Pretty much every trip out of the apartment I have my Every Day Carry (EDC) bag, my essentials for every day in our new home of Carcassonne.
This carry bag is a bit different from my current and former law enforcement colleagues, with their EDC gear including their department or LEOSA authorized essentials for making an arrest or resolving a self-defense situation, but the principles of being self-sufficient are the same.
1. 5.11 Tactical P.U.S.H. (Practical Utility Shoulder Hold-all) Pack
I like a carry bag that I can organize my gear and use winter or summer. A carry bag can be carried over a heavy jacket or a shirt. There is no forgetting a piece of gear being left in the pocket of my other jacket or left on a nightstand, it is all in one place. I like the 5.11 brand for its low-key practicality and toughness. The pockets are secure so there are fewer worries about a pickpocket lifting my wallet or camera and the bag’s ballistic nylon deters access by cutting into the bag. The P.U.S.H. pack doesn’t scream “expensive camera bag,” “military bag,” or “cop bag” and it isn’t an oversized messenger/computer bag.
There is a “man bag” culture in France and the Mediterranean areas with many local men wearing a shoulder bag “cross chest carry,” a sacs en bandoulière, so my carry bag, while a bit larger than average here, blends well into everyday life without making me looking like a tourist. (Think, “Fanny pack.”)
The P.U.S.H. pack has two side expanding pockets that I make use of for a water bottle and sunglasses case.
2. Kleen Kanteen Classic 18 ounces water bottle
I carry Kleen Kanteen stainless steel water bottle with 18 ounce capacity. With us walking more in our new home, we never have to scramble for something to drink. Carrying a water bottle eliminates the cost of buying water and the impact of all those empty plastic bottles. The Kleen Kanteen is free of BPAs and has no plastic or epoxy linings that can crack like in aluminum water bottles.
3 & 4. Ray Ban Prescription Original Wayfarers Sunglasses and Hazard 4 Sub-Pod Sunglasses Case
With making the decision to be pedestrians most of the time, I end up wearing my sunglasses nearly all the time when I’m outdoors in the daytime. I opted for the darkest polarized lenses available and a nearly “crush-proof” Hazard 4 sunglasses case. I trade out my standard eyeglasses and sunglasses in the case so I always have both with me.
5. BLU Samba Jr Cellphone
Tracy and I needed phone communication in France immediately upon arrival. We purchased an unlocked cellphone and SIM card with a French telephone number from Cellular Abroad, a National Geographic affiliated company. It’s a “pay-as-you-go” system where you can add time through an English-speaking operator. We wanted to “unplug” for a while from always having smart phones, but wanted a basic phone for emergency “112” calls (French “911”), calls from home, and a local phone number for French government agencies and businesses. After our French bank account is established we will consider whether or not to reactivate our unlocked iPhones with a French provider.
6 & 7. Business Cards and Dog Waste Bags
We have business/calling cards printed with our e-mail for use with new friends and local businesses. The dog waste bags are so we can be good neighbors cleaning up after Kiara (although it seems that, regardless of signs everywhere, few French dog owners follow suit).
8, 9, 10 & 11. Bellroy Travel Wallet, Currency, Identification, Miscellaneous Cards
There is a Bellroy travel wallet in carry bag’s zippered inner pocket. I wanted to stop wearing my wallet in my back pocket where it is more accessible to pickpockets. It now takes a very concerted effort to obtain my wallet from its location in my carry bag. My travel wallet holds my passport (France wants you to have your Carte d’Identité or passport with you.), currency, driver’s license, credit cards, SNCF and TER (national and regional train systems) discount cards, and French supermarket loyalty cards.
12 & 13. Moleskine Notebook and Pen
My second most used tools in the bag. I am constantly writing notes to myself, making lists, listing directions, translating French phrases to request assistance, and writing down personal observations. One of those old police habits of always having paper and pen available and making frequent notes.
14 & 15. Folding Nylon Shopping Bags and Spare Reading Glasses for Tracy
“Paper or plastic?” is not usually an option here. If you want a bag for your groceries you need to bring one (or several) yourself. Being primarily pedestrians, running back to the apartment to get shopping bags when we suddenly remember that we needed some things for the kitchen is awkward and time-consuming. The thin, folding nylon bags take little space and are always helpful. I also carry an extra spare of Tracy’s reading glasses in my carry bag since she often doesn’t carry a purse or camera bag..
16. Olympus E-PL2 Mirrorless Digital Camera and Electronic Viewfinder with an Olympus M.Zuiko 14-150 mm Zoom Lens with lens hood and an Olympus M.Zuiko 17 mm “pancake lens” or a Olympus Tough TG820 Waterproof/Shockproof Digital Compact Camera
My most used tools since arriving in France have been my cameras. I alternate between carrying the compact Olympus TG820 when I want something lightweight in my bag all the time or in adverse weather and the Olympus Pen Camera with interchangeable lenses when I want more professional shooting options. When we decided to minimize one area was my photography. I had a larger prosumer Canon DSLR with multiple lenses which I really enjoyed. But two years ago when I carried my Canon outfit to the top of Florence’s cathedral dome, up all 463 steps, I realized that: 1.) I wasn’t getting any younger (that was a “killer” climb even without the heavy gear) and 2.) I wasn’t shooting photos professionally anymore. Today I shoot photos to share events and travels with family and friends. I decided to explore the new smaller and lighter “mirrorless” digital camera systems and return to a more classic “Robert Capa” photojournalism style of shooting images.
The carry bag allows me to “stash” the cameras out of sight in a low-key bag to avoid being targeted for camera theft and to avoid the perception of the stereotypical tourist. I always have at least the compact camera and extra batteries in my carry bag so I hope to never lose a “photo op” because I didn’t want to carry a DSLR camera with me.
I carry a carabiner on my bag to quickly secure my carry bag if I remove it while eating or having an espresso at an outdoor cafe. Anytime I take my carry bag off, the shoulder strap is looped around a chair or the table (or in a pinch, my leg) and secured with the carabiner. Anyone attempting to “grab and run” is going have to be able to outrun me while dragging along a large piece of the restaurant’s furniture attached to my bag.
18, 19, 20, & 21. Change, Money Clip, Leatherman Juice Tool, and Apartment Keys
The final parts of my EDC gear is actually located on my person, rather than in my carry bag. I carry loose change is in my pockets. Europe uses one and two Euro coins which have proven very convenient. The lowest paper denomination for Euros is a five Euro note. I carry a money clip with currency in my pocket to avoid having to reach into my bag and displaying my wallet for every purchase. I don’t want a prospective thief to constantly see where my wallet is coming and going to.
A Leatherman Juice C2 multi-tool takes care of most tool needs with needle-nose pliers, a knife blade, screwdrivers, and the very necessary corkscrew. I’ve carried this versatile pocket tool for years.
I still wear a wristwatch, another “cop habit,” although cellphones have nearly eliminated the need for one. I rotate wearing a Seiko Black Monster dive watch, a Victorinox Swiss Army Maverick II Dual Time Zone watch, a Longines dress watch that was a college graduation gift from my parents, a Citizen Eco-Drive watch that was a gift from Tracy, and a Seiko custom TMCC retirement watch, a personalized gift from Tim Dees.
My final essential is the apartment’s keys. After years of having the “school custodian’s” size rings of home, cars, and office keys, I now carry only a building key and apartment door key.
Even with the above items, There is still room in my EDC carry bag for whatever else the day’s activities might require: an umbrella, map, shopping list, Kindle, camera flash, dog’s medical records, camera tripod, flashlight, or something for Tracy.
The Eagle Scout in me has a difficult time leaving for the day without remembering to “Be Prepared” which has been serving us both well in our daily exploits here in Carcassonne.