You're driving to pick up someone at the airport, and your car goes off the road in bad weather in a remote location. Do you have what you need to survive until help arrives? What if you're at work and the power grid goes down in the middle of the day with no hope of quick repair? Can you even see where you're going so you can get out of the building if the emergency lights don't work or aren't there? What do you carry every day? Your keys? Wallet? Money clip? Pocket lint? All of the above, if you're like most Americans.
New question: What should you carry every day?
To answer that, you have to ask yourself what the purpose should be in what you carry. Short answer: you should carry what you need to survive if **** happens and you need to rough it for a day or two.
To start with, understand I'm not talking about ideal survival items. You would need a sizable ruck to carry all that. Keep the pack in the trunk of your car. But what you keep in your pockets or on your person can accomplish many of the same tasks as what you have in your pack, or can help you obtain these things.
Here's what I recommend in this order: weapon, cutting edges, light sources, fire sources, some sort of multi-tool, para cord, forms of communication, a sturdy belt, and a watch. Notice several of the items listed are pluralized. That's because two is one, and one is none. Things get lost, broken, and mechanical devices fail. Let's examine all these things and give examples.
Weapon: specifically I mean a gun. If it's legal to carry it where you are, and you are properly trained, you should be carrying it. At the very least, have it with you in your car and home, and carry it legally, along with a spare mag or speed loaders, either concealed or openly. The gun should be reliable, and powerful enough to be a primary self-defense weapon. However, there are other types of weapons including: telescoping batons, knives, billy clubs, staffs, baseball bats, mag lites, and the list goes on. Just make sure you're proficient with its use (and local law allows). Gen 4 Glock 17 is my preference as an all-round good gun. Ammo is effective, common, and light. If not that, then a good revolver.
Cutting edges: a good knife is priceless, and can be even more valuable or useful than a good gun. I use a knife every day and usually more than once. A second knife is easy. A small clip on knife in a pocket or waistband, a neck knife, boot knife, or ankle rig, are all good options. There are a plethora of other choices for primary and secondary knife selections. Neither has to be more than two and a half inches long, and can be fixed or folding.
Light sources: again, invaluable. Many people don't even realize how valuable a light source is until they start carrying one every day. I carry a small light on my hip that can mount to my weapon, and another clipped in my pocket. They are small, bright, and virtually indestructible with normal use. And they take the same common batteries. Lights come in a myriad of different packages these days: key chains, pens, cell phones, headlamps, clip-on hat lights, etc. Hey, if you work in a building that has rooms not accessible to outside windows and you don't carry a light, something is wrong. Emergency lights are mechanical devices, and are prone to failure. And even if you get them off the wall, you can't put them in your pocket!
Fire sources: matches and lighters make it quick and easy. It also helps if you know how to make a fire in a rainstorm. But other sources are: magnesium fire starters, water and wind-proof matches, candles, all sorts of stuff, but only so much you can fit in your pockets without looking like you just robbed the local soup kitchen of all their saltines... I keep it to a lighter and a pack of military matches (water-resistant, can be dried out). It should be noted, again a northern consideration, that butane lighter performance decreases as the temperature goes down. Below zero, they are practically useless unless kept in a pocket or close to the body. Here you definitely need two sources. Flints fall out of lighters. Matches get wet. Butane gets cold. Lighter fluid evaporates...
Multi-tool: can double as a second knife, and is otherwise useful in a pinch. Pliers, can opener, bottle opener, file, scissors, screwdrivers, tweezers, laser beam, multiphasic pulse inhibitor... A small Leatherman or Swiss Army knife goes for less than $40.00 and is easy to keep in a pocket. They even have clip-on models.
Paracord is just a generic term. Any good string or cord will do. But where are you going to keep a roll of cord? How about on your shoes? Maybe a bracelet. I keep 80 inches of lace on my boots in parachute cord so I can cut some off in a pinch. Also, you can get a paracord bracelet for a few bucks (my wife makes some real good ones) and they have eight feet of cord on the average, that you can unravel to suit your purpose, be it making a snare, tying a bundle together, eliminating Luca Brasi, etc.
Comms: reach out and touch someone... Comms work two ways. Not everyone needs to carry a cell phone. You can carry a talkabout (GMRS radio), cell phone, or maybe just a pad and pencil. Personally, I try to keep a GMRS radio within close proximity--one with NOAA all-hazards frequencies, as well as a cell phone. But in more austere environments, I keep Rite in the Rain paper and an alcohol pen or pencils on my person. And a tactical pen! Holy crap, are those useful, and make a good secondary weapon. But for EDC, the cell phone is a good option.
Sturdy belt: absolute necessity for some more than others, but we won't talk about plumbers and roofers here. A belt has so many uses, not the least of which is to keep your pants up. It's a weapon, a retention device, aids in concealment of IWB knives and guns, makes a good expedient restraint, bundle, or even a tourniquet. A good belt is essential. Personally, I like a good rigger's belt.
A watch: because time matters. Preferably solar powered, automatically updating. It's not a must, but it's a good idea to be able to keep track of time in extreme environments. A good watch can be made in to a compass, or even better, can come with a built-in compass.
This may look and sound like a substantial list, but it's not really. I carry these items personally every day in some shape or form. The way you dress will determine what you can carry, and how. Cargo pants and khakis are in style, and likely will be for quite some time. Also, you can and should carry more in the winter because you're more apt to have a coat with pockets. This is not an all-inclusive list. I'm sure I've forgotten something. Watch some MacGyver reruns and you'll get some more good ideas. Until then, plan for the worst, hope for the best. Keep the sights aligned and the trigger moving!
Note: This article is written for Glock Forum because in the words of a good friend and fellow LEO, "Glock People survive."
--Jacques (Jake) Pelletier is a retired US Marine, combat Veteran, and Distinguished Shooter with over 30 years of tactical shooting experience. He is also a Master Firearms Instructor, LE Firearms Instructor, and co-owner of Raven Firearms Training in northern New Hampshire.