Every pair of pants you’ve ever worn probably has one — that little pocket inside the right front pocket. As EDCers, we need to use our pocket space wisely. So it’s important to not overlook this little guy, the fifth pocket, as a valuable resource for carrying our essentials. In this installment of Carry Smarter, you’ll learn what that curious tiny pocket is all about, why you should make the most of this pocket, and our list of ideas of essentials that might be a great fit for both your fifth pocket and your everyday carry.
A Brief History of the Fifth Pocket
Originally one of the four pockets on Levi’s first jeans in 1873 (known to denimheads as the XX), the small pocket on the front right hip was called a watch pocket. It let cowboys, miners, and other workers safely carry and protect their pocket watches. At the turn of the 20th century, pocket watches fell out of style and became obsolete. As a result, the jeans were refreshed in 1901 with a few notable changes.
A second back pocket was added as the actual final fifth pocket (rather than the small pocket most people consider to be the defining pocket in your standard “five pocket jean”), and the watch pocket got downsized from about 3.5” to 3” now that bulky watch fobs were less commonly carried. To reflect the change in design and purpose, the watch pocket was renamed the “coin pocket” that you’re familiar with today.
The Future of Pocket Change
But these days, in an ever-increasing cashless (and coin-less) world, the coin pocket might get the same treatment the watch pocket did in the future with modern and utilitarian clothing designs. Since phones can tell time, and more recently, be used to make payments, it’s no wonder the smartphone is such an important essential for so many people.
Even then, smartphones are physically outgrowing the standard pocket by design. Screens get bigger seemingly ever year, but our pockets don’t keep up. There’s a chance we could see them getting slightly larger to be more accommodating, and that extra pocket space would be most welcome.
However, that shouldn’t discredit the nebulous functionality of the fifth pocket. Sometimes, less is more, and the smaller size of the fifth pocket can prove just as useful.
The Advantages of the Fifth Pocket for EDC
- It keeps loose things organized: Because it’s smaller, there’s less wiggle room for things to trinkets to bang around, and you’ll know exactly where everything in that pocket is. Coins and keys won’t scratch your phone and other kit in here.
- It affords quick access: Its higher placement on the hip grants easier access than fishing for stuff in the bottom of your front pocket bag, making the fifth pocket an ideal home for your most frequently used items.
- It frees up main pocket space: Besides just keeping small things out of the way of bigger items like your phone or wallet.
As a testament to its versatility, the fifth pocket goes by many names depending on its usage, such as the match pocket, condom pocket, and as mentioned before, watch pocket and coin pocket. Whatever you want to call it, it can be home to your next piece of kit. Here’s our list of ideas to get you started.
Smaller knives don't need to mean diminished utility nor quality. These knives perform as well as their bigger brethren, but conveniently sized for ease of carry and discretion.
- Spyderco Ladybug ZDP-189: arguably the best edge-retaining steel in one of the most compact knives on the market. ($42)
- Victorinox Cadet: thin profile, wide range of applications, and a favorite in the EDC crowd. ($30)
- Boker Subcom: small in stature but big in features and cutting effectiveness. ($33)
Modern emitter technology has enabled even the smallest flashlights to have excellent output and runtimes. Don't underestimate the power of these coin pocket rockets.
- Fenix LD02: rare appearance of a rear clicky switch on an AAA light, with 100 lumens to boot. ($30)
- Nitecore Tube: 45 variable lumens with convenient USB charging. ($10)
- ThruNite Ti3: one of the most powerful (120 lumens) and compact AAA lights on the market. ($20)
Sometimes you need the right tool for the job but can't afford to give up valuable pocket space. These handy helpers tuck away with your coins until needed.
- Zippo Lighter: the standard by which other lighters are judged — this is a classic fifth pocket essential. ($15)
- Obstructures Small Pry/Open: pry bar, multitool, and suspension built from hardy titanium. ($32)
- Leatherman Style CS: Leatherman fit and finish in a tiny package with 6 useful tools. ($20)
When you’re on the go, you won’t always be able to properly freshen up. These hygiene essentials keep you fresh and protected against harsh elements and long days.
- Burt's Bees Natural Lip Balm: a boost of vitamin E and peppermint oil for dry days. If you’ve had bad luck with tube-style lip balms in your pocket, give Jack Black lip balms ($8) a try — they’ve got screw-on caps and squeeze applicators for a better carry. ($2)
- Listerine PocketPaks: a lighter, slimmer, less noisy way to keep your mouth fresh compared to mint tins and gum. ($2)
- Alfred Lane Solid Cologne: its slim pocketable tin lets you carry a quick touch-up to smell great all day. ($18)
For the modern digital commuter, storage and battery life are key. Don’t get caught with a dead battery or a full drive again.
- mophie Power Reserve: Lightning cable and 1350mAh power bank in one for a complete on-the-go charging solution. ($30)
- Kingston DataTraveler microDuo 3.0: 64GB of USB 3.0 goodness, and plays well with your micro USB devices. ($26)
- Fitbit One: fitness stats on the go without having to take your bulky phone along. ($100)
Like the fifth pocket itself, our list is fairly small compared to the number of pocketable possibilities out there. Let us know in the comments below — what do you keep in your fifth pocket?
Words by Bernard Capulong and Mikey Bautista
Photos by Ed Jelley