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EDC Survival Load

April 29, 2019

I’ve generally stayed away from doing “junk on the bunk” articles. What works for me simply is not going to work for you, given differences in circumstance, and experience. What I typically see when some “Former Action Guy” does any sort of “this is how I set up my gear” articles, is a whole bunch of mouthbreathers run out and mimic it, even though they don’t have the mission FAG did, or the training, background, and experience he did.

Nevertheless, talking to another FAG the other day, it was mentioned to me that, despite the predilection of some people to simply mimic, a lot of guys are smart enough to just use it as a framework to figure out what would work for them to fill the same or similar gaps, relevant to their specific needs. So, I decided to go ahead and do a series of articles based on the uncountable requests from readers, for me to do so.

Today’s installment will be my Line One/EDC/Survival Load. I’m not entirely sure where the Line One/Two/Three verbiage came from, although I’ve heard it was a Marine Corps thing. I grew up with a different verbiage, in the form of “Survival Load, Fighting Load, and Sustainment Load.”

Your Survival Load was, back then, what you could carry in your pockets. Of course, considering the fact we had 10 pockets on our uniforms, you could—in theory—carry a metric fuckton of shit in that load. Nowadays, I don’t wear BDUs very often (well, I don’t wear BDU blouses. My winter trousers are Dickies or Carhartt work dungarees, but in summer I revert to khaki or green, 100% ripstop cotton BDU type trousers. While I wear them for comfort and light weight, the addition of the thigh cargo pockets is a bonus. Fortunately, my wife doesn’t care, and I don’t give a fuck what anyone else thinks of my lack of fashion sense…)

So, my EDC is based around a Survival Load meme, which means it goes back to SMOLES, which we’ve talked about in a number of articles, including recently. Rather than waste bandwith describing SMOLES again, I’ll simply list how I approach each heading in my EDC loadout.

I do have to point out though that my day is generally divided into two distinct sections: in town, and on the farm. I can get away with different things on the farm than I can in town, and my requirements on the farm are somewhat different than my requirements in town, so I will point out those differences as well, although that will mostly be covered in next week’s installment.


I carry a Glock 17 in an Integrated Survival Systems Warlord A-IWB holster. The Glock is set up with an Overwatch Precision flat-faced trigger, and Dawson Precision fiber optic sights. The frame was stippled by yours truly. There are no other modifications to the gun.

The Warlord is one of two A-IWB holsters I helped Matt, at ISS design. The other, The Cimmerian, is the same holster, built for use with a weapon-mounted light. Both holsters feature the rubber wedge to push the muzzle away from your body, thus pushing the grip of the pistol inward, and the Claw, which levers against the back of your belt, to push the magwell end of your pistol in against your ribcage as well. Seriously, in my mind, any concealment holster that doesn’t encompass both of these, in this day and age, is not even remotely suitable for concealment consideration. That’s not to say there aren’t great holsters out there, that work well, without one or both, but for me, they’re out of consideration.

When I’m on the farm, I still carry a Glock 17, set up the same way, but this one has a weapon mounted light, and I don’t conceal it. Instead, it rides in a Safariland ALS holster on a drop leg panel. I’ve worn pancake holsters as well, but I found the gun got in my way, a lot, doing chores. With the drop leg panel, even as high as I wear it, it stays out of the way (carrying a gun A-IWB, when doing farm chores, for me, is way too much of a pain in the…well, not technically the ass….but….you get my point, anyway….).

For town wear, I keep a single Magpul 21-round ‘stendo mag, in a kydex magpouch, angled opposite my pistol, in front. It’s from Raven Concealment, although I don’t remember who I got it from. On the farm, I generally just throw a paddle-mounted mag pouch on my belt, behind the hip, since it’s not concealed anyway.

Next to the mag pouch, I keep a small fixed blade knife. The sheath for this is also made by Integrated Survival Systems. I’ve got a Ban Tang Clinch Pick, and I’ve got a number of push daggers that might seem like better ideas for self-defense knives, and they would be…but…it’s a lot easier to shank a dude with a Swiss Army Knife than it is to cut baling twine with a Fairbairn-Sykes dagger…I spend a lot more time cutting stuff around the shop, the farm, and the house, than I do cutting people, so I carry a more utilitarian knife, in the form of an ESEE Izula. It’s a little bitty-thing, so it doesn’t scare the bejeezus out of the nice Presbyterians, when I pull it out and use it to cut something in public, and it’s plenty functional for poking people as well if needed. I suspect a lot more ol’ country boys have been cut and stabbed with non-tactical Buck 110 folding knives than all the people ever stabbed with a push dagger or “fighting” knife…

On my keychain, I have what many readers will probably consider surprising, and that is a canister of Sabre Red Pepper Spray. I had a kid working the checkout at Lowe’s a few years ago notice the pepper spray canister on my key chain, and ask me about it, with the comment that it must be my wife’s keys, because “you don’t look like a guy that needs pepper spray.”

As I told him (it was August), “Son, it’s hotter than three feet up Satan’s ass out there. It’s too hot to work up a sweat beating the shit out of somebody, and shooting them is expensive. Pepper spray is a no-brainer.” I actually started carrying pepper spray after an incident a few years ago, that involved me pulling my AR on a dude in rush hour traffic. Fortunately, he realized it wasn’t going to be a fistfight after all, and decided to get back in his own car, but if he’d decided to press the matter, a blast of pepper spray would have been a far better response than smoke-checking him in front of my kid (who was four at the time, as I recall). I described this incident in The Guerrilla Gunfighter, Clandestine Carry Pistol, for anyone wondering what the Hell would cause me to pull a rifle on a guy in traffic…it was fully justified).

As noted, in town, I keep a rifle in the truck, next to my seat (perfectly legal where I live), but that’ll be covered in a follow-on article.

That’s it for “Self-Defense.” A pistol, a—statistically totally unnecessary reload magazine—a knife, and pepper spray…and the ability to actually fight unarmed, if it becomes necessary, with a solid grounding in boxing, muay Thai, and grappling, which I maintain currency in through regular practice…


I don’t carry a full BOK/IFAK when I’m walking around Wal-Mart. A lot of stuff in the IFAK, in that context, I can improvise on scene, with little difficulty, and no real loss of efficiency. The three things that I cannot are tourniquets (yes, for the fucksticks, I DO know how to “improvise” a tourniquet. I also know they don’t work worth a fuck, and I can pack a tourniquet around without even noticing it, so why wouldn’t I?), chest seals (speaking from more than a little bit of actual experience, the whole duct tape and plastic improv works even less effectively than improvised tourniquets), and rubber gloves. I actually used to not carry rubber gloves, until I ended up being one of two people who rendered aid to a dude having a seizure in the grocery store, and ended up covered up to my elbows in his blood, from where he bounced his head off a shelf on the way down. Our local hospital ended up billing me $3500 for the blood test. I carry gloves now.

For a tourniquet, I carry either a CAT-T, or the RevMedX 2” ratchet tourniquets from The Activity Group. The RevMedX was developed by John Steinbaugh, when he was with CAG, after a particularly galling failure of multiple CAT-Ts on the same patient. It is, reputedly in common use in his old unit, and I know the guys at The Activity Group, and have done a lot of training and testing of the tourniquet, so I trust it.

For chest seals I am currently carrying a pair of HyFins, but my normal choice are the FoxSeal version, simply because they are slightly smaller. I fold the chest seals in half, and tuck them in my thigh pocket behind my tourniquet, with a pair of nitrile rubber gloves, in a small bag tucked in there as well. If you fold your chest seals in half like I do, you’re going to need to replace them at a regular interval. They will take a set where the fold is, and this CAN lead to problems with adhesiveness for an airtight seal, on a wound. I replace roughly every six months. Once on the 1st of January, and once in June.

If I need wound packing material, there is always absorbent cotton material around, even if I need to cut a dude’s t-shirt off him and use it, and the same can be used to improvise a pressure dressing. I’m simply not interested in carrying around a full BOK pouch on my belt, and the ankle kits I’ve played with didn’t work for me. I do keep a trauma bag, set up for mass casualties, in my truck, and it gets used far more frequently than most people expect.

Observation and Optics

The only “O” items in my EDC/survival load are sunglasses with an ANSI Z78 rating. I don’t walk around with a daypack on most of the time, so I don’t have anywhere to carry binoculars or NVG, or anything like that.

I also however, carry a flashlight, religiously. I am more likely to leave my pistol behind than my flashlight. Pictured is my current EDC light. It’s a Streamlight ProTac 2LX. It runs on CR123s, or the rechargeable Streamlight batteries. I’ve switched almost all of my lights over to the rechargeable batteries. Since our house runs on solar, I can charge them during the day, when it becomes necessary, and we’ve always got a dozen or so working flashlights around the house. My wife carries a smaller flashlight, because she doesn’t like packing the bigger one around in her pocket.

Land Navigation

I use an analog (with hands) watch instead of a digital, because it can be pressed into service for land navigation (the more you know, the less you need…). I also, normally keep a small watchband compass on my watch, but I just lost my watch the other day, at the local dump, and I haven’t gotten a new compass, although I did go get a new watch the next day.

About half of our guys don’t wear a wristwatch, choosing to use their phones for telling time. I don’t get it. I don’t want to dig my fucking phone out just to see what time it is (and about half the time, I don’t have the damned thing on me anyway…it’s supposed to be for MY convenience, not someone else’s. I DAMNED sure don’t have it on me around the farm!!!!). If you need a reason, besides telling time, use an analog watch, and learn how to use it for direction-finding…

Extreme Weather Conditions

I keep both a Bic lighter, AND a match safe full of hurricane matches in my pockets. I used to just carry the matchsafe, but I got tired of having to ask someone for a lighter, when I needed to do something quick like burn the end of a piece of 550 cord, so I started carrying one for the times when matches are just incredibly inconvenient. In a survival situation though, I trust hurricane matches more than I trust a Bic lighter to not leak, run out of fuel, or just not work right. I also keep a number of small pieces of petroleum jelly infused cotton balls stored in 1” sections of plastic drink straw, heat sealed closed. These are the best, most easily carried fire starting trick I’ve ever come across (although making them was a little bit of a pain in the ass. It took me a whopping 20 minute to make about forty of them….). Thanks, again, to Alan Kay for the ingenious idea.

I’m not particulary worried about cold weather this time of year. In the winter, I dress for the weather outside, not the weather in my truck, so I’m still not particularly worried about it, but I do carry a little bit more in the pockets of winter jackets. Dealing with the heat is taken care of by wearing lightweight, breathable trousers and shirts, and staying well hydrated, and out of the sun as much as possible, even when working outside…and a wide-brimmed hat…I wear a baseball cap in town, but I keep a boonie hat on the dash of my truck, just in case…


In the Survival heading, I follow the rule of 3s. 3 minutes without oxygen, 3 hours without clothing/shelter, 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food, 3 months without a reason to live….and 3 seconds without the capacity for instant violence.

This ends up being really simple: I don’t rely on my EDC gear alone if I’m going more than 25 miles from home. I throw a ruck in the truck for me, as well as one for the wife and each of the kids (the baby’s is a diaper bag still, so I can either strap it to my ruck, or I can sling it like a haversack, after my ruck is on…). Even with my kids in tow, anywhere I would go inside of 25 miles is family/clan, or is within a few miles of family/clan, so we can get to somewhere safe within an hour or two of walking, even with kids in tow.

Don’t overthink the EDC thing….seriously. Just know what you’re carrying, and why.

Other items pictured:

1) There’s a Benchmade folder up near the top of the picture, next to the flashlight, above the ESEE knife. I don’t use it for very much, and I’m conscious about what I use it for, because I use it to eat with most of the time, especially when eating out, since it is apparently a rule in the restaurant business that you have to buy the shittiest steak knives available for your customers.

2) There’s a pair of deerskin workgloves inside of my ballcap. In summer, they get tucked in my left cargo pocket. In winter, they are usually tucked into my back pocket. I wear gloves pretty much all the time outdoors.

3) Wallet. As a general rule, I try and keep $200 in cash in my wallet, besides whatever I need for dealing with specific needs on any given day. It’s folded up, and stored inside a small zippered pocket inside the wallet, along with a couple dollars in face value junk silver, and two different obsolete Federal Reserve “silver certificates.” One of those is a $2 bill, that came with the wallet when it was given to me. The other is a $20 I found in some change from a store a few years ago. I carry them with me, and show them to people to help explain “fiat” currency, for people who don’t know what that is. It’s very interesting to see people’s reactions….

4) Can of Copenhagen Snuff. “Some men don’t compromise…they Cope.”

5) The bottle on the right margin of the picture is a SOBE drink bottle, drafted into use as a spittoon.

6) Cellphone. I spend just enough time separated from my wife and kids during the day, that I need to carry a phone. Fortunately, even though it’s a pre-pay phone, I’ve managed to download a lot of articles and books in .pdf form, so I always have reading material with me, even if I don’t have a real book in hand (I still hate e-books though, so I normally have a book in hand or in a pocket, as well.)



Pocket Dump

From → Uncategorized

  1. A.C. Giles permalink

    Thanks, Like what you do Bro !! Regards, A C

  2. Scott permalink

    I enjoy reading your posts and feel I learn something each time. I also have all of your books. One of the big changes in my doctrine that I got from you is I now carry my knives on my left (weak) side whether I am carrying a pistol or not. Use the knife the cut the bad guy off of you enough to where you can grab your pistol or bring your rifle to bear. I know I said I don’t always carry but it is important to develop that muscle memory; knife is always on the left, left hand grabs the knife, left hand and knife cuts the crap out of bad guy. Right hand either grabs a gun or grabs some bad guy to cut him some more. Train what you do, because you WILL do what you train.

  3. SharpsShtr permalink

    I like that Bic lighters will last virtually forever (I have an off brand one that’s at least thirty years old in my old hunting vest and it’s still holding its’ fluid, I can tell because it’s transparent). That’s true only as long as the button isn’t depressed, which it can be while in your pocket. A couple years ago I discovered a cover for the Bics that are waterproof, floats (with the lighter in it), protects the button from accidental presses, allows the button to be locked down for extended burning, and give a good rubbery grip to the lighter. The thing is great. I use it for carrying my Bic when flying. They can be had from:

    There’s a similar one for Zippos from THYRM, though due to the nature of the fuel they don’t hold their charge forever. It’s better with Thyrm’s PyroVault installed, but you must still occasionally check and refill it.

    The standard disclaimer that I’m not associated with either of these outfits applies.


    • How’s the edge retention on your Izula been. This post reminds me of something I’ve said many times in knife discussions, “I don’t remember dying because the only knife I had in the middle of nowhere was a trapper slip joint on my chinks”.

  4. Diz permalink

    Thanks for finally doing this. It’s nice to have a “for example” to go along with your descriptions of clandestine carry. Have to check out those holsters.

    • SharpsShtr permalink

      I’ve got one of those holsters as well and am very happy with it. I did end up taking the rubber wedge off the back as the pistol was already very tightly wedged against the skin without it. It’s the only IWB holster that I’ll buy now. Highly recommended.


  5. May I just say that I LOVE the honesty in your writing – particularly your observations regarding people replicating the loadout of “FAG”? I laughed my ass off over that one. Great info!

  6. Vagus permalink

    I always carry a folding knife with a pocket clip, chapstick (I use it like petroleum jelly on cuts as well as normally), and a lighter. In the winter I carry disposable gas jet lighters because they work much better de-icing locks, and yet somehow they seem to work worse at actually lighting shit…

    While on the topic, every winter coat I own has a hat and gloves in the pockets. There are also fairly cheap electronic rechargeable hand warmers ($15), and I will keep one in the coat of use as well.

    I use a rechargeable bushnell flashlight at night when I go out, I forget the model but it was something like $100 at Walmart. It’s a little too large to be truely convenient, but it’s like a pocket streetlamp in the woods.

    I’m never really ever that far from my car, so that’s where I keep stuff like tourniquets and lifestraws, disposable hand warmers and the like.

    • Your last sentence contains one glaring error imho. When u need a tourniquet, having it in your car will very likely be the same as on the moon. Just saying.

      • Vagus permalink

        The tourniquet and first aid kit actually live in my day hike bag, which is in my trunk. So it goes with me in the woods and covers my car.

        I work in a small office so I’m talking 25 yards, the longest distance would be grocery store/ Walmart.

      • Now, think about an active shooter/workplace shooter in your office, and catching a round to the thigh….that’s going to be the longest 25 yards you’ve ever walked…. I get that some people work in places where they cannot carry a BOK in their pocket because of work dress code requirements. Generally though, in my experience, those types of people end up carrying a briefcase or laptop bag…which you can shove a BOK inside of…

    • And I agree 100% on the gloves & hat in jacket pockets. If the weather or conditions are such that I have a jacket, the other two items should be a given.

    • anonymous permalink

      One of those big ass handerchiefs (i.e. hobo hanky) might be worth carrying. Not only as a tourniquet but much more. Internet search what these items can do – it is quite a list. Far more than ‘just a tourniquet’ as important as that is.

  7. Jay Stack permalink

    You sound like a sales rep.

  8. sethkursel permalink

    Just dump all these in a tactical fanny pack and you’re g2g

    • sethkursel permalink

      Question: why not a Glock 43 or other sub-compact? I carry a Glock 19 and it feels like a lot of gun to me, I’m just itching to downsize.

  9. Hobo permalink

    Sort of off topic…. Long, long ago you ask “If anyone finds a really good flip up scope cap, please let me know. I have no affiliation with this company, but their caps are guaranteed for life.

    Aadland Engineering, LLC Product….. AADMOUNTTM Flip Up Scope Caps

    Keep up the good work.


  10. Practical Man permalink

    Thanks for the PCI layout and explanation.

    Now I know I’m not crazy for having different gear for town and farm. My first squad leader would be proud: mission drives equipment so carry what ya need and nothing else. My specific choices might differ but the logic is the same. A tourniquet is mandatory safety equipment when operating any equipment: tractor, chainsaw, automobile, firearm…it’s one of the most important EDC items.

    AIWB holster for town. OWB for the farm. Seems everyone living on a gravel road keeps a firearm within reach, especially when it’s warm enough for the snakes (literal and figurative) to be out.

    I don’t think I will ever forget the look on my wife’s face the first time I cut food with a knife from my pocket. Priceless. Now she’s used to it and doesn’t mind because I have a chore knife (case stockman) and a good knife (kershaw folder).

  11. I rarely eat out, so the need for having a good steak knife on my person is negligible (and here in Texas, restaurants that serve steak tend to understand good steak knives)….but I do frequently have a need for a good EDC knife. I like Benchmade a lot, and have carried a 940-2 for a long time. Being left-handed, this knife’s ambidextrous mechanism and clip position options make a good choice for me.

    But about a year ago, I bought a Spyderco Paramilitary 2, and I have to say that I really like this knife too. It’s not better than the 940-2, but it is simpler….meaning less to go wrong. Spyderco offers this model in a purpose built left handed version – with the locking mechanism reversed for left handlers. This knife is not as “nice” as the Benchmade, but it is generally more utilitarian. Both knives use S30V steel for the blades, so there’s no loss usable quality by getting the Spyderco instead of the Benchmade, and the Spyderco costs less.

    The Benchmade is more of a “gentleman’s pocket folder”, while the Spyderco is more of a “working knife”. So that’s how I choose which one to carry when getting ready for the day. I don’t yet own a farm (working on rectifying that), so for know, a folding knife is all I carry, although I do have a larger fixed blade knife stored in my ruck.

    • Vagus permalink

      The knife I carry is a RAT model 2, something like $30. It’s mass-produced, but it has held together so far and doesn’t slip the lock like a Walmart knife and cut my hand. I prefer cheaper knives I can beat up without pangs of wallet conscience, and easily replace if they fall out of my pocket in a work truck and I never see them again.

  12. Adam permalink

    Great article as always. I’d like to get your opinion on AR pistols. Palmetto state has had kits for $279. I ordered one but also ordered one of their premium BCGs to go in it. I have about 300 trouble free rounds through mine. Do you see these as viable tools? They seem to be a great weapon to have in a vehicle or to cache for the price. Thanks!

  13. SteveRN permalink

    Thanks, I always appreciate talk about gear, why you pick it that item, why you pick that brand. with a limited budget, and limited (or outdated) experience in using some of this stuff in everyday life, it’s nice to see someone explain their reasoning and logic on what they pick. Having a limited budget, you tend to look for the cheaper stuff, which may be okay with fixed blade like you explained above, or not for other items. If the mood strikes you to talk about anything else, I am open to learning why you pick what you pick. It’s even better when you get lot’s of comments and I can learn more. I know gear isn’t the most important thing in being prepared, but it’s not at the bottom of the list either, especially if what you have is really crap and you find out to late.

  14. Michael Lemieux permalink

    In this article you mentioned the Warlord A-IWB holster from ISS Design you use for CC.

    I have been searching online for that company or the holster. It was interesting to find a number of companies with warlord in the naming for holster but none that had that holster in particular.

    Do you have the contact information for them? I’m looking for something similar and one of my clansman really liked that design as well.



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