Differences Between Rural and Urban EDC

EDC is shorthand for everyday carry, describing both the procedure and choice to carry useful tools and other gear on your person daily, but also describing the things that are carried, for instance your EDC knife, EDC gun, etc.

EDC has also been picked up as a sort of “movement” where advocates and enthusiasts try to constantly refine their toolset to better work within the framework of their lives while keeping them prepared for the most likely contingencies.

Today, we see most EDC information revolving around the “pocket dump” a sort of artfully arranged display of all the items a person carries.

Increasingly we see an emphasis on unique, one-of-a-kind bespoke tools of all kinds, from $100 exotic metal bottle openers and key hangers to little gentlemen’s knives better suited for cleaning your nails than kicking ass. Nothing wrong with enjoying this aspect, but it seems to me there is a dearth of info on “why” and “how.” It has turned into a big show-n-tell session.

I am going to try to remedy that, and get EDC article back to where I think they should be: about carrying more of the right things and doing so efficiently so even deprived of pack or satchel you’ll be better equipped to overcome your problems.

In this installment, I’ll be addressing a question I have heard asked more than a few times- “Is there a difference between urban and rural environment EDC?”

EDC is About Problem Solving

Assuming you are not the kind of person who carries tons of pocket toys around on the offhand chance that one of them will be the perfect conversation starter so you play Mr. Cool Guy, anything you carry with you, daily, as a default item on your person should solve a problem for you. It’s that simple.

Consider the most basic of basic EDC: Wallet or purse, to hold cards, cash, ID’s. Keys, to activate vehicles, gain access to buildings and secure them when leaving. Watch, to tell time at a glance.

Phone, for communications and countless other functions (including Angry Birds. Hey, I still like it!). Most of these items don’t “make the dump” for some folks. Why is that? Are these taken-for-granted and mundane items no less a problem solving tool than other, cooler ones?

No they are not. Everyone, anyone, is familiar with and probably carries the same every single day, but they set the tone for EDC selection. With so little room on your body that is convenient and easy to access, deliberate and careful selection of tools is a must.

You can go filling up pockets all willy-nilly if you want to, but you’ll start jangling like a sack full of change in short order at best, or you’ll wind up wearing some sort of photog or fishing vest to store all of your Batman gadgetry.

I am making this point because the “mission” of EDC, if you will, is no different in the largest metropolis than it is in the middle of Mayberry. The environment and preponderance of other people imposes different challenges, concerns and considerations, but that is all.

What that means to you is that you may very well do some things differently in one than you would the other. Some threats will magnify while others will shrink. We’ll get to all that, but keep in mind that your core equipment will probably not change very much if at all.

X Factors

Rural or urban, there is one overarching concern that varies greatly state to state and even locale to locale: the law. Generally, you can count on greater legal scrutiny in larger cities along with more restrictive laws and less leeway from law enforcement personnel than you could in a small town or remote areas. But not always!

Even in some less populated areas you can run afoul of highly aggressive law enforcement, disparagingly called the “Dirt Road Mafia.” The point is not to champion or degrade law enforcement; most of them are just doing their jobs. It is up to you to know the laws of your area backwards and forwards so you don’t run afoul of them.

Weapons are of course one major sticking point with differing laws. Covert entry or escape tools to protect you from illegal restraint are another. You might be fine to carry in most places except a few specific ones in one area, and in the next town over you might not be able to carry where you did in the former, but could be allowed to carry in areas you would not expect, like bars for instance.

Ignorance is no excuse, and trying to fast talk your way out of a citation or arrest for carrying of prohibited weapons or tools is not a strategy for success.

Urban Considerations

Living in the concrete jungle presents challenges and opportunities for preppers. These monuments to mankind’s persistence and will to overcome nature stand in stark contrast to the sparsely populated regions outside their boundaries and influence. While urban environments are thought to generally create more hazard than benefit in severe disasters and emergencies, there are a few benefits.

Shelter is never far away, as is the support of your fellow man. Cities will be positively brimming with supplies at the onset of any major emergency: medicine, food, fuel, you name it. If you need to get inside or underground to avoid bad weather or some other happening you will almost always be just steps away from a suitable building pretty much anywhere you are.

On the other hand, the sheer number of people will drain standing supplies and stocks of all kinds in no time flat if there is ever a run on anything, especially when supply lines are cut.

Groceries and other food supplies will be positively defoliated in times of crisis. Your fellow man may come to your aid in times of trouble, or prey on you out of desperation or malice when things turn grim.

Emergency services are always nearby but this does not mean they are available. We have seen time and time again that there are never enough police, EMT’s and firemen to go around when things go really pear-shaped.

The environment poses hazards itself. Any tightly packed mass of people sharing the same space makes biohazardous threats and germs a nightmare in cities. History has furnished plenty of examples where cities where massacred not by invading hordes, but by microbes.

Any major infrastructure damage can release sewage and other waste into water supplies or into the open, posing a major contamination risk. Buildings that are knocked down, burning or severely damaged can create serious airborne health hazards that you will want a plan to deal with.

The immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers illustrates terribly how bad air quality can get and fast. Consider adding in some additional antibiotics packs to your first-aid and trauma supplies to deal with the preponderance of germs and risk of infection in urban environments.

Moving around in a city you are constrained to moving along well-established and tightly defined cordons: roads, sidewalks, subway tunnels, etc. You can attempt to move through buildings to get from Point A to Point B but you are bound to encounter obstructions and locked doors along your route. Tools and techniques for overcoming these barriers in an emergency are essential for escape and contingency planning.

Rural Considerations

Living out away from the hustle and bustle of the city will keep you away from teeming masses of people and the threat posed by compromised buildings and other civil structures and services.

Even so, living away from people means human help is harder to come by and much slower to reach you when it is coming, and comparatively simple emergencies may take on life threatening significance when you are all alone and off the well-traveled roads of civilization.

If you live in a rural community, you are likely familiar with the routine of heading in to town to get what you need assuming the local coop or feed store does not have it. Shops and stores of all kinds are rarer, and not as well stocked. You might only have one gas station within convenient range.

Most rural inhabitants who are not come-latelys will be acquainted with the idea of keeping more on hand at home than your average city-slicker for whom resupply is literally steps or a short hop away. Even though there are fewer people drawing from that more limited supply, you can still count on shortages cropping up quickly in the event of an emergency.

While you might think you have little to fear from your neighbors, and that might be true, you cannot know everyone who is passing through and their intentions. If you should need to defend yourself from attack in a rural or remote area, you can bet there will be absolutely no one around barring extraordinary luck: you will be truly on your own.

Having a plan to deal with unexpected medical emergencies is imperative in any remote location anywhere in the world. It will simply take too long for EMS or other first responders to reach you.

The difference in life style and the lack of crush from masses of people means that some things you could never get away with in an urban environment will be permissible or not even raise an eyebrow in the country. We are all familiar with the sight of shotguns and rifles in pickup truck racks.

Now, I am not saying you should have your long gun openly displayed for all to see, but you need not necessarily fear inciting panic or attracting the attentions of law enforcement should your guns be spotted on your person or in your vehicle. Something to keep in mind.

The general “mind your own business” mentality of rural life and small towns along with the typical activities that people engage in in these places means other items like bags, camo and packs will not raise an eyebrow most of the time.

Many country-lifers enjoy taking off into the woods or other natural settings for all kinds of activities, and that means having a larger bag or pack with you or in your vehicle is eminently natural. Use that to keep more gear close at hand without raising suspicion.

Do keep in mind that any event that sees you driven from your home or stuck out of doors without transportation in a rural environment is triply cause for concern in many places and many seasons: exposure is a huge killer statistically and so you must have resources to deal with it close at hand if there exists any possibility you can be stuck outdoors in less than amicable weather.

edc bags

Urban EDC Essentials

My travels in an urban environment see me preparing predominately for defensive, medical and escape measures. The likelihood of being attacked in a urban environment, either directly targeted by a criminal or as part of a terrorist attack that are starting to feel so frequent, give me cause to carry things for making holes and fixing them, so weapons and trauma supplies are a must.

For my other EDC goodies, I usually include a set of entry tools- lock picks, shims, etc. In the event I need to get the hell out of dodge or access vital supplies or safety when pandemonium is erupting all around me I don’t want to take no for an answer.

The nice thing about carrying in urban environments is that you will easily be able to blend a small bag, pack or some other piece of luggage with your ensemble. Backpacks, briefcases, satchels, messenger bags and more all look totally at home in most cities.

A few of my choice Urban EDC items below.

  • Pack/Bag/Briefcase
    • Appropriate to the environment and attire you are wearing: be mindful to blend in!
  • Weapon (whatever I can get away with)
  • Trauma Kit
    • Large or Small depending on if I am carrying a bag or not
    • Must haves include TQ’s, plenty of gauze, chest seals, gloves, antiseptic wash
    • Antibiotics, wide spectrum. In the event of an attack, infection from even minor wounds will be a major hazard and emergency services will be slow to respond and overwhelmed. You need to have access to quick counter-infection medicine on your own.
  • Entry Tools
    • Lock picks, for getting into or through locked doors to reach safety or vital supplies. Many urban buildings door, lock and hinge sets are extra sturdy to resist break-ins, so attacking the lock makes the most sense and draws the least attention.
    • Padlock shims, for defeating common padlocks on storage sites, gates, etc.
  • Dust Mask, N95 or better
    • In case of airborne pathogen, dust, smoke, etc.
    • Make sure you get a flat pack model that will save room and stay intact in your kit.
  • Permanent Marker
    • For notes, signals, etc.
    • Also useful for marking time of application on anyone getting a tourniquet. Write the time big and bold on their forehead.
  • Flashlight
    • Non negotiable. Nothing is worse than being in a city with no power and no light. Particularly underground…
  • Chemlights
    • Useful for safe lighting in areas where fire or flammable atmosphere is a risk. Also ingenious for marking your location so others can find you, or marking someone you want to keep track of. A chemlight zip-tied or taped onto a VIP or child will make them highly visible in a crowd of people, even in the dark or in reduced visibility conditions.
  • Gloves
    • A sturdy set of gloves to be donned when you need to deal with twisted metal, broken glass, and other hazards created by the destruction of man-made materials.

I am definitely worried about self-defense in a rural environment, as with anywhere I travel, but I am definitely more concerned with being stranded, lost or unable to summon help. Exposure as I mentioned is going to be a huge killer, even if you are not too far from home.

There are many stories of folks wrecking their cars out of sight on a back road and having to spend the night in bad weather while injured, or similar tales of hunters, hikers and explorers becoming stuck, lost or trapped in the far country and facing a similar fate. You must have a plan for coping with that!

For carry in a rural environment:

  • Pack
    • Make it a proper backpack, for ease and capacity. Most folks in the country will not glance twice at a neighbor toting a pack around on their daily travels. More room means more lifesaving gear at little cost in convenience.
  • Weapon
    • Pistol
    • Knife
  • First Aid Kit, Simple
    • TQ, Ace Wrap, Gauze or Celox/Quik-Clot pad
    • Consider adding some small packs of pain killers and anti-nausea meds in case you are travelling in deeper country. Hard to make progress with a wicked case of the runs.
  • Clothing for Exposure Protection
    • Jacket, hoodie, or some other outer layer that will help keep me warm according to the cold temp of the day/night.
    • Rain shell, parka, poncho or other waterproof outwear for keeping water off of you. Getting soaked, even in comparatively mild weather, will quickly lead to hypothermia.
    • Hat, for the same reason as anything else. You lose a lot of heat through your head!
  • Flashlight
    • Same reasons I want one in the city. Also ideal for signaling from or away from the road.
  • Lighter/Firestarter
    • On the off chance you are stranded outside, you should have plenty of material suitable for burning all around. A lighter will make quick work of getting a blaze going. You may substitute a ferro rod or storm matches for the same purpose.
    • Tinder, so you can establish the fire more easily and surely. I use petroleum jelly soaked cotton balls in a sealing pill container.
  • Backup Battery
    • Your phone may prove to be a valuable lifesaver if you have signal. If you are way out from civilization, don’t run the risk of running out of juice. For the size and weight of a second phone you can carry a device that will give you two recharges worth of power.
  • Compass & Map
    • You might know the county like the back of your hand, but more than one old salt has gotten lost in their own backyard. Keep at least a button compass on your person at all times.
    • Your map should be a topographical map of the area around your neck of the woods, and perhaps a bit farther. If you know your major landmarks in the region you can find your way home with your compass.
  • More items suggestions here.


Urban and rural environments could not be more different on the surface, but much of the challenges and threats they present to preppers are quite similar in nature.

By tweaking your EDC load to reflect your environment, you can be better prepared to face the rigors of survival in the big city or the country.

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1 thought on “Differences Between Rural and Urban EDC”

  1. After 9/11, I added a set of swim goggles to my urban EDC kit along with the filter mask. Protect your eyes!

    Also, both kits (if possible) have a small monucular. It’s much easier to avoid trouble if you see it coming before it sees you.


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