One of the most frequently overlooked things in the EDC movement is where people put all the stuff they're carrying. Descriptions of what’s in people’s pockets accompanied by photographs of neatly organized stuff fail to answer one of the most intriguing questions: how do people actually put all that stuff in their pockets?
It's not enough to simply have things; you have to carry them, too. This means considering three very important things: (1) comfort; (2) accessibility; and, (3) durability. I like to think of this as "optimization."
I think most people consider comfort first. They arrange things in their pockets in a manner that doesn't unnecessarily inhibit movement or create irritating bulges or pokes.
This is a good place to start as if something isn't comfortable it probably won't be carried. Most people won't and shouldn’t choose to be uncomfortable.
I'm constantly rearranging things in my pockets in an attempt to find the most comfortable way to carry things. While I always try to maintain roughly the same placement of gear (flashlight and knife on my right, notebook and pen on my left, and so forth), I am willing to shuffle stuff around a bit if I can find better ways to carry it.
Of course, some things are more comfortable to carry than other things. Choosing the right gear is essential when it comes to comfort. This is, as always, a balancing game: maximize your utility without unnecessarily inconveniencing yourself. That two-cell flashlight might be nice, but a single-cell might fulfill the same role; that extra inch of blade might not be all that useful; maybe you can ditch those kitschy keychain accessories...
Utility is directly proportional to accessibility. The most useful item in the world would immediately lose its utility if it couldn’t be accessed. Along the same lines, if something is difficult to retrieve it won’t be used frequently, even in opportunities which might benefit from its use. Sure, it might be nice to grab that flashlight to look for your dropped keys in the dark but if it's stuffed in your backpack you might just bend over and grope around for a minute.
Of course, things that might be needed in an emergency should be easily accessible, too. One of the worst feelings is needing something, knowing where it is, but not being able to get to it.
In my pockets, for example, the three most easily accessible things are my primary pen, my folding knife, and my flashlight. Of the three, I use my pen most frequently. My knife and flashlight aren't as used as often, but there's quickly accessible in case the need suddenly arises.
As such, there's a certain discipline in deciding where to put things. For me, the most frequently-used things are the most accessible followed by items that may be suddenly and unexpectedly needed.
Legal concerns should also be mentioned with regard to accessibility. While most EDC items aren't strictly regulated in most jurisdictions, there are some that do concern themselves with what's in your pockets. Those that carry firearms have the most to worry about when it comes to conforming to the law; many states that allow concealed carry have strict "brandishing" laws which can be broken by a handgun shaped bulge, a poorly tucked shirt, or by retrieving an item from overhead. Some jurisdictions have the same laws with regard to knives. In some places (New York City comes to mind) you must carry your knives concealed; they have roughly the same brandishing laws that other places do for firearms. While it may be easier to access your equipment if it's more "open carried" than not, that access may be putting you in violation of local law.
There's the durability of individual pieces of equipment and then there's the durability of that equipment when it interacts with other stuff in your pocket.
For example, the Moleskine notebook I had been carrying is a relatively durable product on its own. It’s survived months of daily carry and use. The trouble comes when it sits in a pocket with something that’s “more durable.” When the Moleskine stays in a pocket with a cell phone, for example, it can quickly be damaged. Or if that same cell phone were to sit in a pocket next to a folding knife it would likely suffer quite a bit.
So, the placement of things in pockets should be considered in relation to the other things in those same pockets.
Moreover, there are certain components of various products that are more prone to damage. For example, the lens on a flashlight it far easier to damage than its machined aluminum body. That lens usually sits closest to the bottom of the pocket, too. As such, carrying keys or loose change in the same pocket has the potential to cause premature damage to that flashlight.
There are certainly other things to consider when deciding where to carry things. Aesthetics and clothing choice quickly come to mind. Comfort, accessibility, and durability shouldn't be overlooked, though. They're a great place to start and can do wonders in guiding further experimentation.
After all, what's the point in carrying stuff if you aren't going to carry it well?