Packing Zahra For Syria

My friend Zahra is a full-scope Family Physician like myself who is bravely flying out to the MIddle East tomorrow morning to provide medical relief to those effected by the Syrian Civil War.  Prior to her arrival in Syria she'll also be training Turkish and Syrian surgeons in Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS).  Since I have experience in disaster relief and mission medicine Zahra asked for some help in preparing for her mission.  

I thought it would be interesting to share the gear list we prepared.  The most important aspects when preparing for a trip like this is to be light and fast.  You need to be prepared to move as quickly as possible, and you can't leave your gear behind so it needs to be able to move with you at all times.  

Clothing and pack color need to be subdued and not draw attention in crowds, especially as a foreign national in a war zone.


1 large duffel medical supplies (checked)

1 carry on - light hiking backpack (in neutral black/grey/light blue- no red or bright colors)

concealed passport/money pouch


Street clothes arrival (top)

Departure clothes (top)

Jeans (1 pair)

Scrubs (3 tops, 2 pants)

Trail Running shoes (1 pair)

sleep clothes

underwear (x # comfortable), sports bra

headscarf or Shemagh

socks x 2 (Smartwool PhD ankle socks)

long sleeve 1/4 zip pullover (Patagonia Capilene 2 or 3)

thin rain jacket (Patagonia Houdini)


iPhone (= camera, journal, language guide, med reference)

Kindle (to not go insane during downtime and long-term battery life)


usb cable for iphone and Kindle


emergency usb battery pack

international adapter



emergency gloves

clear shooting glasses

n95 mask

Personal hygiene

small hand sanitizer

baby wipes

travel sized shampoo/conditioner/bodywash



small nail trimmer with file

small roll toilet paper

pack towel 


10 high-protein energy bars

water purification tablets

gum or mints


Fluconazole 150mg (1)

Ciprofloxacin 500mg  (20)

Flagyl 500mg (20)

Doxycycline 100mg (20) 

imodium (20)

bismuth salicylate (20)

mobic or naproxen (10-30)

vicodin (6)

prednisone 20mg (10)



sunglasses & case

money pouch


watch (Casio g-shock)

very small compass

ear plugs (hearos)

small roll of duct tape wrapped around 3 zip ties

pen x 2

Petzl e+light 

tactical flashlight

Gerber Shard keychain tool


photocopy of medical license

photocopy of passport hidden in bag

flight itinerary hidden in bag

copies of all on iPhone 

printed out map of the region and of the city (8x11)



1.) byki Arabic 

2.) English-Arabic Dictionary

3.) epocrates

4.) DayOne


(to load on Kindle and iPhone)

1.) 2.) Turkey & Syria country guides (Loney Planet, etc.)

3.) Auerbach Field Guide to Wilderness Medicine (Kindle)


Auerbach Wilderness Medicine 5th Ed (Kindle)

4.) Pfenninger and Fowler's Procedures for Primary Care

5.) The ICU Book

6.) Where There Is No Doctor (pdf)

7.) Where There Is No Dentist (pdf)

-load these in iBooks on your iPhone

I wish Zahra luck on the good and selfless work she is doing.

If she has any form of internet access she'll send me updates and I'll post them here on