What NOT to Carry in Your EDC Bag If You Want to Avoid Suspicion

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Whether you’re a social butterfly or a homebody, we have to go out sometime, and we shouldn’t forget our EDC Bag (Every Day Carry). But have you looked in your EDC Bag lately? Once you’re inside a store, it could be too late.

If you’re like most preppers, your EDC replaces your purse, your shoulder bag, maybe even your fanny pack, as it contains almost everything you need while you’re out, from keys and wallets, to hand sanitizer and tissues. Imagine walking through a store and needing a tissue. You’d reach in your EDC and grab one. Innocent enough, right?

Maybe not to security, especially during busy times of the year when they’re on double duty.

First, can shop employees legally search your bags?

Can employees at shops and stores search your bags? The answer is tricky. Legally, in most states, if the store has reason to believe you are shoplifting, they can ask you to show the contents of your bag. The fastest and easiest thing to do, even if grudgingly, is to open your bag and show them.

You can, of course, decline, but again if the store has reason to believe you are shoplifting (which they now probably believe even more), they have the right to detain you until the police get there. According to Legalvision:

“Your employees have the right to ask customers to open their bag to check the contents upon exiting the store. They are allowed to look into the bag but they are not permitted to touch any of the contents. If their view is obstructed, the customer is expected to move items within the bag so your employee can see properly. As an employee, you can ask the customer to move the contents.” source

When you are carrying your EDC kit, this can be a problem, however.

So imagine your EDC bag gets searched.

Ok, so back to our imaginary need for a tissue. Security happens to see you getting into your EDC bag, and so now has their eye on you. It’s decided you are a potential shoplifter and so, after going through the checkout, you are approached by an employee and asked for your receipt and asked to open your EDC bag. Don’t forget, they probably have you on camera getting into your bag and so have a reason to ask. You oblige and open your EDC bag.

What will they see?

An unopened bottle of water that you just happened to buy from their store last month – just for your EDC? A tin of Altoids? A needle and thread kit like the ones they sell? How about a mini bottle of hand sanitizer that can be found in their bins?

Hopefully, you see where I’m going with this. Whether the contents of your bag are from the store you’re in or not, the employees aren’t going to know. Most will likely call for security and attempt to detain you just by what they see. More often than not, trying to explain you’re a prepper will only cause more incredulous looks and therefore more determination to seize you and the contents they believe you’ve stolen.

How do we avoid this scenario?

One way is to break an item down. By that I mean unwrap items, don’t store them in your EDC still in the external packagings you bought them in – if feasible. Instead, remove any external cellophane and take the price tags off. If you choose the little packets of OTC pain medicine, remove the cellophane.  Tissues can be opened, or better still, removed from the cellophane and wrapped in something else more usable like a handkerchief closed with a safety pin, or put into an Altoids tin. The point is to show that the item hasn’t been lifted from the store, but already bought and paid for, and in use.

Another way is to add to the item. Those little plastic canisters of acetaminophen? You don’t have to break the seal of the cannister if you don’t want, but instead wrap a length of black electrical tape around the center (that always comes in handy) before adding it to your bag. Same for ibuprofen.  Anything cylindrical should have something wrapped around it if possible – if nothing else than for redundancy.  Paracord, duct tape, electrical tape, string, needle and thread, and so forth. Hand sanitizer? Put the little bottle in a zip lock baggie. That way it won’t leak onto the rest of your supplies, and nobody will expect you to bring a little plastic baggie into the store just so you can steal something in it.

What about small individual packages of snacks, like crackers and peanut butter/cheese spreads? Or the small individual bags of peanuts, sunflower seeds, or beef jerky? These can be tough because while they’re sold in bulk in the store, some are also sold individually at the registers. The best way to put these in your bag is, again, by adding to it. Put the still sealed pkg. in a plastic baggie along with a few pieces of individually wrapped candies (like starlight mints). Wrap a few slim jims with a couple of rubber bands. Again this tends to show that the item was bought earlier and not just lifted – it shows a thought process of ‘packing’ for a later time when you might need a snack or need the sugar.

What about water and other bulky items?

Water can be a tough one to explain. After all, we’ve already established that a person can’t always just walk away free by simply stating they didn’t steal something, and opening/unsealing the water is not necessarily an ideal option. With bottled water sold just about everywhere, including in coolers at checkouts, this is a definite ‘plan ahead’ item.

You could put some things around the bottle – like the tape or paracord we’ve already mentioned, and that may work, but an alternative is worth considering too. Having a water bottle in which you put water every time you go out and empty every time you go home is good, but more than one will be heavy. Daisy takes this water filtration bottle everywhere, which is a multitasker. You can carry water in it and filter water with it if the need arises.

Water pouches are a good alternative for EDC as they’re smaller, lighter, and usually not sold individually in stores. Plus, many of these are small enough that they too can go into a baggie or container.

Then, of course, there’s your flashlight and maybe a pocketknife. Try to choose a flashlight that you can securely clip on the outside of your bag. If it’s in sight, you clearly aren’t trying to hide it or steal it. Many good flashlights (small tactical ones included) have a clip with which to attach to something just like this. In this way, you can possibly avoid questions as to the validity of ownership, and you won’t have to fumble for it in the dark.

Don’t forget your weapon.

If you don’t have a concealed carry license/permit, you may be carrying a knife. Obviously, you’re not going to want it in a little baggie, but rather right where you can get to it if you need it. That weapon might be a good pocketknife. For some, a pocketknife belongs in the pocket, just as it’s called. For others, it belongs on the belt in its own sheath in plain sight.

It must be remembered though, that laws can dictate where your pocketknife is kept in regards to your person. Some states dictate whether it can be concealed or not according to the length of the blade. Some states have illegal models, such as the switchblade, but a Swiss Army Knife, Leatherman, or other multi-tool knives with small 1″ blades, probably won’t cause a problem if it’s in your bag. However, I strongly advise you to check your local and state laws on carrying knives before actually carrying one. (In some states, certain knives can come with felony charges.)

So, provided you can legally add a knife to your EDC, how are you going to prove you didn’t steal it from the store? Use it. Whittle, cut, scrape, do whatever is appropriate with that knife. Then clean it and put it back in your bag. Chances are your usage will show. If not, or if you want to be doubly safe, keep a receipt for the knife in a secure spot in your bag.

If you carry a firearm in your EDC, this could spark alarm for some people. Nothing will get the cops called on you faster, these days. Always be sure you are aware of the laws for your state regarding concealed carry of a gun.

For more information about EDC bags, check out these articles as well.

How about you?

Are there items you take special precautions with when putting them in your Everyday Carry bag? Have you ever had to explain the contents?

About Sandra

Sandra is a published artist, photographer, fellow prepper, and animal advocate.

Picture of Sandra D. Lane

Sandra D. Lane

Sandra is a published artist, photographer, fellow prepper, and animal advocate.

Leave a Reply

  • I would be sorely tempted to sue the business AND the employee for false imprisonment and kidnapping, not to mention defamation of character and harassment.
    The bottom line here, for me, is that if I am to be searched, it will be done by on duty law enforcement only.

    Rent a cops are not bound by the same laws and restrictions that a real LEO is held to. They are also more motivated to plant evidence than a real cop. I would INSIST that they call the cops for no other reason than my own legal protection.

    NEVER consent to “go to a private room” for a search or interrogation! This in never in your best interest and you are under no obligation to do so.! Stay in a public place with plenty of witnesses.

    Then I would sue their pants off for making me go through that in the first place.

    But, that’s just me. I’m never in such a hurry that I can’t take time to handle my business…and protecting my legal Rights IS my business 24/7/365.

    • You’ll be unsuccessful suing for several reasons. First, you’re lack of provable economic damages (sometimes referred to as “specials”) will make it difficult for you to get an attorney on a contingency fee basis. The only exception would be if you could prove you were being unlawfully harassed. That’s going to be very difficult to do especially since the stores lawyers will be expert at preparing their side of the story. Those black and white videos tend to make everyone look suspicious.
      Doesn’t mean you couldn’t try, but you will have substantial out of pocket costs with a limited basis for recovery.

  • The best way to avoid this is not to carry bags, backpacks, etc into stores or other places of business.
    My everyday carry for defense is always on me and concealed. My stash of survival stuff stays in the car. And no, I do not use public transit, ever. I don’t go to metro areas, and have good transport without using mass transport.
    I don’t blame businesses for being suspicious of packs in their stores. Some here do not permit such to be brought in for the shoplifting and security reasons in you article.
    Don’t forget, these are private property even if open to the public and they can set their rules as they see fit. Don’t like it, don’t go there. I won’t enter a no gun establishment. They will have to do without my business.

  • A very useful item to have is an electric engraver. Around $10 for an economical one, at various stores. A manual Tungsten Carbide Scribe will work as well, but requires more strength and practice to use. Anything metal or hard plactic can be engraved with initials or your name (I prefer initials). A knife or multi-tool with your mark already on it, proves previous purchase. Another tip is to mark your containers with a permanent marker, then cover the marking with clear tape (to prevent your mark wearing off). Obviously, don’t keep your scribe, engraver or marker in your EDC bag.
    I engrave my Multi-Tool, Flashlight, spare Magazine for my CC Weapon, and any item in my kit hard enough to handle engraving. Everything else is tagged with a permanent marker. It’s a little difficult to accuse you of shoplifting when it’s obviously been marked before hand. For Uni-dose medications, sanitizer, water bottles and so forth, simply write the Date of Purchase on the package.
    Marking your EDC items is a cheap and easy way to avoid any accusations of theft.

  • I think Chuck’s advice to mark everything in your EDC bag is an excellent idea. For me it’s even simpler: I live in the kind of place where people drive everywhere so I simply leave my EDC bag in the car when I go into a store and just take my handbag. I carry my weapon concealed on my person at all times so I would like to think I would at least be able to get out of the store and make it to my car. I believe in avoiding attention, so not carrying my EDC bag around is the best solution for me.

  • I fail to understand why a guy would have a need to carry an EDC bag into a store to begin with if they have their own transportation parked outside with secure storage, like inside their car. I have never had the immediate need for breath mints, ibuprofen, or hand sanitizer while shopping. As for EDC items, they are on my person – Cash, CC, ID, knife (folder), Bic, ring of handy little tools in a pocket w/micro-light, handgun (concealed), extra mag (concealed). I realize its much easier for a guy to do that. We have pockets and I wear a belt thats stiffened to take the weight of a holster. OTOH, my wife likes wearing those ‘legging’ things that have no pockets, no belt, and unable to take the weight of her IWB holster. I think the author gave some good advice on how to avoid ugly misconceptions by store employees over the contents of an innocent person’s bag or fanny pack should a shoplifting concern be raised.

  • I used to work at a store that required a supervisor to do a bag check of all employees before we left for the day AND if we came back in to shop. I used to have to do it because I was on the service desk, and I used to get a ration of poop from certain employees who were resentful and thought I was being obnoxious. They KNEW that I was required to do it as part of the job.

    Customers were NEVER searched, and the store had a no apprehension policy even if an employee saw them shoplifting. This is in Massachusetts, so the law may be different where you live, but I would fight it here, for certain.
    Retail stores are scared to death of being sued for false arrest, and unless they can produce an employee to say that they saw you stealing, AND video to back up their accusations, they’ve got no leg to stand on. Tell them that you want the police called, so that there’s a record of the incident outside of the store chain, because by exercising your legal right to refuse an illegal search you may be blacklisted and refused service otherwise. Make a big enough stink and the management might give you a “we’re sorry” gift certificate for the inconvenience. Don’t be rude, abusive or violent and give security any excuse to hurt you. Just be polite but firm.

  • My lighter….pocket knife…..Leatherman…..ect are always in my pockets on my person and are clearly marked with easily identifiable markings…………revolver is always where it should be………..other than that and the clothes on my back I never take anything into any establishment………..Ive been involved retail security….owned a Army/Navy survival store and have seen it from both sides and someone in any group is a thief…so I get it……but Im not one and I resent the imply………best to avoid giving them any opening to cause me grief if I can avoid it..my 2 cents……REB

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