Seeing kits posted online of what people are carrying as businesses reopen, and of what people are carrying to participate in protests, had me thinking about the gear I have carried over the years. The most helpful thing is typically not telling people what you carry, but rather why you chose to carry those things. And luckily for all of you, I have been thinking about this stuff for a long time. So let’s dive in, maybe it will spur you to carry something helpful in your life. (And don’t worry, I do have recommendations at the end.)
For many years I ran a property management company — mostly commercial shopping centers, office buildings, and warehouses. I was the guy who handled everything, or rather coordinated everything, for these buildings — but still the first call should a need arise. And as part of the services I offered my clients, the big one was that I put my own eyes on each property very frequently (usually once a week) and every other week I inspected each property on foot, including the roofs.
Here’s what I carried:
- Car Keys
- Cell Phone
- Pocket Knife (something around the 3” mark): I used the crap out of this on those visits, mostly to help rid the building of things that should not be there. (You would not believe the amount of shit you find tied onto things. To this day I do not understand this.)
- Watch: so I can look at it, and know the time. Super important.
Since I drove to all these properties I kept a few important things in my car:
- Key ring of master keys: opens any door on a building I manage, and was too risky to ever leave in my car, but damn it — was like 20+ keys.
- Leatherman: various models, but carried for the convenience, especially when climbing up to do roof inspections, as you don’t want to climb up and down those shitty metal access ladders any more than you have to. Most used tools on this: screwdriver, pliers, and wire cutters.
- SureFire Flashlight: either a 6PX-Pro, or Fury. I always carried this with me as my primary self-defense tool (super bright, temporarily blinds and disorients without threatening anyone) and for inspecting things and to use while I recall where in the hell the light switches are. During the 2008 recession I managed numerous buildings which were 30,000+ square foot buildings completely vacant. Yeah you want a good flashlight when you need to go walk into one of those.
- Lock Pick set: interior doors always have random locks which you almost never have keys with you for, or locking electrical panels. I got very good and fast at picking locks during this time. Oh and random pad locks people would put on roof access hatches. Look this is all well and fine, but you just never get all the keys back when a business goes under.
- Fixed Blade knife: usually a 4” or 5” knife, for times when I suspect there might have been a break in. I don’t own, and never carried, a gun.
- Security Tamper Tape: if there was a door that didn’t seem to lock securely, or was a favorite for people to use to break in at, I would put this tape on it, so that I knew if I should be worried about someone being inside, and then get my bigger knife. Not that I ever wanted a knife fight, it just made me feel better.
- Tool Kit: I rarely carried this with me, typically I would go back to the car and get it if needed, but it had all the basic tools in it so I could repair anything that didn’t require parts. The big speciality item was a security screwdriver which could take care of any security screws you might encounter in commercial buildings. Probably the most used item was a 3” razor scraper so I can scrape off anything people stick to windows without permission. I hate sales people sometimes (most times?). And lastly a Sillcock key for the water faucets.
- Garbage Bags: I went through so many of these. Gotta get contractor grade so you don’t need to worry about leaks and tears.
- Nitrile Gloves + Leather Gloves: I would put the nitrile on under the leather gloves before cleaning up messes, as protection from razor blades and needles — wasn’t perfect, but I never got poked. Honestly I was far more worried about my hands stinking like crazy.
The big thing to see here is that I used much bigger items than I would now. So most of it could not, and would not, be carried with me all day, but rather I relied on the car and being that I was in Washington State, jackets. If I were to go back and do this again, I would have just kept a small bag loaded out with this gear, and it would have been easier, following on with my purse post.
Aside from my pocket knife, those SureFire lights were a godsend for me back then. I always knew they would work, I could drop them off roofs (and I did on accident) and they would still work. I had to let firefighters in one day, they grabbed their big flashlights and you could not see shit. Pulled out my SureFire, their response “oh shit, this guy is serious” — good times.
Work From Home
Here I slimmed back things when I left the house:
- Pocket Knife: now a just in a case thing, rather than something I thought I would use all the time.
- Wallet & Car Keys
- Small Flashlight during winter months: in Washington it gets dark early, and stays dark late in the morning during the winter. Mix in rain and clouds, and a small flashlight is very ideal, and if nothing else if you have small kids it helps finding stuff they drop under seats. Since I no longer explored large empty dark buildings, just a small AAA powered flashlight more than did what I needed.
I didn’t need much during this time, because if I was leaving the house it was usually just for an errand, and not really for extended periods of time.
I have always traveled a decent amount, and travel is a little different than most beasts, so I am going to detail just a few items I always took with me that you probably never thought about much:
- Flashlight: hotel room lighting is shit, and I was always worried about power outages and needing to find my way out with just my iPhone flashlight. Also, if you lose something in a hotel, you don’t want to stick your hand under the bed, much better to have a flashlight instead. I always carried ones that either took a standard AA, or AAA battery so I could easily replace the battery if it died. Mostly I was worried about needing to leave the hotel with no lights on. I stayed away from tactical looking lights as there are a lot of stories of TSA not being on the up and up with those.
- Pocket Tool: main goal was to have something small that I could pry with, and use as a screwdriver. I basically never got to use these, but still carry them just in case. They are damn light weight so who cares, and fills some of the needs of a pocket knife, while still being allowed on planes.
- Gaffer Tape: I don’t carry a roll, but most bags I travel with will have about a 6” strip of this stuff stuck inside of them somewhere. I really like this because it is duct tape level strong, less sticky so it won’t destroy things, but can also black out things when covered. And sticking it to the inside of my bag means it is always there, and loses a little more stick so that I don’t destroy hotel rooms. I would typically then rip this into smaller sections to cover annoying lights in a hotel, and cover the peep hole. Probably my most used carry hack for travel.
That’s my top three you might not think about.
High-rise Office Worker
When I started back in an office building, I ended up working 30 plus floors up from the ground. I carried my standard kit: small pocket knife, wallet, keys, phone but I added two things which I’ll highlight:
- Handkerchief: I actually started carrying one during my work from home time, but really came into it’s own here. I use the crap out of mine, and it has proven super handy from cleaning to containing messes.
- Flashlight: I actually wasn’t going to carry one on my person, as I kept one in my office desk and briefcase. But I read an article about people who survived the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, and of those who were in the building, the vast majority reported that having a flashlight would have greatly helped them. At that point I realized that even walking down the stairs to exit the building with just my iPhone as a light source would suck. (Yes there is emergency lighting, but as a former property manager I can assure you those systems are not the most robust or well tested. And I certainly could not guarantee I could go get my flashlight in an emergency.) So I started carrying a small flashlight, I won’t look back.
And that brings us to now…
High-rise Office Worker COVID-19 Style
I have yet to be back in the office, but I probably will be soon. That said I have had to go do some things, and that has made clear what I need.
- Pocket Knife
The two main additions here are the pen and the mask. The mask is self explanatory (I hope), but the pen I want to touch on again (I mentioned this to members). One thing we do often is borrow pens. Like we go to take our car in for service, we need to sign something, we are handed a pen and we sign. That’s not a great idea in the midst of a pandemic and if you actually review your day, especially if you work in an office, having your own pen will reduce your need to touch public surfaces a lot.
So both to reduce sharing of pens, as well as to use to push things in a worst case, I am carrying a pen from now on. I highly recommend you do as well, even with me not going into the office yet, I am still using a pen a lot just moving about. I would say my order of suggested items to carry outside my wallet and phone (watch and mask) would be:
And I flippin’ love knives, so it pains me to list them almost last, but the truth is a pen is mightier.
The Gear Recommendations
Ok, so now that I went over it all, I am going to give you a few ideas of what you might choose for all of these. There’s a little nuance to each so I am going to list out options for each.
Wallet: at current I have three actual wallet setups. The first is a Hitch & Timber wallet (my review) to hold my ID, Debit Card, pocket knife, and flashlight. It’s really nice. The second setup is a Hardgraft Box case (I have an older model), a little more svelte and allows me to carry a business card, some cash, as well as knife and flashlight. The last is a Mont Blanc which carries a bunch of cards, and cash. Depending on what I am doing, I will move my debit card and ID to different wallets to carry. The Mont Blanc is almost and additional wallet I add if I take a bag, or know I will need more.
Flashlight: I love a good flashlight, but let’s focus on three options for you, from least expensive to most. The first is a brand called Rovvyvon, and they are tiny little lights. What’s ideal about them is that they are USB rechargeable, the downside is the run times are lower. That said, I would tell you to grab this model (I have not tested, but hear amazing things, on my list to test). What is super cool is not only the size, but the price and the fact that there is an integrated UV light as well. Very neat. The next step is the SureFire Titan Plus — this takes one AAA battery and is likely the only flashlight anyone will ever need. It’s small, durable, and just amazing. I highly recommend splurging on this, it is the light I primarily carry to the office and everyday/everywhere. The last is the SureFire EDC Backup MV, and if I were still doing property management today, this is the light I would carry. Just as robust and powerful as the ones I used to carry, in a smaller package with better light quality. I still use this light a ton around my house, love it.
Pocket Knife: Where to start… Ok, if you are an office person, or not a knife person: Benchmade Proper. It is no nonsense and fantastic. If you are a knife person with a budget: Benchmade Mini Bugout, it is like the Bugout, but smaller and amazing. If you are like, ‘Ben, tell me the best’ go get a Chris Reeves Small Inkosi or Senbenza 31 (I have the 21, the 31 is just the newer version which is better). I will leave it at that, any one of those are good enough to be your only knife — hell any one is good enough to be my only knife.
Handkerchief: I have tried a bunch. Here are your options: GondekEDC they make really nice small hanks with a nice microfiber on the back and I love them; Hanks by Hank; Mighty Hanks; and then keep an eye on Urban EDC Supply for more unique options; or buy ‘pocket squares’ on Etsy.
Mask: My favorite so far is this one from Ball and Buck as it is comfortable, washes easily, and breathes well (the camo print also allows me room for dad jokes). I would say a close second is this one from BlueCut as it is dope and small. Lastly, I have one of these if you really want to go extreme, super nice, super overkill, still awesome. If you want disposable, I have had great luck buying from Wyze of all places.
Pen: ok, first let me be clear that any pen you feel which will not leak or break in your pocket will do. The Zebra F-701 is a classic and cheap. The Machine Era Field Pen, is small and great. I am carrying a Tactile Turn Shorty, but I really want a Alpha Executive pen, I am just not quite there yet on pulling the trigger. The key: find one you like, which you can actually carry. The problem with all my fancy pens is that they are not really made to be carried in any pocket that is not a suit jacket pocket (mostly because they are either large, or the cap can come off to easily). Or this pen might be an option and takes Mont Blanc refills.
Lock Picks: Know the laws, don’t pick a lock you don’t own, and any other cover-my-ass statements I need to make. If I were back in property management I would carry a large Southord Kit I have, they work well. For EDC stuff, the Bogota Titanium picks are very nice.
Trash Bags: Get the contractor grade bags, don’t fuck around.
Gloves: The nitrile gloves I prefer are these Venom ones (Home Depot link, also at Costco), holy crap do they work well. Then, for the durable layer over the top, I actually recommend the Mechanix line of gloves. They have good grip, and are very durable, and they will not break the bank.
Pocket Tool: So far, this Kershaw one, and this more expensive titanium one are my go tos. I usually take both right now. Again, I don’t get a lot of use out of these.
Big Knife: This one is easy, get a Bradford Guardian. I have never loved a fixed blade knife more than I love the Bradford knives — they are stellar. The Nimbus blade finish is excellent too. I have the 3, 4, and 5. If you want something to carry in a bag, the 3 is just amazing and my favorite of the lot. The 4 is better all arounder for the woods, and the 5 is really going to be only for the woods.
Leatherman: UGH! Here’s the thing, I like the functionality of my SOG Powertool the most, but it’s not good enough to reccomend. The Leatherman Original Supertool from a functional/durability standpoint is top notich, but sucks to use. The Wave line is shit, and I think dangerous to use. I would buy the new Free P4, which I hear amazing things about, but have yet to handle myself (it is on my list). Multi tools like this are a compromise across the board, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have one. Something is often better than nothing.
Gaffer Tape: This, in black. Done.
Watch: Oh yeah, ok so like my Tudor GMT is the one, but I am guessing not the price point most of you want to spend. So here’s what I would do if I were wanting to get one watch to rule them all type of thing. I would either get the Garmin Instinct (black or that gray color) and call it a day if I mostly worked on the casual end of things — this is a seriously good and very underrated watch. Or, if I wanted something more classic I would get a Seiko. There are three Seikos I will throw out for you: Alpinist, SKX, or SARB035. Literally buy the one you like the look of best, you cannot go wrong with any of those Seikos and for most they are the only watch you will ever need.
Brass Touch Tools
So you might notice a Keysmart Cleankey in there. I think it is shit. I was unimpressed with the finish (I had to sand the edges to blunt them) and I it is huge, I don’t see any reason to carry this unless it’s like the only thing you carry. I just don’t, seems all hype and not great.