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What is it, why do we do it?

1st installment the Historyof EDC

While the exact origin of the phrase "everyday carry" is unclear, the earliest known archived thread dedicated to sharing EDC items was submitted by BladeForums member UnknownVT in a thread titled "EDC – What's in Your Pocket(s)?" on March 16th, 2003. Spread On January 27th, 2005, the website was launched, highlighting various products and items commonly found in EDC collections. On December 15th, 2006, user Elbios submitted an entry for EDC, defining it as "items you carry with you every day." On December 21st, 2009, the /r/EDC subreddit was launched for photographs of EDC items. Within eight years, the community gathered upwards of 148,000 subscribers. On March 28th, 2013, the Tested Youtube channel uploaded a video showcasing Adam Savage's EDC . Within four years, the video gained over 2.2 million views and 3,000 comments.

However the roots of the principles of EDC goes much further back in historical time. The principals of EDC are Utility, Versatility and portability, the items you need to meet the needs of your everyday life.

The picture above is a forensic artist rendition of Otzi, the copper age Icaman (based on the mumified remains) (see below), Otzi is the epitome of early EDC carry.

The first true doccumentation of EDC is the Iron aged Otzi, the ice man. Otzi is a natural mummy of a man who lived between3400 BC and 3100 BC. Discovered in 1991 in the Otzal Alps. He is believed to have been murdered due to the evidence of an arrow wound in his shoulder and other wounds. He was frozen in the ice and remained that way until 1991. He was frozen for approximately 5300 years and is a member of what is referred to as the Copper Age.

The interesting thing about Otzi is that he was found clothed with his EDC items. He was found with a copper age axe, knife sheath, arrows and quiver, as well as a medicine bag with medicinal fungus, a drinking cup of bark and other items including a strap for carrying birds he he shot with arrows. He was also found with a bow under construction it had no string and was still being shaped. He may not have been able to defend himself when atacked. Here are some pictures of Otzis EDC.

Otzi's copper age axe

Otzi's arrows and quiver

Otzi's knife and sheath

Otzi's flint knapper for making knife blades and arrow heads

Moving forward, in the 1600's it was common to carry a Hunters Pouch.

In the 1700's and early 1800's it was the possibles bag, that carried what they may possibly need. It may include food, such as Pemecan, Jerky, Johnny cakes. It would have had impiments such as a knife, patch, powder and ball for loading there flint lock or percussioon cap and probbibly two knives a patch knife and a knife for defens, skinning and camp chores. A man never left home with out the possibles bag. a stroll in to town might be 10 miles and could easily find himself in a situation where he had to defend himself, get caught in a storm etc and would need some essentials to survive.

Examples of possibles bags and their contents

In the 1800's in America the Saddle bags gained popularity and as more people had horses, the possibles bag went by the wayside for many, with the saddle bags carring their possibles, with oiled canvas and a bed roll tied to there saddle and their saddle bags filled with possibles they were ready for just about anything.

Here is a comon list of the cowboys EDC:

1. A good knife

The first thing that any cowboy had was a good knife. They didn’t have hatchets, machetes, wire saws and multi-tools like we carry in our bug-out bags today. Their only tool was a knife. So it was important to have a good one. This would usually be a mid-sized sheath knife, which was used for everything from cutting wood to skinning game.

They almost always carried a hoof knife or hook, many cowboys also carried a barlow knife. THe barlow is a folding knife that dates back to 1785.

Few had a honing stone, but the cowboys would often sharpen their knives on whatever stones they could find. A good chunk of granite or a piece of sandstone — it didn’t matter. Either one became a honing stone in turn.

2. Guns and ammo

Few cowboys roamed the West without a firearm. While they weren’t all laden down with guns, as we see in the movies, they pretty much all had something. It might be a pistol, but in most cases it was a rifle. The pistol was more convenient, but the rifle was better for hunting game or fighting Indians.

Many of the cowboys had been soldiers in the Civil War. When they were discharged, they were allowed to take their guns with them. This meant that most had long guns, even if they didn’t have a pistol.

Rarely did the cowboy carry his gun on him, unless he was on the trail. It was too cumbersome and got in the way of handling cattle. But when on a trail drive, they pretty much always went armed. In the case of a stampede, that gun might be the only thing to save your life.

3. Fire-starting

A tinder box was an essential piece of every cowboy’s kit. In it, he would store bits of tinder that he gathered along the trail, always ensuring that he had some with him. He’d also keep a piece of flint in it, often sewn into a leather cover, thus improving his grip on it. If he had matches, they’d be in the tinder box, as well.

4. Canteen of water

The canteen was an essential piece of equipment, especially in terrain where water was scarce. The typical canteen was about 2-1/2 quarts. It would be covered with layers of scrap fabric, usually hand-sewn by the owner. By soaking that fabric in water, when he filled his canteen, the cowboy could keep his water cool.

The first thing that a cowboy did when he stopped at water was to fill his canteen, even before drinking. That way, if he had to leave in a hurry, he had a full canteen to take with him. It didn’t matter if he was only going to town, he’d stop at the water trough and fill his canteen, often dumping out the old water to replace it with fresh water.

5. Cookware

A cowboy’s cook set was pretty minimal, but he usually had one. This would consist of a small pot, a coffee pot, a tin plate and a cup. That was enough for him to cook anything he needed to, out on the trail. Coffee was prized, and having a coffee pot to make coffee was important to men who spent 14 or more hours per day in the saddle, in all kinds of weather.

6. Food

A cowboy never left the bunkhouse without taking some food with him. He never knew what the day would bring or even whether he’d make it back to the bunkhouse that night. So, he kept a little bit of food in his saddlebags at all time. This could include:

  • Bacon — a favorite staple in the West.

  • Jerky

  • Biscuits or hard tack.

  • Coffee & sugar.

  • Dried fruit (if they could get it).

Range eating usually wasn’t all that good. The food that the cowboy carried was intended to keep him going if he couldn’t make it back. Beans and bread were common fare, along with just about any type of meat imaginable. But they rarely carried that with them. Those were things kept in the chuck wagon or back at the ranch.

It was common for cowboys to hunt their meat in order to avoid eating the cattle they were raising. It’s not that cowboys had anything against beef, but rather that those cattle were worth money. If they killed one, it was highly unlikely that they could preserve the meat, so much of it would be lost.

7. Fishing line & hook

Many cowboys carried some line and a hook, so that they could catch fish when they camped by the water. This wasn’t a given, but it wasn’t uncommon, either. They’d dig up worms to use as bait, or find grubs, crickets and other insects.

8. Piggin strings

Piggin strings are thin strips of leather or rawhide, like leather boot laces. Their main purpose was for tying the feet of the cattle when thrown for branding or castration. However, they became the cowboy’s equivalent of paracord, using it wherever they needed cordage. A typical cowboy kept a few pieces of piggin string in their pockets, along with a ball in their saddlebags.

9. Rain slicker

Storms could come up suddenly in the West, especially for those who were in the mountains. Those could be dangerous for cowboys, drenching them and causing hypothermia. They’d keep their rain slicker tied behind their saddle, either in a small blanket roll or alone, where it was ready at hand. That way, they could put it on, without having to dismount.

10. Blankets

An actual blanket roll was much bigger than what we are used to seeing in the movies. It could be as much as a foot in diameter. That was too big to carry while riding the range. On the trail, the cowboys would leave their blanket rolls in the chuck wagon, retrieving them at night. In the morning, they’d roll up their blankets once again, with their other possessions inside. At the home ranch, those possessions were in the bunkhouse.

But no matter what, a cowboy would have a couple of blankets tied behind their saddle. Call it the predecessor to the sleeping bag. Few would only want one blanket, as that wasn’t enough to deal with the fall and winter chill.

11. Coat

Just as today, coats were seasonal things. But you’d never find a cowboy leaving the home ranch, without a coat, if there was any chance of it getting cold. If they didn’t wear it, they’d tie it behind their saddle, along with their blankets and rain slicker.

Those that could get them would have gloves, or more likely mittens. A slit would be cut in the mittens, allowing the index finger to slide out when they needed to do something that required some dexterity. But mittens were safer than gloves, as they would allow the fingers to share heat, lowering the chance of frostbite.

Few cowboys could afford work gloves. Rather, their hands became as tough as leather from the work that they did. It’s not that they wouldn’t have used the work gloves, if they had them; but a cowboy’s wage wasn’t enough to afford many luxuries.

12. Bandana

The bandana was a useful part of any cowboy’s kit. More than anything, it was used as a dust filter over the nose and mouth. This was especially important when “riding drag” behind a herd. But the bandana served many other purposes, as well, including protecting the neck from the sun, being a handy washcloth and serving as an emergency bandage.

13. Tobacco

Even cowboys who didn’t smoke tended to carry tobacco. At that time, tobacco was the ultimate trade good. Offering someone a smoke was often the start of many a conversation, especially out on the trail.

14. Books

Surprisingly, many cowboys carried books with them. A large number were much more highly educated than you’d expect, having come from the East and being products of eastern schools, even universities. They were drawn to the West for a variety of reasons, and many gave up a life of wealth and position for the opportunity to travel.

Reading material was highly prized in the West. Cowboys would carry books along with them, trading them with each other as the opportunity arose. In this way, they were able to experience a wide variety of reading material while not having to carry much with them.

15. Extra clothes

Cowboys didn’t change their clothes and bathe every day, like we do today. Nevertheless, having a bath and getting cleaned up was one of the joys of coming off the trail. While they didn’t have an extensive wardrobe, most had a couple of changes of clothes, including one nice suit. They’d keep that in their blanket roll, taking it out for church and other important events.

That brings us up to modern day EDC.

The principals of EDC have not changed, we still want Utility, Versatility and portability. The only thing that has changed is the assortment of items we can carry. Now days with many conveniences our EDC needs can change depending on what we are doing and where we are.

My EDC started probably when I was 10, a wallet a Camp King Pocket Knife and a pack of gum. When I was 12, I got my own house key with a rabbits foot key chain and my EDC began to grow from there.

Next installment we will begin our indepth look at modern day EDC.

In summary, EDC has been around probably since the cave man but has evolved based on personal needs and technology of the time.

Look for the next installment in a few days. Ask yourself what is your EDC and why? Was there ever a time you wished you had something (that could have been carried in a pocket) but didn't have it. That's identifying an EDC need.

I hope you enjoyed the history of EDC.

See You next time.

Authored by Kenneth Kreiman

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great info, thank you for your time and energy you put into this, again, thank you


A very good bit of information on what to carry on EDC. I appreciate it COS.

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