How to Pack for Mars



Our esteemed colleagues at the Big Travel Publications have for a while now been addressing the all important issue of how to pack. In fact, one could say comprehensively addressing the issue. They have published hundreds of articles, and videos, each more deliciously than the next, ever so finely refining the existential art of packing a suitcase.


Who knew there was so much to know? Not me! For decades I have packed a bag to go away, unpacked it, packed it back again to go home and unpacked it again, often days, sometimes weeks later when I get home. But I am ignorant. I live in darkness.


There is no point in competing with the grand, all-seeing vision of the Big Travel Publications. When it comes to instructing mortals how to put their belongings into luggage, it is no exaggeration to say they have the ground covered. We know when to cede the ground.


However — and this can only be an oversight — they seemed to have ignored interplanetary travel! Which is where we’re all going eventually, let’s face it. So we said, what about Mars? Surely one has to put some thought into packing for that trip! And maybe it’s just because we’re the new kids on the block, and we’re fresh to all this forecasting stuff, but we’re ready to name Mars as the number one luxury travel destination of 2075! Yes, folks, when everyone is blabbering away about that 58 years from now, please remember who told you first.


What if you are going to Mars? I mean, you are probably not, at least not imminently, but someone is. NASA has whole departments, whole great, vast chunks of its organization dedicated to exactly this issue — what do you pack for the as yet untaken voyage to the Martian planet, 6 months and 33.9 million miles away?


It turns out you need a lot of items, but will be more restricted than you might hope… And most of it very old school low tech.


According to Olivier L. de Weck, head of the MIT Strategic Engineering Research Group, you have to be very circumspect about what you take into space. The craft itself and the fuel account for  99.9% of the vehicle’s weight. The remaining tenth of a percent is the ship’s crew and their vitals.


Having said that, cheat a little — bring a couple of extra books!



Here’s what you should pack for mars, according to NASA and other space contractors.




15 pairs of clothes


A sextant with a martian star map (since there are no GPS satellites on Mars)


Air freshener and foot powder (someone’s thinking….)


Hammer and chisel


2 way radio


MP3 player


Solar panels


Nuclear fuel since there are no fossil fuels, and dust storms can render solar panels useless, obviously.


2 clocks, one with earth time the other with Martian. Mars is in a different time zone.


Provigil, an anti-narcoleptic pill, but also sleeping pills, to reset circadian rhythms for Mars


A damn good book” said someone, and we concur.


No alcohol. This, I think, is someone being a bit fussy. It’s a long damn flight. And it’s not like you can grab a drink at the other end.


Lots of plants


A thick jacket


Exercise equipment for squats (the lower gravity weakens your spine)


Spices and Tang.



Tang! That was so Apollo! But, you know, the more things change, the more they remain the same…


(additional reporting by Jay McClure)