Inside a war correspondent’s pack



FRANKFURT — Good morning, friends. This blog entry comes to you live from the Frankfurt Airport, a wondrous world that includes McDonald’s, Starbucks and duty-free shopping. I know, I know. Color me surprised, too.

In any event, after an overnight flight from Virginia, I am waiting with two other Military Times colleagues here for a flight tonight to Kabul, Afghanistan, where we will meet up with the U.S. military and go our respective ways. I’ll be heading down to Helmand province with a photographer to embed with the Marine Corps in southern Afghanistan.

In the meantime, it was suggested that I dive into what exactly goes in the bag of a reporter who goes to a war. In a nutshell, here are some of the essentials:

  • Dri-fit clothing — Why dri-fit? It needs washing less frequently and can be hung overnight to dry. For my entire six-week trip, I brought two pairs of pants, given the amount of other space devoted to other items. It’s safe to say fashion isn’t a high priority.
  • Protective gear — Not only is it smart to wear a Kevlar vest with ceramic plates in it outside the wire, it’s required simply to hop on a military plane in a war zone. I also obviously have a helmet, shatter-resistant glasses and some flame-resistant clothing, including boxer shorts. For obvious reasons, really.
  • “Camping” gear — If you’re going to spend six weeks in a place with lousy facilities, you need to take the basics to survive. They include a flashlight, a multi-tool, a small knife and other gadgetry.
  • Computers — There’s no sense drawing it out. A reporter in a war zone needs the same thing that a reporter in the field needs anywhere, including a laptop computer, camera, batteries and other similar items that make it possible to file stories with 2010 deliver-now expectations.
  • Satellite broadband equipment — To file stories from remote locations, we use a mobile satellite broadband terminal made by BGAN. In a nutshell, we link the piece of gear to our laptop computers and aim it toward a specific satellite using a compass. No cell phone reception? No problem.

Some of the other items you can see sticking out of my bag, photographed in my apartment before I left for the airport, are more obvious. In plain view, you might notice a Camelbak, running shoes and a blanket-like poncho liner not unlike this one. A brother has to stay warm somehow, right?

My two bags weigh a combined 81 pounds, but that includes items like batteries and reading material that will not make it through the entire trip. Time will tell if that was too much or too little.


About Author

I'm a senior writer with Marine Corps Times, covering ground warfare, manpower, weapons acquisition and other beats. I embedded in Afghanistan in spring 2010, and plan to return at least once in 2011.


  1. T. Raby (unrestrained) on

    I’ll be following you, Dan, on this blog. Like I said before, be safe and Embrace the Suck!

  2. see the men and let know we suport them and understand
    ian a vietnam vet april 68-april 69 I pray daily for our troups be well and cone home whole

    stuart lafrancis /pop

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