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Registration date : 2007-06-27

PostSubject: MARCUS ON TRAVEL KIT   Thu 13 Aug 2015, 18:37


What do I pack? I like modifying the axiom "fit the equipment to the mission" to "fit your gear to your trip." These days I break down what I carry on any trip, car trip or international, into a couple of modules that I keep pre-packed to minimize hassle. Also I'm big on having checklists. But remember I've logged (literally) millions of air miles, and hundreds of thousands of land miles both professionally and for fun, and for a long time was a professional traveller.

[Marcus in Stockholm]

ESSENTIALS: first aid module, toiletries module, health module, clothing module, survival/emergency module, administrative module, navigation/intel module, tools module, etc.

I have basic contents to all of these that stay the same, and modify as according to what my end use area is like. I pack the same basic kit for a train trip to art museums in Italy as I do for hunting poachers in South Africa, just add on additonal modules according too what I'm going to do.

HOW DO I PACK IT? I work on a three tier system. There is what I carry on my body/person, what I carry in my "every day" bag, and what I keep in a small hard side suitcase that stays at the hotel/lodging/or in the kept baggage of whatever facility I want to park it at.

On my body: essential documents, money, small tools (swiss army knife, multiple flashlights, "snivel kit" smalll first aid kit, one small trauma bandage, bandana, etc.

In my "every-day kit": first aid module, which is a small compact kit that I can manage trauma with, flashlight, spare batteries, small radio, guidebooks (nav module), misc tools, water purification bottle, snack food, spare clothing, small toiletries. The concept of my "every-day" bag is that I have everything with me that I would need to keep my self healthy and well if I couldn't get to my hotel for up to say 24 hours.

Suitcase -- spare clothing, books, etc. And when in transit, stuff that I can't carry on the plane like knives, etc.

WHAT KIND OF BAGGAGE DO I CARRY? Low profile, one carry-on and one checked hard side suitcase. Beat up, don't look like much. My everyday bag is generally a nondescript backpack of around 2000-2500 cubic inch capacity, although my favorite for many years (and the issue BOB for SEALs, DEA, and some other folks...) was the Mountainsmith Day Pack large lumbar pack with a modified shoulder strap.

If you yanked out the foam panel, the chest plat from a kevlar best fit right in there...


My current travel bag is more "tactical" than I normally go, though I soften my profile by looking like the old hippy I am. I use a Tactical Tailor 3-day Assault Pack because I like being able to have a hydration system in it, and I find it's the perfect size to carry all my urban survival kit as well as a laptop and books and room for other goodies, like bottles of wine and snacks for any lovelies I might encounter along the way.

My suitcase is a very beat up Delsey (great line, better than Samsonite in my experience) the smallest hard size they make. Wheeled to ease moving around.

[Den's Delsey hard case, which clocked up thousands of miles when he was on bodyguard teams]

Less is more when it comes to gear. I'm quite happy traveling with just a carry on bag, the problem is with the current aviation security regulations, I can't bring some of my essential travle gear in the cockpit, so I have a hard side case just for that.

WHAT KIND OF PROTOCOLS? Well, I no longer have operational issues to consider when I travel, but I like to practice good personal security and operational security when I travel anyways, given the state of the world. This is a VERY lengthy subject, but here's a few random tips: when you're visiting a country with any kind of risk factor, or even one you've not been to before, pay the money in advance for one night's lodging at a nice hotel in your arrival city. Ask them to help you arrange transportation from the hotel if it's dodgy. For instance, in Bogota Colombia back in the day (and still now) there was a thriving business among the baddies to work the airport in unlicensed VW taxis...they'd meet you in good English, offer you a great fare, lload you up, drive you up, rob you and kill you, or rob you, rape you, and then kill you, depending on your gender. They tried that on a friend of mine, who racked up two more ticks on his body count that day! But a good hotel can either get a shuttle for you or else send a cab or else tell you where to go to get one. If in doubt, get a rep from the airlines and ask them to point out the safe cabs, or else ask a cop at hte airport.

In the hotel, I always lock and as somebody pointed out above, block the door with a wedge. When I go out, I leave the tv on and the DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door. I often would leave a tiny strip of duct tape on the bottom of the door in a high risk area and upojn returning to the room note whether it had been pulled off or not (by someone opening the door and entering). Also I always made it a point to cultivate the maids, tip them, be nice to them, and utilize them as local intellignece assets to just stay on their good side.

HOW DO YOU HANDLE TRANSPORTATION? Me, I like to travel like the locals, which has resulted in some humorous situations, like the time I took a train from karachi to peshawar, which was like a combination of Mad Max meets Out of Africa, and I had Den shaking his head at the sight of me in a local matutu in Jo'berg with my head done up in a local do-rag! The smart thing to do, if you're in a dodgy place, is either find or hire a local to drive you around. While deployed in India in support of an ongoing operation, I hired a local to drive me around for a very reasonable fee. After a day, the guy adopted me and didn't want to take my money. I paid him anyway, and the next time I went there I gave him some old clothes, and now, if I ever need a platoon of ex-Gurgkhas, I got them....

COMFORTABLE FLIGHT? Get an aisle seat so you can get up and down. Study the lay out of the plane, and try to get a seat in the emergency aisle or SOME of the bulkheads. Make sure and get out of your seat regularly. I like being near the galleys so I can chat with the flight attendants, but I'm just a friendly guy that way. Make sure you stay hydrated, as you lose over a pint in an hour in flight just sitting. Remember that coffee/tea/booze will accelerate your dehydration if you don't match it with water. Like Den said, fruit is good for traveling. Try to sleep if you can. Wear loose clothing that doesn't bind at the waist, natural fibers are best in case of fire or emergency. Sturdy shoes that aren't too hard to come on or off.

MONEY: I always takes lots of cash/traveler's checks. Nowadays with the ATMs being ubiquitous, and with credit cards everywhere, I like to take a credit/debit card linked to an account with a specific amount of money in it, so I can draw down on a budget.

However, cash is king in emergencies. when I was running around for the G, it wasn't uncommmon for me to have up to 10K on my person. but I had special requirements then. Now i probably wouldn't have more than 2K spread between my person, my everyday bag, and a stash in the hotel/safe or in my suitcase. Plus whatever i have on my credit/debit card. I also carry a "throw-down" wallet with a few low denomination bills wrapped around a wad of paper, so it looks loike an enormous roll of bills, along with some misc expired/useless/fake ids. I can throw that at a robber and make my retreat.

there is a lot about this subject.

Couple of excellent books; THE SAFE TRAVEL BOOK,, by Peter Savage, a former CIA officer and State Department officer. first rate book that I used as a text when I taught this stuff for the G.

THE WORLD'S MOST DANGEROUS PLACES, Robert Young Pelton. RYP is an old friend of mine, and as crazy as the day is long. Some excellent tips on travel in extreme places.

COME BACK ALIVE, by Robert Young Pelton -- while I don't agree with everything in this book, there's some good stuff in there. RYP gave me and some other contributors credit in the and Rob Krott are the only ones still alive!

I did a write-up on the concealed carry options for the Mountainsmith Day Pack (their largest lumbar pack) many moons ago.  A couple of my buds on the SEAL Teams were deployed over the water in plain clothes; they standardized on the Mountainsmith Day Pack for their kit.  You replace the stiff foam insert with a kevlar panel (exact size of a chest plate), use the side bottle carriers for one bottle of water and the other one for empty/expended magazines, you can drop a MP-5K AND a M-9 Beretta with extended mag in there along with a shit pot full of mini-grenades, radios, etc.  My buddy Malcolm Nance, who used to run the SERE training for the BUD/S course, turned me onto them as an alternative (tactical) for compujter carry.

Mountainsmith makes three different wheeled duffels, they're all under 10 pounds, though the biggest is just barely under ten at 9lbs 14 oz.  check out; you'd have to get them through an on-line dealer.  The one I had was the Discovery (a much earlier version).  They make a real big regular duffel; the only thing is, if that sucker is loaded up with gear, it will be a bear to carry around.  Better to go with the wheeled versions.

Also take a look at the North Face versions...and Eagle Creek you can find discounted pretty heavily if you check the on-line retailers.

Sleeping bags?  Well, I've done a bit of research on those as well.... ; )

For maximum weight/warmth ratio and compressability, consider a good down bag with the various water-resistant exterior shells.  A good one rated to a reasonable temperature (20 degree Fahrenheit is plenty for standard travel/fair weather camping, and will do in a pinch in late fall, early spring...) will run you between $150-200.  And if taken care of, will last you forever.  My bag, which has seen me through 2 marriages and countless backpacking trips, etc., is a custom bag made for me by Feathered Friends of Seattle, WA...800 fill down in a Gore-Tex Shell.  Cost me around $200 in 1988.  Compresses to the size of an oversized loaf of bread, weighs 2 1/4 lbs, kept me warm down to 15 degrees while sleeping out inn the snow.  Still goinng strong.

For a little less money, the new generation of synthetics are really good.  the old trade off of if down gets wet it's useless vs. the heaveir weight of synthetics has dwindled with the new technology...but down is still the best all  around, as long as you keep it dry, which the new shells will do.  Check out for some real steals on remaindered sleeping bags, especially North Face bags.  Sierra Trading Post also has occasional good deals on sleeping bags.

Check Six,
Dennis Martin
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