submitted by Ed Jelley


If you’ve been into everyday carry for a while now, you’ve probably heard the saying “two is one, one is none.” In other words, it means you should carry a backup. If you’re only carrying one critical item (like a knife or flashlight) and it breaks or goes missing, then you’re out of luck. By carrying a backup (whether it be on your person, or in a pouch/bag) you can ensure that you’ll never be stranded without the tools you need. In this guide, we’ll explain the benefits of following the “two is one…” mantra, how to put it into practice, and some solid gear recommendations to get you started.

Why Carry a Backup?

While minimalism can work well in your EDC, you might also benefit from some thoughtful redundancy. To learn more about that, check out this article on the topic. There are many upsides to having backup items, but the main points boil down to these three:

  • In Case of Main Tool Failure: When you put your gear through the wringer day in and day out, there’s a chance your gear can fail. Whether it’s something with moving parts like a folding knife or something with batteries or electronics like a flashlight, a backup item gives you some insurance. For example, if your flashlight battery dies, you don’t want to be left in the dark. Simple things like carrying an additional battery or keeping a small light on your keychain make great fixes.
  • Increased Versatility with Complementary Functions: That serrated tanto knife you carry may not be ideal of all situations. Something in a different size or with complementary functions (for example, a small plain edge blade for precision work) can help your EDC cover a wider range of tasks.
  • To Help Others Stay Prepared: If a friend needs to borrow a knife, light, or multitool, you can be prepared. Plus, why trust someone else with your favorite EDC if you can just hand them your beater knife.

Recommended Backup Items

We don’t mean to say that you should necessarily have a backup of everything in your EDC. Not everyone needs two cell phones, for example. Backups of some items are more popular than others and it’s usually because they’re small enough to keep handy but functional enough to work in a pinch. If you’re not sure where your EDC could use some redundancy, start here:

  • Knife: There’s such a large variety of knives out there with specialized blade shapes and steels for every kind of task. And since a knife is a staple tool in many EDCs, having a backup only adds versatility to your EDC. Spyderco’s affordable line of liner lock folders make excellent backups. The Tenacious looks especially sharp in this limited edition with green G10 scales.
  • Flashlight: It can be risky to rely on a single flashlight in an emergency, especially since batteries can deplete sooner than you’d expect. For a ton of lumens in a small package, the Nitecore TIP makes a great backup, keychain carry or not. It’s got a metal chassis and is rechargeable via USB.
  • Pen: You might be prepared with your own EDC pen, but it doesn’t hurt to have a spare to loan out or if your main jotter goes missing. For a backup pen, consider something small that can live on your keychain. The Pico Pen is a solid metal option that’ll stand up to being bounced around with your keys.
  • Multi-tool: You can’t argue the sheer performance of a full-sized multi-tool. But because they’re so big, they can be too bulky to carry everywhere or even overkill for light tasks. As a complementary backup, a Swiss Army Knife like the Victorinox Pioneer X is a solid, lightweight multitool with a ton of functions. You can use its main blade for cutting through tape and cardboard, or keep it pristine for when you need a sharp, precise blade.
  • Payment method/cash: There are fewer things worse than being out without your wallet. The True Utility Cash Stash is an excellent way to always have some cash on hand. Tuck an extra $20 into the capsule, attach it to your keys, and forget about it until you need it.

What to Look for in a Backup

When choosing a set of backups, there are a few key considerations. You might want to have maximum redundancy (like two bigger, fully functional knives) or something a little more versatile (like a knife paired with a multi-tool that also has a blade). It’s important to consider your daily tasks, what gear you use on a regular basis, and what you’d be absolutely lost without. 

There’s no right way to choose backup gear, so take a closer look at your specific needs. An IT person who’s always looking for wires in the walls may want to carry a backup flashlight, while someone working on a construction site may want two heavy duty knives. Keep in mind, there’s no wrong way to put together a backup kit.

How to Carry Your Backups

Pocket space usually comes at a premium for EDCers. Instead of weighing down your jacket or jeans, consider these convenient ways to carry backup gear:

  • In an EDC Pouch: It’s no secret that we are a fan of EDC pouches. These organizers are excellent for a backup kit thanks to their tidy internal organization and compact size. You can find ideas on what to fill your pouch with in this guide.
  • On a Keychain Rig: Since most of us carry a keychain, why not add some extra utility? Smaller gear like one piece multitools, compact keychain pens, Swiss army knives, and more can all be added to your keychain without taking up a ton of room.
  • In a Bag: This might be a no-brainer, but it’s definitely worth mentioning. By keeping a dedicated backup or two in your daily bag, you’ll never be without crucial gear. Keeping backups in your bag is especially useful if you forget something. Our tactical bag guide has got you covered if you’re still looking for the perfect EDC.
  • In Your Car: Keeping a dedicated emergency kit in your vehicle is always a good idea. Why not throw in a few EDC essentials as well? You never know when a multitool will come in handy. Plus, if you’re going somewhere, there’s a good chance you’re getting there in your car.

Remember, where you keep your backup is just as important. The same way you might back up your data on a physical hard drive and on the cloud, you don’t want to keep all your EDC eggs in one basket. If you carry a spare key, for example, you wouldn’t put it on the same keychain you might lose. Spread things out and try to balance security and access to cover your bases.

Do you subscribe to the mantra of “two is one, one is none?” Let us know why (or why not) in the comments below. Make sure to tell us what your favorite backup gear is too!

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