A year ago I went to war. Besides the stuff I always have on me (10 meters of parachute cord, Leatherman multi-tool, infra-red chemical lights, and various weapons and ordnance), I took a lot more to the Gulf War Iraqi desert to keep me busy during the long stretches of inactivity. Luckily, we have plenty of desiel fuel and the generators that use them.
I started this war with a 20 Gb iPod, and it could not hold everything
I had, although 15 Gb was recorded episodes of href="http://www.thislife.org">This American Life. We often end
up far away from our home base for a couple of days, so the iPod is a
great way to take my entire music collection with me without
sacrificing space for other important things, like food and water.
With Audio Hijack, my wife
records my favorite NPR programs and sends them to me as MP3 files.
Since then Apple has even larger iPods, and I hear that other companies have ones even larger than Apple’s.
Laptops with DVD drives
We often have long periods of nothing to do but wait. I could buy a $200
dedicated-DVD player, but that only plays DVDs. Besides a larger
screen (up to 17 inches now), a laptop can also play games, work with
email, organize photos, play music, and a lot of other things to pass
A lot of people have laptops, but we do not carry around cables and
routers. I can turn on my laptop’s Airport to create a
computer-to-computer network. Some people use access points for
multi-player games. It is quick, easy, and works between different
USB memory keys
I do not get to use my own computer on the Army’s network. I get stuck
with approved computers. Even if I could use my laptop, I do not carry
it with me, and I never know when I might get to use a computer. I,
and a lot of other people, carry thumb-sized USB devices that
store hundreds of megabytes. We write email to send later so we make
the most of our limited network time. I installed Windows software
for SSH terminals, web site suckers, and a lot of other things I like
to use but cannot install on public computers. Windows and Mac OS X software live peacefully together on the same device.
Everyone seems to be passing around CDs of photos, starting from
events before the war to stuff that happened last week. We cannot
remember from where some of the CDs came or which units were involved, but we have some awesome pictures.
Indeed, digital cameras have become so useful that we carry them
almost constantly to document events that may be important later,
including pictures of people we meet, the cars they drive, and the
neighborhoods they live in. Cameras are a cheap and portable copy
Burning CDs is the easiest way for us to share photos and anything
else that we want to pass around. We run the risk that our disk
drives could take a bullet, although the dust and heat seem more
dangerous, so back-ups are more urgent. A lot of disk drives have
taken a beating in the desert.
We can also send CDs home for free, which is a great way to share
full-size photos with friends and families, especially since our
bandwidth is often very limited.
For most of the adventure I have carried a mini-disc recorder, and
have recorded close to 200 hours of audio diaries and sound effects.
I can make personal recordings that I send back to my wife, and
keep track of what I am doing for other projects. I can transfer
the audio to my PowerBook with AudioX or Peak, rip it with iTunes,
and burn it to a CD to send home, although I usually just mail the
What else might you need when you go? Solar powered battery chargers, rechargeable batteries (not just for the laptop!), power adapters that work with car batteries, 220V<->110V transformers, and duct tape.
What would you take to the remotest places on earth?