Many of us tolerate carrying more stuff on our waistline than others. My tolerance is probably higher than most, but not the highest. I carry a compact or sub-compact double-stack pistol AIWB, with a spare magazine and a blade also on the front of my body, with a light and tourniquet in my pocket as well, almost all the time. Some guys and gals think that is insanity, and some carry far more than that. To each their own, I suppose.
However, one way to bolster your EDC loadout is to incorporate a bag that you actually carry with you on a daily basis. For the ladies, you might actually use a larger purse or pocket book to accommodate other useful and preparedness related items. But the good news for men and women alike is that carrying bags in public locations is entirely normal now adays. In urban, suburban, and rural environments alike people carry backpacks, sling packs, messenger bags, laptop bags, and any other variation thereof. For a concealed carrier that utilizes the bag to bolster their loadout, however, I do recommend carrying something that looks plain rather than something that looks overtly tactical with molle webbing so you remain low-profile.
What to Carry in an EDC Pack
The intention of this bag is to be light enough to carry with you while in public places. When shopping, walking through the mall, in the park, etc…, having this pack on you will provide you instant access to the gear within. This pack is not an all-encompassing survival bag like a get-home or bug-out bag, so there is no need for wilderness survival items (that should be kept in an additional bag in your vehicle). Rather, the EDC pack should carry things you need for routine convenience, things that bolster your defensive needs, and certainly a full emergency medica trauma kit should be in this bag.
In my EDC pack I carry daily necessities such as medicines, spare corrective lenses, a phone charger, a check book, a pen, a multi tool, a lighter, a bottle of water, and the like. I also carry two spare magazines for my handgun, a spare light, a spare knife, and a full trauma kit that includes tourniquets, hemostatic gauze, pressure dressings, and chest seals. Also in this pack is a panel of soft body armor so that the bag itself offers ballistic protection against handgun rounds. This protective armor aspect of the bag leads me to the following:
Use a Sling Bag for your EDC Pack
Backpacks are ideal for carrying heavy loads, but your EDC loadout should be light. Messenger bags are usually adequate for carrying your EDC items, but the best solution for this pack is the sling bag. The benefit of the sling bag design is that it can be instantly pulled to the front of your body so that you can access the contents of the bag without taking it off. The second benefit is that the panel of armor now protects your vital area if you are facing a threat. In this way the bag becomes an active part of your defensive plan rather than just a receptacle in which to carry defensive gear.
I rarely (pretty much never) carry my handgun off body, but for those who do, a sling bag that is designed for this use is ideal. Concealed carry sling bags are designed with compartments to hold a holstered gun that can be quickly opened, usually with a large pull-tab on the zipper for that compartment. If you do carry off-body such a sling bag is ideal. If you keep the gun on body (my recommendation) such sling bags still offer a lot of benefit as pulling the pack to the front of your body offers the ballistic protection of the armor panel, and it also brings you immediate access to your other support gear in the bag.
Armor for the Pack
My recommendation is to use level IIIA soft armor for this pack. Hard rifle plates, that can stop rifle rounds, are usually significantly heavier than soft armor and the added weight will probably make the bag less likely to be carried. Level IIIA can stop all typical handgun rounds, up to 44 Magnum. Level II soft armor can be had cheaper and in a thinner and lighter profile, but it does not stop the more powerful handgun rounds. Today, even IIIA panels can be had at good prices and in thin and light profiles. Some packs will take a larger 11×14 inch panel, specifically made for backpacks, but if your sling bag will not fit that, just use a typical 10×12 inch plate carrier panel. Either panel size will provide significant coverage for your vital area.
How to Use the Bag
Wearing the pack in the usual fashion, slung over the head on the opposite shoulder with the bag on your back, facilitates the ability to simply pull the bag to the front of your body. This gives you direct access to the zipped compartments and bags designed for off-body carry give fast access to the compartment with the holstered gun. Therefore, if you do carry off-body in a bag, these dedicated sling bag designs will facilitate this better than anything else. However, if you have the gun on your body, the sling bag still facilitates the instant donning of the armor panel, which will cover your upper body vital zone when the pack is at the front. I find that wearing the bag with the strap tight makes the pack ride higher on the chest when it is brought forward, which is where you want it, for use with the armor.
If you must react quickly to a threat while wearing the pack, simply bring it to the front of the body to provide decent coverage of your vital area. If you are not wearing the pack and have time to put it on, or if you are wearing it but have time to make an adjustment before going into a fight, you can put the bag on over the opposite-than-usual shoulder with the pack at the front of your body. For most sling bag designs this will orient the pack upright on your front and provide fuller coverage of your vital area than if the pack is simply brought to the front while wearing it in the usual manner. Regardless, the sling bag offers more versatility and flexibility than any other pack design, making it ideal for this application.
The EDC sling bag, with the addition of soft body armor, adds a tremendous amount of capability to your daily life and it actually becomes part of your defensive capability rather than just a means of carrying your tools. While much ado is made about bug out bags, plate carriers, rifles, and the like (all of which you should have) the fact remains that bad things happen at times when we are not prepared for a battle. The concealed handgun is the weapon the civilian self-defender is most likely to use for defense. Adding an EDC sling bag to your carry greatly enhances your capabilities and it is gear you can have on you almost always. I highly suggest incorporating such a pack; it is an advantage in our contemporary lifestyle.
Here is a demo of the two methods for using the bag as armor: