Saturday, December 17, 2011

EDC without pants

This isn't actually about not wearing pants (sorry! hehe)  but it is about no-pants-needed carry.  I was somewhat aware of how jeans-dependent (or other pants with belt loops and strong pockets) my EDC was and have already moved away from a lot of belt carry items but even more change is going to be needed - my 24/7 system needs to be belt and pants pocket free!

I live in one of the coldest, most isolated areas in North America.  There are severe summer/winter temperature variations, from -40C or colder in winter to 25C or warmer in summer.  Snow is on the ground from the end of September to April/May (sometimes June!) and there are extensive periods of 24-hour darkness and 24-hour light.

I am moving to one of the rainiest areas in North America, on the coast, that has little to no snow and maintains a relatively constant year round temperature of 5-15C.  I am going to start a new series of posts on what effects that has on my EDC, traveling to work, outdoor gear, clothing, the whole deal.

I'm going to start with EDC.

I'm still living north of 68 and trust me, it's winter up here.  We just had a little warm spell but temperatures have generally been in the -25C to -35C (-13 to -31F)  range, not counting any windchill.  This obviously has some effects on what I wear and what I carry.

My current EDC*:
  • HAK straight - neck carry
  • Inova Microlight (bright/dim/strobe) - neck carry
  • No-name microlight (on/off with squeeze or switch) - paracord carry, looped around my belt loop and tucked inside my jeans
  • Blackhawk Be-Wharned folding knife (still waiting for the Yojimbo 2) - pocket clip carry
  • Casio G-shock watch on a wrap around thick velcro band (covers watch face)

Usual indoor clothing at work:
  • 5.11 TDU belt
  • Jeans
  • T-shirt (prefer under armour or similar shirt) 
  • Hoody 
  • Sandals - it's too hot in here to wear anything else

Outdoor clothing for travel to/from work via vehicle:
  • Parka - I wear a Canada Goose parka, it's a discontinued model and I don't recall the name.  They make top-quality, extreme cold weather parkas.  I see a lot of people wearing the Resolute and similar models but they are really too heavy for practical use, I prefer layers
  • Snow pants - I just wear lightweight snowboard pants
  • Boots - The Sorel Intrepid Explorer are AWESOME, the best winter boots I have ever owned
  • Neck gaiter
  • Toque - I like the Parkhurst Merino Wool Cap that MEC sells 
  • Gloves 

My current Work EDC (WDC) pack and contents:
  • Eberlestock Gunslinger II Pack - I bought it from Linton outdoors, super comfortable, top quality
  • Amazon kindle (now THAT is essential)
  • Mora knife - either the 511 or the triflex on a neck cord with a survival bundle (light, fire, etc)
  • Folding saw
  • Bottled water - 500mL
  • Metal water bottle, I like the Klean Kanteen 27 oz.  I use a metal water bottle rather than a nalgene so I can melt snow.  Their wider mouth bottle is better for snow (and in my camping pack) but I prefer the other to drink from.
  • Cell phone
  • All the typical stuff - first aid kit, sunglasses, matches, snack, yada yada yada 

I travel to and from work in a company truck.  At our new location, I will be walking to work, about 4km (about 2.5 miles).  I will get a bicycle and will probably use it for work to save travel time but, with the extreme winds, rain, and all the hills, I'm not sure how much time I will save  :)   I don't like biking all that much either but it's a great way to carry heavier loads.  I don't think I will be using it much in the winter there, it gets very slippery and with the hills and such, I really don't want to take a spill.

So, this new climate coupled with traveling on foot vs. truck made me take another look at what I tote around with me.  The important factors: waterproof and weight. Everything must be evaluated based on keeping me and my gear dry.  And it has to be water proof not "water resistant" which is just another way to say "slow leak."  It rains there almost every day and it's RAIN not a little shower here and there.  As for weight, once you have to carry your pack further than a parking lot, you see just how much an ounce matters.

I have waterproof pants, boots, and a jacket with hood (more on specific clothing on another post).  However, the rain pants don't have pockets or belt loops and I haven't had much luck in finding anything suitable that does.  This immediately eliminates easy waist or knife carry on my outer pants (I'll be wearing another set underneath).  I'm also going to be wearing a backpack with a waist strap, which would eliminate any significant belt carry anyway, it's just not comfortable.  I'd be looking at a sheath hanging off the backpack, not really workable for cruising around town.  A boot knife is possible, but not super easy to access and I've never actually worn one before.  Not sure if I want to try at this point, something to consider.  My HAK again saves the day, carried around the neck, it's just a continuation of what I am already doing.  The one problem is the downside of a HAK - gloves.  You can not use one with gloves on, and I will probably be wearing some at times.  A more regularly handled knife is now needed - something lightweight, small, and practical (multi-use).  The Perrin neck bowie would work well with gloves and it is lightweight and such but I don't think I am going to go back to it.  It's an excellent small utility blade but looking at the area (heavily wooded, rainy as all get out) I want something with a little more "bush" capability.  I think I'm going to go with an Esee Izula or Izula II.  Possibly the Izula II for trail walks and the Izula for walks to work, I'll wear them over my shirt and the HAK will be under.  The Izula can be tucked back if needed and it's quite light.  The blade is very short but it does have some capabilities for wood splitting as well as prying, digging, and general abuse.

(Total aside - I've always been a little curious about the Tops FDX knives, I'd be curious to get my hands on one of the small hunter points.  There's very little info that I can find on most of the tops knives.  Or at least the ones that I would be interested in.)

It's actually a similar situation to when I go hiking/camping in the winter and am wearing snow pants, you just can't belt carry a knife and walking long distances with a knife strapped to your thigh is not always practical - the backpack can rub on the belt and a knife that low can get caked with snow and ice.  A light fixed blade neck-carry knife is your best option with a larger knife attached to my backpack.  I usually carry a Mora 511 but for an urban environment, I want something a little more unobtrusive (thinner, lower profile).

What I love about a neck cord in the urban environment (under a jacket) is the same as the woods environment - the knife is so handy, always accessibly, and the cord is the perfect place to hook on keys, fire tools, whistle, light, etc with a carabiner - easy on, easy off, easy to customize.  Since I'll be wearing a rain jacket pretty much every day, the knife and the other tools I chose can be tucked in and accessibly by zipping the jacket open, pulling the lot out with a tug on the cord, or putting my hand down a more open zipper area.  Keeps from scaring people "OMG, he's got a knife, noooooooooooooooo!"  Bizarre reaction. Once I get to work, the main lot gets tucked into my pack and the HAK/light combo is still there, under my shirt - I won't be wearing gloves while I work  :)

I could still be wearing jeans under my rain pants and could still carry my pocket clip knife, possibly a fixed blade belt knife, etc.  But....walking in long distance with jeans isn't super comfortable.  Walking with them under another pair of pants can get downright uncomfortable.  Plus, the tools would only be accessible in my workplace** and I don't see any real need for them (in that location) when compared to the discomfort of wearing them and the other tools I have - I'll always have my HAK and at least one light and a whole host of gear is in my backpack which can be grabbed on my way out the door.  Wearing jeans under snow pants for my current trips to work isn't a big deal because I'm driving to work.  Some days, when it's -20 or warmer (especially in the day time), I just bring my extra pants and don't even bother wearing them.  Having that extra knife accessible has a lot more value here - there's no security here, we're open to the public, we're well out of town and can't secure the building, etc.  I see the value in the extra knife and I've worn one in my pocket for so long...well, there just hasn't been any reason to change that until now.

Hmmm, this post started to go a little sideways on me, hopefully this made some sense.

More on all this later - much more I'm sure!

*EDC - Every Day Carry.  Some people have slightly different ideas for what this means.  I'm considering this to be items I carry on my person at all times outside the home.  I differentiate this from items I would carry heading to work for example, as I would carry a bag of some kind that I may not carry for a trip to the grocery store.

**I'm not digging through my backpack waist strap and fishing around inside my outer pants to get them

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