Dear Brendan,

My youngest daughter recently traveled to South America with her mother for the holidays.  This got me thinking about what the three most important everyday carry (EDC) items would be that you could carry not only here in the U.S. but Outside the Continental U.S., or OCONUS.  Here are the three EDC items that will come in handy no matter the situation or area you are traveling.  As I think back to my days as a Marine and Agency contractor, I never went anywhere without a good knife (Emerson Folder or Microtech), a watch Suunto Core or Vector and MKII Blackwater is what I wore in Iraq, and a Fisher Space Pen with Rite In The Rain notebook or classic Moleskin notebook. 

These EDC items have always served me well no matter if I was on deployment, training, vacation or just hanging out with my family, friends or daughters on the weekends.  If I could add a forth it would be a dependable pocket size flashlight, by Surefire or Streamlight.  The one thing that these items all have in common is they are dual purpose.  Simply put I never leave home without these items on my person.  It’s part of my Level I EDC.   

I should note this is not an all-inclusive list of everything you may need for any and all situations you could find yourself in.  If you are on a budget you can find these items (folding knife, watch, pen & notebook) all at Target for a reasonable price.  However if quality is a priority, you should go for high end products that will last you a lifetime and never fail you when all the chips are down. 

Of course, price aside, what brand, make, model, and design you select is personal preference.  You have to find what works best for you.  The brands/makes/models that I’m suggesting here are the ones that I use myself or come highly recommended from other Agency/SOF operators I know and trust.

First is a folding knife that has a blade of three inches or less.  The reason for this is that a folding knife with a blade shorter than 3” is legal to carry just about anywhere in the world.  A knife is one of the most versatile tools you can carry.  You can use a knife for so many everyday tasks to include your last line of defense in a life or death situation. 

Again I recommend a folding knife with a blade that is three inches or shorter not only because you can travel around the world with it, but it is easy to conceal and you won’t alarm anyone if you break it out at work or at the mall to open up a box for a co-worker or cut a price tag off something you just got your child.  You should still check local laws and those of the country you are visiting to ensure you are within the law, because laws are always changing.  Otherwise you could be arrested for carrying a concealed weapon.  Be aware and be safe.

What kind should you buy?  I prefer the Emerson mini CQC-7 with a partially serrated blade and the wave-opening feature.  I also like the Microtech UDT automatic folder, however its blade is just over 3” and it’s an automatic.  Most foreign countries do not allow you to legally carry an automatic knife.  For a fixed blade I like the Emerson La Griffe.  It has a short hawkbill blade that is less than two inches.  I modified mine with an IWB clip and carry it on the left side of my belt buckle as a weapon retention tool, when I’m carrying my Glock 19 on my right side.  These brands are all associated with quality, durability and made in the USA.  However they will cost you more than any folder you will find at Target or Wal-Mart.  Again you usually get what you pay for. 

Now if you are one of those guys that tend to lose or misplace things.  You may want to seek out less expensive folding knives that meet these requirements and your everyday needs.  Now will these be, as good as my Emerson or Microtech?  No, not even close, but you may not need such a folder/tool for your everyday carry needs either.  The choice is yours.  Just know you don’t have to break the bank to carry a dependable folding knife that you can carry with you anywhere life may take you.   

Second is a reliable watch with multiple functions.  A good watch may seem like a no brainer and redundant in todays age of cell phones.  However we often rely too much on our technology, and this can be a recipe for disaster. 

Cell phones/smart phones are great but they have their limitations.  Just think how often you have to charge your cell phone or how fast the battery drains.  And we have all seen i-phones with shattered screens, so it’s clear they can and will break.  You also have to consider where you work and where you travel.  If you work in a secure environment such as the SCIFs I used to work in, then you know cell phones are not allowed.  If you are traveling outside the U.S., will you have cell coverage?  And don’t forget the power sources and outlets are different overseas.  Don’t get me wrong, cell phones are great, but know their limitations.  Now let’s look at a good watch.  You can take a watch with you anywhere and it can also serve as a compass if need be. 

A watch can be as cheap or as expensive as you want.  It really depends on how much you want to invest in a good watch and what your needs are.  You can walk into almost any store that sells watches and pick up a Timex, Seiko, or Casio for under $50 bucks and it will serve you well.  Now if you have several hundred to spend I’d suggest a Suunto Core or Vector, MKII, Lum-Tec or Marathon.  The upside to Sunnot Core or Vector is you can carry an extra battery and change it out yourself.  Bottom-line you can’t go wrong with any of these.  These watches will perform in any environment.   

Okay you may be thinking, how do I use my watch as a compass..?  Here it is my friend.  If you are in the northern hemisphere just hold the watch horizontal to the ground and point the hour hand at the sun.  Approximately halfway between that point and the twelve o’clock marker will point to the South.  This is just one of many non-traditional uses for a watch, so do your research.  This type of multi-purpose utility makes it a mainstay on my EDC list or for anyone who takes preparedness seriously.  Now if you have a Suunto Core on your wrist, it has a good compass feature built into the watch.  The Suunto Core is like having a mini-computer on your wrist.  Again it’s up to you to decide which type of watch is best for you. 

Third is a solid pen and notebook/paper.  These are two things but they go together like guns and ammo.  You really can’t have one without the other.  This goes back to my days as a young Marine infantry NCO, where you’re expected to always have something to write with and on.  I still have my old government issued green notebook that I covered in OD green hundred mile an hour tape.  I digress, but point being you never know when you will need to take notes, write down a name, number, address or some random ideas you know you’ll forget if you don’t jot them down in the moment.   Some people are thinking you can use your cell phone for that.  Yes, however as discussed earlier cell phones are not always dependable.  Plus you can use the paper/note book as a fire starter and the pen as an impact tool.  And no you don’t need some $100 over the top “self-defense” pen.  You simply need a good click style pen that’s made of steel or aircraft grade aluminum.  This type of pen will break out the glass of a passenger car window just as good as the over priced self-defense pen will, plus it won’t stand out.  Remember you may be traveling OCONUS and you want to blend into your environment.  The last thing you want is to draw attention to yourself while going through customs at your point of entry or to cause locals to give you a second look. The same is true with domestic travel by our TSA and local law enforcement.  Don’t give them a reason to question you about anything.  Be the grey man and stay under the radar.

For my EDC pen I like the Surefire click pens, however they are on the pricey side.  For my notebook I go with Rite In The Rain and or the classic Moleskin notebook.  These come in different sizes that you can easily carry in your back pocket or coat/jacket.  You can also pick up a Moleskin notebook at Target, or most stationery stores.  A good Moleskin notebook is durable and timeless.  Someday your grandchildren may come across your old notebooks and have a family heirloom to hold on to and give them more insight into the man you were.  Don’t just think about today, but plan ahead to help shape a better tomorrow. 

Talent alone won’t make you a success. Neither will being in the right place at the right time, unless you are ready. The most important question is: ‘Are your ready?’

“Some where out there right now someone is preparing for the day you both shall meet, how prepared will you be”

Superior gear will never make up for a lack of training or attitude.

Fair Winds & Following Seas…

Your Friend,