EDC Keychains

key chain items

by Karen

In order to truly be prepared for whatever might happen in this world you need to have tools on hand no matter where you are.  You might have a way to provide illumination or start a fire in your bug-out bag (BOB), at home, or in your car, but that won’t help you if you can’t access it.

But there is one thing that every person carries with them at all times – keys!  Which is why making your keychain into an everyday carry (EDC) tool kit is the perfect way to make sure you are prepared no matter where you are.

It’s Personal

The contents of an EDC keychain will be as individual as the person carrying it.  Everyone has different needs and no two EDC keychains are alike.  Having said that, there is one item everyone should have on their keychain – a good LED flashlight.  This is useful in so many situations that about the only thing it can’t do is help you find your keys (it’s attached to them!).  You can find some very decent keychain-sized LED flashlights that are small, yet powerful.  A good example is the Photon II Micro-Light.

Other than the flashlight, what you include on your EDC keychain will depend on you or the person for whom you are building the keychain.  Here are some considerations:


No, men and women don’t necessarily need different items on their EDC keychains, but they do carry them in different places.  Men tend to carry these types of things in their pants pocket, but women tend to carry them in their purse.  Consideration needs to be given to the type of clothes worn on a regular basis, including work clothes, whether they are business suits or construction attire.  What the keys and other items are attached to and how bulky the keychain is will affect how it can be carried, so keep this in mind when designing the EDC keychain.

What You Need

Take the time to really think through what you will need on your EDC keychain.  If you are a mom who is around kids a lot, you might want that keychain hand sanitizer.  If you are a college student, you might prefer to have a flashlight or kubotan for when you are walking around on campus alone at night.  Take your needs and preferences into account when designing your EDC keychain.

Technical Ability

When designing your EDC keychain, keep in mind your level of technical ability.  If you aren’t proficient with a striker when it comes to starting a fire, then perhaps a small lighter would be more practical.  If you don’t know how to use half the tools on a multi-tool, then perhaps just a single blade would be a better choice.  Be sure that you will have use for what you carry on your keychain and that you have the ability to use it.

Potential EDC Keychain Items

Besides a flashlight, and taking into consideration the above points, what types of items do you have to choose from when deciding what to put on your EDC keychain?  There are so many possibilities.


This can be a Swiss army knife or other type of multi-tool, but it should have a number of basic features, the first of which is a blade.  It can also include a bottle opener, plyers, can opener, scissors, screwdrivers, saw, and more.  It should be versatile and of good quality.


A permanent Sharpie marker (miniature in size) is a great tool to have on your EDC keychain.  Markers can be good in all sorts of situations.  I like it because aside from its more obvious uses, such as labeling boxes or writing notes, it is a useful tool to have if you are a prepper and have a mutual assistance group (MAG) or a larger family to coordinate with if society goes south.

Ideally, you and your family/MAG should have a bug out plan and if you ever need to get out of town in a hurry, you can use your Sharpie to place strategic symbols (on street signs, concrete dividers, or the like) to indicate which way you have gone, where you are heading, and whether or not to follow.  Of course, you should have all this planned out in advance, including the symbols and what they mean.


The kubotan is a strategic non-lethal self-defense weapon that is about the size and shape of a pen.  It is made of a heavy stainless steel and easily fits in the hand.  The kubotan is ideal for striking an assailant and is best used on the pressure points or sensitive bony or fleshy parts of an attacker.  It is inconspicuous and is generally not recognized as a weapon, which gives you an advantage over your attacker.

The important thing to remember with the kubotan is that it takes skill to know how to use it effectively and if you do choose to carry one, then it is important to get training in and practice its use so that you can skillfully take down and get away from an assailant if necessary.

Tactical Pen

Having a pen on hand is always useful, but having one that is inconspicuous and can double as a weapon is phenomenal.  A tactical pen can be used as a writing tool, which is great when you have to scribble down notes or make a list, but it is also made of durable materials and can be used as a non-lethal self-defense weapon in much the same way as the kubotan.  Training in its proper use is required, as with the kubotan.

USB Drive

This might seem an odd choice for an EDC keychain, but you can carry the entire contents of your computer on your keychain, which is useful for a number of reasons.  First, you have a computer backup ready to roll at all times.

Second, if there is a collapse of society, but you can still access a computer, then you will still have the capability of accessing your most important files, which might include practical instructions on various skills you might need (such as how to build a shelter, start a fire, or what wild plants are edible), movies, music, family photos, maps, and anything else that is relevant to you and your situation.


A whistle is a commonly carried item that will allow you to draw attention to yourself when necessary.  Whether you are about to be mugged or you are injured and want others to know where you are, being able to blow a whistle will attract the attention you need.  Plus, it’s small and easy to carry.

Duct Tape

There is such a thing as EDC duct tape, which is absolutely brilliant!  You’ll have to make it yourself and it entails getting a short piece of paracord or wire.  If you use the paracord, take out the innards until you are left with the nylon sheath.  You want the length to be at least two or three inches longer than the width of your duct tape roll.

Once you have your paracord or wire ready, make a small loop at one end (to attach to your keychain) and place the length of it along the edge of the duct tape with the loop hanging over the edge.  Now roll the tape around the paracord or wire, making a nice tight roll of tape.  You can make it as big as you want.  And remember, it might take some practice to get it straight.

Safety Pin

A safety pin is so tiny and unobtrusive, yet so useful, that it is a must-have on an EDC keychain.  Attach one or more of these little gems and you will have the means to temporarily repair clothing.  It can also be used to pop out the SIM card from an iPhone, to change the time on a clock in your vehicle (if it has the tiny buttons), or any number of other ingenious uses.

Lighter or Striker

Having the means to light a fire when you might be stuck out and away from home is a good idea.  A lighter is an obvious choice, but there might be places you aren’t allowed to carry a lighter, either that or you don’t want to be seen with one.  If that is the case, you can carry a striker.  Just be sure you know how to use it.


Having a means of determining direction is important.  This might not be necessary in the city, but if you have to get out of the city or get lost in the woods, then a compass might be a much-needed item.

Time Piece

A watch might not easily fit on a keychain, at least not with its straps, but if you can, attach just the watch face (without the straps) or another time piece that is small and easy to attach.  This is important.  Most people don’t wear a watch anymore, but if your cell phone runs out of power or gets lost or stolen, you need a means to tell the time.  If you have an EMP-safe time piece, you’ll be that much more prepared.

Bison Tube(s)

It is ideal to have one or two Bison tubes hanging on your keychain.  These are about the size of your pinky finger and can hold small objects that you might want to keep with you.  You can keep some water purification tablets in one, just in case you find yourself in a bind with no drinkable water.  You can also use one to tuck away a little extra cash and your emergency information.  These are handy little containers.

Tying it All Together

Finally, you need to think about how you want to carry all the items, about what type of organizer you need.  Some people prefer a lanyard and others prefer a more traditional style of key organizer.  There are a number of options from which to choose, so it’s best to familiarize yourself with all of them before you make a decision.

Traditional Key Ring

The traditional keyring works well for just a few items, but if you have a number of keys, then fitting a bunch of other items on there might not work as well.  If you combine a regular keychain with a carabiner or other type of clip, then you would have a more functional keychain that can hold additional items.

A variation on the traditional keyring is something like the free key split ring, which makes it easier to slide keys on and off the ring.  There is also the A&P stainless steel cable key ring, which allows you to pile on a lot of keys and other items.  If you have a lot of things to put on your EDC keychain, this is ideal.


A lanyard is a useful method of carrying your keys and other EDC items.  It can hang around your neck, but still be stuffed into a pocket or a purse.  If you would rather, you can use a long chain.  Everything can easily be attached to the end of the lanyard or chain for easy carry.

Key Hooks

There are a number of different types of key hooks on the market, including:

  • The Corter Bottlehook – a bottle opener and key hook in one
  • S-biner gear clips – a variation on a carabiner, it acts as a double carabiner, which means it holds a lot; a locking version, such as the Nite-Ize S-Biner SlideLock is ideal
  • Fishhook – a keychain with a fishhook-like appearance that can easily fit a number of items


There are also clips that are designed to hold keys and other items.  These clips are perfect for men in particular, who carry their keychains in their pockets and have a lot of bulk.  The clip can easily be suspended over the top of a smaller pocket, allowing the keys and other items to hang down into the bigger pocket and making it easier for men to reach their keys and tools.

Have Fun With It!

Ultimately, creating your personalized EDC keychain can be a lot of fun.  You can use different colors and styles of items to create something that is functional, easy to carry, and attractive to look at.  Plus, you will have everything you need at your fingertips, no matter what kind of situation you end up in.

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  1. Some good ideas listed. One thing to keep in mind is that most jurisdicitions and law enforcement consider kubatons and tac pens as weapons. Just try clearing entrance to your local Law Library or Court areas with the items if you’re not sure!

    Stay away from ‘crenulated’ (semi circle relief cuts in outer edges) flashlight lens holders, or kubatons with them, its a weapon. Tac pens, the updated kubatons are generally weapons given the host of goodies concealed within.

    For most passive compliance defenses go old school. A straight ol’ Bic Pen or some of the newer metal cased ball point pens are items that will pass any scrutiny wihout raising questions. No matter where you are, a flashlight in a pocket or near at hand is a great weapon to buy some escape time. Get one that doesn’t look Tacticool. You’re looking for one that’s a white nearing visible blue color- it will temporaroly blind in bright Sun light. Remember the old flash bulb/strobe effects on you eyes? That’s what you’re going for.

  2. If you need to refer to a book to learn how to start a fire or build an emergency shelter, you’re doing it wrong. These are critical skills you should already know how to do.

    Plant ID, on the other hand, is something good to have, but it should be more available for quick access, like on a phone or tablet. Having information does you no good if you can’t access it..

  3. My key chain has gone ‘critical mass’ :^), and I think I’m going to have to go with a stand alone EDC kit. The usual items – upgraded SAK Classic, micro flashlight (True Nano), magnesium rod w/ striker and sewing bobbin w/ military trip wire. Along with keys and car alarm, getting a bit bulky for one unit.

    Your article gave me some good ideas – Thanks for that !

  4. A Cross brand pen and/or pencil are durable enough for a weapon but are what quite a few professional folks carry. This is my choice, no knurling, no crenalated edges, just an all steel pen that is quality made, and an everyday item. Go grey, these you can take into a federal building and TSA has never had any second thought’s.

  5. I carry 2 sets of keys with me at all times. Both control access to my vehicle and my home. Both are attached to my belt, one with an aluminum D-ring, the other a leather strap that cops used (years ago) for the key to phone boxes. They each have roughly 15 feet of braided 550 cord. At one point, I carried some survival items on each ring, mini-multitool, Swiss Army Knife (Tinkerer), small pill container, thumbdrive and flashlight. The key rings became too cumbersome, so I pulled all that stuff off. Now, I just have a small glass cleaning cloth in a pouch that I bought at Cabelas. My EDC on my belt and in my pockets is probably double what most survivalists carry.

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