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What to take to an Earthquake!

Rick Madonik, Staff Photographer


No water.

No food.

No power.

No infrastructure.


There’s a plethora of subject lines I’m tempted to explore regarding the devastating earthquake which demolished Haiti and continues to cause havoc to Haitians. Instead, I elected to explore one topic in particular. That is: What to take to an earthquake?

There’s a host of variables to manage. With very little notice, and only hours to gather all necessary items before flying out, its imperative to have much of what you need preassembled. A number of us have gear ready to go. I have a spot in an unused bedroom which houses my travel bags, medical kit, and sleeping gear. Split among two different boxes are a variety of things from electrical plugs for different continents, to water filters, to tarps, to water shoes.

The computer backpack I sling everyday incorporates everything I need to get on a plane and go to work. For about 15 years I’ve carried, on a daily basis, my passport and all things necessary to get on a plane and leave without going home.

Not everyone does this, but if you want, or expect, to be called upon for such assignments, then it’s a necessity.

First up is finding a man named Pat Strain and securing the bGan (satellite transmission unit about 4 lbs and the only reliable way of getting pictures out) and SAT(elite) phone. Then you have to take the time to hook everything up and make sure you can transmit and the phone works. On an assignment such as this, there is hardly a place I would venture without the SAT phone being on my physical person. Hopefully the batteries have been charged (its hit and miss). A quick look to ensure the chargers and wires are in good order is also necessary.

As you’re doing this, the much required money makes its appearance. Its rare – this was one of those rare situations - the funds have more than $300 in actual cash - the bulk of it in Travellers Cheques. Honestly, there are better things to do then spend an hour or two changing US TCs into US cash. (As a travel aside, you also must be cognizant of the year of issue of US bills larger then $50. No one in Rwanda, for example, will accept bills printed before 2002. Even the vendor in the street doesn’t like them. Too many counterfeits.)

Next stop is your favorite outfitters, or camping, supplier. A variety of high caloric, energy food is a must. You have to be careful because some energy bars require drinking a considerable amount of water. Considering the magnitude of this particular quake, and the fact before this catastrophic event Haiti was a difficult place, I’d also be picking up a several days of climbing meals that can be rehydrated and cooked in the bag. Problem with them, is they eat space and it means bringing along a single element burner (and gas) for cooking purposes. If its been more then two years since I stocked up on water purification pills, I’m loading up on those also.

Then home to pack. This is where the LIST becomes the lifesaver.

Bag decision. Well, that’s easy. You’re not rolling you’re way through Haiti, so it’s a 70 litre backpack. It will house the vast majority while the daily computer backback simply swings around to become an uncomfortable front pack.

The following items are selected from a larger list, which can be tailored to needs of a particular trip.

I suspect, as I physically packed, there would be a few items I’ve not included here that would make it into the bag.

 Camera, Computer and Communications Checklist:

3 Bodies (3rd is a luxury)

14 mm (optional)



1 flash

1.7 x teleconverter

300mm f4 or 100-300mm f4-5.6

CF Cards

AA Batteries/Watch batteries

AAA Batteries
(for headlamp)

4-6 Camera Batteries

Battery Charger unit (cable)

Power bar / extension cord

CCD/sensor cleaner


Extra laptop battery (optional)

Long Ethernet cable
(for bGAN)

Laptop Power Cord

Blank DVDs

External Hard Drive

Cord for Hard Drive

CF Card Adapter and backup Card Reader

bGAN (unit, power cords, extra battery)

THURYA (SAT phone) – with roof antanaee (Power cable and extra battery)   

Audio recorder 

Portable Power Inverter – for Car 

Document Checklist:

Airline (E) Tickets


(2-3 hidding spots, even sewing some money into clothing if necessary)

Passport photos

Credit Cards

and Business Cards  

Photocopy’s of Documents

Other Required Items

·      Camelback (3 litre reservoir inside a small day pack)

·      Sleeping Bag
 (thermorest – optional)

·      Bivy Sack

•    Mosquite net (optional)

·      Caribeeners

·      Maps 

·      Stove and Gas

·      One small cooking pot

·      Dehydrated food, bars, power gels

·      Gatorade (powder)

·      Goldbond body powder

·      Wet naps (for dry showering)

·      Headlamp

·      Anti-bacterial Wipes

·      Various Ziplocks

·      Gaffer tape

·      Ear Plugs

·      Sunscreen

·      Insect Repellent
 (deet 30%)

·      Hand Sanitizer

·      Toothbrush/paste/floss

·      Liquid camping soap (biodegradable)

·      Compass

·      Lens Repair Tape

·      Allergy meds, minor pain relief

Photo-1 Rick Madonik's "ready-to-go" Emergency Medical kit

 Emergency Medical Kit: 

·      Headlamp

·      Emergency blanket

·      Mirror and Compass

·      Pain medication (prescription)

·      Antibiotics for stomache disorders

·      Polysporin ear/eye drop

·      Surgical gloves

·      2nd SKIN burn pads

·      Rehydration solutions

·      Blister Pads

·      Matches/striker

·      Surgical Tape

·      Safety Scissors

·      Pain killers

·      Water purification tabs

·      Pressure bandages

·      Sterile wipes

•   Alcohol swipes 

·      Triangular Bandages

·      Safety pins    

·      Large Dressings

·      Bandages    

·      Imodium

·      Tourniquette

·      Syringe kit

·      Needles

·      Rations

Once this is all in order, you can head to the airport. As you can see, it’s a comprehensive list. What’s missing, of course, is clothing. Clothing is a bit of a luxury and is used mainly to wrap sensitive items/gear in.





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I recommend you check out these gentlemen, they walked 14 hours down Yonge St to make this crazyness http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEUXggK_Fok

Amazing article !
I am not a journalist or photographer, but this article is essential for anyone who wants to learn to think like a "nomad".

Thank you for sharing with us something that is taken for granted and is far, far from that.

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