When I was living in the world’s more chaotic corners, my exact daily carry of items often varied widely depending on circumstances. Typically, it centered around some key aspects that were pretty consistent though. These central components could change too — things were often situation dependent when abroad. I generally base an everyday carry (EDC) around logistics, communications, security and sustainability when it comes down to the physical items. This mostly applies to the time spent out of uniform and blending in among the local populace.
Logistics are important because getting from “A” to “B” enables you to be proactive; stagnancy kills in not only a gunfight but also the goals you hope to achieve. Logistics can certainly be a set of keys to a motor vehicle but more often than not it’s having access to a plane ticket or taxi driver who you’ve built report with. I often had a handful of English-speaking Taxi drivers in the region I was visiting that I could call at anytime. This was accomplished by networking and hailing random taxis a lot! Eventually you come across an English-speaking (and morally upstanding) dude. Every time that happened, I would get his contact info and make sure he knew I paid well upon exiting the vehicle. The guys that I kept in my phone book had no problem picking me up at odd hours of the night on the opposite end of the country (at least in Kurdistan, since it’s small). Also, a good understanding and method of navigating the local public transportation system is invaluable. I routinely used the public buses in Iraqi Kurdistan to get around between cities, it only cost around $10 for a semi-cross-country trip. Anything you need to carry in your EDC to facilitate the respective logistics needed for the country you’re in is a big green light.
Communications is right up there too, this primarily took the form of a local burner phone. Within the first day of being on the ground I like to get a cheap cell phone for local communication. Essential to this, is also a local prepaid sim card and a few spare minutes cards. These give you the ability to develop an effective local network and be able to reach the people in it rapidly. A smartphone is also important though. It can serve as a secondary form of communication using social media, email, Telegram, etc. Most cafe’s overseas offer Wi-Fi services so it’s convenient to stop in for a coffee or beer and use the internet. A smartphone also gives access to research and information (no shit), this may seem obvious but it’s seriously convenient when you need it. The communication aspect gives you further access to the logistics portion as well.
Security is a constantly changing aspect of EDC. Most times it means weapons but others it is strictly defensive in nature. If I had access to a gun, you bet your ass I carried it everywhere (often tucked into my waistband in Condition 3 without a holster) as best concealed as I could make it. Guns are the great equalizer and offer a level of self-defense unmatched in an inhospitable environment. Sometimes I did not have access to a gun either due to availability issues or financial ones. A Glock 19 in Kurdistan cost roughly $2200 when I was there, I eventually gained access to a shitty Turkish zip gun and later a Croatian HS-45 (Springfield XD-45 in the U.S.). For those times when firearms were unavailable for my low profile activities, I often carried a knife. Fixed blades are great but cumbersome and prone to exposure while “tactical” folding knives were easily concealed and the one time I had to employ it my attackers never saw it until the cuts had already been made. Security is also the way you set-up your defenses and escape/evasion tools. I carried a folded-up piece of duct tape containing a razor blade and handcuff key in my shoe at all times (courtesy of Jack Murphy), I kept a bobby pin in my waistline too. When I was using unfamiliar hotels or shady inns I setup obscure layers of defense to give me an edge over a would-be attacker. Basically, security was based on the limitations of my present situation. So, improvisation often had a major role to play in my security.
Sustainment is simple but the most important part to me. It means exactly that, being able to sustain everything from operational needs to fundamental everyday needs. This primarily took the form of cash in true capitalist/American mercenary fashion. Having a good amount of cash on you at any given moment can greatly ease your troubles — provided you don’t broadcast that you actually have it. Don’t flash your money around unless you want to get jumped or robbed. Sustainment also means having access to food, water and shelter. Know where to buy cheap food and water. Know where the cheapest hotels are. In turn, this will keep you off the “grid” because no one will be looking for a foreigner in the local eateries or slum hotels. Walk and interact with people as if you belong there and eventually you will. Observe the way the locals move and interact and reasonably mimic that behavior to achieve a symbiotic like state with the subject environment. As an individual entity, no one is coming to help or save you — you are on your own. So, a small footprint is extremely desirable. This also applies to image, dress like the locals do and stick to neutral colors and patterns.
Setup your EDC to give you an edge when abroad, it doesn’t really matter what you are carrying provided it enables this. Just remember to train hard and train often but above all else train your mind the most. Your ability to adapt, improvise and overcome in a conflict zone has a direct correlation to survival in that context.
Photos courtesy of the author.