Backpack for a time traveler

Simple game you are going to be sent to a random period of human history, for an unknown length of time. You are allowed to take a backpacks worth of stuff. So what do you take?


I’m going to need a T-shirt:


Only into the past? Or could you also be sent into the future?


I don’t see why not both.


I can’t even begin to answer this without some clue as to when I’m going.


Hmmm… Phone and charger, for a start. If I am going somewhen with electricity, it will be useful as a rechargeable camera, recorder and note-taking device, at least, yet still small enough to conceal in a pocket. If no electricity, at least it will be good until the battery runs out, and if I am coming home, I can retrieve the data. Micro SD cards for the phone in case it is somewhen with electricity and I can recharge it, I will be able to collect more data.

Sanitary supplies. Other women will know exactly why these are on my list.

Lighters. Yes, plural.

Toothbrush and toothpaste.

Pencils (mechanical) and pens.

Painkillers. Advil is my friend.

Notes on basic HACCP practices, because if the time I am in does not use HACCP, I am going to have to.

A meat thermometer.

Disposable gloves.

A hotline to contact my home time for when I am inevitably tried as a witch, I can be pulled out before the execution.


Duct Tape (well, duh).

Multi-tool with wirecutters and pliers (lives in my EDC, so I forget to think about remembering to carry it).

Small,strong magnet. (Won’t actually muck up flash memory,but it will be kept away from the phone).

First Aid manual.

Collapsable baton.


Package of zip ties.


I swear this is a time travel kit…


In the future, pretty much anything I carry is going to be an outdated antique in a civilized time or, in a time of collapse, just as potentially useful as it would be if I went back in time. With that in mind …

Books, on PDF with a ruggedized device (and a solar charger), if possible:
The Way Things Work
Henley’s Formulas
Potentially an offsite copy of Wikipedia
An extensive, reliable survival manual / reference.

Swiss army knife or Leatherman pocket too.
Magnifying glass, reliable pen(s), steel fire starter, most permanent cigarette lighter possible.
Solar-powered calculator
LED flashlight, with squeeze charge or hand-crank.
Heavy walking stick - attracts less attention than a more obvious weapon.
Utility knife - should be OK in most places.

Penicillin, snakebite kit, asprin.
If you have more medical knowledge, bring other useful supplies!

Outfit: Plain boots, denim jeans, cotton shirt, leather jacket. You might look kind of fancy in some places, much less fashionable in others, but at least in Western civilizations, you’re probably good for the past few hundred years. (If there’s not civilization, then you’re probably pretty good too.) Add to this, a simple, shapeless khaki or leather knapsack.

Currency / trade items: Gold or small jewels are probably good, although perhaps with some exchange difficulties in some locations. Avoid coins with dates, of course! Instead, carry gold as rings or other generic jewelry.
A small package of steel needles would be amazingly valuable in many eras and takes up little room or weight.
A pound or so of salt takes up a bit more room, but would also be great for trade, or even your own use.

I referenced suggestions from GURPS Time Travel, which was written about 20 years ago. I’ve added a few notes or changes of my own, but I think the suggestions are still good, overall.




Erm…how big is my backpack? I may need to add some more things.


A solar charger (or, one of those wood-burning camp stoves that also powers a charger) would provide some more utility. Then, even if there’s no electricity or the electrical standards are different, you can still charge.

On the other hand, some paper money with dates could be useful. Very little added weight, if you end up in the past then it can be used for non-currency purposes (kindling?), and in the future it might be possible to sell it off as a collectable.


Think i’d wear a cloak. Covers my clothes until I can find something period specific and doubles as a blanket.

I personally am packing a manual reverse osmosis pump. Don’t trust ye olde water.


Who are you calling?

A Towel


Calling? People use phones to talk to other people?? :wink:

I’d mostly look at it as an extremely easy-to-carry multitool… like @MalevolentPixy said, you’ve got camera, recorder, and note-taking all in a tiny form factor. Plus, you could load it up with survival and technological information for a reference tool, maybe some maps, and possibly some entertainment as well. Language references would also be useful - how many different X-to-English dictionaries could you load on a few thumbnail-sized SD cards as opposed to trying to lug the dead-tree versions around?


I’d throw in some antibiotics.


That reasoning sounds familiar.

Might be a difficult look to pull off in a near-present-day or future setting, but definitely a lot of utility.


Thinking, too, if you had a basic history text for the place you were going you could be aware of upcoming events and either make money or make good survival choices, or both.

  • Gold - When is gold not currency?
  • Medicine - Anesthetics and antibiotocs
  • Tablet with Solar Charger - Loaded with all the reference material one could want
  • Gun and Ammo - In case anyone wants my backpack full of gold, strange artifacts
  • Robe - Doesn’t stand out too much, but enough to pull off a “mysterious stranger” routine
  • Basic Survival Gear - Knife, lighter, things like that
  • Bag of Carmel M&Ms - Win friends and influence people

Man, those really are evidence that civilization has peaked, aren’t they?