What's in your pocket? For many of us it's a phone, and/or maybe a wallet. But gentlemen (and gentle-gals) at large, unencumbered by baggage and ready for adventure, may be carrying something else: a pocket full of useful stories.
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Every Day Carry (EDC) is a term for the essential items that get an alert (but not alarmed) person through a normal day - or, if necessary, a zombie apocalypse.
The term originally used by military and boy scout types to describe an essential knife/torch/keys/watch survival combo, has expanded past Doomsday preppers to the self-reliantly urbane who might produce an artisanal spinning top as a conversation starter, or a bespoke challenge coin as a summons.
Bridging tools and art
EDC in some quarters is still a strictly functional set of aids, but an international groundswell of aficionados - informed and fueled by social media - has spawned a genre of custom-made pocket multi-tools. Artisans, skilled in metalwork and engraving, are designing, executing, and collaborating on refined pieces that bridge tools and art.
American Lucas Burnley is a custom knife-maker in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who created Cypop, a "bottle-opener/worrystone" that he produces in limited runs, sometimes with other artists, to raise funds for an annual charity toy run.
Burnley's motto, "Work Hard, Do Good" represents the ethos of many craftsmen working in this genre, producing fundraising, limited run multi-tools as a sideline to (usually) custom knife businesses. For Australians, strict laws around the carrying of knives mean that non-bladed multi-tools like Cypop are the necessary alternative. The elegant simplicity of Cypop allows limited runs to showcase different textures or metals while also serving as an international ambassador for Burnley's knife brand. "Cypop is a conversation starter," Burnley notes. "It's become a challenge coin for my collectors."
If EDC cognoscenti were to throw down a Cypop as a challenge coin, you might expect a hobo nickel in response. Challenge coins are traditionally a limited-run coin-sized medallion representing a group within the military, carried to enhance team morale and to prove membership when challenged. Hobo nickels are coins that are altered into bas-relief sculptures.
Coins for show
While altering the appearance of an Australian coin is a criminal offence, artists are free to sculpt on American currency. Buffalo nickels, with their large and thick profile, are particularly serviceable. The EDC community also collects challenge coins issued at knife shows and other collector events. It won't open a bottle or cut a cord, but as an on-the-spot decision maker, the challenge coin has its place in the EDC repertoire.
Collectible nickel artisan John Schipp reflects on the appeal of his coins: "Try getting one out at a table and give it a spin. It never fails to spark someone's imagination and amazement. Each one is a story etched into a piece of history."
The swapping of stories is a vital part of the collector community, in person as well as online via Instagram and private Facebook groups.
Ex-military teacher and Eagle Scout Rob Farmer creates the HOG of Hope that collectors carry as much for its story as for its chunky little self. Farmer started creating wickedly hot "HateDust" chilli powder to raise money for charity, and then created the "Hate Pig", the face of HateDust, as a multi-tool that he sends out to other EDC artists to engrave and mark up. Farmer runs an annual auction of "Hope HOGs" and they become instant EDC collectibles while raising money for others.
An illuminating hobby
Many multi-tools with blades carried elsewhere in the world are illegal to carry in Australia, which makes HatePig and others even more appealing as a legal carry. The other essential piece of EDC is the multi-use keying, starting with Adelaide's Rhino Ropeworks' tritium-filled key fob. This vial of radio-luminescing gas snugly housed in its stainless steel canister has a half-life of 12.5 years to help you find your way in the dark and keep undead critters at bay.
Alternatively, in step with the "Maker" aesthetic of collectors, BladeKey offers you the opportunity to download and PYO (Print Your Own) fob that works like a Swiss army knife to neatly house your keys.
Instagram and Facebook are the meeting places for EDC collectors like Californian Jim Wirth, who displays daily images of his EDC and metal detecting finds to more than 4000 Instagram followers.
Most artisans and collectors photograph their treasures on textured rustic backgrounds to emphasize the functional nature of these beautifully crafted pieces, and their online sharing is as much a part of the satisfaction as the carry itself. But a new design from an original EDC player may change the way people stash their carry, and offer more options for Australians seeking legal, portable tools.
The Leatherman Tread was inspired by a trip to Disneyland where the company's president was stopped by security for carrying his bladed multi-tool. The concept of a wearable multi-tool was born and Leatherman engineers tried wearing bike chains as bracelets to get used to the idea of how a series of tools might travel on their wrist.
Made of 17 stainless steel links - each comprising two or three functional tools for a total of 25 usable features like box wrenches, screwdrivers, bottle opener and glass breaker - the Tread is likely to widen the EDC audience with its combination of function and design-driven wearability.
Best of all - it frees up space in the pocket for the next small thing.