Media Packing Checklist

  1. On arrival in Afghanistan, all media must ensure that they have the following: a protective ballistic vest and helmet. Required.
  2. The following items are recommended for the duration of the embed: eye protection gear (shatter proof glass), proper field gear for weather conditions.
  3. Sleeping bag
  4. Field pack/Back pack: Do not bring suitcases or boxes that are not easily carried on the battlefield. All media are expected to carry their own equipment and gear.
  5. Canteen, water bottle or hydration system: A must have, even in winter months.
  6. Suitable clothing: For hiking and that can have layers added or removed easily. Bring enough clothing for your embed and do not expect to have the ability to buy what you need while embedded. Military style clothing/uniforms are not authorized. This is for your safety.

By the time JR and I finalized our plans to embed, I had just two days to pack. In my youth, I always had gear ready to go and a standard, pared-down gear and clothing kit I could put together in my sleep. On this trip, I realized my go-to-war-on-short-notice skills were a bit rusty. I used the military’s suggestions from the list above and reached a decade back in my memory and packed what I remembered to be tried and true.

I have three Hanes cotton men’s v-neck white t-shirts, two pair of pants (one tan/olive and one black…the tan/olive is getting the workout because it doesn’t show the moon dust and blends better with the landscape), my Mountain Hardwear underlayer (a blessed and essential item on this trip), a sleeping bag (clearly not rated to a low enough temp for this trip), a batik wrap that serves as skirt, towel and head scarf, hiking boots, flip-flops, slippers, a Goretex rain jacket, my Goodwill wool and silk cardigan (thanks Jeanene!) and wool socks.

I brought sanitization wipes, Wet Ones and nifty Charmin wipes. I brought a first-aid kit, sunscreen, a razor, soap and shampoo. I packed my computer and an external drive I purchased at the last-minute in the Corvallis Mac Store (I made a lot of last-minute purchases for this trip.) I brought a whole box of Emergen-C (super wise decision), earplugs, various sizes of Zip-loc bags.

I brought my Canon point-and-shoot Elf and my faithful Leica M3. I photographed the aftermath of the Gulf War in 1991 with this sweet and beloved camera and she accompanied me on all my travels in the Middle East and Africa. I decided she should come along on this trip, too. I brought one book to read: Made for You and Me by Caitlin Shetterly (a book is a big decision…it has heft and can be cumbersome. I decided I didn’t want to be without a book and it was a good decision.) My reporter’s notebooks are the heaviest item (short of the body armor, bien sur!). I brought 20 that I purchased at Office Max and I brought a couple small Moleskin notebooks for my recording my thoughts and observations. I brought my Gallery Leather journal….and a second one. You start to notice a trend? I like my reading and writing materials and I accept the burden.

I also brought cigarettes, candy and chewing tobacco for the soldiers. Turns out they have plenty of candy, thanks to all the care packages. When I offer chew or smokes to a soldier the response is often: “Really, ma’am? Thank you ma’am.”

Everything fits in a regular duffel bag and a small duffel, plus my computer bag. When we leave on short trips, I remove items for the bigger bag and pack all the essentials in the smaller bag. It’s an art and a challenge. I’m getting better at it.