which I have take advantage of several times.

The everyday uses include opening packages, removing or tightening screws, cutting loose threads, pulling out splinters, and filing your nails. More exotic survival uses could include cutting seat belts, breaking glass, cutting improvised bandages, etc.

While mini keychain sized knives are more limited in their use, they are more likely to be with you when you need one since it is attached to your keys.

Keychain Flashlight

A flashlight can be incredibly helpful during and after a disaster to help you find your way across debris and through unfamiliar areas when the power is out. I also use it constantly to see in dark corners, under desks, and to find the key hole to let myself in at night.

Photon Freedom Micro-Light - Everyday Carry Emergency Kit - Disaster Survival Guide

Photon Freedom Micro-Light

I carry a micro keychain light. The Photon Freedom Micro-Light is slightly more expensive than others its size, but is made out of nearly indestructible glass filled polyurethane. It is also water resistant. Well worth the extra money. Get the “covert” model in the white beam color. The covert model adds a shield around the bulb so it doesn’t blind you with the side-scatter light, but in no way affects the usable light output from the unit.


When you need to call for help a simple whistle is much more effective than simply yelling. The high-pitched sound of a whistle travels further and is much louder than your voice. Long after you are unable to yell you can blow a whistle.

Three blows on a whistle is the universal signal for help.

Fox 40 Micro Whistle - Everyday Carry Emergency Kit - Disaster Survival Guide

Fox 40 Micro Whistle

A pealess whistle is more reliable than one that contains a pea.  (The pea is the little ball that rattles around inside many whistles.) If a whistle with a pea becomes wet or the pea freezes in place in cold weather its performance is severely degraded. Pealess whistles, such as the Fox 40 brand of whistles are extremely loud but come in very compact packages. I recommend the Fox 40 Micro for the keychain.


The following items I carry in my wallet.  I recently purchased an RFID blocking wallet due to privacy concerns over identity theft and surreptitious location tracking via the RFID chip built into many new credit and debit cards.

Prepaid Calling Card

When cell phones don’t work, a prepaid phone card is a cheap and convenient way to make a phone call from a pay phone. It also avoids running up the long distance bill of the helpful stranger who graciously let you use their home phone to make a call.

Also, note my recommendations elsewhere on this site about having an out of state contact (extended family member or friend) that your immediate family can check in with if you are separated during the disaster. A phone card is helpful to make those calls.

Phone Number List

Keep a sheet of paper with important phone numbers on it. Friends, family, insurance agents, and emergency services numbers are all helpful. While you may have the majority of those numbers stored in your cell phone, it may be dead, lost, or destroyed.

Spare Keys

I carry a spare car key in my wallet.  I can’t count the number of times it has saved me when I inadvertently locked the keys in the car.  Something that can be a huge ordeal an expense (calling a locksmith and then waiting for two hours) simply becomes a non-issue if you have a spare key on you.

Magnetic Key Box - Everyday Carry Emergency Kit - Disaster Survival Guide

Magnetic Key Box

An alternative to carrying a spare car key in your wallet is to hide the key in a magnetic key box somewhere outside your car (such as behind the bumper). This strategy might work better for women who tend to lock their purse in the car which contains their keys and their wallet.

I use to carry a spare house key in my wallet as well, but noticed that I normally don’t have my wallet when I lock myself out of the house (for example, I go out the back door to take out the trash and the door blows shut).  So, I have since placed a well hidden house key outside my residence instead of carrying one on my wallet.

Emergency Cash

Although most of our financial transactions are now electronic (credit and debit cards), cash is king in emergencies. Merchants need power and telecommunication connectivity to accept credit cards. Both are typically down in disasters.

It is best to have small bill denominations on hand. Carry at least one hundred dollars split between, $20s, $10s, $5s, and $1s (or whatever is appropriate in your local currency). Avoid large bills, like $50s and $100s, as it is hard to buy a $2 item with a $100 bill. Most people don’t have $98 of change on them! (You however, will now be an exception to that, right?)

Fold this stash up and hide it in a corner of your wallet so you won’t be tempted to use it for non emergency purposes.


Go to the Everyday Carry Checklist for a printable checklist of the items described on this page. The checklist is a great reference to have on hand when you are building your own everyday carry kit!

Everyday Carry Summary

I want to stress that this kit is simply part of an overall strategy and should not be considered to stand alone by its self. I almost always have my personal emergency kit with me in the car or at the office in addition to these items.  See my emergency kits page for more information.

One of the best ways to learn is to share stories and tips with each other. I love hearing how other people have used their kits or what they consider critical to carry in their kit. So, do you….