I think my EDC solution fell on my foot.

· 1898 words · 9 minute read

Note: Just after posting this I realized I wrote about the older version of the Peak Design Field Pouch. I also realized I had both versions and was able to make a quick comparison. This followup cautions against the newer version of the Field Pouch and offers an alternative.

I spent a bunch of time online trying to find an “EDC” carrying … pouch? baglet? case? … and I ended up going with the thing that fell on my foot after I gave up and decided to get a scarf out of the closet.

I put “EDC” in scare quotes because the entire product category is a drop-ship grifter’s paradise of overpriced junk and product shot VSCO filter abuse marketed to operator culture tacti-cool wannabes and preppers who have decided to burn all fiat currency one Amazon order at a time.

But it has also become shorthand for a whole category of useful things that have existed forever on the edge of diverse markets: surplus stores, outdoor stores (both middle class peddlers like REI and high prole outlets like Sportsman’s Warehouse), and even book stores. So any search for things in this category must eventually include punting and tossing “EDC” into your search terms.

Anyhow, I was looking for some kind of pouch or carrying case for a set of things I both want to have on me if I go out, and want in one place when I am home:

  • Leatherman Skeletool
  • Wired earbuds
  • Lens wipes
  • Spare camera batteries
  • Spare SD cards
  • A mask
  • Small flashlight
  • Pocket notebook
  • Space Pen
  • MagSafe phone charger
  • Glasses case

(EDC influencer conventions dictate that I lay all this stuff out in a neat grid, preferably on a rustic wooden surface, and take a top-down picture. They also dictate that every single one of those things be an Amazon affiliate link. I am going my own way here.)

It’s a healthy amount of small but varied stuff, and keeping it all in a single, predictable place is an ADHD adaptation:

When things find their way out of the collection, as they will, I know where they go the second I spot them a day or two later on a bookshelf, or the bedside table, or the kitchen counter, and I can rally my executive function to grab them and head straight for whatever I’m keeping them in.

Some people just keep this stuff in a single bag that goes with them everywhere. I admire these people, but that doesn’t work for me. Too many “out of the house” scenarios: Everything from “five mile round-trip walk for groceries in Woodstock” to “bike ride to northeast for lunch” to “weekend camping trip” (when the Garmin InReach gets clipped to a loop) to “ten mile longboard ride down the Springwater,” to “backroads motorcycle ride out to Estacada.”

And there’s Portland weather, too. The best, most stout waterproof bag is okay in winter but bulky and sweaty in summer. As a result I’ve slowly accreted a collection of bags and backpacks over the years: A smallish REI daypack, a selection of Peak Design slings and backpacks, a Kavu rope sling, a North Street hip bag, a Tom Bihn cross-body satchel, and a Banjo Brothers bike backpack. Moving my collection back and forth between those things is kind of a drag.

So I spent a bunch of time searching. I read through review sites, watched a video or two, followed shopping results links, searched on retailer sites, and just generally poked around, and couldn’t find the sweet spot:

  • Can hold all my stuff.
  • Can close tightly enough to keep things from jumbling around or rattling.
  • Can fit in my bags and slings and leave room for them to perform their main purpose.
  • Can provide enough internal organization that opening it up and finding the thing I need won’t involve rummaging and can probably be done by touch in the dark.
  • Has enough room to add a specialty tool. I don’t, for instance, always want to carry my skate tool, but do like to have it toward the start of the longboarding season so I can adjust the trucks while I get my balance back.

At a certain point there are some things in my bag/sling collection that have to be excluded from consideration. My 5l Peak Design Everyday Sling, for instance, could accommodate this collection all on its own, with a little room left over to fit an iPad mini and maybe my Ricoh GR3x, but it is bulky and doesn’t have great internal organization, so it’d swallow too much of the space of anything I carried it in.

After looking around long enough, I just gave up.

Most stuff in the “EDC pouch/case/whatever” category was too small:

Enough room for the holy trinity of multitool, pen, and flashlight plus a few small incidentals. That doesn’t feel like enough to actually bother. I’d solve that with a valet tray in a central location I could sweep into a side pocket.

There are some handy bigger things that were a little too big. The Peak Design Tech Pouch is nice and I have one stowed in the trailer for a collection of adapters, cables, and other camping incidentals during the season, but it’s basically a redesigned toiletry bag. It’d work great for backpack-sized things, but not slings or satchels.

I also looked at tool rolls, but didn’t like the ergonomics of getting things out of one.

Stuff in the bicycling category tends to assume you want to stick the kit in your back jersey pocket or maybe a wedge pack, and tends to be focused on repairs plus one or two doses of energy goop of some kind.

There is a massive amount of tacti-cool operator culture stuff, but it is usually overbuilt and bulky. The ratio of surface area to useful storage space is poor, and by the time you add all the little molle attachments and mounting points it’s going to snag anything else you put in the bag with it.

The last time I went at this problem I even considered going Full Nerd on it with a Scott-E-Vest, but a. no and b. they have solved the seasonal problem in a way that excludes Oregon’s climate and involves paying them north of $1000 before they’re done with you. Plus no amount of artful product photography can hide the fact that if you used that stuff for real you would look like you were hiding a raging case of cuboid Borg tumors under your khaki vest.

Can we just pause. Go hit that link, look at the product photography and the models, and ask yourself how deep-seated your fear of being seen carrying a bag must be if wearing an inside-out fishing vest even in summer is the answer to having too much shit.

Years ago I came across the insight that “carrying a lot of stuff around” is an inverse economic privilege marker. The idea was that a middle class person’s thought process about the possibility of rain in the afternoon involves a shrug and walking out of the house hands-free because they can always duck in and buy an umbrella if it does start raining. The Scott-E-Vest company disagrees and will sell you a vest with 26 pockets that can, they want you to know, hold an umbrella, for ~$184.

Picture of a smiling man sitting in a vest with a table full of stuff in front of him

Actually, someone in the Scott-E-Vest marketing department must have read the same article, because the brass telescope stand in the background reads as almost reassuring.

So like I said, I just gave up and found a little basket where I could keep that stuff, and selectively add or take things away from whatever bag I was going to head out with.

Then we decided to go to a movie this weekend and it was cold outside. Ben bought me a nice scarf for Christmas I’ve been meaning to wear, so I went upstairs to my closet to pull it down. Something came off the top shelf with it and landed on my foot:

A Peak Design field pouch I bought when I first learned about the brand, six or seven years ago.

This is a product shot from Peak Design showing one stuffed to the gills:

A nylon pouch opened up to show its contents: phone charger, camera accesories, etc.

I had used it on and off for long weekends, mostly as a way to carry batteries, charger, and small camera bits, then stopped using it much and put it on the top shelf of the closet. It had a certain “a little big for how I was using it, too small to use for carrying anything extra” quality I never got over.

It turns out that it is the perfect size for all my stuff. There’s a zipper pocket inside, a few stretchy internal pouches, a pair of stiff pouches on the back wall, and a main storage area that’s generous enough for the basics plus an extra thing or two. It’s enough to keep everything organized and findable by touch.

When I fold it down it’s held shut by strong velcro. There’s a belt passthrough on the back for strapping it to the outside of a bigger pack. I had previously put two Peak Design anchor links on it, so I can even use it as a small bag on its own, but quickly convert it back to just being a carrying pouch I can toss in something else without having the clutter of a strap.

Theoretically you can stick a Peak Design Capture on it and use it for camera carry. I’ve never warmed up that particular use case for any of their stuff: I use the Capture on my backpacks for when I need to scramble over rocks or logs and don’t want my camera hanging loose from its strap. That’s owing to a 15-years-past trauma that involved my camera achieving a perfect, lens-first pendulum motion into a jagged rock. (Always buy a UV filter, kids.) But for carrying a camera around, I’ll just live with having a strap for my bag and a strap for my camera.

In terms of size, it’s a little large: It’s about the width of a trade paperback and maybe a little longer, but only three fingers thick at its widest with all my stuff in it.

It also ticks the weather resistance box: It folds down tight and is made of the usual Peak Design materials, so it’s thick and could survive in a non-weather-resistant bag in a sudden downpour.

  • With my Peak Design Messenger, it fits fine in one of the foldable compartments, leaving room for body and lens or two lenses in the other compartments.

  • With my daypacks, it fits neatly on the bottom, or could rest on top of whatever cargo ends up in there by the end of the day.

  • With my Kavu Rope Sling it fits in the secondary zipped compartment as if made for it, leaving room in the main for a few books, etc.

  • With my Tom Bihn satchel it easily fits in the back-side pocket, leaving room in the front for a book or two, an iPad mini, etc.

  • At home, it just sits on a small shelf on the hall tree by the front door, close to my battery chargers, looking unobtrusive.

So, we’ll see? It looks good on paper? I won’t really know until this time next year, when it has been through all the seasons.