Everyone can agree that there are some pieces of EDC, survival, and travel gear that you can’t go without. For this article, I polled the writers of the Loadout Room and asked them to share with me in one or two paragraphs what their top three pieces of kit are. Much of it is due to preferences and lessons learned directly from our military service. Here is what a few of us came up with.
Nick Coffman (USMC)
My favorite items come from plenty of experience with discomfort and misfortune over the years.
- Lip balm – This may come as a shock to some as my first choice, but when traveling or operating in any sort of survival situation, any level of comfort can provide a major confidence boost. Whether in Iraq or back in the United States going about my normal routine, I’ve always got some Burt’s Beeswax in my pocket. There are some survival tricks with lip balm but my primary benefit is comfort. Anything that will increase my level of comfort and give me a boost while not taking up much room is always welcome in my EDC.
- Silkies – Much like the lip balm, I won’t leave my house without wearing my silkies (also known as Ranger panties) under my trousers. Early in my Marine Corps enlistment I quickly became frustrated by chafing during physical activity from wearing boxers or boxer briefs. At one point for me silkies were just for PT or grossing out civilians on base, but now they are legitimately an important part of my everyday kit because they are comfortable in any environment and allow me to stay focused on whatever I’m doing.
- Quality pocket knife – This one seems like a no-brainer to have, and it may be, but I still feel it is important to mention. There are so many uses in virtually any setting you find yourself in that require a good knife. I went through several, let’s say “affordable” knives before I finally decided to spend the money on a $100+ knife that was easy to conceal, durable, and effective. For everyday self-defense and survival, I never leave my house without at least a quality pocket knife on me.
Rich Moore (USMC)
My 15 years in the Marine Corps was mostly spent overseas and my top pieces of gear is constantly carried today especially when I regularly travel.
- Water Purification tabs – Whether you are in the Jungles of Asia, the Fjords of Norway, a desert, or any 3rd World Country, the accessibility of clean water is few and far between. A drop or tab of water purification goes a long way to keeping healthy and if you like ice in your adult beverages then a tab or liquid drop in your drink will only keep you healthy.
- Multi-tool – A multi-tool is a must on any adventure. You never know when you will need pliers, a file, screwdriver, etc. There are many today that are TSA approved for travel or you can simply stick one in your checked luggage. In my USMC career the multi-tools have progressed a long way in their design, abilities, and job-specific tooling.
- Suture kit – There were many times during my career that I didn’t have a Corpsman available to take care of my stupidity, I always carried a suture kit. They come in handy if you are alone and slice open your leg from coral or barbed wire, or your multi-tool slips and the cut requires more than a Band-Aid, I can personally state that going to a clinic or other 3rd World doctor’s office will most likely get you sicker than when you went in. A suture kit in your gear will give you the time and opportunity to get to a proper place. This kit requires some additional training, but if you’re constantly learning, this is one of those pieces of gear that will literally save your life.
William Hoyt (Army Ranger)
My kit is chosen based on its reliability and lightweight.
- Flashlight – Always in my pocket is a Surefire Backup. This single battery light has never let me down. It has been dropped, used as a hammer, and thrown into a pool without failure.
- Fire starter – I used to carry a Zippo lighter but the issue with those is the fuel always evaporates so quickly, regardless of how much you use it. Exotac just came out with a revolutionary design that uses Zippo technology combined with O-rings to seal the fuel into a watertight compartment.
- Multi-tool – I typically carry my Leatherman Wave, this classic design has everything I need from a file to a tiny screwdriver for my watch. I have brought this multi-tool on three deployments, Ranger school, and two commercial fishing trips without failure. A kit shouldn’t weigh you down or fill up your pockets, pick something that is practical and will never fail you.
Scott Witner (USMC)
The following three pieces of kit were drilled into me while serving in the Marine Corps. Now that I’m on the other side living the civilian life, all three pieces still prove valuable on a daily basis.
- Water – From day-1 in boot camp, they reiterated the importance of hydration. We ALWAYS had a canteen of water with us no matter where we went. Due to the physical nature of the training and lifestyle, you had to keep hydrated or you’d end up in medical with an IV stuck in you. Fast forward to current day and I still drink 1 quart of water in the morning and another quart at lunchtime. Your body is naturally dehydrated when you wake up in the morning. Water is the elixir of life. Drink it every day.
- Motrin – If you’ve spent any time in the military and dealt with your units’ medic or went to medical for any ailment, you were handed two Motrin and sent on your way. That seemed to be the cure-all in the military along with water. I still to this day carry a bottle of either Motrin or Ibuprofen in my backpack.
- Socks – Putting on a clean pair of socks does wonders for your moral and positive mental attitude. As with water and Motrin, socks were always third on the list for personal hygiene. We had to take care of our feet if we were to be combat effective. During long forced marches we had predetermined stopping points to drink water and change our socks. It was mandatory. Even today if I’m traveling a long distance, just changing your socks makes a big difference in your mood and gives you a boost of energy. It may only be a mental thing, but the bottom line is that it works.
In the Marine Corps if you showed any signs of sickness, whether it was the common cold or nasty flu, or you had physical soreness from PT and training, they had the same answer; Drink water, take two Motrin and change your socks. That advice still sticks with me to this day. It may sound funny, but the shit works. Nowadays when I’m traveling I keep a ranger roll inside my bag which consists of a fresh t-shirt, socks and underwear. In addition to that, I have a bottle of Ibuprofen and a full water bottle. If my checked luggage does get lost, I still have the necessities to keep going.