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I carry a selection of tools to support the electronic devices that I utilize throughout the day. This electronic support package is part of my level 2 EDC, which means it is carried in my bag. Specifically, the items are stored in a GPP1 pouch attached to my Litespeed. The pouch is a little larger than it needs to be for what I carry, and if size and weight constraints were more of a concern, the package could be further paired down without too great a loss in capability by removing some of the less frequently used items, but I find this selection works pretty well for my daily life.
The electronic devices that this package supports are primarily my phone, helmet light, and the flashlight on my belt1. While these items serve multiple purposes, they tend to fall into the category of critical safety devices. As such, it is important to have the accessories needed to support their regular use.
I do carry a laptop between home and work, and to a lesser extent some of the items in this package support that, but for the most part the things needed to support the laptop (power adapter, peripherals, etc) live at both home and work. They’re not items that I carry.
The outer pocket of the pouch holds an AmazonBasics Portable Power Bank. This USB battery pack offers 5,600 mAh. I very rarely use this, but when I do need it, I’m extremely glad to have it. The ability to power devices away from other infrastructure is a valuable capability.
The profile of this particular battery makes it easy to carry and to use – it can easily slide into a small pocket on a pair of pants or a jacket when in use with a phone. In the pouch, it takes up no noticeable space.
Immediately inside the main compartment of the pouch are a pair of Westone Adventure Series Beta earphones. I do not frequently listen to music when away from home or work (and I find the sound from these Westones to be less than desirable for music anyway), but I do value a hands-free interface to my phone. I use earphones for talking on the phone and (more frequently) navigation. One earphone placed in an ear combined with an OpenStreetMap application and offline routing makes for an improved bike trip in strange lands.
These particular earphones have an IPX-3 rating, which is about the weakest water resistant rating you can get, but makes me feel a bit better about sweating all over them and exposing them to rain.
While critical in the backcountry, a headlamp is less useful in normal daily life. I carry a flashlight on my belt. Between that and my helmet light, this headlmap rarely gets used. I keep it the package mostly just because I have space and don’t mind the additional weight.
I went with the Princeton Tech Remix Pro. It’s compact, lightweight, and offers both red and white LEDs. That set of criteria is critical to me, and fairly easy to satisfy. The reason I chose the Remix Pro over other offerings is that it uses a single CR123. I have mixed feelings about CR123 batteries, but the flashlight I carry uses one. This headlamp allows me to standardize on replaceable batteries for my every day carry.
I carry 2 spare CR123 batteries in a Deep Carry Tube from OscarDelta.
I backed the ChargeTech Wall and Car Charger on IndieGoGo a while back. The car charger is nothing special – I’ve had other car chargers the same size – but the wall charger is unusually small. I’ve carried a wall charger in my pack ever since getting my first smart phone, but this is the first one that didn’t suck to carry. It’s no bigger than it needs to be.
The Westone earphones came in a small hard-sided container that screws shut, providing some measure of protection from weather and crushing. I don’t care enough about the earphones to store them in the container, but it happens to be the right size to fit most of the smaller items in this package that I do care about.
It also looks like a tactical chew can, which amuses me2.
Micro USB Cable
These days enough devices have micro USB ports that carrying a cable is pretty much required3. I carry a 6 ft MOS Spring Micro USB Cable, which is probably not worth the money, but has some cool features like a woven jacket and spring strain relief near the connector.
The USB Condom is the least used device in the whole package. Between the micro USB cable, battery pack and wall and car chargers, I can power my phone without much worry about data leakage. For those rare times when I do need to draw juice from an unknown USB port, the condom offers peace of mind. As with the headlamp, I have the space and don’t mind the weight, so I leave it in.
The Transcend USB 3.0 Card Reader is another device that I don’t use too frequently. Most of the time when I need to read a card, it is an SD card from a camera. My laptop has a built-in SD card reader. But occasionally it is useful to be able to read microSD cards, and occasionally it is useful to be able to do so on other machines. I choose to carry this rather than a microSD-SD adapter so that I may read any card on any machine.
I carry 2 USB sticks. One is an old 8GB Verbatim stick that runs Tails.
The second is a 64GB Corsair Flash Voyager GO, which has a normal USB 3.0 male connector one end and micro USB on the other. I only recently learned that these type of sticks were a thing, but it certainly makes sense. This gives me an additional method to transfer data between my phone and laptop (in addition to a wireless network, the micro USB cable, and the card reader).
I have not performed any quantitative testing of the Corsair, but it seems to be slow compared to other USB 3.0 sticks. Still, it is large in capacity, small in size, well-built, and I bought it for a good price.
- ↵ Although not part of my EDC, I will throw a Kindle in my pack if I'm planning to be gone for more than a day. Fortunately, this creates no new support requirements in addition to those already set by the phone.
- ↵ I also have a set of S&S Precision Tactical Chew Cans, which are much nicer than the Westone container, but too small for this application.
- ↵ Nobody likes a cable moocher.
I recently purchased a Smith Overtake helmet. While most bicycle helmets on the market are made from styrofoam, the Overtake includes Koroyd, a new material that is supposed to revolutionize helmet safety. It also features MIPS, which reduces rotational forces on the brain by allowing the helmet to slide relative to the head during an angled impact.
So the Overtake offers exceptional protection, is comfortable and notable lighter than previous helmets, and it looks pretty good1. Unfortunately, it was not immediately compatible with my light system.
I’ve been using a Light & Motion Vis 360+ for a couple years. Its a great light, offering 360 degree visibility and a nice beam wherever I happen to be looking. And its always with me, so I don’t have to worry about removing it from my bike whenever I lock up.
The rear light easily zip-ties to the back of the Overtake. The front light, however, mounts by running a rubber strap through the vents present on normal bicycle helmets. The overtake lacks these pass-through vents due to the Koroyd. I didn’t want to glue the light to the helmet, so I thought I’d try Velcro. I picked up some industrial strength 2” wide tape and stuck the loop to the helmet and the hook to the back of the light. I wasn’t sure if it would hold, but so far it seems to have worked out great. It hasn’t fallen off and I have not noticed the light being wobbly while in use.
While I was it, I put a piece of loop on the back of the helmet and stuck a ranger eye on it.
- ↵ Everything looks good in matte black.
I purchased one of SnakeDr‘s Advanced Personal Escape Kits (APEK) from OscarDelta on a whim about a year ago. At the time I wasn’t sure if the APEK would be anything more than a novelty, but it quickly proved its utility and has been a part of my EDC ever since.
The APEK I purchased was version 2.1. It included a split paw shim, a micro disc striker and a handcuff key key, all on a length of Technora 410 with a breakaway connector.
The handcuff key is metal and works on a wide variety of cuffs. I’ve successfully used it on models from Peerless, Chicago, Smith & Wesson, ASP, and no-name Chinese knockoffs. It is connected to a small split ring, which provides a handle to more conveniently manipulate the key. The key is stored in one end of the breakaway connector, which makes it the real breakaway point of the necklace.
The split paw shim is your standard shim, and works everywhere you would expect a shim to work. It is stored underneath a piece of gutted paracord that the Technora has been threaded through.
The Technora itself has knots in it which make for pre-tied foot loops to be used when friction-sawing through restraints like zip-ties or flexicuffs. That simple trick is something I hadn’t thought of before, but I’ve come to greatly appreciate. The act of sawing through restraints tends to be very fast – particularly with a good, strong cord like Technora. What takes time is feeding the cord through the restraints, and then tying the loops for your feet. This does away with one of those time sinks.
The most unique component of the APEK is the micro disc striker. This is a ceramic disc made from zirconium dioxide. The hardness of the material means that it can be used to scrape a ferro rod, or to break tempered glass. This works on the same principle as broken spark plugs.
In later versions of the APEK, SnakeDr included a small glow stick. When I first saw this I thought it was a silly addition, but, at a Black Box course, Ed convinced me of the utility of a small light source. I now include a glow stick on my APEK. It is held on by 2 silicone retainers, which also keep the micro disc striker in place between them.
A photo of the most recent iteration of the APEK included a bobby pin. The way the bobby pin was shown stored on the APEK did not appeal to me, but I liked the addition. A bobby pin can be used to pick most handcuffs. More importantly, it can also be used to extend the reach of other tools. Hinged and rigid cuffs are a pain to escape from simply because they make it difficult to reach the keyhole. By putting the bobby pin through the split ring on the handcuff key, I gain another 2 inches of reach. This makes it easy to unlock rigid and hinged cuffs when handcuffed in front, both with the keyhole up (put the end of the bobby pin in your mouth) and with the keyhole down. It also works behind the back with the keyhole facing down, but with the keyhole facing up you’re still out of luck. Shimming or passing the cuffs to the front is the more likely strategy there. (Of course, this all assumes you’ve been cuffed with palms facing inward.)
I store the bobby pin attached to the split ring, with one leg through the same paracord sheath that holds the shim.
This all makes for a comfortable, compact escape package that can easily be carried everyday. It is carried in a way that is not terribly difficult to find – all of the escape tools included should have duplicates carried elsewhere on your body – but when it does get past an initial search, it is super convenient to use. The application of the APEK may be a bit of a niche, but we regularly do somewhat unconventional training at work, so that I actually find myself using the APEK with some regularity.
I replaced the thumbstuds on my Dauntless MK3 with two small zip ties. One zip tie acts as a thumbstud for conventional opening. The other catches on the pocket, functioning as a ghetto wave. I was skeptical of how well this would work, but surprisingly the zip tie seems to function just as well as the wave on my Emerson Mini Commander. I find that a folder with some sort of automatic opening is a more practical tool.
I’ve been carrying around an old OnGuard Bulldog Mini U-lock for at least five years. It has served well, but I recently replaced it with an ABUS GRANIT Plus 640. What appealed to me most about the 640 was the weight. Although my scale claims that the 6” ABUS at only 2 ounces lighter than the OnGuard (27 oz vs 29 oz), it feels significantly lighter. I can notice the difference between the two locks when attached to my pack, which is noteworthy for an item that I carry every day.
Other than weight it is hard to judge the relevant merits of the locks. Both are roughly the same dimensions, with about the same shackle diameter. OnGuard rates the Bulldog Mini at 63/100 on their security scale. ABUS puts the GRANIT Plus 640 at 12/15 on their scale. About the only other significant difference between the two that is immediately evident is that the 640 shackle double bolts two the body of the lock. (This, of course, is no help against someone with a hacksaw or blowtorch, which is probably a much more realistic threat than any attack related to the lock mechanism itself.)
Last week I purchased a Casio PRW3000-1A. The watch is part of Casio’s Pro Trek line, which replaced the old Pathfinder series. The watch combines solar power and atomic timekeeping with the features of an ABC (altitude, barometer, compass) watch – and does it in a fairly compact package.
The Pro Treks come with a resin band, like the G-Shock series. I prefer nylon bands for both style and function. Fortunately the band attaches to the watch via a hollow tube and two screws, making it easy to replace. Unlike the G-Shock watches, it does not require an adapter. Unfortunately, the lug width on the PRW3000 is only 16mm. I bought a 16mm Marathon band to try out and, while functionally it satisfies, I don’t think that such a skinny band compliments the look of the watch.
The solution was simple: cut off a piece of the 16mm Marathon band and sew it onto the 24mm Maratac Zulu band that I ran on my G-Shock. It was a quick hack, and gives me the best of both worlds: a good watch and a good band.
The tourniquet market is dominated by the SOFTT-W and CAT tourniquets, and for good reason. I prefer the SOFTT-W. There is always one in my bag. Some people can make the SOFTT-W or CAT work for everyday on-body carry, whether through ankle holsters or always wearing cargo pants. Neither tourniquet, however, is something that I can fit into my on-body EDC. To solve that problem, I have to look at what Jonathan Willis refers to as secondary tourniquets.
The SWAT-T is likely the most popular offering in the secondary tourniquet market. It tries to function as both a tourniquet and an emergency bandage, and ends up being mediocre in both roles. In its role as a tourniquet its largest failure is its difficultly to apply one-handed. If I can’t self-apply a tourniquet with one hand during training, the tourniquet is pretty much useless to me. I’ve heard some people claim the ability to apply the SWAT-T with a single hand (with the assistance of a wall to hold it in place), but I’ve never figured it out.
At first glance, the TK4 appears like it could be a promising solution. It is an elastic strap, roughly 36” long by 2” wide, with 2” metal hooks on either end. It folds to a compact size and easily fits in a pocket. Unfortunately the hooks are only 1” wide, which doesn’t work so well with the 2” wide strap. In my trials the strap would often pop out of the hook when attempting to start the wraps. I find it much more effective if used as an improvised tourniquet, with two overhand knots and a pen as a windlass, which is a terrible thing to say about any product that bills itself as a tourniquet.
The TK4-L is identical to the TK4, except one of the hooks is replaced by something akin to a gateless carabiner. This carabiner is shaped such that the elastic strap will actually fit inside of it and not pop out. The result is a product that is compact, not too difficult to apply, and effective.
The RATS is made from a heavy duty, bungee-type strap and a unique buckle which locks the strap in place. The strap is around 45” in length but only 0.5” wide. With any tourniquet, you want a wide strap to avoid causing tissue and nerve damage. The idea with the RATS is that you get the desired width by performing parallel wraps, distributing the pressure over an area closer to 2” in width. This requires some care to be taken when applying the tourniquet, and it makes it less useful on larger limbs. On my leg I only get 3 wraps with the RATS.
Of these 4 secondary tourniquets that I’ve experimented with, the RATS is the most durable and, with the exception of the issue of parallel wrapping, the easiest to self-apply. However, the TK4-L folds up better for pocket carry, and its 2” wide strap inspires more confidence. I feel better carrying it and have been doing so for the past month and a half. It sits in my left rear pocket, with the carabiner hooked over the top of the pocket so that it can be easily grabbed without any fishing around.
Choosing a secondary tourniquet is an exercise in trade-offs. Without a windlass, pressure is achieved through tight wraps only. They certainly cannot replace a primary tourniquet, but may supplement it in areas where size or weight present limiting constraints. Given the choice between carrying no tourniquet on my body or carrying one that works but is less than ideal, I’ll choose the latter. Coupled with an H&H Mini Compression Bandage and a package of z-folded QuickClot Combat Gauze, you can build a compact blow-out kit that is easy to distribute across your body.