Travel 101: My EDC (Every Day Carry) List

Stephen F. Dennstedt

EDC or Every Day Carry seems to be a hot topic. Checkout almost any blog or YouTube channel dealing with adventure travel, survival or the Zombie apocalypse and you will find a post talking about EDC. I usually take them with a grain a salt because they are very, very subjective. Give me reasons not simply opinions. Please.

On occasion I learn something new (and agree with the recommendations) but often as not I find myself laughing at the armchair cowboy and the wannabe survivalist. It’s one thing to be sitting in front of the television shoving pizza into your pie-hole and quite another to be in the field trying to stay alive (Zombies aside).

When visiting these sites I first look for the poster’s Street Creds (what makes them an expert I should listen to, what is their experience?). In the case of adventure travel and survival I typically look for military or wilderness experience. I don’t know anyone who has had real-life experience with Zombies (do you?). Seriously, do you know anyone over the age of thirty who really gives a shit about Zombies? That goes for Vampires and Werewolves too (just saying).

1. Marathon GSAR (Government Search & Rescue) Watch

When looking for credible military experience I immediately search out the Special Operations guys: Navy Seals, Army Delta, Rangers and Green Beret Special Forces and of course my alma mater the United States Marine Corps. These are the folks with real-world experience (the real deal). In the civilian world I look to the mountain climbers, wilderness guides, hunters, scuba divers and seasoned adventure travellers. I would also include many first responders too: law enforcement, firefighters, doctors, nurses, paramedics and search & rescue.

2. Maxpedition CMC Wallet


Next I look for a photo (yeah I’m shallow) to visually validate the stated experience. The experienced people I mentioned above usually walk-the-talk their entire lives, it’s unlikely to see a former Navy Seal looking like a 300-pound mass of quivering protoplasm in a photo (even if he’s Vietnam vintage like me). Also, we’re talking serious people here with a serious life & death skill-set. They can have a great sense of humour (and often do) but when a situation turns serious they have the ability to flip the switch (immediately). I always look to their eyes (the windows to the soul) and often find their smile never reaches their eyes.

3. REI Pocket Organiser

So what are my Street Creds? First, I don’t claim to be an expert in anything but I do have knowledge and experience with lots of things. Also, I’m a bit anal—I research subjects of interest and equipment to death. I spent six years in the Marine Corps (with one combat tour of duty in Vietnam), I was a backpacker in my younger days and an ultra-light backpacker in my older days and I was a trail runner (8 to 12 miles a day) well into my fifties. I now trek the world 365 days a year. I tend to put on weight easier these days but no one has ever called me fat much less obese. The common thread that runs through serious people is discipline.

4. Personal Totem

Disciplined people are often born with that personality trait but it can also be a learned skill-set (my Marine Corps Drill Instructors were pretty damn good at installing discipline).The old adage comes to mind: the right way, the wrong way, the highway and the Marine Corps way. Disciplined people are typically serious people regardless of job description: look for the squint, the crows feet and the eyes that can turn to glacial ice in a heartbeat. Crazy people (and I’ve known a few) oftentimes have glittery eyes but serious people have unwavering eyes (they don’t dart about, they are focused like a laser).

5. Small Notebook and Pencil or Pen

So I always (well almost always) have these five things on my person when travelling. They are not wilderness survival tools (that list would be entirely different) but they are my adventure travel items. I travel the world 365 days a year as a photographer, writer and occasional armchair philosopher. If you’re planning an encounter with Vampires, Werewolves or Zombies your list will be different but I might suggest such things as: silver bullets, wooden stakes, mirrors, garlic, crucifixes and a big-ass gun like a .357 magnum, .44 magnum or .50 caliber Desert Eagle (just saying).

  1. Rugged Watch. A rugged watch is a must in my opinion. Cellphones suck and are not watches (or clocks). A cellphone (I don’t own one) doesn’t even make my list. 99.99% of my subscribers will disagree with me. My watch is a Marathon Swiss Made GSAR (Government Search & Rescue). It’s a mechanical automatic (no batteries) with a Swiss Made ETA 2824-A2 automatic movement. ISO 6425 dive rated to 300 metres, stainless steel and comes with a rubber strap (other straps available including a stainless steel bracelet).
  2. Maxpedition Wallet. A good travel wallet should be small, lightweight and secure. It should be water and sweat resistant. Leather is not your friend when travelling. I spend time in hot & humid environments (jungles, rainforests and monsoon rains) photographing wildlife. A leather wallet will quickly get soaked and start to mildew, it’s not a pretty sight. This is a good time to mention that I prefer Mil-spec clothing and equipment. Military specifications insist on ruggedness, durability and value—it’s a good place to start.
  3. Passport Holder and Pocket Organiser. I wear Mil-spec cargo pants when I travel. Rugged, poly-cotton rip-stop with plenty of pockets. A good pocket organiser is a great way to protect your passport and other important documentation (like vaccination cards, medical prescriptions and extra passport photos). Like your wallet it should be made of tough, water-resistant, quick-drying polyester material (leather is not practical). I bought this one at REI but Maxpedition also has their own version I think.
  4. My personal Totem. Often referred to as a Talisman: An object, typically an inscribed ring or stone, that is thought to have magic powers and to bring good luck. I am not a particularly superstitious man but the three items I wear around my neck have special significance. My Burmese green jade Kwan Yin is the Buddhist bodhisattva of compassion, the small heart was given to me by a special lady friend in Yucatan, Mexico (she’s had it since she was 15 years old) and the amber pendant with an entombed prehistoric bee is 10-million years old. These talismans represent (to me) eternity, loving compassion and an open heart.
  5. Notebook. I always carry a small spiral-bound notebook (and pen or pencil) in my shirt pocket. It’s invaluable for jotting down quick notes and reminders (like place names, email addresses and the name and address of my hostel). Moleskine makes some beautiful little notebooks but they are hardbound (great for journaling but not for ripping out pages). When arriving in a new country it’s so easy to write town my hostel name and location (and phone number) and just hand it to the taxi or tuk-tuk driver.

I often carry other stuff in my pockets as well: sunglasses, Chapstick, daily medications, chewing gum or whatever. But these five things are always on my wrist, around my neck or in my pockets. What does the old commercial say: never leave home without it. If you’re staying in all-inclusive tourist accommodations or travelling first-class it’s probably no big deal but if you’re trekking roughshod like me with just a rucksack and Pelican photography case then look for rugged and tough gear. Mil-spec is a good starting point, if it’s good enough for the Special Ops guys, Army and Marines then it’s pretty dang tough.

Stephen F. Dennstedt – Northern Amazon River Basin, Cuyabeno, Ecuador (2015)




3 responses to “Travel 101: My EDC (Every Day Carry) List

  1. Ok, you don’t believe in zombies, vampires, or werewolves, yet you carry several totems? (Just kidding). I wear a Thor’s hammer. I picked it up in Iceland 40 years ago while in the Navy. I also carry a pen and notebook, as well as a knife, and recently started carrying a fitness tracker.

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