The "Everyman" Every-Day Carry (EDC) Survival Kit




About: USAF Veteran, tinkerer
I've seen dozens of Altoid Tin and similar survival kits here on Instructables and elsewhere.  Many of them are quite good, while others--both home built and off-the-shelf--are left lacking some key components.  EDC kits are as varied as the people who create them, but there are some key features and "must have" items they have in matter if you're traversing the urban wilderness or truly miles from civilization.

I just wanted to share the handful of items I carry day-to-day, in the hopes others here would experiment and see what works for them.  The point of an EDC kit is to have something small and light on your person at all times, as a redundancy to the better and more specialized gear you may have for whatever adventure you're planning.  Think of it as the fire extinguisher of your preparedness, in that it should be out of the way and little noticed, but readily available and easy to use should you need it.  While it can be agreed having *something* is much better than having nothing, those "somethings" you carry should be worth their weight and the space they take up.  More importantly, knowing how to *use* those items is much more important than having the best out there.  It's no point to have top of the line gear if you haven't practiced with it, hence the danger of the off-the-shelf "sealed" kits.  Rather than sticking a lighter, stick of gum and a sewing kit into a tin or buying one of those God awful "survival" kits and thinking you're ready to live off the land, these few items are readily available and easy to procure or make.  Remember that survival isn't about comfort, but rather just making it out of there alive.

I should note the best "survival" scenario is to have a game plan and stick to it.  Tell at least two responsible people where you're going, how you plan to get there, when they can expect you back, and at what point they should be alarmed if they haven't heard from you.  Even better, have a description of your vehicle, what you're wearing, and any backup plans you may have should the weather turn.  Have a charged cell phone handy, but realize chances are it won't work when you need it to.  Most survival situations play out within 72 hours, and by far the majority start out as "day hikes".  Pack light and go far, but pack for what *could* happen.  There are many, many articles both on this website and others as to how to plan an outing and pack for it, so I won't repeat those here.

Now on to the "Everyman" (or woman!) EDC kit...

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Step 1: The Container

I chose a small stainless steel container for the contents, sealed with a fitted polyethylene lid.  I picked it up at a dollar store, and it was marketed as a stainless steel freezer container.

Why metal instead of a lightweight plastic?

The container can be used to collect and sterilize water, and is even strong enough to use as a digging tool.  Stainless isn't prone to rust and won't impart anything to whatever liquid or food item you prepare in it.  Plus most plastics, especially polystyrene, are prone to differences in temperature and are very likely to get brittle in the cold.  The polyethylene lid on this container is flexible even in the cold, and fitted for a water-tight seal.

Step 2: The Contents

Here are the contents.  Most items should already look familiar, but I'll go over things in detail for the ones that need it.  Many of these items are found in the Doug Ritter "Pocket Survival Pak" from Adventure Medical.  If you must go out with only a purchased off-the-shelf kit, this is the one to get!  You can find them for under $30.  Since I wanted to include more items in a slightly larger container, all the contents from the Doug Ritter kit are incorporated into mine.

1.  Instructions from the Doug Ritter kit.  Small and waterproof, these cover the basics from building a fire, signaling, and building a shelter.

2.  A small, folding pocket knife.  In my case it's a Benchmade Eclipse.  I added the lanyard and bead to make the knife less likely to slip out of a pocket, plus more cordage is always a good thing to have.  Make sure the knife is SHARP!  A dull knife is more dangerous to have, since you have to exert more pressure to make it cut.

3.  Heavy-duty aluminum foil, folded, approximately 3 square feet.  This is useful as a container, a make-shift pot lid for the container, or a wind shield for your fire.  

4.  Oil-filled button compass.  It's not good for much else than judging general direction, and is finicky when not level or near metal, but it's a good compass that won't burst if frozen.

5.  The container.  Go back to step one if you missed it   ;-)

6.  These are three fire-starting straws.  Inside each is a cotton ball saturated with petroleum jelly (Vaseline), and the ends heat-sealed.  To use, simply slit one down the center, pull out some cotton goo and fluff it up, and put a spark to it.  They take a spark readily and have about 30 seconds of burn time each, plenty enough to get a proper fire going.  Since it's petroleum jelly, they can double as a first-aid item.

7.  Cotton ball.  Additional fire starting, gauze, ear plug to keep the bugs're limited only by your imagination!

8.  Howler whistle.  Pealess style so it won't freeze, isn't prone to break, brightly-colored in case you drop it, and about 120 decibels for it's compact size.

9.  Spark Light fire starter.  Think of this as a Bic lighter without the fuel reservoir, as it works the same way to produce a shower of sparks.  You can use these one-handed and in all conditions.

10.  Maglite Solitaire flashlight.  These are tiny, cheap and readily-available.  Maglite makes the same model in LED now if you want the extra expense, but I prefer common lights that are cheap and easy to find parts for.  There's an extra bulb in the butt cap, and the very common AAA size is easy to find.  Since mine is dark-colored, I wrapped yellow electrical tape around it so I can find it again should I drop it somewhere.  The tape doubles as a bite grip, and you can never have enough tape.

11.  Spare AAA battery.  For these don't get the cheap brands...Duracell actually holds up the best under all conditions and long-term storage.  Rotate these out at least every 6 months or so.  It's best to put a piece of tape with the date you bought them written on it.

12.  Vial with fishing items and safety pins.  

13.  Five strike-anywhere matches, waxed and in plastic wrap.  These have been dipped in melted paraffin wax, which helps water-proof them and adds a few precious seconds of burn time.  Make sure you get the "Strike Anywhere" instead of the strike-on-box matches, since you can flick these on a rock or fingernail without a striker bar and they'll work.

14.  "Tinder Quik" waterproof tinder.  These will work even if wet, although a few choice words will help them get going.  To use, pull them apart until "fluffy" and add a spark to them.

15.  Fitted polyethylene container lid.  Back to step one if you missed it!

16.  Piece of hard candy.  Some may scoff at this, but it's a good morale boost and a great way to get that "gamey" treated water taste out of your mouth.  Every calorie counts, so here's a tiny amount you've packed in.  A bullion cube would work well here too.

17.  Fresnel lens.  Useful as a magnifier for splinters and stingers, and for fire starting.

18.  Ultraslim pencil, for taking or making notes.  Pinning a note to a visible location is a great way to let rescuers know which way you went.

19.  Mini rescue signal flash mirror--one of the good kind with one-hand use and an integrated sighting hole.  Don't remove it from the plastic wrapper until you intend to use it, though, as the housing can get scratched and reduce its reflectivity.  You can practice with the plastic on.  Plus, you never know if your rescuer could be your future Mr. or Mrs., so its never a bad idea to have something to primp with handy.

20.  Swiss Army "Swiss Card", containing several mini tools by itself.

21.  "And on the eighth day, God created duct tape..."  There's no limit to the usefulness to this stuff, so here's about 10 feet of it wrapped around a pen core.  Field repair clothing, have a makeshift bandage or cordage...use your imagination!

22.  Emergency "space" polymer blanket, great to use as a blanket, A-frame shelter or bivy.  This also doubles as a signaling device, both visual and auditory since it crinkles like mad in even a gentle breeze.  Unless you have a PhD in foldology, don't unfold it until you need to use it. 

23.  Spool of nylon thread and 10' length of steel wire.  Use the thread for fishing, repairs, or last-resort sutures.  The wire is most useful as snares.

24.  Lip balm, which is oddly enough one of those things you don't think to have until you actually need it.  Get some with SPF!  If you need more fire-starting materials, pinch some off and rub it into your tinder bundle.

25.  This is about 25' of nylon cordage--not nearly as good as 550 cord, but a fair amount folds into a small package.  Cordage is one of the things most lacking in the wild, so its always safe to carry some in addition to your 550 cord belt and bootlaces.  You have those, right?  

26.  "Little bit of everything" first aid kit, clearly marked in case you need to direct someone to find it.


Step 3: The Breakdown--The Swiss Card

Here I show a breakdown of what the Swiss Army "Swiss Card" contains.  There are other manufacturers of card-type multi-tools out there, so use whatever you're comfortable with.  I like the slim size of the Swiss Card and the fact it contains it's own small blade and the all-important tweezers.

Step 4: The Breakdown--Vial

Here is the small vial, broken down to show what's inside.  I added brightly-colored tape so I can find the thing again if I drop it.

1.  Four very large safety pins:  For field repairs or bend into large fish hooks
2.  Four small fish hooks
3.  Two small lead shot
4.  Swivel
5.  Large sewing needle

Step 5: The Breakdown--First Aid Kit

I suppose this almost deserves its own instructable!  Here are the contents of my "Little bit of everything" first aid kit.  I stuck to the things I find I use most, so yours may vary.  The numbers should coincide with the first picture.  Keep in mind the smallest cut or scrape can quickly get infected "out there", so take pause to take care of it as soon as you're able.

1.  Large, waterproof bandage

2.  Large breathable bandage

3.  Three standard sized bandages

4.  Four medium bandages

5.  Packet of SPF 30 sunscreen

6.  Container.  I recycled the bag the space blanket came in, and removed the button snap since it took too much room.

7.  Gauze

8.  Packet of Emergen-C.  The vitamin C will kill the taste of questionable but treated water, and is a little morale boost.

9.  Four butterfly closure strips

10.  Strip of medical tape

11.  Two alcohol prep pads

12.  #22 sterile scalpel blade.  God forbid you have to do any field surgery, but this will help if you need to clean up a wound for irrigation, or anywhere you need extremely fine cuts your pocket knife won't do.

13.  Four chlorine-based water purification tabs.  Each tab treats a liter (a nalgene bottle amount), and takes four hours to treat.  Use a sock to prefilter the chunks out so the reagent can do it's job more effectively.

14.  Single-use Neosporin ointments in sealed drinking straws.  The packets of ointment are usually too much for me, so I whipped these up thanks to another Instructable!

15.  Single-use liquid bandages, for something too small for a regular bandage.  This stuff takes a flame very well too.

16.  12 feet of surveyor's tape, wrapped around a toothpick.  This isn't really a first-aid item, but it fit well in the space left.  Use this to mark trails and trap locations, or your passage to let rescuers know where you're been.  Tie off a small piece at about eye level in the direction of travel, making the next just visible beyond the last.

17.  Small sheets of paper, for using that ultraslim pencil, of course!  You should already have enough fire-starting material available, but here's one more if you need it.

18.  Assortment of medication wrapped in aluminum.  Here I have two Tylenol, a 500 mg Motrin, two Sudafed, two Zyrtec, and a chewable Pepto tablet.  Pack what you need and what you have room for, but don't forget to rotate your stock.

Step 6: Making It Fit...

My mother always yelled at me that video games wouldn't teach me anything, but here I've proved her wrong.  

All those years of Tetris have paid off!

So how do you get all of that in there?  The first thing I put in was the instructions, as they're small and flat.  Since in a "situation" I'd likely dump the contents out, the instructions would consequentially be on top if the whole kit is upended.

Step 7: Making It Fit...

Next in goes the folded aluminum foil.

Step 8: Making It Fit...

Here I tucked the fresnel lens inside the space blanket, and it goes in next.  The little package of matches fits up against the side of the container, slightly under the blanket, and the Maglite fits into one of the pockets next to it.

Step 9: Making It Fit...

Here the ultraslim pencil fits right alongside the blanket, and you can see I've started stacking the fire starting straws on top of the matches.

Step 10: Making It Fit...

Next in goes the fire starter and spare battery, cotton ball (in the lower left), cordage and Tinder Quik.  I folded the Tinder Quik in half in it's little baggy so it would take up less space.

Step 11: Making It Fit...

The Swiss Card and signal mirror lay side by side on top of the blanket.  I moved the battery to the top, since it fit there better.

Step 12: Making It Fit...

Next in is the first aid kit.  Since it wasn't equally thick, I rotated it around until it lay flat, which happened to be upside down.  The folding knife fits nicely in the pocket just above it.

Step 13: Making It Fit...

In the space to the upper right, the candy, compass, and vial all drop in.

Step 14: Making It Fit...

All that remains is the duct tape, whistle, lip balm, spool of thread and wire, so its just a matter of finagling things around to fill gaps.

Step 15: Making It Fit...done!

Snap on the lid, and done!  The plastic lid is forgiving, so it's OK if things bulge a little but it maintains a seal.  The entire kit fits into a pants cargo pocket or coat pocket, so it's small enough to go with you anywhere.

Some may opt to wrap it in more duct tape or even 550 cord, but I choose to stop here since it keeps things more readily accessible.  I'm more likely to stop to make camp when I should rather than push the envelope, not wanting to go through "all that stuff" first if it's wrapped in layers of something.

This kit isn't designed to build and throw in your glove box--keep it *on* you, readily available, and *practice* using the stuff inside.  Think ahead and know that if you're in a real survival situation, you're more likely to be cold, hungry, dehydrated, panicked, and lose most of your fine motor skills.  That isn't the time to experiment with the fire starters and signal mirror.  Whatever you decide to pack in yours, use and abuse it!  As you get familiar with what you'll most likely use, rotate out your stock for something newer and more compact.  Experiment when you go camping, and trying using *only* this away from your main camp for one night.  When you start making observations like, "it would be nice if I had this...", change your kit!

Hopefully this has a been a useful guide in making your own.  As you see, you don't need to spend loads of money for this stuff and can likely use what you have available.  Be safe out there!

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    26 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Great kit. I only have one suggestion and that is how the batteries are handled in the container. I would suggest insulating them so there is no possibility of a spark with the metal container and metal items in the container. It looks like the geometry of the container you have shouldn't be a problem but I have seen it with the Altoids based kits where a battery loose in the tin ignited some items and caused problems.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the comments! And yes, the very same Doug Ritter...just google "Doug Ritter Survival pack" and you'll see his original pocket kit. For $30 and under, it's by far the best pocket kit on the market right now, as one would be hard-pressed to gather the exact same stuff for under $30.



    Reply 5 years ago

    I will agree that the Adventure Medical Kit is good, but it's definitely not the best. I like what you have done here, addressing it's shortfalls by adding your own stuff, as it's always important to customise and practice with whats in a kit so it suits you. I personally find that the best "commercial" kit to use as a base is the standard NATO survival kit, which can be picked up for around £15. Again it's nowhere near perfect, a great case in point being the shitty folding knife they put in it, but I found it to be the most comprehensive kit out there. it is also much smaller than your kit, which personally suits me better, though it is at the expense of a lot of space. Again i think it's just important to know what you have and know how to use it.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    not bad, but i dont see any chemical water treatment. water should be the number one priority and relying on boiling it isnt the best idea. plus most water treatments are 1 tablet to 1quart/liter of water.

    other than that, a little bulky for my personal taste, and a little overkill on tinder (not that its a bad thing)

    if i may make a suggestion though. throw in a couple 1 quart and 1 gallon ziplocs, so many uses with little space. a small candle is also a good addition so you have a small flame, it could make a huge difference if your wood is a little damp. and of course some chlorine based water purification tabs. iodine ones taste foul.

    also its nice to see a kit on here that isnt lets see how much junk we can shove in an altoids tin

    3 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the positive feedback!

    You're very correct, in that part of core body temperature regulation is proper hydration. That's why there *ARE* chemical water treatment tabs in this kit--item #13 in the first-aid kit :) I prefer iodine as my primary means in my carry pack (not this EDC), since you can treat a liter in about 30 minutes. If you're thirsty enough you don't mind the bitterness of iodine so much, and you can easily kill the taste with anything containing vitamin C, such as Emergen-C. Even tiny amounts are very effective at it. Iodine has a secondary purpose of being a first-aid item, so there's one item with multiple uses.

    Ziplocs are worth their weight in gold--I agree with you there! It's why I have several gallon and quart sized ones in my standard pack. Since they have a bit of bulk, even when rolled up tight, I left them out of this kit to save the space for other items. A couple of non-lubricated condoms would serve the same purpose as water containers with less weight and bulk. Practice with them is key though...there's a definite technique to scooping a liter of water from a sill without it gushing back out.

    I've seen candles in various kits, and honestly I haven't found a use for them enough to account for the weight and space they take up. They're a "one show pony", in that candles are really only good for burning (and gooping up the rest of your EDC if they get hot). I prefer items you can get at least three different uses for. My tinder overkill is pretty practical--the fire straws take a spark quickly and have a good, *hot* burn time of at least 30 seconds each. If, with practice, someone can't get a fire started with that, they should get out of the water and try again :)



    Reply 5 years ago

    Natural, old fashioned tallow candles are excellent, as they can be used as an emergency food. They are made from animal fat, and they smell awful when burned. However it's worth remembering that fat has a huge energy to weight ratio and is very hard to come by in a survival situation, as any wild animal you catch will likely have very little fat.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    -facepalms- i missed the iodine.

    as for the ziplocks i tend to fold them instead of rolling them, that way they lay flat and the space taken is flatter than rolling them.

    a great tinder ive found is similar to your fire straws, instead of petroleum jelly use melted wax onto the cotton then insert into straw, i timed a 1cm piece at 60second burn. so its fairly impressive, needs a small patch fluffed before use though.

    ive used candles to help start fires in damp conditions, used the wax from them to create small torches when needed, as dumb as it sounds used the wax as a light duty lube, and a light duty glue. never been a time where ive needed a candle but theres been a few times when its come in handy. just personal opinion really.

    if i come off as hating or w/e i honestly dont intend to. its nice to see others are prepared even if its just a day hike or w/e


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Nice instructable. I do find your choice of size a bit bulky for a true EDC. A good EDC is just that, EVERY day carry. Not EVERY day I happen to have on my cargo shorts or pants or jacket with huge pockets. This is why there are so many featuring the convenient size of the Altoids tin. I do agree, too many of these kits are just "how much can you cram into the tin." Someone commented about boiling water being a poorer option for disinfection. Actually, it works better than chemical, especially if you are in a hurry. Do take the time to learn about adjusting for altitude when boiling for disinfection. Also, there are actually medical cases reported in professional journals about people getting ill from overtreated (chemically) water. Diarrhea is nobody's friend, and especially in a survival situation. Too much chem water will take you down that road. 35 years of medical experience teaches many hard lessons.
    Also, don't rely too much on the condoms, they break very easily and are hard to carry, store, etc. Over 20 years of military experience on several continents also teaches a few hard lessons.

    2 replies

    Reply 5 years ago

    A tip with the condoms, fill and carry them inside a sock, this provides some protection and ensures you don't overfill it. if you're in sub zero conditions put the sock under your clothes as well, or the water will freeze in short order.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the comments!

    Good tip on the antibiotic ointment--I haven't tried to light the stuff, but its certainly worth a try...might be worth replacing if it's just as effective! The Swiss Card is plastic, and the thinnest on the market as far as I've found, but yeah there are a few redundant items I could probably do away with--I just liked how all the little bits you usually have to fumble for are all self-contained. I agree--boiling is certainly the way to go--much more preferable to any chemical treatment. Plus, boiling is a sure way to kill any critters some chemical treatments will leave behind. It's just nice to have more than one option available, right? Since collecting water with condoms is an art form in itself, and perhaps *not* the best option if you're already a bit hyperthermic and panicked, I'm looking at throwing in a few produce bags folded flat. Those thin bags from the grocery store are already food-grade plastic, and fold or roll up super thin!

    As for this EDC, I pretty much always wear pants or shorts with a cargo pocket. It is bulky, but you get used to it fairly quickly, especially if it's taken every day, and the size of the container holds a full 8oz of water--enough to make the fuel expense count to boil and make an actual difference in hydration. For the times it's impractical, I'm working on a smaller but just as robust version...will keep you posted!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    This is a very nice kit. I would like to know where you got the container and lid. I see there would be room a few extra rounds for what I hope you EDC under your shirt. Like the six month trip mentioned above, how much is enough?

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the comment! The container was a dollar store find, and was marketed as a "stainless steel freezer container". This kit was geared towards something you'd drop into a cargo pocket and practically forgot about until it was needed, or if you wanted to get some practice in. Of course all my other pockets have things too :)

    As I mentioned in another comment, if you've been able to subsist on what's included here for six months, you're a much more well-practiced survivalist than I could ever hope to be, and probably never wanted to be found! There is "never enough stuff", but the trick is practicing with enough of the basics to limit yourself to only key items. Survival isn't about's just making it out alive.


    7 years ago on Step 5

    Just to give credit where do, here's the instructable for the heat-sealed ointments!

    3 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Nice that you give credit where due. I agree with your choice on the straws of vaseline VS wax candles. As you mentioned, not much use and often messy in hot climates. Consider putting triple antibiotic ointment in the straws, instead though. It burns much like the vaseline, but can be used for it's antibiotic purpose also. It's all about compactness and weight for an EDC. Consider taking along the individual components that you like from the Swiss card and dump the heavy metal card itself. No need for an extra knife blade, unless you expect your EDC to be all you have for a six month trip. Again, keep it light and compact. This isn't about who's right or wrong. Some of this is personal preference, but all of us can learn from each other. Overall, a good USABLE and USEFUL instructable !!!


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    About the six month trip; who even expects to be in a survival, and who knows how long it will last?


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Most survival situations occur within 72 hours, so that's what this is geared towards. If you've subsisted for what's in here for six months, you didn't want to be found ;)


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    It's waxy, so sure. Not sure why you'd want a candle with all the other firestarting options, though.