Timetravel: What to Take?

By Shamus Posted Thursday May 14, 2009

Filed under: Random 188 comments

You’re about to go back in time. You’re going to land somewhere in Europe during the High Middle Ages, in the range of 1000AD to 1300AD. You’re standing in your house. This trip will take you and about a loaded suitcase worth of volume. If you attempt to take more you won’t be able to predict what will be left behind. What do you take with you?

You’re going for good. This is a one-way trip. You don’t know exactly where or when you will land within the given window, or what time of year it will be. (Let’s assume you can be confident that you’ll land on solid ground, though. Don’t worry about appearing over the ocean. inside of rock, or 100 meters off the ground. You’ll arrive safely. After that it’s up to you.)

Don’t worry about changing history. It’s inevitable, so don’t go in trying to preserve the original timeline.

So… what items will you put in your suitcase before you go? What’s the plan when you get there?

Answers might perhaps be long. Leave them in the comments, or put them on your blog and I’ll link back.

Somewhere North of South.


From The Archives:

188 thoughts on “Timetravel: What to Take?

  1. gebiv says:

    Well, I’d make sure I was wearing this shirt…


  2. Toast says:

    duplicate post

  3. RCTrucker7 says:

    Hey Shamus, this is totally unrelated to the article I know, and I apologize, but thought it would be ok once you saw what it was; Your Pixel City made it onto Rock, Paper, Shotgun.

    We Built This City On (er) Maths: PixelCityWritten by Kieron Gillen on May 14, 2009 at 5:31 pm.


  4. Al Shiney says:

    Well, it’s pretty much all about survival, which means being able to defend yourself and heal wounds. For the latter, I’d consult a medic to figure out what I’d need for a state of the art first aid kit and antibiotics / medicines that will stand the test of time. For the former, a good pistol (with suppressor if I could manage it, as I don’t want to have to answer questions) and a compact shotgun for dire emergencies (“This is my BOOM stick!”), along with large quantities of ammo, would be required.

    I’d try to fill up any remaining space with schematics of whatever technological advances were due to be developed in the next 100-200 years (say 1200 to 1400) so I could “invent” them first. Hey, a guy’s gotta make a living. :-)

    Pictures of loved ones would have to be in there somewhere too. I think it’s realistic to fit all of that in one suitcase.

  5. Blackbird71 says:

    Ok, I have to ask, what is the purpose of this trip through time? You’ve already precluded making any historical changes, so what is the goal of the journey? I ask because what I bring will depend greatly on what my mission is.

    Or is this little jaunt just for the fun of it? Because if I had a time machine and two weeks of vacation to blow, I think I could come up with a destination or two much better than the Middle Ages…

    1. Shamus says:

      Blackbird: The mission is survival.

      1. Shamus says:

        OldGrover: You wouldn’t need a Bible for your non-heretic credentials. Most people didn’t have them, and those that did would not recognize yours as such, being in modern English.

  6. OldGrover says:

    Huh. Suitcase full – condensed abridged encyclopedia, chemistry text, physics text, biology text, botany text. Bible and cross (got to prove I’m not a heathen, after all, even though I am). Pistol with ammo (as much as I can stuff into corners), and holster. Leatherman. Kitchen butcher knife. Flint. Matches – more stuff for corners. Flashlight with extra batteries. Laser pointer with extra batteries (useful for creating juju). A small sheet of 6mil transparent poly plastic, big enough to cover under. Gold and jewels, as much as I can swap for the deed to the house. Three extra pairs of my glasses, in as heavy and dull a frame as possible. Pills – Tylenol, codeine, morphine, penicillin.

    That’s probably a reasonable amount to stuff in a decent sized suitcase. Plan would be to protect myself with the pistol until I reached a reasonably sized town, use the gold and jewels to establish myself as a merchant (with guards) in that town and work my way up using the knowledge in the books to advance my state of living.

    And hoping not to end up like ‘The Boss’, fighting to defend a fortified bastion of technology against hordes of knights.

  7. BLAMM! says:

    A towel.

  8. Hal says:

    I’m with Al Shiney on this one. Probably fill it mostly with first aid or other medical things. In fact, didn’t you write a post at one time on the very subject of whether you’d survive the middle ages (or not) comparing medical technology then with a person’s medical history?

    The rest of my bag space might just be for books: History, science, etc. As long as I’m changing history, I may as well do it right.

  9. Badger says:

    Blackberry (it has all my contacts in it!).
    Digital SLR camera.
    Macbook Pro.
    My iPod.
    A digital camcorder. Lots of cool action to be filmed! (“What else floats on water?”)
    A laser pointer.
    My VISA card (“It’s where you want to be”).
    My Kindle, with a copy of “Robinson Crusoe” on it.
    A few pairs of spare underwear. Remember, textile technology was pretty undeveloped back then. You don’t want your bits getting itchy.
    Oh, and I’d take my Tilley hat of course. Because those things rock at ANY point in history.

  10. Jericho says:

    I would bring a suitcase time machine to send me into the future.

    But seriously, I expect I would try and go all hermit, since I don’t speak whatever regional dialect they got. So survival gear, hunting implements, axes, etc. Probably skinning knives, so I can make a living if I need to.

    Nothing involving electricuty or batteries, unless they are life-time batteries (imagine running out of batteries after 5 years of it being your only piece of technology).

    I might even bring a firearm of some sort, but it would have to be hidden well. Don’t want the locals finding it.

  11. Badger says:

    Old Grover: The Bible will be a dead giveaway you ARE a heathen- unless it’s in Latin and handwritten. Also, only clergymen would have them, and they’d be chained to the lectern in the church. So save the space for something better, like Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty books.

  12. Julian says:

    I’d take a compound bow, and then show it to a Count or Duchess or similar to impress them, win their favour, get them to let me live with them, etc.

    Reasoning is that a soldier or hunter would recognize it as a bow, but when he shot it he would realize that I hold a much, MUCH superior weapon than their silly longbows. That’s certain to win me some friends.

    Also, anything “modern” that didn’t require electricity (maybe something solar, or windup).
    “BEHOLD, THE MIGHTY BOUNCY BALL”. Seriously, those things would sell like crazy there.

    I would also take sugar to make dulce de leche, and make a killing that way too.

    1. Shamus says:

      I’m afraid I’d default on this one. My asthma (which is VERY sensitive to animals, HORSES in particular) means that any trip back is more or less a death sentence. I couldn’t hope to acquire or pack enough drugs to keep me going for morth than a couple of years, assuming the drugs don’t simply lose their virtue due to normal expiration. No, I’d be doomed.

      But if I spot myself a magic cure for the purposes of taking part in this discussion:

      * My hand-pump flashlight.
      * Two sidearms, both of which feed off the same ammunition. This gives me a backup, and the ability to arm an ally in a pinch.
      * The time travel cheat sheet that everyone keeps linking.
      * Antibiotics, painkillers, disinfectant.
      * SPARE SHOES. I’d get running shoes in brown so they don’t stand out TOO much.
      * As much ammo as I could reasonably carry without staggering.
      * I’d use a backpack or gym bag instead of a suitcase. I’ll most likely be lugging it for a while.
      * I’d google a list of major & minor inventors and thinkers of the target period, and head for those guys (I doubt there’s many, though) once I figure out when & where I’ve landed.
      * My pocketwatch. It’s sweet, was a gift from my brother, it’s practical, and it might come in handy as a bit of comprehensible tech.
      * A really good coat. Some people are overlooking the fact that you might land in winter.

      Not knowing where I’d end up, I’d probably gravitate towards a city and look for opportunity. The language barrier is going to be a pain in the ass.

  13. OldGrover says:

    Shamus and Badger: I did think of that, but I felt it’d be worth it in order to a> use quotes to demonstrate what I was doing wasn’t bad and b> fend off accusations that I didn’t pay attention to the Lord.

    Either way, you’re right – the books, if seen, are a dead giveaway, but I don’t know Latin so I couldn’t bring Latin versions of all of them.

  14. Andrew says:

    As much of wikipedia printouts as I could fit into a suitcase.

  15. Nefrai says:

    Leatherman for sure.

    A print out on making primitive batteries.

    A good sub-zero jacket (our jackets have to better than the ones in the old days)

    Lighter and some extra fuel.

    My Nintendo DS (I will eventually learn how to hook it up to my primitive battery).

    Not really much else…most things I need for survival I can still get there. Knives, bow/arrow, etc. I may bring a book on what plants help with wounds/infection.

    Oh, and my Enders Game book. I would miss it if I left it here.

  16. haelduksf says:

    It all depends on your strategy.

    Assuming no intensive training, my command of the local language and customs would be shaky at best, so that rules out blending in.

    If I were to try and make my way within civilization, I’d bring an XO laptop (built-in Wikipedia, plus useful apps and hand-charger), a respectable handgun with a couple hundred hollow-point rounds, some sort of High Middle Ages Phrasebook, some religious paraphernalia appropriate to the destination time/place, and as much gold as I could fit in the remaining space.

    If I were roughing it (which I think is much more viable- with people being what they are the previous option is likely to end up with me dead over some stupid matter of greed or religion or what-have-you) I’d go with the XO again, a sturdy crossbow, a healthy supply of antibiotics, and as much steel as I could pack in the remaining space. I hope my suitcase has sturdy wheels!

  17. Jazmeister says:

    I’d bring some method of generating power (even a wind-up phone charger, if it came to that) and a very efficient laptop with external hard drives etc, which I’d have previously loaded with the entire contents of Wikipedia and tutorials for building more computers, teaching people english, surviving in the desert, etc. I could also bring some gold bullion.

    I’d probably have a dry-run before I left this timeline, seeing if I could construct shelter and *gulp* stop being a vegetarian without getting salmonella. I’d get a million vaccines first and probably take a shit ton of multivitamins with me, but more valuable will be the ability to manufacture my own shit with the knowledge stored on my laptop.

    So the plan is to get the fuck out of Europe, crazy bastards that they are, and charter a ship to america. Then I’d approach some native americans and communicate with them, and try to forge a society that would be ready for the colonisation, both technologically and philosphically.

    Key to this goal would be setting the society on a path to finish my work after I’m dead, and to guard against corruption and understand why it’s all a good idea. Bring footage from films like the Last Samurai that show massacre of native americans, to convey the seriousness. Some knowledge of their culture would be good, but the goal is to destroy their culture and replace it with my own. Will hold off on giant statues of me until later. Don’t mind learning their language.

    Also spare batteries and, if possible, spare copies of anything I couldn’t repair. And a picture of my wife, who’d have to have died for me to even consider doing this. Maybe I’d take a teacher training course too – the only way to really make the difference you want to make is to use today’s supreme tools – the internet, knowledge, communication, and education – to arm you in the past.

    Then I’d kill Hitler and start mining Tiberium.

    Great Question!

  18. Jazmeister says:

    Addendum: Kill the crew. No-one must know. Better they never return from their foolish voyage. It’s for the greater good, etc.

    Addenda Addendum: Also, maybe not the *entire* contents of wikipedia, although Earth’s alternate history is important to preserve.

    Also it should be passworded, ffs. And no, I won’t flash the future-shit to people. And no guns. Some language courses would be great. Latin and the Germanic ones might cover a lot of ground.

  19. Jadawin says:

    Apparently no one has read Frankowski’s The Cross-Time Engineer- I’d carry a ton of seeds with me, since modern crops produce much more vigorously. You’d have to be careful not to get sterile hybrids, though.

  20. Jason says:

    Sure you won’t have albuterol or singular (or whatever it is you take) but you could make do with a ephedra and marijuana. Marijuana is an expectorant and ephedra is a decongestant.

  21. Sesoron says:

    A Chaucerian dictionary, a Latin dictionary for good measure, a selection of books with the details necessary to construct a working electrical generator (wind, solar, hydro?), my computer, a portable drive with the entire contents of Wikipedia downloaded to it, and a sword. That last one might not actually fit in a suitcase, but you said volume, Shamus, not dimensions.

  22. I would take:
    -Multiple netbooks
    -Handcrank generator for the above
    -Either currency or something compact and easily sellable (like a bunch of cubic zirconia or synthetic diamonds)
    -Lasers, at least a few of which are over 500mW
    -Modern medical supplies: coagulating bandages, epinephrine, or whatever, IANAM
    -A pistol and bullets for it (in that time period, a gun would provide an easy out for any problems that arise)
    -A couple butane jet lighters and a couple cans of butane (starting fires is good, and with the can of butane I can breathe fire as well ;)

  23. Trianglehead says:

    Layered clothes, and numerous books on the sciences. Probably an outer robe and attempt to pass myself off as a scholar monk.

  24. Ed says:

    Hmmm… I’ll divide my suitcase into roughly equal thirds. The first third would be devoted to medical supplies. The second would be devoted to food and water. Nothing too bulky, obviously, but a few days worth of dried beans and rice along with a couple gallon jugs of water should do. In a pinch, I can use the jugs to construct a water purifier. The third third would actually be subdivided into sixths. One would contain as many useful electrical gadgets and rechargeable batteries for them as I can fit, along with solar panels, wire glue and components to build chargers for them. The other would be packed up with as many pocket references on as many topics as I can fit. I’ll also want a Leatherman, a good combat knife and one of those retractable police batons.
    Edit: Forgot to pack a magnifying lens…

  25. Robyrt says:

    Actually, you could buy pocket Bibles in the Middle Ages; quite the fashion among courtly women, I’m told. Of course, everyone would assume you stole it. Since I couldn’t live alone as an outdoorsman, and my smooth hands and perfect teeth mean I’m not a peasant, I’d have to pose as a priest. That means a Latin Bible.

    As far as disruptive technology: Penicillin and pasteurization are very easy to explain for maximum benefit. If you make it to a university, you could scoop everyone on the invention of calculus.

  26. gorthol says:

    This is a question I have considered for quite a while (though to be fair, the question I considered had me sent back to before the invention of farming – but this is close enough).

    I’ve looked at the shirt above, and I gotta say – it’s useful, but that’s the kind of stuff you should memorize. What you would probably want to take is some sort of spectrometer (to identify substances), some sort of human-powered generator to go along with it, and a book that tells you how to identify elements from the readings. However, I get the feeling that that may be more than one suitcase worth of material.

    Barring that, I suppose you’d want to take things that you couldn’t easily find, create, or refine in that time period. Aluminum, tungsten, copper wiring, magnets (I’m glad this is a volume constraint and not a mass constraint). Maybe steel too, depending on where you end up (though I guess you don’t know that).

    Add some food, a toothbrush/toothpaste, a little freon, a few pages about batteries, and a few pages about crop rotation and you should be good to go. Present yourself as an inventor to a noble powerful enough to get you supplies and labor. Need a weapon? Invent the railgun (you can invent gunpowder if you want, but you’ll need saltpeter – if you want you can also throw that in your suitcase). Use the magnet and wiring to create a generator, then invent the lightbulb. Charlemagne has already introduced a system of crop rotation, but you can improve on it given those pages you brought along, leaving no land to fallow. Invent a heater. Invent the refrigerator. Prevent the invention of radio so that you can use wireless power transmission.

    Most importantly, replace their current system of dumping their chamber pots into the street with VIP latrines (ventilation-improved pit latrines).

    I’m sure I’ve gotten something wrong, but you get the idea. Your brain can carry almost limitless information, and has incredible computation power. Therefore, you really want to bring raw materials more than anything else.

  27. an e-book reader and a solar charger (with as many science documents as possible, some fiction for the boredom, may as well buy their entire library cause i’m not coming back to pay my credit card off (also, make sure that the e-books don’t have any drm which requires calling home)) maybe one of those electronic translator dealies too (with every possible language, cause, hey, i may end up in feudal japan!) a small, electric cattle prod (or similar multi-use taser device that could be charged with the solar charger)

    an assortment of easy to grow seeds,
    med kit with pain killers,antibiotics etc (and i’d make sure I went and got immunized for EVERYTHING before hand)

    Damascus steel survival knife, Leatherman ,
    a hand full of neodymium rare earth magnets
    a concealable pistol (i’d rather conceal it than use it) with as many rounds as I could fit in the remaining space (pistol + no ammo = dead weight)

  28. -F. says:

    Well, I could go a couple of different ways.

    1) I’d pack a BOOMstick, a chainsaw I could strap to my arm, some basic chemistry books and a spare copy of the necronomicon ex mortiis.

    2) I’d pack a Sonic Screwdriver, some Slightly Psychic paper, a towel and a slice of lemon wrapped around a gold brick.

  29. Zombie Pete says:


    While you’re at noble effort to save Native America, try not to spread smallpox and other Old World diseases, which is what killed off 3/4 of them. Technology and philosophy ain’t gonna save ’em.

  30. Tim says:

    Given the immense stretches of European wilderness, most equipment would need to be survival gear. Hopefully, the time machine doesn’t dump me in the Alps.

    Ideas I haven’t seen mentioned: maps, mini-binoculars, ultralight tent/sleeping bag if I can fit it; print the cheatsheets on waterproof silk or otherwise protect them; some tiny tradegoods, maybe LED magnets, or jewelry if budget is unlimited. Don’t get mistaken for a thief.

    I considered body armour, but it’s bulky, and if I end up in combat the pistol can’t help with, I’m screwed anyway.

  31. Strangeite says:

    32gb iPod Touch loaded with the entirety of Wikipedia, WikiHow and Brittanica, would fill Stanza with lots of technical eBooks on Chemistry, History, Physics, etc. and the rest would be apps that do not reguire a net connection, star chart, graphing calculator, Latin to English dictionary, etc. I like that it can fit into my pocket for quick escapes.

    Handcranked USB charger for the iPod touch.

    Rifle/Shotgun combo with ammo.


    A good knife set.

    A museum replica sword but manufactored using modern alloys.



    Water purification tablets.

    Seeds. Lots and lots of seeds. Of course they would be non-hybrids.

  32. Jazmeister says:

    @zombie pete

    Sure! I probably only need about that anyway, but being a mythical pariah of pestilence won’t help my PR. The goal is to stop america having a nuclear program and being a big stupid battleground. The sooner we develop a laser tower that can shoot down nukes, the better.

    I also like the magnets thing. If you just had a good sized magnet, you could set up shop powering your shit right away. Careful it doesn’t wipe your drives though.

    Kidnapping orphans might be a great way to build a community untouched by the weird local people and their stupid customs. I could also start work on Duke Nukem Forever.

  33. MikeElkins says:

    As a trade good: Silk. Lightweight and of obvious value to those rich enough to afford it, even through a language barrier.
    That’s once you’ve got the survival thing under control, of course…

  34. Jennifer says:

    How LONG of a trip are we talking about, here? For preference, I wouldn’t go. The past was scary bad. But if I *had* to go for some reason I can’t even begin to imagine, I’d pack the following:

    2 nondescript shirts
    1 pair of nigh-indestructible heavy canvas pants
    3 undershirts
    3 pairs underwear
    3 pairs heavy socks
    long johns
    a warm hat that covers my ears
    a scarf suitable for use for wrapping my entire head
    extremely comfortable hiking boots
    extremely comfortable hiking sandals
    waterproof slicker with hood
    knee-length jacket with removable lining to make it suitable for variable weather conditions.
    a month’s supply of feminine hygiene products, preferably the kind you can wash and re-use
    a 1-lb brick of the kind of soap that you can use on either clothes or yourself, preferably the kind that kills lice and fleas
    3 days emergency food
    3 days emergency water
    2 small cooking pots
    mess kit
    a selection of 6-10 knives of various utility, including a multi-tool that includes flint and tinder.
    a sharpening stone, cloth, and oil for said knives
    a winter blanket roughly the dimensions of a tent, waterproofed if possible
    a field manual illuminating the edibility/dangerousness of European plants and animals
    A compass
    A small but detailed atlas of Europe
    a large bottle of rubbing alcohol and a bottle of penicillan
    50′ of nylon rope
    a disreputable-looking leather bag for carrying anything I’m not wearing
    and as much extra cloth, sewing needles, buttons, and thread as I can cram into whatever space remains

    The plan: avoid human habitation as much as possible while carrying out The Mission, whatever it is. If not possible (food supplies running short), stick with outlying farmsteads of few inhabitants. Pass self off as mute/possibly harmlessly insane and communicate solely in gestures. Boil all water for at least 10 minutes before drinking. Conceal all knives on person and never be visibly armed.

    Forget about trying to “pass”–you will not pass and trying to do so is more dangerous than not bothering. Other humans are an extreme danger and should be treated as such, like wild animals to be run from, chased off, or possibly bribed with small valuables like needles, thread, or buttons. Stealth is your best chance of survival.

  35. Jack of Spades says:

    My sidearm. Don’t need anything else, as I have no real desire to survive in the nasty squalor that was the middle ages.

  36. edcalaban says:

    I’d plan on making myself VERY useful to a major noble family, possibly as some sort of engineer or advisor. This allows me to change whatever I planned on with maximum efficiency, as well as gain a position of power for later!

    1. Details on the expected political climate – who can I go be an advisor to? Which powers can I successfully manipulate?
    1a) MAPS.
    2. Small first aid kit
    3. Low bulk camping gear (tarp, rope, sleeping bag in a stuff sack, flashlight, solar charger for batteries, camp stove, knife, etc)
    4. Survival guide for the area
    5. A binder filled with useful technology and how to get there (steam power to electricity, guns, etc).
    6. Weapons, preferably small and concealable. One or two guns, but primarily melee weapons. Maybe a bow.

  37. Nefrai says:

    Looking over peoples lists, much of what you bring back won’t last long, unless it’s something you can build in those days. That’s why I wouldn’t bother with most medicine, extra clothes, or anything I can simply build once I get there/then.
    Magnifying glass is a brilliant idea…never wears out, just don’t break it, heheh.

    For clothes and something to sleep in, bring books on how to skin a deer and cure hides. For medicine, learn about the plants, and extracting penicillin from mold and such. Learn what berries are safe to eat.

    Any weapon you need you can make there. Guns run out of bullets but would be usefull for an emergency precaution. Books on trapping small animals for food, and many lots of string. String is your friend, and invaluable for fishing. It will wear out eventually, but will be really helpfull the first year or so.

    If I got zapped back in time, I would be in Washington…so lots of forest, rivers, animals, and Native Americans. My life would likely be short, heheh. Language barrier would prolly get me killed.

  38. Logicaly_Random says:

    My goals would be two-fold, initial survival, and the ability later to make myself useful. To further the first end, I would take:

    Glock 17 and 500 rounds of 9mm, plus some spare mags.

    Survival knife

    Water purification tablets

    My Latin textbook, plus a Latin/English dictionary.

    Antibiotics, preferably penicillin.

    This allows me to communicate to some extent, (at least with the local clergy), avoid death from any sort of pestilence that may be around, and defend myself. In addition, all of the above could be stuffed into a pocket, with the exception of the dictionary. For long-term usefulness, I would pack:

    Instructions on the Bessemer process

    Formula for black powder

    Instructions for making Penicillin

    Schematics and instructions for making a Kentucky long rifle

    These would allow me to produce the two things any army in the time period would need, antibiotics and gunpowder. All I’d have to do is get an audience with a local lord, show him what the Glock can do, and then tell him I can make something nearly as powerful. Then, when I reveal the usefulness of penicillin, I would become indispensable, and using that, effectively take over the medieval world.

  39. Oleyo says:

    I think I would do what several people have mentioned, bring lots of books about science and technology, I would slowly read the books and dispense the information to whoever wants to pay. Could definately come up with all kinds of “inventions” that way, a King would definately protect/provide for that kind of resource.

  40. Jennifer says:

    Everyone talking about bringing guns or expensive trade goods or electrical equipment is fooling themselves. You’re going to have enough trouble on your hands convincing people you aren’t The Devil and/or possessed by same, and you won’t have any buddies around to help you deal with packs of toughs. If you get mobbed, you’ll get off one shot, maybe (and that’s only if you’re skilled enough to get the gun out and ready very, very quickly), and then the guy’s buddies will take you down and cut your throat.

    As for the seeds, where are you going to find *land*? Every part of Europe in that period was owned by some feudal type–even killing a wild animal or cutting down a tree in a forest could land you in hot water because those animals and trees were considered property of the local lord.

  41. Mari says:

    Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

    *Rosary in precious gems (portable money as well as symbol of faith to prove non-heathenism)
    *Gold and silver jewelry (non-alloyed) with plenty of poking out bits (sun with rays, etc) for quick cash as well
    *Three pairs of eyeglasses in my prescription with poly-carb lenses (occulars for vision as bad as mine in glass lenses available then would be virtually unwearable)
    *a .45 revolver with both .45 and .22 loads
    *a deck of playing cards
    *toilet paper (seriously)

    That’s pretty much it, really. I’m not really uncomfortable with living in the Middle Ages so beyond my gun (for the protection of my person as women had virtually no rights under feudal law), a deck of cards for when I’m tired of music, art, and needlework, and some tp to pamper my hindquarters, all I really need is the ability to see well enough to avoid walking off a cliff and a source of cash until I find a man to marry and take the keeping of me under his charge. *shrugs* Yeah, but that was the reality, wasn’t it?

  42. K says:

    What’s with all you americans focusing on guns so much? A pistol (a spare makes sense) and some ammunition should easily suffice, as you will rarely need more than one bullet (assuming it hits) per fight, no matter the amount of enemies. They’ll run after seeing you kill someone by only pointing at him.
    I like the compound bow idea, and the seeds although you probably would not need a huge amount, provided you know how to plant crops. Potatoes! They even grow friends when they are lying in my fridge, can’t be hard to make more in proper conditions. Only trouble is that they are big and heavy to transport. Of couse pennicillin and medical things, including books on sicknesses and how to treat. A book on calculus, chemistry and physics to get a job at a university or court. Electrical devices discouraged, due to lack of repair/maintance. Computer parts break down after a few years. You might be able to get a monk to copy all your data to paper first, though. How about looking up famous literature (shakespeare) and “writing” it?

  43. Nick says:


    Daaaaang, thought I’d mention him first. All I can think of in this post and comments is that book. A good translation book, a book on european history, weapons, and a few books on physics and chemistry. Set up shop as that “reclusive engineer”, or become a valuable asset to some duke.

  44. cosmonusa says:

    1000AD to 1300AD?
    Hell yeah!
    All i need is my knowledge of Middle High German and a copy of “The Song of the Nibelungs”.
    I’m gonna sing the Minne! ;)

  45. Gregory Weir says:

    1. Army Field Manual.
    2. Quick study guides to physics, chemistry, and calculus.
    3. Leatherman.
    4. Cross necklace (not bible).
    5. Some energy bars, for the first few days.
    6. Many small cubic zirconias, distributed in hidden spots in the luggage and on my person.
    7. About a pound of aluminum, which will be more precious (and lighter!) than gold for those who can recognize its uniqueness.
    8. A history text covering the target time period, including a who’s who.
    9. Maps, preferably with political markings for the area. Bring extra copies of a simple world map for trading.
    10. Bottle of antibiotics, bottle of aspirin.
    11. A few changes of clothes.
    12. Compact medical reference book.
    13. Solar-powered calculator and a slide rule (with instructions).
    14. Bottle of peppercorns.
    15. A small collection of seeds from modern crops.

    The plan: pose as a person from the Far East who was converted to Christianity by a missionary priest. First, get to some sort of civilization, and do my best to communicate. Try to make my way to a center of learning or tech: Venice, Rome, Paris, Oxford. Get myself in good with the scientists there, claiming to have knowledge of Eastern science that I can share.

    What not to do: bring a bible, as others have said. I also won’t bring a weapon. I’m not good with one, and it will get me singled out as a troublemaker or rebellious serf. I won’t try to get rich, and won’t demonstrate any abilities that could be considered magical, with the exception of medical treatments that I will claim are based on old Eastern lore, and those only if someone’s life is at stake.

    Frankly, I’d far prefer Arabia as a destination.

  46. Mooseh says:

    -Three books, one on agriculture, one on human biology, and one on chemistry.
    -A portable microscope (in a crush-prof case).
    -That time travel cheat sheet (laminated).
    -Vaccine for smallpox and several antibiotics in pill form.
    -Some gold, silver, and aluminum? (remember, up until the later 1800’s, aluminum as hard to obtain in a pure form and thus expensive.)
    -A knife.
    -A change of clothes

  47. Joel says:

    If our goal is survival, I think we're going to want to cut as low of a profile as we can until we can ingratiate ourselves to a particular community or patron that is going to keep us fed, clothed, and sheltered. I like being able to go to sleep at night without the fear of being robbed and murdered in my bed and I think that certain decisions make this a more likely prospect than others.

    Some stuff can't really be compromised. If we show up in the woods in the middle of a European winter, we're going to need an excellent coat. Ideally it will be one that we can break down into component parts: waterproof shell, fleece lining, maybe a vest. A good hat and gloves are going to be important as well. Avoid bright colors. While an excellent pair of hiking boots sounds tempting, I think I would prefer boots that are going to offer more durability and ease of repair. That probably rules out anything waterproof, so we should probably pack a couple pairs of socks. Continuing on the wilderness theme, I can't stop thinking of Bear Grylls (for a couple reasons). He does pretty well with his knife which also contains a compass and flint. Bring a spare, but hey, now we can butcher animals we kill, cook them, and boil drinking water.

    While we are going to need some kind of ranged weapon, I think a firearm is probably too flashy. Especially a modern one. An old ball-firing musket would probably be a better bet, since making the ammunition and gunpowder wouldn't require any kind of industrialization. At that point, I think finding an excellent composite bow and a fletching kit would be the better move. No one is going to be surprised by a bow and a bow is far easier to maintain. You'll be able to replace a broken bow string. If a part fails in your firearm, well, I hope you brought plans for forging and machining high quality steel.

    Someone mentioned bringing a Latin dictionary. This is a very good idea. It is the closest you're going to get to a lingua franca in this situation (aside from Yiddish) and again will help you be less obtrusive. Sure, you might be dressed strangely and have a ridiculous accent, but if you know Latin you can't be too alien, right? Learning Latin will also be a good step towards learning Italian, which is great because that's where I'm headed. The climate is more favorable than Northern Europe and there are some cities that are in the process of becoming very wealthy. This means an even greater chance of surviving because someone is bound to pick you up and feed you because they think you could be useful. You'll probably do alright in Florence or Venice, especially if you're managed to memorize some plans for useful engineering. Architecture, sure, but knowing how to build a trebuchet is going to go a long way towards making you invaluable.

    I'm also going to avoid any kind of public heresy. The consequences are just a little too drastic and it would be entirely too easy to rock the boat too much, theologically speaking, with virtually any statement originating from our modern or post-modern experience of religion.

  48. Tacoma says:

    All you guys who talk about bringing a laptop with Wikipedia saved to it are missing some important stuff.

    First, many Wiki articles are worthless for recreating what they talk about. While many have some decent drawings you’d still need technical expertise to do things like manufacture penicillin or the cotton gin.

    Second, you need power. The small amount of power you can generate grinding away at your homemade generator is a pittance compared to your power needs. And you’d have to know exactly how to hook up unconditioned, fluctuating DC power into your laptop without destroying it or ruining the battery. You have no way to provide a constant power supply if the battery fails and the battery will last you a year or two at best with the poor recharging conditions.

    Third, travel is a pain. You’re riding a horse or in a carriage, or lugging it across the countryside. One good jolt too many and a tiny component comes loose, suddenly your store of all human knowledge is inaccessible.

    Fourth, Wikipedia is big.
    Feb 2003 – 4 gb
    Aug 2003 – 17 gb
    Apr 2004 – 57 gb (growing 1.2 gb per week)
    Oct 2004 – 170 gb
    Aug 2006 – 1.2 tb (1229 gb)

    Based on its growth curve, assuming the low-hanging fruit will have been taken care of already and growth will be steady due to news and new discoveries, I project that Wikipedia in Jan 2009 was probably around 1500 gb. Please tell me you have a laptop with 1500 gb of free memory.

    Also note that while everyone has been giving all these great ideas for things to bring, like a “compact shotgun” which even in the USA is illegal, he said you’re standing in your house packing. Do you really have all this stuff lying around your house?

    I’d givea little and suggest that you could run to the store for things. But gun purchases have waiting periods and such, though ammo doesn’t, so unless you have one you’re going to have to do without.

    I would bring a few science and math texts(which I actually do have lying around), medicine, and the time traveler printout. Sturdy clothes and shoes. Period and modern maps, compass, two multitool pliers. And I would train for outdoor survival, identification of local plants, major history of Europe at the time and in the near future. Remember you don’t care about history beyond a hundred years past your arrival date because you won’t live that long. And I would plan to invent a few really good things that will set me up in luxury. I’d make copies by hand to practice and make sure I was doing it right before I left. The most important one for me would be the machine used to manufacture condoms. But you only really need a couple good inventions.

    I’d definitely scope out the locations of mines that will be discovered after that time and that can be worked using the tech of that period.

    Given wire and the two multitools I know how to make chainmail. Knowledge of basic sanitation (hand washing, boiling water, sewage disposal) and general principles of modern medicine would make me valuable to a doctor.

    Also I wouldn’t care about changing history. If it’s a one-way trip I could care less about the future. I’m living now, after all, and I’m not worried about changing some hypothetical future of 2050 am I?

    Learning a language would be nice but that takes a long time, speakers of that dialect today are rare, and I have no idea if I’ll land in Spain or Russia. Best to wing it once I get there.

    I’d definitely get vaccination against the junk they had passing around back then.

    A weapon that doesn’t use ammo, like a modern alloy sword, plus a suit of stab-proof kevlar would be lovely – again if I could buy it before I left but that’s hardly likely. Instead I’d bring a kitchen knife and a crowbar until I could procure a crossbow and sword there.

    Finally a bit of money to get started, pure gold and silver in Troy ounce nuggets.

  49. Galen says:

    I think bringing all the medical supplies would be the hard way. Assuming I can find one I’d opt for a midget or contortionist that’s a highly certified doctor. If there was still room in the bag then I’d pack some jewelry to sell when I get there. And a pistol and ammo.

  50. Unary says:

    Most people are bringing reference materials. I think I’d rather learn it, and focus on bringing appropriate tools and clothing…in a backpack, not a suitcase.

    How long do I have to prepare?

    I’ve got a decent grip on how to make clothing (cloth and leather), and I can clean a carcass, so I’d just go with the knowledge I’ve got there. Trapping with snares is also something I know. First aid is second nature to me, I’d have to learn how to craft my own antibiotics after the first few years, tho. I can fish with a hook and a wire.

    I think I could learn to smelt and forge simple tools in a year or two. I’m decent at carpentry already, but a six-month stint as a journeyman wouldn’t hurt. Once I’ve got those two down, it’s a reasonable leap to be able to gunsmith (wooden stock, single shot rifle). I’m not sure how I’d find ore for smithing, so I’d have to add that to the list of things to learn.

    Regarding farming, I’d have to spend a little time learning some modern cultivation techniques, but that would probably only take a half year.

    So, that’s survival, now about comfort. I’ve got a working knowledge of simple electrics, I’m not going to invent the circuit board, but batteries and motors are simple enough. Being able to smith my own parts (pull my own wires, etc) would be beneficial here…I think I’m going to exclude glassblowing from my skill list, that seems kinda … extra.

    Then I’d head somewhere in the SE USA, where I could try sustenance living for a year in a reasonably temperate environment before pushing the button.

    Leisure time would have to be non-existent. Every waking second would have to be spent either improving conditions, or limiting failures. I’d either have to be able to provide everything for myself, or learn to trade.

    Communications with Europeans would be limited at best, and violent at worst. I’ve only got one lifetime. I’m not going to advance 700 years in 15 or 20. However, earlier introduction of these objects would probably accelerate the Renaissance of Europe, or at least attract the attention of the local rulers.

    Closing though…I suppose, at nearly 40, I’d be considered too old to be drafted for the Crusades, so that’d be good. :-D

    Edit: I just remembered, there was a movie…”A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” or something like that. It was ok, based on a Mark Twain book.

  51. Jason D Barr says:

    I keep running into people asking this question on teh intarwebz, and I keep throwing out this (tangentially related) link to Tyler Cowen’s Marginal Revolution: here. Not so much what you should take, but survival tips. You can kill a couple of hours at your desk reading this… so I’ve heard.

  52. Dennis Brennan says:

    You want to stay out of America– if the sea voyage doesn’t kill you, the human-sacrifice-practicing natives will.

    It’d be better to go to Cairo or Baghdad. Much less chance of being burned as a heretic in one of those places. Of course, you don’t want to be in Baghdad in or after the year 1258…

    Microfiche of reference texts, and lenses. Don’t bother with anything requiring a power source.

    A good mirror.

    A sturdy plastic tarp.

    A map of gold mines and silver mines. I won’t be able to exploit them, but perhaps I can suck up to the local nobility by revealing their location.

    The recipe for concrete.

    Potatoes– that was a good idea.

    Flea repellent. Black death is going to arrive in the mid-1300s.

  53. Tom says:

    OK, I like all these answers, but I thought I’d take a different approach for the fun of it…

    If my goal is to survive the rest of my life in the time period, I’m going to try to learn the language and go native as much as possible. My goal is to make a living, not “live off the land.” So my question is what skills I have or could acquire that would make me invaluable to someone else.

    So I’m going to learn and practice various art techniques before I go, then I’m going to pack with me some superior art tools, things like durable brushes, colors unavailable locally, steel chisels, etc. Then I’m going to try to find a wealthy patron among the nobility or the Church. I’m no fancy artist today, but compared to the techniques of the time I could be pretty good indeed. Miraculous, even.

    I could also learn to do pottery, porcelain, etc. In later centuries, people make entire fortunes figuring out how to make and reproduce glazes and colors that no one else can do.

    I could also learn to make musical instruments that are ahead of their time and crafted with techniques that hadn’t been discovered at the time. The pipe organ already exists, but takes centuries to develop.

    An entirely different route would be to acquire and take with you some geographic maps and sell the locations of various mines that won’t be discovered until later. You can make up some mumbo jumbo about how you find them.

  54. Jimmie says:

    1) Da Vinci’s Codex
    2) This book: http://www.howeverythingworks.org/HEW1epbBI.html
    3) A small hand-shovel (to bury 4 and 5 in case.
    4) Five or six Crown Royal bags filled with gold nuggets.
    5) Five or six Crown Royal bags filled with moderate-sized precious gemstones.
    6) Netbook loaded to the gills with Rosetta Stone language software and a hand-crank to generate power in case.

    I’ll travel light and take the chance that I land near enough to human habitation that I won’t need survival gear. I’m not worried about cold-weather gear since I’ll be getting to Europe during the Medieval Warm Period. Of course, I’ll want to be out of there before the Little Ice Age (post-1300) kicks in.

    Basically, I need enough precious metal or gemstones to buy whatever I need while I’m there and to finance the production of enough things to keep me (and the city I will end up building around me) funded for a good long time. Entrepreneurism FTW!

  55. Tim says:

    I like Unary’a idea of taking time to prepare.

    I’d spend a month on European geography, a year or two working on language skills, particularly Latin and French, maybe a decade on local and world history, another decade on survival and first aid, a few years on online education to help my pre-time travel career, and finally, when I’m about 80 or so, I’ll be ready to cross over.

  56. Corsair says:

    One suitcase…

    Alright, I’d take a LOT of salt with me. It’s an excellent barter good. I’d also take several medical textbooks, especially pharmacology-based ones, particularly on the making of penicillin. I’d take a small revolver with six shots just to be safe. Make sure I was given every vaccine the world has to offer before I go. Get a English-Ecclesiastical Latin dictionary. Try to learn the basics of Old English. My Bible and a copy of The Lord of the Rings, to maintain my sanity. Then I’d set myself up as a healer in Medieval England, try to get myself into the royal court as a Rasputin kind of guy.

  57. Jim says:

    My son just finished reading a book called “Hatchet” about a 12 year old boy who finds himself stranded in the middle of the Canadian wilderness with nothing but the titled hatchet. Might have some pointers there.

    Also, at 6 feet and 270 lbs, I think I’d be quite a bit bigger than anyone else, right?

  58. Badger says:

    The language barrier…yeah. Fine I suppose if you landed in England; it’d sound a lot like the Ozarks. But the rest of Europe…I’d be ok if I would up in a French or German-controlled part of the country, but didn’t the Swedes and Italians have a lot of influence then too? I’d be hooped if I would up in their areas. And the Slavic areas would be a complete pooch-screw for me! I’d wind up expending all my ammunition in the first day when they wanted to burn me at the stake or confine me to an asylum or something.

    But for reals?

    I’m with the folks bringing small arms. A reliable handgun or two- large-bore (.45 or better, in case you need to punch through armour). I’d take an auto and a revolver both, as the revolver is going to be way more reliable, but the auto could save you in a firefight. Ammo, for sure- and a reloading kit. I can make gunpowder on site, and the bullets wouldn’t be too hard to make- but I’d want a lot of extra casings.

    My Tilley hat, as I said.

    Hard currency: gold for sure, but cut gems might be worth taking. They’d have to be exchanged more carefully than gold, though.

    I get LASIK’d before I went so I can leave the eyeglasses at home.

    A Zippo with lots of extra flints. Fuel isn’t a problem, it’ll run off almost anything flammable.

    That comfy underwear I mentioned.

    Antibiotics in pill form.

    Condoms. There were some nasty things kicking around back then. Also, more antibiotics.

    Microfiche cheat-sheets for food preparation and preservation (including beer!); basic chemical formulae; significant historic events (you HAVE to know the date and time of every solar eclipse, you know!); names and personal data of important political and scientific figures (religious ones as well, actually); details on technological development for the entire 1000-year period; geological survey records for the whole of Europe (helpful for locating mineral deposits); detailed directions on stellar navigation (and corresponding star charts for the time); religious instruction for the various factions controlling Europe; a LifeStraw and as many filters as I can get; Immodium tablets; and a hand-held magnifier for reading the microfiche.

    A suturing kit with loads of extra suture material. Stitches will be given!

    I think that would let me last a while. Maybe not for ten years, but you never know.

  59. scragar says:

    Before leaving I’d of course seek medical help for dealing with the various diseases and problems that were common back then.

    The winter coat is rather important, where I live there wasn’t any villages or anything until the turn of the 19th century, so I think if I remain in place, but not in time I’ve got a bit of a trek ahead of me.

    The first goal is food, where I live water would have been easy to find, and a bit of wood to make a fire and purify it would have been easy to set up with a bit of time and effort. I assume I could set a few traps for small animals using some fishing line, which would last for quite some time while taking up minimal space. I’d also pack emergency rations.

    For when I do come across a human setlement I’m going to assume the language barrier is a real problem, so I’d need something to trade, small gems(even if they are fake diamonds) of any kind would be very valuable, but only for trading to those who already posses wealth(otherwise I risk trouble), for the average farm hand I would pack a supply of valuable fabrics, and even a book or two(books are rare, anyone from them would recognise this). Never show more than I could give up.
    Once I have traded and earned some trust I would attempt to use my future knowledge of make the farming procedures more efficient in exchange for food and residence.

    After everything I have in bold with any free space I would carry detail notes on any disasters for the period I am going, this includes natural disasters, pandemics or man made problems(battles/wars, ritual killings, invasions or attacks etc). This would let me fore warn people, and earn me more favour with the locals.

  60. @jim
    yes, i’m sure most of us could make livings as ‘geeks’ at some circus (or just giants)
    6’4 = massive by those standards
    I also read that book way back in high school, it’s pretty good.

  61. Aergoth says:

    Well, I think I’ve thought mine out well enough. Link explains it all.

  62. Ryan says:

    Wow, I can’t believe no one’s mentioned Connie Willis yet.

    Doomsday Book provides background on the training an individual would need to survive during the Black Plauge. Her time travel books are great, but this one’s not an easy read – lots of death throughout.


  63. Maroon says:

    Enough money to get me a full vaccination cocktail and education in Romance languages before I went.

    Besides that, a survival kit, chocolate, science textbooks (mathematics, physics, chemistry, botany) a teddy bear, a shotgun, and sexy lingerie.

  64. Ostar says:

    For money, bring pearls. You’ll be rich, because they were rare and sought after in Europe at that time, and unlike gold or jewels today comparatively easy to obtain large amounts.

  65. Kyle says:

    To start off with, I would wear all the clothes I can. Anything made out of modern day polyester or cotton would be worth a lot. In my suitcase, I would bring a handgun and enough ammo to get my point across, a compound bow and enough arrows to demonstrate, enough rations to get me through the first week, a couple of leathermen (think 5, not 2), and some priestly robes and crosses. Assuming I can speak the language, I head to the nearest village, find the most intelligent peasant I can. Preferably someone in their late teens, so they know enough to help me out, but not enough to think I am some demon.

    After that, we would leave the village. I would pay his parents with a leatherman, which would probably be the most amazing thing they had ever seen in their lives, which is more than they could say for their son, who is about to become my apprentice.

    I would teach the kid everything I know, including how I got there, etc. We would go together to the local lord, bribe the guard another leatherman or equivalent trinket, and then get an audience with him. I ask him to find me a prisoner, who I execute on the spot with my handgun.

    Everyone is suitably awed, and I promise to do the same to him if he doesnt grant me a small fiefdom on some rich ground that I have scoped out beforehand.

    I establish a cloister, set my monks to work mining, and lo and behold I find whatever rare mineral it was I scoped out in modern times.

    We live peacefully and happily ever after. My apprentice becomes a powerful man in local politics, thanks to my teaching him of some Machiavellian ideas.

  66. Rutskarn says:

    The following items.

    *A handgun, extra 2 clips.
    * A detailed history/culture encyclopedia about that date in time.
    * As much first aid stuff as I can get my hands on, as well as a short medical journal.
    * Swiss Firesteel.
    * Pocket knife.
    * 2 reams of white paper.
    * Box of period recipies.

    I think I’d be good.

  67. mixmastermind says:

    rifle and ammo-loader

  68. OmegaDawn says:

    Very funny thinking you can build the technology base needed to build computers! That would take hundreds of years!

    And the odds you’d land anywhere near a back-time inventor is very small. You’d be in for a very long, dangerous trip to get anywhere.

    Keep in mind the climate of 1200s is somewhat like today but by 1300 it gets nasty cold!

    I’d be sure to include fishing line, hooks, and a slingshot. Slingshot’s good, you can pick up the ammo anywhere back in time. I’d also bring a backpack shovel and a hatchet.

    A sextant might not be a bad idea, if you bring a back-dated star chart and learn how to use it before you take off.

  69. Grimwauld says:

    hesu cristo, you guys are gonna get strung up in short order.

    Footwashing was common in hte mid-to-upperclass – if you have (comparatively) awesome footwear, they’re going to notice. Anything non-leather/non-plant material in origin.
    Also, clothing – the weave of our current clothing is vastly different, noticeably so without close inspection.

    Those’ll getcha picked up, and strung up in short order.

    I’d commit to memory the information on that time-travel-crib sheet yah’ll be linking.
    I’d brush up on my botany – a lot.
    If you bring penicilin, use it, and run out of it, suddenly you are daemonized for withholding healing ‘magic’.

    I might bring along penicillin for strategic use on a high ranking official of some kind – but only with an established rep as an herbalist-analogue.

    If you bring a gun, you have an iWin button – until you run out of ammo.
    I’d go and get some high quality sharpening equipment, and high quality blades – surgical stainless steel at the very least.
    Compound bow – I’d memorize the plans for one, and see about building one from circa available materials. If I can’t recreate an unusual item, I shouldn’t be bringing it along. Because I will be killed for my advantage as soon as my advantage runs out.

    Study any of the religious hate runs – it’s us technologists and forward thinkers that get strung up alongside the religious nutters, time and again.

    Memorize the basics, bring along circa-appropriate weapons.
    Memorize the trade you want to go into.
    Also, circa appropriate weapons made with today’s alloys will be worth more than a suitcase of gold.

    My (highly opinionated) 2c

  70. Corruptor says:

    Asides from the whole being two feet taller and speaking a different language thing, I would take:
    The several times mentioned english-latin dictionary.
    A heavy cloak, which wouldn’t stand out overly much, but would be nice and cozy
    A single firearm, with only a handful of extra shots.
    A well-made wooden rosary.
    A high-quality carbon-steel longsword. Being that the only real skill I have is passable swordsmanship, I could pass myself off as some sort of foreign knight until I get settled.
    Thick woolen clothing, only one real set.
    Water purification tablets.
    A pack full of gold, and cubic zirconium. (what? I can afford a time machine, but not a few thousand dollars in gold?)
    A hand-charging flashlight.
    One of those hand-flints. They last nearly forever, and can create fire almost instantly.
    Then, rather than focusing on all sorts of science and medical information, my obligatory ebook/laptop would contain unabridged histories of everything from 1000 to 1400.

  71. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Two semiautomatic pistols with a few cases of bullets(prefferably armour piercing ones),some general meds and a chemistry book with recipes for making meds for diseases Ill probably encounter there(I already know how to make gunpowder,so I wont need that).Quite enough to make me into a king and instruct a few blacksmiths to outfit my army with muskets,and then conquer the world.

    Or,instead of a book,I could take a laptop filled with numerous usefull information.I might be able to outfit a waterwheel to provide me with enough current to power it once the battery fails,but once it breaks(and it would break eventually),it would become useless.

  72. Tuck says:

    Wow…I expected more really viable responses from Shamus’s intelligent readers. I counted five who would have the best chance of survival: Jennifer, Unary, Joel, Scragar and OmegaDawn.

    Anyone taking a gun, electronics, books/papers or valuable goods hasn’t thought about how quickly those would be stolen (even a gun isn’t any good if you’re asleep). I also question how well most of them could actually use a gun — some mentioned demonstrating it, could you really shoot someone (even a condemned prisoner?) dead in cold blood just to demonstrate your ‘power’?

    How many of those here have lived in a third world country? Or even away from electricity for an extended period of time (say, 6 weeks)?

  73. Nathaniel says:

    Assuming I don’t have much time to prepare, I’d take some valuables, a pistol, a compass, and fill the rest up with books. My first order of business is to find a monastery. The compass and pistol are to help get to one safely. Once I find one, I use the valuables to buy myself a place as a monk. This gives me food, shelter, and safety while I learn the language. A Latin dictionary would be helpful with that. Once I’ve can speak, I can start translating the books.

  74. Gabriel Mobius says:

    The Chameleon Suit from The Journeyman Project 3. … What? If I’m taking anything, a time-traveling suit that allows me to go invisible or mimic natives is top of the list.

  75. Vladius says:

    A plunger, three sugar cubes, a Smith and Wesson .500 revolver, rations for a small dog, and a decrepit lemur. Let the plot begin.

  76. Alienprayer says:

    I think everyone is overestimating the utility of a gun.

    Unless you are a quickdraw champion on the State Fair circuit, anyone hostile within twenty-one feet is going to introduce a quarterstaff to your skull before you line up a decent shot. If it’s a group you are facing down, better hope that none of them have been in a battle, because inexplicable explosion plus wounded friend is unlikely to spook the kind of men who can hold their ground against heavy cavalry.

    What you really want is a lot of one thing to trade with, specificaly something you can have a hope of replicating when it runs out. That’s right, you pack your suitcase full of potatoes, corn, and the spice rack of the local supermarket.

    Sell the spices to aquire the right to farm some land, plant some corn and some potatoes. As a spice merchant you have an ready-made excuse for your obvious status as a foreigner, provided you stick to manors and avoid guild-dominated towns. Then the crops make you invaluable to the lord, who will defend your life more effectively than any 12-gauge.

  77. Aolhelm says:

    Hmmmm… haven’t decided what I would like to bring…
    But I noticed everyone seems to be assuming that they’ll land in a Christian country. If I remember correctly, Spain was controlled by the Muslims at this time… carrying a cross could land you in trouble if that’s where you ended up.

  78. Randolpho says:

    I’d hack up a Kindle to have a complete download of Wikipedia (a la XKCD http://xkcd.com/548/ ). I’d then take that and a suitcase full spare of batteries.

  79. Attorney At Chaos says:

    Most of the time that I’ve seen this question it includes a time limit on how long you have to pack. This can make a tremendous difference. The most common time limits specified are (a) 5 minutes and (b) 30 minutes.

    With 5 minutes you are limited to items in your house, and if being honest you can’t take 30 minutes deciding what to pack. It’s “get an idea, fling it in”.

    With 30 minutes you probably could make a quick trip to a store if you thought it worth it. Waiting for a prescription to be filled is out – you can grab stuff from the shelves, though, especially if you brought all those handguns people have been talking about….

    Let’s assume 30 minutes to pack. From a practical point of view that lets me find and arrange anything from the house and garden. For simplicity, let’s also say “no phone calls asking others to help”. This is about you and what you can grab quickly from around the house.

    I don’t have a laptop, nor hand/solar chargers. I’ll allow myself to keep my watch, but otherwise it’s pretty low tech for me.

    Until the actual time frame is established I’m going to just go for generalities here.

    The first concern is immediate physical survival. I have hiking/camping equipment available that helps with that. A standard backpack (which fits in the suitcase) and its load will have a first aid kit, space blanket, wool clothing, extra shoes and glasses, down sleeping bag, canteen, knife, rope, waterproof poncho/tarp, dried food and various other bits of gear – and it’s all in one place. I’d leave out the purely comfort items (bug spray and sunscreen and so on) while taking just survival gear. My grandfather was a carpenter, so I’ve also got a good selection of tools to choose from (the hatchet hangs here rather than with the camping gear, for example). We do gardening, so books on plants (especially edible ones and poisonous ones) are available to me. I’ve got an Army Survival Manual, that’s DEFINITELY going in. Multi-vitamins (rationed) to deal with deficiency diseases until I’ve gotten up to speed on the hunter/gatherer thing.

    For longer term, there’s Getting Along With People stuff. I won’t speak the language, but I can probably use music for making friends. I can’t pack the guitar, but a bunch of plastic recorders, tin whistles and such would be durable, light weight and very portable. My head contains thousands of songs. I’d empty the spice rack in the kitchen into the bag. (Someone mentioned salt as a trade good – pepper is worth a lot more.) The World Atlas would be of immense value even if the political names and boundaries were all wrong for the time. A packet of ball point pens and some paper.

    Yes, some science comes along. I have a pretty darn good Slide Rule and still have the instruction manual (for the more esoteric functions). The Handbook Of Chemistry And Physics goes in as well. A field guide to Rocks and Minerals too.

    I would probably have time enough to print out a FEW things (like how to make penicillin, black powder, alcohol) and get a few ideas on what would be the Next Great Step (the horse collar came in about this time, and stirrups for horses as well I think). But mostly it would be “set the printer going on the penicillin and black powder and alcohol, grab the kitchen and garden stuff (whatever seeds are on hand – ANYTHING from today could be great back then) and head to the garage and the camping/carpentry stuff. Grab the biggest suitcase and start packing – FAST. Grab printouts and stuff them in. If room, more reference books (I don’t really have sparklies for trade goods).

    If the actual time frame is “years to prepare”, things work out rather differently.

  80. Blackbird71 says:

    @Jennifer (37)
    Actually, that’s a mistake a lot of people make about sterilizing water – even the Boy Scout Handbook says to boil it for “10 minutes” – if you do that, you’ll have wasted your fuel and won’t have any water left! The truth is that while water boils at 212F, you’ll kill anything in it (at least anything that can be killed by boiling) by 170F, so once you hit boiling, the water is good. Boiling longer just converts more to steam and uses up more energy to do so.

    As for myself, I’m assuming that this trip is permanent? If that’s the case, then the goal is to survive long enough wherever I am to be able to set myself up to live long term in the time, and preferably do so somewhat comfortably. To do this, I’m not going to rely solely on modern technology. I’m not going to fit a lifetime supply of anything in one suitcase, and most of what I bring will eventually be used up or worn out, so it will have to intended for temporary use only or can be replaced with a contemporary equivalent.

    So, let’s start with clothes. I’d wear as much as I can, not knowing the climate I may end up in. I’d dress in layers, a good warm waterproof coat, a couple sweaters, T-shirt, gloves (thick goretex type as well as thinner, more flexible underneath), rugged cargo pants (military fatigues work nice), socks, shorts, belt, etc. I’d need a solid pair of comfortable boots, I’d probably go with my old combat boots, they’re worn in, and I know they can take a beating. Also, a hat and sunglasses. I’d pack spare socks, underwear, a change of clothes (pants/shirt) if I can fit it, and a few extra pairs of insoles (you can make almost any footwear comfortable with the right insoles).

    Now, on to immediate survival. Item 1: shelter. I’d pack a rain poncho, a space blanket (the shiny foil-like stuff, strong, warm, and compact), and if it fits, a small dome tent.

    Item 2: water. This should be pretty available in Europe, the problem is for it to be safe for use. I’d bring a couple of canteens full to get me started. I’d pack a small supply of iodine tablets for immediate purification. A small pot for boiling water, and way to make fire for more long term use. Specifically, a handful of lighters, a couple magnesium strikers (knife included later), and a magnifying lens.

    Item 3: food. I’d pack a couple days worth of rations (MRE’s work nicely, and the chemical heat packs can come in handy), that would be enough for me to get started gathering my own food. I’m not packing seeds or anything like that, because I may not be in one place long enough to do anything with them (plus I’m no good at growing anything other than weeds). I’d also bring a set of utensils (fork, knife, spoon). I don’t recall exactly what year forks came into use, but depending on when I end up, this could also end up being a valuable piece of technology.

    Ok, initial survival is taken care of, now basic tools: I’m not going anywhen without my Swiss Army knife, most useful thing ever (it’s got a nifty sawblade that I’ve actually used to build bamboo huts before, among many other features). Also, a multitool of some sort (leatherman, etc.), and a military survival/combat knife. A hatchet and a collapsible camp saw. Compass. Hand-pump LED flashlight. I’d also bring along about 200ft of good rope, but this I can coil and wear.

    Emergency supplies: well, this is one area that proves difficult, as whatever I bring will likely run out, so I’ll have to use it sparingly. I’ll need a good first-aid kit, with bandages, gauze, needles, thread, painkillers, antibiotic pills, antibiotic and antiviral ointments, medical tweezers, burn patches, topical anesthetics, etc. It sounds like a lot, but I once had a few years’ supply in kit no more than 7″x4″x3″. Pills would have to be stored in airtight containers with desicants to maximize shelf life. Once that supply is used up, I’m pretty much at the mercy of my own health, unless I wanted to bring along some live penicillin cultures and take the time to try to cultivate them, but that’s probably a bit much.

    The Arsenal: Weapons are a must, whether for food or defense. The combat knife is a start, but we can do better than that. I’d pack a couple of .45s with spare clips and ammo, to be used as a last resort for self defense. This do become useless once used up, but as a stranger with no allies in a strange land, if I’m ever seriously outnumbered, it would be nice to be able to drop a number of opponents in a few moments. I’d consider tossing a Desert Eagle in the mix for some extra stopping power, particularly useful if I have a problem with a large animal (such as a bear, or heavy horse with mounted knight), but that’s an extra. As for weapons more contemporary, I’m competent with a quarterstaff, which is something I could easily make once there, but if I can carry it with me, I’ll take my 6′ of ratan, it’s light, flexible, can move incredibly fast, and pretty much unlike any wood I’m going to find in Europe. I’m also decent with a bow, so in goes my recurve (it breaks down into 3 sections, easy fit), along with a few spare strings and spools of the two threads used to make them. Also my fingerglove of course. I considered a compound bow, but the problem there is if the cable ever breaks, you’re going to have a hard time replacing it with contemporary materials strong enough to take the tension. This way I can replace the string myself, and if I run out of thread (or don’t have room to pack it in the first place), I can make do with materials of the time. If the bow itself ever breaks, I’ll do well enough with a contemporary model. I’d also pack a few carbon fiber shafts, modern broadheads, a fletching jig and supplies.

    Currency: I’d bring small amounts of measured precious metals commonly used in trade (copper, silver, gold). I’m not trying to cart a fortune with me, just enough to buy basics until I can get myself set up. Gems/jewelry are out, specifically because trying to trade them will draw attention, and I’d have to find someone wealthy enough to pay for them. Of course, I intend to do this at some point anyway, but I don’t want to depend on having to do it at the outset.

    Knowledge: This is the big key to long-term survival here. My livlihood would be dependent upon providing technological advances to a ruler of my choice. Not radically modern technology, mind you, but much smaller advances, yet still valuable at the time (such as the long narrow arrowheads used to puncture plate armor, not developed until the early 1400s). Smaller and more believable leaps in tech makes it less likely for me to be accused of witchcraft or somesuch (of course, that’s out the window the first time I draw a gun, but by the time I’m desperate enough to pull one of those, I’ll be in a pretty bad situation anyway, and “leave town” will be top on my to do list). So, I’d probably take along a book on medieval/renaissance era technology and early machines, as well as a book on basic metallurgy – stronger and better metals are a great invention themselves. For my own personal use, I’d bring a book on European herbs and other useful plants (could come in handy when my medical supply runs dry). I’d also pack a stack of small notepads and a few mechanical pencils with refills. I’ll need to be able to communicate, I’ve had to learn languages before primarily by just speaking with the locals, so I know I can do it, but it really helps to be able to write down what they say and build your own vocabulary lists. Modern guides to old languages are nice, but speech will shift so drastically over such short distances that any modern text is going to only touch the surface, and will be rather nonspecific to most areas.

    Well, I guess that’s everything, it’s a good thing I’ve got a large suitcase. I’ve probably forgotten a few things, but I’m sure I could get by with this. High Middle Ages Europe, here I come!

    Of course, if I had it my way, I’d drop myself on a nice, quiet, tropical island somewhere in the Pacific, someplace with lots of pineapples, mangoes, and coconuts. In that case, I’d have to pack a good hammock :)

  81. Peter says:

    One of the things I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere so far (semi-edit: except for the last guy) is a musical instrument (I play flute myself). Traveling minstrels were pretty common in the Middle Ages, if you were lucky you could get into a noble’s court, and if not at least you could barter for food and shelter in exchange for performances and storytelling. I think it’s unlikely most of us could survive long in the wilderness completely on our own even today, with whatever technology we could reasonably bring with us, much less a millenium ago. Being able to get along with people and have a useful trade or skill to barter is therefore essential. Bringing your own trade goods is fine as far as it goes, but what happens when you run out? Trading food for music or stories is much more likely to be a long-term gig.

    I also tend to agree with the folks who think bringing firearms is silly. A good, modern hunting knife and/or composite bow are much better choices.

  82. Robert says:

    Gunpowder (and guns) weren’t unknown in Europe at the end of this period. I think assuming that firing a gun will overawe the locals might be a tad risky.

  83. Yonder says:

    43: Actually land would not be much of a problem in this time period. Land is not really valuable until the 1400’s when Europe is recovered from the plague and there are a couple of agriculture developments that dramatically increase the food supply. Before then the European population is very low, there is actually a labor shortage and its a little difficult to get enough people to work the fields (a concept that seems totally alien today).

    Now it is true that someone out there has a claim to the land and may not take to kindly to you setting up shop, but the idea is more to get permission from a patron to try your seeds through other means, then get into the agricultural game with a friend that protects you.

    60: Unfortunately, 1-20 days after threatening to murder the Lord, you are murdered in your sleep by a dozen armed men.

  84. Caffiene says:

    A very small horse.

    Its transportation and, apparently, provides an element of protection from the most suspicious of fellow time travelers.

  85. Josh says:

    Bazookas, granades, machine guns, bow, knife and lots, LOTS of ammo.

    I would go Rambo on medieval age. Shoot until running out of ammo. This scenario is pretty much like a zombie uprising.

  86. Avatar says:

    Actually, guns were pretty much unknown before 1300. And to the extent that they were known, they were known as big, clumsy, inaccurate things. Anyone who thought they “knew” about what a gun was, and who assumed that was what your gun could do, would be grossly mistaken; specifically nobody would expect a semi-automatic weapon, or even a breechloading hunting rifle.

    Anyone NOT taking a gun is, frankly, an idiot. What is the mark of power in that time period? It’s arms and armor; if you had them, you were a knight, and if you didn’t, you were nothing. If you have it in your mind to infiltrate a position of power, there to spread futuristic ideas and technology, there is no surer path open to you than to prove it upon dead foes of your patron. Your crazy ideas are much more likely to be tolerated if your enemies have a habit of turning up dead with massive head or chest wounds.

    Sure, it’s a riskier path than, say, finding a nearby hut and pretending you’re a peasant. But who the hell would want to do that? If you don’t want to DO anything in the past, don’t go! It’s not like you get shipwrecked there.

    It’s true that a gun isn’t a talisman of invincibility – it can be stolen from you while you sleep, you can die to a rush from a crowd, etc, etc. But that is true of literally any thing you can take at all, except nothing else will protect you against brigands or the local authorities, who figure that hey, here is an odd man with a funny accent and clothing, why not murder him and take his unusual apparatus?

    That said, a rifle and a few hundred rounds of ammunition should be enough to last you for quite a while, so long as you aren’t a jerk and don’t go around pretending you’re Superman. It’s a tool that can help you wedge yourself into a position where your knowledge might be appreciated.

  87. mc says:

    aolhelm: actually, that depends where and when in Spain you are. Maybe in time where the land was highly contested, it would, but I’m pretty sure there was religious freedom in Al-Andalus.

  88. Flying Dutchman says:

    I’d pack my 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88, trunk packed with books on science and stuff, then I’d cut off my hand, stick a chainsaw on the stump, and bring a big ‘ole gun… I’d also bring my evil mirror-twin for the heck of it.

  89. ehlijen says:

    Acquiring all this stuff will probably require reading a few museums, but seeing as I’ll be out of justice’s reach soon, why not?

    -Somewhat period accurate outfit of a gregarion monk (best way I can think of to get on people’s tolerant sides (assuming we’re talking europe) plus whatever nicknacks such a monk would have
    -No suitcase, just a burlap sack.
    -In that sack the collected design drawings of everything daVinci thought up (to prove I’m clever and worth having around)
    -A few textbooks on metalworking, stoneworking and farming (to make sure I actually end up being clever)
    -In a padded/muffled bag in the sack as many contemporary or before gold and silver coins as I can find

    Plan: Claim to be a scholar from a far away land (hence the language barrier) and offer my services to the first noble I can find, give him a bad case of the megalomania and get killed by either the common cold or an assassin sent by an enemy of my lord.

    If I actually ended up where I’m starting from:
    -koala bear costume. I wouldn’t fit in with the locals, so I might as well try to pretend I’m not worth bothering with.

  90. A Gould says:

    Working from the assumption I have enough time/money to outfit as I wish, but not enough time/money to learn languages and new skills..

    First stop is the local camping/fishing store – I want a set of clothes that will last. While it’s tempting to go for an iPod with the collected works of everything, I think a firestarter will last me longer. Simply, I’m going to be on foot for the short term, and I want to be on solid ground there. And the high quality camping gear is very small and light.

    Trade goods are probably the next logical step – gems and spices being the most portable, if memory serves.

    While “educate the masses” sounds like a fun goal, I suspect it’ll be far easier to end up “crazy guy” than “amazing forward thinker”. Also, I suck at chemistry. (Might sneak a book on the subject though, just for reading material).

    I wouldn’t bother with guns (or even the fancy bows) – I’m going to run out of ammunition, and I’m not a great shot to begin with. Sword sounds tempting, but again, I’m not trained, and that’s an invite to get whupped. I’ll take a nice long knife, though.

    Goal would be travelling merchant – I always did want to “get away from it all”. :)

  91. Yahzi says:

    Books, mostly. Some seeds (Not just modern, but New World – a potato!). A bag of silver coins. A pistol and two boxes of ammo (if you need more than that, you’re already doomed). Two crystal radio sets.

    And a Sharps .50 cal black-powder rifle, with enough tools to take it apart. I’d spend most of my time trying to get metal-working to the point where it could reproduce the Sharps. Then I’d become rich. After that I’d spend my money on a university, trying to make palatable the strange and unnatural notion of “women’s rights.”

    (Although I’m in the same boat as Shamus on this one – a diabetic wouldn’t survive terribly long in that world. :( If we’re limited to what’s in our house… a lot less books, all the pennies I can find, the pistol, and a sack of potatoes. )

    Let me ask the question a slightly different way: what if the world you went to had magic, and all you had was the stuff in your pockets? I wrote a 200,000 word answer to that question… :D


  92. Smileyfax says:

    Assuming unlimited time and resources to prepare beforehand, I think I’ll do something a little unique…

    I’ll bring a laptop, naturally, with all the information and so forth on it I could fit from Wikipedia etc. (Panasonic actually sells some durable laptop for people who work in rough environments…I think it’s called the Roughbook (aptly enough)).

    The entire rest of my allotted volume would contain as much uranium as possible.

    My objective would be twofold: develop a working nuclear reactor (so as to replenish my uranium stockpile) and an atomic bomb (more than one, if my uranium supply allows it). A uranium bomb is a fairly simple device to set off, after all; just smash two pieces of uranium together fast enough, physics will do the rest. (Naturally, to facilitate the construction of the reactor and the bombs, I’ll have as much relevant data in my laptop on the matter as well).

    Once I’ve assembled the reactor and as many bombs as I can, I’ll issue a demand to the leaders of Europe: surrender. They will surrender, too, but probably only after I’ve wiped one or more major city off the map.

    Having assumed total control over Europe, I set monks to transcribing as much of the information off the laptop as they can, and advance European science/industry as much as possible. Ideally, I’ll have the place up to early 1900s-era technology by the time I’ve reached old age.

    I’ll also establish numerous social reforms — the ending of feudalism and serfdom; the establishment of freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly, and arms; I’d even establish laws such as the protection of net neutrality and consumer rights, though such things wouldn’t become an issue for decades after my death, if at all.

    (Since I’ll already have annihilated billions upon billions of people by going back in time and changing things, a few hundred thousand more is small-time in comparison. And since this is all hypothetical anyway, there’s no harm done).

  93. Yahzi says:

    Smileyfax: …uranium…


    Assuming you survived the radiation poisoning (no way you can carry a critical mass AND the lead shielding to make it safe), there are no explosives you can manufacture using medieval technology that will produce enough force to make a nuclear bomb work. Also, make sure you pack that uranium in TWO different suitcases… :D

    As for social reforms, remember you’ll be going up against not just established convention but the Catholic Church. There was a movement to disestablish nobility, make women equal to men, and create social safety nets for the poor: they were called the Cathars. Look up some history to see how that worked out for them. :D

  94. Cain G, says:

    I’d bring along several changes of colorful clothing and try to pass myself off as a Prince of a fanciful land from across the sea who got shipwrecked. I’d make all kinds of friends with the church by claiming that a vision of the Cross inspired me to find them, and I’d be oh so grateful if they would teach me everything about this mysterious “Christ,” fellow so that I could pass it along to my heathen countrymen. That would probably take care of food and lodgings, not to mention get my name around to all the important people. Then I’d offer up juicy bits of foreknowledge and technological data to the highest bidder, passing them off as divinely inspired.

    Then I’d help my Jewish homies GTFO of Europe, because they hardly need the grief, right? It would probably start as an innocent suggestion to send them across the sea, don’t worry about the whole usury thing guys, I’ll happily give you money I got from my future knowledge scam to finance your retarded wars. Sure, that probably means no Israel, but I figure the Jews will be happier living on Manhattan island eons before the Dutch show up. The Dutch are nice, right? The Jews can share bagels with them.

  95. Dennis Brennan says:

    Nutmeg, cloves, black pepper, cinnamon, saffron. Heck- fill the suitcase with them; it may be possible to trade these for the things that I really need.

  96. Logicaly_Random says:

    Yahzi: About the social reforms, you make a good point, however, the Cathars didn’t have useful things like the Bessemer process, gunpowder, rifling, and other technologies that would make an army fighting in the high middle ages invincible. Combine far superior weapons with 700 years of tactical innovations, not to mention modern maps and antibiotics, and a force under your command effectively unstoppable. There isn’t much you couldn’t do.

  97. Joel says:

    Landing in Spain isn’t necessarily going to be a problem. In fact, I considered adding an Arabic dictionary to my kit and heading for Cairo or Baghdad. A lot of the groundbreaking artistic and scientific work during this time period was being done within the Muslim world, in which many leaders were fairly tolerant of other faiths so long as you weren’t rocking the boat or proselytizing.

    I agree that guns are being overestimated. Once your decidedly finite ammo supply is exhausted, it isn’t a means for generating power or security anymore. Furthermore, think of things in terms of the games we play. A powerful magical artifact is a pretty good incentive to try to go off someone or at least steal it. You have to sleep sometime. I just don’t think it is as viable a choice as something that was at least nominally “on hand” during that time period.

  98. Corsair says:

    Do you want to survive or do you want to be influential? That’s the real question. I’d rather survive as the healer of some backwater than get Rasputin’d. I don’t think I’m tough enough to survive getting poisoned, shot, stabbed, beaten, and then thrown into a freezing river.

  99. Sho says:

    Hmm. I’d take a small firearm and a decent amount of ammo, but ideally it’s an emergency weapon and not to be depended on to keep myself out of trouble. The best way to make it well looks to be via technology–pick a side, gain their trust, teach them things like how to make low tech firearms, and maybe some other stuff like… I don’t know, my mind is drawing a blank. Something to help their economy at least, so they can support a war effort before pillaging and conquest can. Maybe help develop new tools and stuff…

    Picking a side/gaining their trust–I learned tiny bits of old english that I might be able to use if I had a bit of time to prepare, and Latin is always a good option–you only need a bit of study, and then a phrasebook/dictionary, not a big one. Some light but valuable trade objects (people have mentioned them) will probably get you by in the early stages. Wilderness survival gear/knowledge is good too, but ideally you only need a few days before you can deal with people. To avoid being persecuted, I suppose you just need to appear more useful than alien and dangerous. Period clothes might be a wise option. A cross should work. Masquerading as a foreigner (as has been suggested) will get you some leeway on the weirdness–if they can rationalize your weirdness, you’ve got a better chance of being accepted. No guarantees. If a lynch mob comes for you, try praying loudly *before* brandishing weapons. Cover your suitcase with an animal skin or something, so that it doesn’t stand out too much.

    A further note on weapons–if you ever fire your modern gun, don’t stick around. You’d become more dangerous than useful. You probably could scare peasants, maybe give soldiers pause, but it’s not a good idea to rely on it–you’re doomed if they ever catch you sleeping, and if facing archers you’re not at much of an advantage. Find ways to protect yourself while asleep–some sort of variant of the bell-on-tripwire trick to alert you of attackers might be good.

    Just my take on it, most ideas shamelessly pilfered from the above comments.

  100. Jonathan says:

    A warm coat and good boots; gold/silver in small unmarked increments; a blackpowder revolver, mid-caliber (357?) with multiple speedloaders; some antibiotics (lots of diseases floating around); as much of my asthma medication as possible; and as many books as I can cram in, preferably ones that are heavy on details and diagrams–How Things Work, directions for building tools to build tools–hand lathes, blackpowder, steam engines, drill presses, basic electric generators, printing presses, instructions for refining iron, steel, and major alloys; a detailed terrain map of the world; another map showing where gold and diamonds have historically been found; a history book to keep up-to-date on what may be coming at me next…and a Bible. Gutenberg hasn’t come around yet.

  101. Lupis42 says:

    Definitely a heavy shoulderbag, nothing obviously modern, at least on the outside. I’d try to stuff in a shotgun and a healthy supply of ammo, my claymore (I’ll put it on a backstrap, but I’m taking the sword) a long pole of decent hardwood, old English, Latin, and Occitan dictionaries, a good book on shipbuilding, the aforementioned poster, substantial quantities ibprofen, penicillin, morphine, marijuana, iodine tablets (for water), as many topographical maps as can fit, three pounds or so of black peppercorns (worth more than their weight in gold), a handcrank equipped mini-laptop with as much reading material as could fit, a zippo, some lighter fluid, a few neodymium magnets, and some lenses. (On me, I would try for a sidearm and plenty of reloads, a leatherman, a bowie knife or similar, a bunch of rope, a compass, a couple ounces of gold in ingots, flint and tinder, and some field glasses.

    All odds are that where I land will be relatively wild, but with some effort, I will make my way to the silk road and head towards Constantinople, trying to practice whatever language on the passerby until I can make myself understood. Once I get myself to said city, and have mastered the language adequately, I will trade the lenses and the magnets for some money, get some people together, and head for the northern area of Germany, where there are some big and easily mineable silver deposits, arable land, woods full of game, and some fast moving mountain springs for water power. With some luck, my grandchildren would get a kingdom to inherit, and I would go down in history as the inventor of the steam engine, flight, air conditioning, gunpowder, pasteurization, the telescope, astronomy, calculus, and whiskey.

  102. Bret says:

    Small water purification system, potato, ton of blueprints for tech, and, of course, a boomstick.

    Can’t change history? Well, I’ll see about that.

    And the T-shirt.

  103. Jazmeister says:

    I think assuming total control of the world would be easy enough, but you’d get deposed. People weren’t stupid back then, remember, just under-educated. Just like kids.

    I think the world is a bit fucked at the moment, however, and handing all our spikey sticks to an even less mature society can’t end well. What if you get killed, and someone takes your nuke? What if they start worshipping it? I think rapidly advancing technology is a great way to make yourself heard, but that would be a means to my end: setting up the most awesome welfare state imaginable and ushering in proper actual communism that wasn’t shit.

  104. Dev Null says:

    Blah blah blah library of information on smelting high-carbon steel with primitive tools. The era you’re talking about is the dawn of proper gunpowder weapons, but they were held back for a long time by crappy metalworking.

    I’d take an ultralight, converted to run on alcohol. Useful? Maybe. Fun? Heck yeah.

  105. Tolmar says:

    I’d bring:
    – Notes on metallurgy: sure I know how to make a bunch of modern technology off the top of my head, but what am I going to make it out of? I’ll have notes on how to make better steel, extract aluminum (I think that’s the only useful advice on that shirt everyone posts, honestly), make good copper wire, and more.
    – Notes on geology – I need to know what to look for to find magnets, zinc, copper, tungsten, and probably more. I’ll back this up with a list of longitude/latitude coordinates of major deposits, especially ones not yet known at the time.
    – A watch and a sextant to find longitude and latitude
    – Ziploc bags and a penicillin culture: trying to isolate penicillin can get you killed if you screw up, but keeping a culture sterile isn’t that difficult
    – A first aid kit: sterile bandages, antibiotics, and a handful of anti-symptom medicines: anti-diarrheals could save my life. This is a private stash: I don’t want to play medicine man because people won’t like when I run out. Maybe extra aspirin though, that’s a pretty strong bartering tool. Extra toothbrushes and toothpaste so I can stand my own mouth.
    – Tough, modern clothes with lots of pockets. I don’t plan to fit in anyway.
    – Multitool, matches, fishing line and hooks, epoxy.
    – A pistol and extra ammo. Not for boomstick routines, but for dire situations. Thankfully, I’m a good shot.
    – My laptop: it’s not guaranteed I’ll ever get my home made power regular enough to be safe for use with the laptop, but it’s a goal to strive for. Extra batteries for when I accidentally blow them up.
    – Latin dictionary, long-lasting pens, paper. I don’t need much of the writing tools since I’ll be able to use the local supply just fine, but I need a way to say “hey, this guy writes” to start things out
    – Prewritten notes in Latin for some of the more complicated things I’ll have to say early on.
    – Compound bow and arrows, super balls. These are backup initial bartering tools.

    My plan:
    I’m going to look out of place no matter what I do, and I’m not going to know the language. I’m going to fake being mute to start, and write what I need to say in Latin. The goal is to pass myself off as intensely foreign but noble. I’ll find some sort of local noble and introduce their children to super balls to gain trust. Using a prewritten note, I’ll explain that I’m a traveler: a mute inventor. To explain where I’m from and why I’m so foreign, the note will claim that my city was destroyed by God – yes, I’m stealing Lot’s story. Lastly, it’ll ask for lodgings in exchange for my aid as an inventor. At this point, I’ll show them the compound bow and hope for the best.

    If this doesn’t get me killed, I’m set. I settle in and invent the compound composite bow, the floating arm trebuchet, electrical generators, the lightbulb, motors, steam engines, pasteurization, and antibiotics. I visit the church and pray every day, and if anyone asks I’ll give them a note saying I’m praying to get my voice back. Once I’ve been around long enough to feel comfortable speaking the local language, I’ll miraculously gain my voice back. At that point, I’m set.

  106. Craig says:

    Well assuming we travel to the same location just in the past then I am dead. There wasn’t a single human living in New Zealand at that time. I have no illusions that I could survive alone.

  107. Felblood says:

    I get everything I’m wearing and one item of baggage, right?

    I don’t know what sort of suitcase to bring. A good fire pack would be practical and easy to carry, but is clearly synthetic and doesn’t have enough capacity for books, even if you print them small and leave the covers behind.

    A wooden chest would blend in, but would be too heavy for most landing sites.

    I guess I’ll carry a big canvas duffel bag and swap it out for something period appropriate, when I find a town. I can cut patches out of it, once it’s served it’s purpose.

    I’ll go in dressed for winter, with warm weather gear underneath.

    A full suit of body armor is probably asking too much, but a kevlar vest and some ceramic/steel composite bracers will be a necessity. If I want to augment the bracers with a locally manufactured shield later I can do that. I’m not really planning on fighting much, I just want to be able to keep myself alive until I get someplace that’s relatively stable and well policed.

    The clothes themselves will be cotton robes pants and a shirt. Treated leather boots are a must. I can line everything with thin-sulate and silk, without making it too noticable. I fur overcoat with pockets on the inside and out should be both passable and useful.

    A fistful of knives of various designs, and advanced compositions is going to be the first thing in the bag.

    I’ll follow that up with a sword of the highest quality available in this hypothetical scenario. I prefer a single edged blade, about 3’6″ with a slight curve, but a subtler two-edged shortsword should probably be worn. I’m going to customize both hilts, but that can be done on site, with field expedient measures.

    I can acquire a simple crossbow and ammunition later, but I’ll take a semi-auto .22 pistol and a brick of ammo. The ability to shoot without reloading might be enough advantage to get me out alive, if I come out of the warp someplace really inconvenient, but I won’t have access to the parts and equipment to maintain of repair it. If it becomes inconvenient, I’ll dispose of it in a lake.

    A Latin dictionary, a calculus textbook and my old physics tomes are going to come along, more for personal reading than survival, but the equations in the advanced books are sure to come in handy when I build my house, and I should be able to find somebody who speaks some sort of Latin.

    Dry socks, a gallon of water, some rations, etc. are going in, naturally, but the real survival gear is yet to come.

    1. Glass lenses: Not only do I need them to see clearly, at more than a hundred yards, but because I can light fires with them.

    2. A couple of butane lighters: Lenses never run out of fuel, but sometimes you need fire at night, or light in a hurry. They’re small, so bring a handful and conserve the fuel.

    2. Basic tools. I won’t find anything to use screwdrivers and wrenches on, but a claw hammer, crank drill, hatchet, and hacksaw blade will help me out in the wilderness or the city. If I’m pressed for space the hatchet can do for both sword and hammer.

    3. Small, unmarked disks of recognizable, precious metal that I can trade for local currency. Several small bags (to disguise the total amount) should hold enough to get me established as a foreign merchant/scholar. Even in the past, people where still people, and money is essential to getting by around people, in addition to making survival a lot easier.

    4. Binders. I’ll wear a coil of rope (cotton wrapped synthetic for strength, stealth and versatility) over my shoulder, since that’s how I’d carry it anyway. Inside the suitcase goes a small coil of fencing wire (the good stiff stuff, that doubles as cheap welding wire), a roll of twine, a small, re-rolled (the cardboard tube is too wide for traveling) cylinder of duct tape, and some superglue.

    5. Spores of penicillic mold, in several (in case one is damaged) tiny, water tight vials. Keep some growing somewhere at all times. I have to survive any plague that happens to be going on, to accomplish the given objective.

    I’m also dangerously allergic to hay and horses. Anti-inflamitory medications are a must have, until I can be sure I’m some place where I won’t have to be around them for more than 15 minutes at a time. I can pass this off as a fear of horses if I’m really pressed, and can’t just say, “the presence of horses is fatal to my people.” I don’t want to be taken for a demon, but even in the past, I’d have to keep my oaths of truthfulness. Thankfully, I really am scared of horses, to a degree, anyway.

    The back of a wagon, pulled behind a horse, should be safe enough to travel in, so I can still get around.

    Once I get myself to a reasonably safe location, it’s time to get proactive.

    As much as I love my video games, I’m not taking any gadgets with me. I’ll be the inventor of tabletop RPGs, a brilliant engineer and a revolutionary painter. I’ll invent science fiction and adventure novels, while I’m at it.

    Using the funds, I’ll launch a secret shadow organization, dedicated to fixing what went wrong with the original time-line. If there’s no clear way to fix time without completely changing everything, then I’ll just have to settle for changing as much as possible, hoping one of the changes prevents the disaster. I don’t hope to succeed, but it’ll make a fun hobby.

    Any remaining space should be filled with history texts, that will give me a good idea of which side wins which wars, etc.. The covers and indexes will be torn out, to save space, but digital storage is too fragile for long term use in the absence of machined components. I shouldn’t try to change events too much, within my own lifetime, since I’ll lose my advantage of foresight.

    Ethanol based, internal combustion engines, will herald the industrial revolution. The idea is to plant seeds that will grow into technologies after I die, but won’t come into widespread use until after I die. I could spend the years writing notes about various simple ways to improve quality of life and technology, and then have them revealed after I die.

    Assuming the following events happen at all, my disciples will make the following alterations. George III will get some timely advice about colonial repression. The Native Americans (including some of my own ancestors) will be completely exterminated), instead of pushed onto reservations. Thomas Paine will get a lucrative publishing deal. Che Guevara will be assassinated early in his career. Marx and Lenin will die of starvation in poverty. Archduke Ferdinand will live to a ripe old age. Adolf hitler will never be assigned to infiltrate the Nazi Party. The true nature of the Chernobyl incedent will be know to the world, hours before it actually happens. Saddam Hussein will die in 1990.

    I have no idea what any of that will accomplish, but life will go on in exactly the same way, only differently.

  108. Nick says:

    What’s with all the guns, what are you going to do if you break a recoil spring or firing pin, you just wasted all that room in your suitcase taking ammo that is now almost worthless.

    My list:

    – Books on plant-based medicine and simple chemistry
    – A medical dictionary
    – Armour, mail and edged weapons made from modern materials, titanium or something
    – A rugged mechanical movement watch
    – A rugged compass
    – Topo Maps of the area I would be in
    – A pocket firestarter to use while I learn how to start a fire manually
    – Enough gold to buy some land
    – Enough MREs to get me by until I can hunt for myself

    If I have enough time beforehand, I’d get some swordfighting and language training and with my modern knowledge I would probably try to get hired as some sort of adviser to a king.

  109. SolkaTruesilver says:

    I would pack half of my suitcase with antibiotics (and proper instructions) to save myself in the case of the inevitable hard infection that will befall me. The other half will be filled with the most exotic spices to Europe I can. That’ll allow me a good starting capital to live confortably.

    (if I don’t land in Europe, I give up)

  110. Nick Pitino says:

    Alright first things first, we can do all of the prep work and navel-gazing we want here but the fact of the matter is that there’s a 99 percent chance your ass is going to be deader than fried chicken by next Tuesday no matter WHAT you do to prepare.

    The post say “You're about to go back in time.”, so I’m assuming the time-portal is opening in five minutes and sucking me in and whatever I’ve put together at that point. That more or less limits me to what I’ve got here in my apartment, I would grab in this order:

    Clothes, specifically my big ole’ boots, good pants, as many shirts and undies as I can, and my best (read: warmest) coat. Yes I would stick out horribly, but it’s what I have here and HOLY SHIT TIME PORTAL OPENING SOON RUNRUNRUN!!!

    My Taurus PT1911 .45, holster, all the ammo for it, extra mags and cleaning tools. While I somewhat agree with a few of the previous comments that it’s not as likely to be as useful as some people are assuming, the fact is that it would still be stupid to not take it with me given the option. It’s something I would do everything in my power to keep hidden from others, but it’s the ONLY thing that would give me an even remote chance to get-the-hell-outta’-dodge should a village turn on me (which they probably will knowing my luck). Also on a more gruesome note, if I’m going to get mobbed, dragged off to the rack, tortured for several days and finally burned at the stake anyway I’ll have the option to quickly and painlessly end my own life with it rather than be TORTURED AND SLOWLY KILLED IN AGONY.

    Precious metals, I have a bit of gold and silver stashed away and it would be good to have SOMETHING to trade/bribe people with.

    All of the survival stuff I have, you know, matches, knife, survival blanket, compass, emergency rations, things like that. Fairly self explanatory I think.

    My tin of seeds, I don’t remember everything that’s in it but I DO remember that it at least has corn seeds in it and that most of the rest of them are also edible plants. Everything else would be worth a try but mostly it would be for the corn so that if I end up in the boat of being a peasant working land to survive I’d be doing it with corn rather than wheat because I seem to remember that corn is more productive per area of land thus making live easier.

    Along the same lines of the tin of seeds I’d also grab the potatoes I have that are starting to sprout eyes because I’ve had them for awhile. It’s not likely I’d be able to do anything with them in time but I might as well take them along just in case I can plant them in time.

    My wood cutters axe, for cutting wood obviously.

    The contents of my spice cabinet, things like salt and pepper are valuable trade items and I’d expect that everything else in there would be as well.

    My books on basic survival, self explanatory again I think.

    That’s about everything I can think of in my home that would be USEFUL. I guess after that I’d probably grab a couple basic chemistry books just in case. Also, I’d frantically try to print out everything I could quickly find online along the lines of “Latin for Dumb-asses” and “Blueprints for power loom, cotton gin, spinning jenny, water frame, spinning mule, Gutenberg printing press, seed drill, threshing machine” etc. You know, just in case I don’t starve or get killed for heresy or what have you and want to try and do something useful.

    Once the time portal sucks my ass back to the past the first thing I would do is GET THE HELL AWAY FROM EVERYONE ELSE. I would have all sorts of unnatural materials and items about me, would look extremely different from everyone else and CANNOT SPEAK THE LANGUAGE TO BOOT. If that doesn’t sound like a recipe for “We’ve found a witch! May we burn him!?!” to you then I’d like to know what your smoking.

    Others have pointed out that by and large most ‘wilderness’ close to anything important belonged to the local lordship who wouldn’t take kindly to someone coming and setting up. But at the same time I also have the impression that there simply weren’t enough people back then for every scrap of land to be claimed or watched closely.

    So I would just try to get far enough away from everyone else that it would be possible for me to try and homestead off in the middle of nowhere without getting noticed.

    IF I manage to do that without:

    A) Starving to death.
    B) Being killed by wild animals.
    C) Dying of disease.
    D) Getting caught and killed for heresy or what have you.

    Etc, etc, then I’ll study over my “Latin for retards” printouts as much as I can and using animal skins or whatever else I can come across make clothing that even if unusual is at least made of obviously natural materials.

    At this point, I would try to make contact with a small village and find out if it would even be possible to communicate with the locals and survive. If it doesn’t go well I’ll just try to retreat to my little mountain shanty and lay low until I eventually die.

    IF the locals don’t immediately reject me I’d probably try to use “I’m a crazy mountain man who’s never really lived around many people, that’s why I can barely even speak bad Latin! But oh yeah, praise God and all that, no trace of heathen here, yep yep! Oh and the lordship needs more peasants to work the land and grow food? Why sure, I’d be more than happy to help!” as my cover.

    Now if I can actually manage to settle in a village like that, then I’d start slowly introducing the plants I brought with me using the excuse of “Why, this is one of the things I use to survive on as a mountain man so I can vouch for it being edible.”

    A couple more years down the line if all of the above works I’d try to actually reproduce some of the machines I would have tried to print out plans for, probably starting with basic agricultural tools like the seed drill and what have you.

    Once again, IF and ONLY IF those ideas are well received and I actually have the ability to reproduce them then I might try building things like a spinning jenny, flying shuttle, stocking frame, etc.

    Assuming I’ve lived this long I’d probably just spend the rest of my life living quietly out of the way and trying to continue producing the occasional helpful invention. If I can just do that then I’d consider that a win in my book.

    Now then, all of the above is working on the scenario of “Time-Trains leaving in five, all aboard!” and I don’t have any real prep time. If I COULD prepare and all of that I’d do things a lot differently.

    But that’s a post for another day.

  111. Nostromo says:

    1. Antibiotics

    2. GPS

    3. KV62 coordinates

    4. Shovel

  112. Nick Pitino says:


    How is GPS going to help you?

    It requires there to be GPS SATELLITES.

  113. Tuck says:

    I think assuming total control of the world would be easy enough, but you'd get deposed. People weren't stupid back then, remember, just under-educated. Just like kids.

    Take one “under-educated” Lao person* in their late teens, and one university-educated Westerner in their 30s.

    Stick them alone in the wild with nothing but a machete.

    Suddenly who appears to be “under-educated” will be reversed.

    *I picked Lao cos I lived there from 1991-2002 and saw a lot of this sort of situation — they may not have an equal academic education but they certainly aren’t “under-educated”.

    I think any of us would find that compared to the medieval locals, we were the uneducated ones.

    The two most valuable things to take are a willingness to learn and a willingness to work hard.

    There’s also been a lot of people saying how they’d get in with a royal/noble/lord/ruling class and institute social/technological major changes and so on…so I’d list the third item to take is a proper sense of humility. :P

  114. Nostromo says:

    @ Nick Pitino: Good point. Made a fool of meself, did I? Okay. Maps and compass it is, then… Funny how you take those things for granted.

    Addendum: head for Venice. They got a pretty good bit of luck between 1200 and 1400, they deal with everybody, and they are quite cool about religion. It’s pretty much the most civilized place around at these times.

  115. Nick Pitino says:

    Nostromo: Eh, happens to the best of us.

    Though if I understood your post correctly then I have to admit that I can think of worse places to go and try to dig up treasure.

  116. Mayhem says:

    You people really need to read the 1632 series by Eric Flint – a small west virginian town and around 6 miles of surrounding area gets transported to germany in 1632. There is an extremely active community at http://www.1632.org which has been going since 1999 where they discuss exactly what is possible to do or not do in that environment. Given the issues raised there, the range of things you will be able to introduce into the middle ages are significantly reduced because the basic tech level is so much lower.
    There are very very good writeups at the end of some of the gazettes as to exactly why exploitation of mineral deposits and the manufacture of penicillin are not going to happen in a hurry.

    Also, the books make for quite fun reading :)

    All the books are available to free of charge at

  117. Nostromo says:

    High Middle ages.

    Plenty of ready cash in gems, jewels, gold, etc. Check.

    Looks Europeean, but has a story to explain his lack of knowledge about the current situation. Check.

    Suposedly comes from afar. Check.

    Marco Polo.

    Polo has the ultimate in Time-Traveller cover.

  118. Unconvention says:

    I’m assuming you’re allowed to dress first, so I’d layer up some all natural clothing in muted, preferably hand-died colors. Sure, my voice/accent will give me away, as will my physique (gee, look how tall that guy is, he must have had a well-balanced, nutritious diet with large amounts of meat; he’s either a noble or a time-traveller!), but if my dress can stop people wanting to burn me at the stake immediately, then hurrah!

    In the suit case, two types of thing.

    Immediate survival stuff:
    Compass, knife, flint and steel, first aid kit, maybe a space blanket, some energy bars, water-purification tablets; normal survival type stuff.

    Long term survival stuff:
    Maps! Maps alone would give you the power to rule (or help a patron) rule the world. Combine them with a couple of dozen automatic watches and your navy will be the most powerful military force the world has ever known. Decent geographical maps will help your guys get to anywhere in the world, and decent historial maps will tell you what they’ll find when they get there.

    Some books on language: Latin, medieval English, German, French, etc.

    Also books on military history / tactics / equipment.

    Also books on basic tech. You need to not just understand how a maglev train works, but you need to be able to understand how to make the tools to make the tools to make the tools to make a maglev train – assuming maglev trains are your bag. So; basic principles of engineering, technology books on the beginnings of the agricultural and industrial revolutions, grow your own drugs books, some geological texts showing major resource locations (nice to know where all that copper is before you start on your hydroelectric power supply), a decent timeline of history (you may be altering the future, but that’s going to be in a wave from your current location – good to know what other people outside your influence are up to).

    The trick is to survive the first encounters, and get you into a position where you can meet a nobleman of sufficient influence to offer you protection in return for your near infinite wisdom.

    And I’d call myself Merlin.

  119. william says:

    lots and lots of aluminium.
    and a gun!

  120. Mephane says:

    I’d make photographs from varius modern-day technologies, buildings etc., have them put on microfilm, put the microfilm in some kind of hardly-destructible container and make sure after I land to place it somewhere where later scientist will definitely know it cannot have been placed there at a later date – and provide proof that time travel is possible.

  121. Andrew says:

    Cans (Think what they’re made of) and Knowledge i.e. books.
    On a related note I’ve been thinking that someone should make a time travellers hanbook but now I think a Wiki would be best.
    On a less related note I’ve been thinking it would be fun to run a RPG where in the ship from the last episode of Stargate SG1 or one like it is sent back in time to the players and they are left to save the galaxy. How long till the players mess up?

  122. Tom says:

    Tough call, for only a suitcase of stuff. For starters, I’d ditch the suitcase and get a backpack – no less anachronistic, so you’d still have to camouflage it with sacking or something, but a lot more practical.

    Before going, I’d also get innoculated against absolutely everything known, and carry shots, a lot of antibiotics, and a couple of bottles of the most powerful, concentrated disinfectant I could find – it’d just be too embarrassing to carefully integrate yourself into society, establish plausible cover story and identity, survive any fights without drawing too much attention, and then drop dead in agony a couple of days after an injudicious glass of water. In fact, a small water purifier would also be invaluable – charcoal and sand, reverse osmosis or even a still if it could be made small enough (on second thought, go with the still – not only can you make safer water with it, you might be able to sell moonshine on the side, and safer moonshine than you get from freeze-distillation)

    Another thing you couldn’t exactly pack, but would need to prepare before the trip, is muscles and stamina, and plenty of both – whether you need to set yourself up as a labourer or in some other job to survive, need to travel a lot with all your gear, or just to hold your own against all the other hard-working and thus extremely tough peasantry. Even if you take the path of avoiding confrontations, being heavily built will aid this by making you look a) more normal, b) less rich and muggable.

    For defence, forget firearms, and go with a powerful but compact hand pumped airgun (maybe a Girandoni pistol or short barrelled rifle, although a walking-stick airgun might be better if you could make it a repeater) plus small spare parts, drawings and a bullet mould – if you want to survive indefinitely, firearms are useless once the cartridges are used up, and it just wouldn’t be worth the effort to try and make your own black powder and reuse them. Individual bullets for an airgun, however, can be made with just a mould, a campfire and a bit of lead nicked off someone’s roof. (Assuming you’re near enough a community that uses lead roofs.) Oh, also take a bayonet – you can always kill someone with a gun, but murder will bring the whole community down on your head – much better to intimidate, threaten or bluff, but you can’t do that if they’ve no clue what the short stick with metal bits you’re holding actually is – anyone will understand perfectly if it’s got a blade on the end of it, though.

    Since you can’t control where or when you will end up, carrying a range of obsolete currency would be impractical, and the stuff you couldn’t use would take up too much space – gold, silver, maybe jewels and also some way to divide them up are the way to go there – a gold chain, I gather, was popular because you could break links off as you needed them. Spices were mentioned above a couple of times, and are also an excellent idea, but only you can sell them off quickly before they go bad.

    Forget torches, even hand powered ones – nothing says “witchcraft” like a piercing beam of electric light of an evening. Night vision goggles are a safer option, as long as you remember to get them back out of sight before dawn – plus, if you’re going to use batteries recharged by hand cranking (Not sure about solar panels – they save you all that furtive cranking at night and conserve your own energy, sure, but they need to be used during the day, when any passer-by can see you, and aren’t much good outside of high summer in a lot of places anyway), I’ve a feeling that night vision uses a lot less power than torches would – they’ve only got to create enough light energy to illuminate your retinas, not the entire area you’re standing in – they also give you a far wider field of view than a torch beam.

    With regard to establishing oneself, that’s a tough call – the odds are stacked so heavily against you where language is concerned that you’d better just resign yourself to the idea that you won’t be able to communicate verbally with anyone after you first arrive – even a couple of centuries back in your own home town, the language would be sufficiently different for you to be an obvious outsider, and a lack of detailed current knowledge and probably an obviously somewhat different view of life to theirs would give you away if the language weren’t enough.

    Since being branded an outsider is practically a given, one should find a role that turns this into a strength – travelling merchant, entertainer, etc. Similarly to currency, finding the right clothes is virtually impossible – unlike currency, what one might do is formulate a pattern of clothing that looks just a little like most known historical styles, but would overall look exotic and unfamiliar – if you’re going to be an untrusted outsider anyway, going the way of the exotic, mysterious traveller with strange trinkets to trade would help explain away the outlandish clothes. Take a bunch of small, lightweight trinkets of varying degrees of sophistication, and choose which to display based on your audience. You wouldn’t get far trying to impress people with just a few coloured glass beads in 18th century France, for example. Drawing inspiration from Pratchett, you might take a begging bowl – nobody gets ignored quite so easily as a beggar in a lot of circumstances, plus the clothing style wouldn’t matter so much, just as long as it was obviously a load of rags.

    A travelling medicine man might be a role worth considering – take just a small, simple, modern medical textbook, and a couple on naturally occuring medicines and their safe preparation and use, a load of painkillers and one or two very basic surgical instruments and you’ll instantly be one of the best doctors in the land just about anywhere prior to the industrial revolution, and some places quite a way into it – if you can only survive long enough to establish a reputation as someone who can make the pain go away or stop the bleeding, nobody will care that you can’t string two words of their language together – lean heavily towards distributing painkillers for the first couple of months to get quick results (not too much, and phase them out slowly – the last thing you want is an angry mob demanding more of the magic pills after you’ve run out of them overnight), then move onto more sustainable techniques.

  123. Tom says:

    Andrew, are you talking about Aluminium cans, by any chance? That’s quite possibly genius! Anywhere prior to the discovery of electrolysis, that stuff’s infinitely rarer even than gold! Napoleon had his best dinner service made of it!

  124. The time period is brutal, though it was a great one for selling quality needles and artificial rubies and sapphires (chemically the same as the real ones).

    RPG scenarios like this occur all the time.

    The problem is avoiding being left dead in a ditch somewhere and basic survival until you can get to a ditch to be killed in.

  125. Tom says:

    In my earlier post, I’ve taken a strictly minimal survivalist approach, and one way to do this is not to draw the attention of powerful people to yourself – if you actually wanted to maximally exploit the time advantage of a single, one-way jump, the above messages about bringing back as much as-yet unknown information as possible are definitely the way to go – technology and science, of course, and also Unconvention’s ingenious idea about maps, particularly resource maps – you’d need the help of already established powerful patrons, however, and drawing their attention is a big, big risk from a survivalist point of view.

    Forget future history, though, either events to simply bet money against or military and political campaigns and movements to anticipate, exploit or redirect – first, if you’ve no control over where or when you’ll end up then that’s just too much information; you’d need a warehouse of microfiles just to hold it all in sufficient detail to be useful, not a suitcase; second, due to the whole chaos / many worlds thing, as soon as even one molecule gets displaced by the time shift, let alone the arrival of an entire person with a suitcase, history branches and will the continue to deviate, barely perceptibly at first, but probably enough for most of your information about future events to be getting badly inaccurate in a matter of years. Information that is independent of the course of history, scientific laws, engineering principles, mineral deposits and such, is far safer to rely on.

  126. locust says:

    Potatoes, tomatoes and corn seeds. None of these plants were known in Europe (there only arrived to here – yeap, I’m an European – in the 15th and 16th century), they are easy to plant and nurture them, high nutritious value and people would gave fortunes to have some of these exotic foods. Some tobacco leaves and some cinnamon also.
    A Latin dictionary, a history book (with maps of the political organization of that time) and a Latin bible (even a printed one). I would play the following persona: A foreigner priest that arrived from a long peregrination to a mythical African or Asian Cristian realm. As proof show Bible.
    Some standard medical drugs and antibiotics. When using with public or on someone say it was a present of the ruler mythical Christian kingdom. Never miss a chance to remember to others your christianity and your travel.
    And like MacGyver, no guns.

  127. Jimmie says:

    Anyone NOT taking a gun is, frankly, an idiot. What is the mark of power in that time period? It's arms and armor; if you had them, you were a knight, and if you didn't, you were nothing.

    Actually, it was money. Money buys you an army, with which you can amass quite the pile of dead rivals.

    You will want to be the first one to widely employ the longbow, though. Don’t worry about the fancy compound bows; the traditional material will do you just fine. Remember that Crecy and Agincourt happened after 1300, so you do have a little bit of time to beat the English to it.

  128. Sarah says:

    Underwear, lots and lots and lots of underwear. And elastic corsets because I like my ribs where they are, and anyone not wearing one might be taken for a whore.

    And feminine napkins.

    No, scratch that, the instructions on how to jury-rig those. I have a miserable enough time on my own without adding in ancient blood-soaking methods. Disgusting facts of life. Gold, I expect, since it’s probably not too too hard to get some nowadays, and my limited knowledge of the days of yore(tm) say that randomass peasant me is not likely to see a lot of gold, initially. There’s no reason to fill the limited space with toilet paper or food. Suck it up, campers. Antibiotics, and pain killers, a gun might be smart, if I knew how to shoot one, and of course the requisite literature that amounts to “how to ruin the invention schedule of the next century of geniuses.”

    However, that invention thing might just be impossible. I’m pretty sure that misogyny was still considered standard back then. Trying to both have a vagina and be cooler than a man might be a good way to piss off the wrong people…unless you’re the queen herself. Supposedly that was between God and the royal family, and not to do with common life.

    Point is: underwear. Have you seen the middle ages versions of panties? Life is complex, and any plan to better yourself back in time can backfire in horrible, horrible ways, but at least I won’t be uncomfortable in my drawers while I’m in it.

    If all else fails, maybe I could paint. I hear proper understanding of perspective was pretty new back then. I am bitchin at perspective.

  129. Dennis Brennan says:

    A few random observations:

    The longbow wasn’t just a matter of introducing a new technology; it was a matter of systematically training large numbers of people to use it. The longbow requires a lot more strength and training to use than a regular bow, and if you don’t have the strength and training to use it yourself then you’re never going to convince anyone else that it’s a useful technology.

    Modern antibiotics have a shelf life of a few years, at best, and require refrigeration.

    If you end up in Russia anytime around the year 1220 or later, GET OUT NOW. The Mongols are coming.

  130. MOM says:

    It is hard to motivate myself to work this out since my gut reaction is _I DON’T WANT TO DO THAT! Among all the hardships and dangers the worst ,for me anyway, would be the loneliness.
    Shamus, If you aren’t going, neither am I.

    If, however, I will be sent, whether I like it or not, I think I would take comfortable, durable loose fitting clothes that don’t have buttons or zippers. They would be in natural colors and I think that should make me appear to fit in well enough. (I suspect most everyday folks wouldn’t immediately scream “witch” at the slightest novelty.) Survival gear of the “going camping type” is all I would know how to use. I guess I’d take some food, first aid and medicine for a month to help me transition and figure out how to manage. Rather than survival I would plan for keeping myself comfortable and hope for favorable circumstances. I would definitely take a month of TP, anti diarrhea product and a mild laxative plus some pain relief of various strengths.
    Since I am 65 already, I would expect 5 years on the outside as my life expectancy and might spend it observing, recording and “burying for future archeologist to find” detailed descriptions of all I see to inform the future of what I observe. Perhaps it wold fill in some unknown details or even correct some mistakes that have gotten into our history. I guess I’d take paper and pens for that project.

  131. Corsair says:

    Consider that this is supposed to be stuff that you can get your hands on easily – a lot of gold, for example, is not really reasonable. On the other hand, a sealed container of ‘Rare’ Spices or, as someone else suggested, a good bit of aluminum (Or aluminium, if you’re a Brit.) would be much more reasonable.

    Do you guys really WANT to use your Future Knowledge to become a significant figure? You’re never going to be trusted – your odd dialect, healthy appearance, and modern sensibilities are going to insure that. The most comfortable life you can hope for is to land smack dab in the Middle Class and try to avoid attention.

  132. Pholm says:

    With my smooth hands, trimmed fingernails, and washed body, I suspect I would stand out like a sore thumb even if I kept my mouth shut. I think the best bet for survival would be to bring an English to Latin dictionary, a copy of the pre-Vatican 2 Latin Catholic liturgy (which is the church Latin the vast majority of people would be exposed to), and a list of how to say monastery in as many European languages as possible (monastery comes from a Greek root, so even with language drift it should be possible to get the point across).

    When I encountered people, I’d recite the Latin Mass to get them to flag me a member of the clergy (and thus hopefully avoid killing me), and repeatedly say monastery in various languages. Hopefully, they would get the point and take me to the nearest one, where I would rely on the fact that Christian charity would make them more likely to take me in and feed and clothe me. My goals would be to learn the local language and customs, and a monastery would probably provide the best avenue for doing that without starving or being murdered.

    Given my literacy, I suspect I could be quite useful at the monastery. I’d also bring along modern books that would add to my usefulness, such as ones on agriculture and horticulture (most monasteries had large farming operations), and basic metallurgy. I’d also throw in a few books on medical diagnosis through physical exam and herbal and palliative care. But my ace in the hole would be instructions on how to build a still. Distilled spirits were known by around the 12th century in Europe, but weren’t really common until the 14th. Given the obvious popularity of strong alcohol, and the fact that many monasteries were already involved in beer and wine making, I think I would be able to eek out a nice niche.

    Although I’m not crazy about celibacy, I think taking monastic orders might be the best option for long-term survival. The Church was strong in the period, and it took care of its own, which would help me avoid the frequent famines that plagued the period as well as the frequent warfare. I’d have to be careful about what what I said to avoid heresy charges, so to that end I’d probably bring a book on the works of Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine to keep me within the theological norms (and obviously I would never mention anything about modern astronomy, evolution, or modern social norms).

    Depending on the location in Europe I arrived at, I’d swap out Greek or Old Church Slavonic (church language of Ukraine and Russia) for the Latin.

    I have no illusions about my quality of life, lifespan, or even chances of initial survival. I’d last about a week on my own in the wilderness, even if I brought along modern tools, so my absolute first priority would be finding civilization (such as it is). If I survived that, and survived encounters with people long enough to enact my plan, I might make it for a fairly long time, but I would be a decidedly crappy existence, even if I managed to climb to the top of whatever hierarchy I found myself in.

  133. NotYetMeasured says:

    Wow, quite a response!

    My short answer: I’m not going. Conditions in the middle ages were so inferior to the present day in so many ways that I wouldn’t even want to spend a day there.

    But gorthol’s post (#30) about having long considered visiting the time of the invention of farming does remind me of something I *have* thought about, which is what you would need in a post-apocalyptic scenario where humanity may be rebuilding society from a hunter-gatherer base (or worse, a “Terminator” or “Reign of Fire” future where there is a major counter-force to the species). If I’m traveling back in time I’m not worried about this; I’m sure we’ll develop more or less the way we did, which on the whole is acceptable.

    But moving forward, I want things to get better as fast as possible. How much knowledge could fit in a suitcase in a form that is durable and accessible with limited technology? I’m afraid not much. I’d stick to the basics of general frameworks (scientific method, germ theory) and maybe add a few discoveries that are unlikely to have survived and would be very hard to replicate for some reason (I don’t know what these might be). The format would probably be scrolls or slates made out of metal. Hopefully the knowledge survives long enough to be replicated, but I’m not going to waste space on guns, infrared goggles, or anything else to help me ensure that. What would be really nice would be something to discourage the formation of insulated groups and government by warlords, but I’m not sure that fits in a suitcase.

  134. Isaac says:

    I’m going for the ‘five minutes only things in your house’ anglem it’s more interesting.

    OK. All the survival gear I have in my room. Rucksack, sleeping bag, outdoor coat, waterproofs, portable stove. If I end up in the wilderness, I want to live long enough to get to civilisation. Once there, I might be able to sell my outlandish clothes for whatever. As much preservable food as I can carry, including potatoes. If, in the worst case, I find myself a peasant farmer, my new wonder food will help me rise through society.

    Plan is to pass myself as a Marco Polo type, and head to Venice. If I had a Bible, I’d take that – no-one else would understand the modern English, but I could read it too pass myself off as Christian. I’m an Atheist, but in the middle ages, I’d be willing to join the clergy for the possibility of working in a university. Venice seems a better bet though.

    Not having a Latin handbook to hand, I’d have to grab my housemates Italian textbook and try and get by. Could take my Chinese books to further the Marco Polo look, though they wouldn’t be much use.

    To excuse my oddness and poor language skills, I could tell everyone I’m from the land of Cathay, or the kingdom of Prester John.

    Ideas I could take along: could introduce the game of Go, which is sure to be a hit. Some books on mathematics or computer science – I can get into a university and slowly release these through my life. (There’s not going to be many computers around, of course, but someone might appreciate the idea of algorithms). See if I can grab a book about modern accounting methods or capitalist ideas – fixed-interest loans, banking, that sort of thing. Something that could bring me success in the rising merchant class. I’d try and grab any decent novels I have, which I can translate into Italian/Old English/whatever when I learn it, and claim authorship.

    Doesn’t really seem worth taking anything electronic, though maybe some CDs could be traded as exotic jewelry. Some plastic things could do likewise – plastic bottles, waterproof clothing. My map of the world. I think mirrors were rare in those days, so it could make another useful trade good. I’d need my glasses, but more lenses could be useful.

    Plan is to get a comfortable and interesting lifestyle in one of the centres of civilisation (Venice, Baghdad,etc), though I wonder how excting being at the forefront of science would be knowing it was centuries behind my own time, even if I could be (falsely) remembered as one of the greatest geniuses ever and change the course of history. Maybe I’d travel the world instead.

  135. Isaac says:

    …On the other hand, I might lose my technophilia after some time. Maybe it’ll turn out that the Middle Ages was a bucolic wonderland and I decide to assassinate Leonardo da Vinci to slow down the arrival of the modern age and it’s attendant horrors.

    Ok, probably not, but I think it’s interesting how many of us want to take a selection of the accumalated knowledge and technology of modern civilisation.

    …I wonder if in 500 years time someone will create a hyperblog post about what to take with you if you were to return to the dark pre-Singularity days of 2009?

  136. captain kail says:

    I will go back with a shotgun and a firm handshake, and invent CREDIT.

    Gentlemen, the world is not enough.

  137. MOM says:

    In reading the comments, I love the ones that think of something I never considered. There were many, but standouts for me were Corrupter who noted we would be much taller than the “natives” and the several premenopausal women who allowed for the monthly visit. The novelty of clean hands and fingernails seemed inspired too. Anyway, kudos to Shamus’s readers again.

  138. gorthol says:

    I posted some ideas before, but I’m reconsidering. I think I’ll see if I can fit one of my friends into the suitcase. Bonus: I have a friend who studied Latin.

  139. Doug Sundseth says:

    After taking up space with the basics (clothing, food, weapon and ammunition, specie, fire starters) that have been adequately mentioned, I’d add the following:

    As Dennis Brennan mentioned, reference works on archival microfiche and a viewer of some sort. These would include less in the way of basic references and more in the way of industrial process documents. I would specifically include plans for steel production (Bessemer) and nitric acid production (Haber), paper production, and glass production, and aniline dye production on an industrial scale. (Note that this is for long-term success. These would not be useful in the first months.)

    I would include a selection of low-volume tools: taps and dies (matched), files, knives (including plane blades), razor saws, high-quality drill bits and a hand-drill, small hammer, punches, pliers, wire-drawing dies — the tools to make tools. I’d probably include some tube stock and wire, since they’re are a pain in the rear to make. I’d also want a 19th century machinist’s handbook that explains how to build macro-scale tools. (A modern book assumes too much available technology.)

    Several rare-earth magnets in various sizes, to be used to make generators. (Once you have generators, you can make lower-flux-density magnets at will.)

    Seeds of the best non-sterile GM versions of maize, wheat, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, peanuts, and cotton.

    High-end binoculars and several convex and concave lenses of different sizes and magnifications.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about language. Anyone travelling would have problems with the local language, and travelling was not particularly rare during the time in question. Modern English isn’t really impossibly far from Middle Low German or Middle English. (A solid background in the Vulgate would be quite useful, of course.)

    On weapons: Anyone who wouldn’t take a firearm is a fool. Thieves (both outlaw and official varieties) were endemic during the period. A firearm offers no guarantees, but then nothing offers a guarantee. The best you can do is get yourself a chance. The locals will mostly be better with indigenous weapons than you will be (the occasional modern swordmaster excepted, of course); realistically, you need to have an equalizer. (I’d also recommend making a few trustworthy friends ASAP, of course.)

  140. Shamus said 1000-1300, but also said high middle ages. Thing is, 1000-1100 especially is more like late dark ages; bad news in lots of places, with vikings all over the place, the Normans conquering England, boundaries of states in large parts of Europe poorly defined at best, chaos and raiders and slave trade. So what would work depends a lot on when and where in that envelope you end up.

    I think a lot of people are underestimating the middle ages in some ways, and otherwise not coming to grips with them. For instance, no way would I bring a gun. If I start with a “me vs. the world” mentality, I know who’s going to lose. I have no skill with a gun, and if I used it people would either not realize they’re supposed to be scared and beat me to death, or conclude I’m a wizard and kill me in my sleep, burn my home to the ground, or whatever.
    Similarly, in 1000-1300 AD I don’t think aluminum is going to be useful. Nobody would see why they were supposed to think this was valuable. Sure, Napoleon thought it was valuable in 1800, when you could make it but it was really hard–but nobody had *heard* of it in 1200. Not much point bringing real gems, either. That early, people didn’t draw much distinction between real diamonds and quartz.
    And I think people overestimate the appetite for technological change. Tradition was a lot more important, and as now, vested interests were strong. Anyone familiar with “Who killed the electric car”? Come out with something that’s gonna put a craft guild out of business, and that would look pretty mild. Thinking of guilds, in cities just practicing a trade without being in the guild and going through proper apprenticeships and stuff could get you thrown out of town. And of course any technology you did successfully introduce would leave your control quickly because there ain’t no such thing as patents. So you couldn’t get as rich as you’d think.
    Thinking of rich, is it just me or does it seem like there’s a lot of millionaires posting here? Like seriously, how are people figuring on affording some of the stuff they want to bring? I can’t afford bunches of gold, man.
    Other people are worrying too much about anachronism. There are lots of things that didn’t exist at the time but it doesn’t matter. No matter what, you’re clearly a foreigner. They’re mostly insular outside of places like Venice. Backpacks, odd fabric weaves, blah de blah you can just pass off as what they have wherever you claim to come from; nobody’s gonna know the difference. I think people overestimate the language barrier; have a trade good and don’t happen to run into bandits and you’ll have time to pick up the language. People learn fast when they’re surrounded.
    On SF books about this sort of situation, my favourite is Lest Darkness Fall by L. Sprague de Camp.

    But what would I bring?
    Well, if it was short notice, just “what’s in my house right now”, I’d bring
    kitchen knives, lousy sword, hatchet, sharpening kit
    helm (open face)
    peppercorns, maybe some other spices
    sewing & embroidery needles (good needles were bleedin’ valuable in the middle ages; required a grade of steel that was very hard to get)
    Backpack, warm clothes, a couple of old tunics, hiking shoes
    My copy of Lord of the Rings, for sanity. Copies of various myths–Greek, Norse etc.–to refresh my memory for storytelling. I’m a decent storyteller so . . .
    Most of my camping gear is worthless for this kind of thing. Drat.
    Coupla dishes to eat off and cook with.

    If I had time to prepare, but wasn’t a millionaire (although I suppose I could sell my house–I’m not coming back, right?)
    Better knives, better sword, better hatchet, sharpening kit
    Open face helm, boiled leather breastplate and forearm guards
    Maybe a crossbow (everyone says bow, but again, I’m no archer. I hear crossbows are way easier to learn to be good with. And I sure don’t want to mess with some hypermodern bow-thing with pulleys and crap, and I’m not going to want a composite bow made with laminated horn and sinew because the glue will rot making it fall apart anywhere wet, which is most of Europe)
    peppercorns, maybe some other spices
    Quite a few sewing & embroidery needles, also some of those medieval-style “scissors” people use for cutting threads
    A bunch of colourful glass beads. If anyone asked about the vivid colours I’d say they were the latest thing from Venice. If I was in Venice I’d say they were from the Far East.
    Some decent medieval clothes. Fashions changed slowly in those times; there are some basic defaults that are more or less appropriate in most of Europe anywhere in the period mentioned–longish basic tunics, for instance, and fairly basic cloaks. In 1300 Italy you’ll look like a backward foreigner, but a recognizable one.
    Some lightweight survival gear; details are boring–I’d ask for advice from the gurus who work in places that sell that kind of stuff. The folks at Mountain Equipment Co-op would totally set me up.
    I’m iffy on seeds. I don’t want to set up a Potato Famine somewhere, and lots of seeds are climate-dependent and otherwise not necessarily useful for local conditions. Plus I know jack about farming.
    Nice big leather backpack.
    Copy of Lord of the Rings, myths, also a broadranging comprehensive history book and one of those how-to-make-everything type books. Not that I’d be trying to introduce tons of technology, but some might come in handy. Especially because some technologies might exist in the middle ages, but there’s nobody who can do it, or do it worth beans, wherever I happen to end up. I want to at least be able to make myself decent soap, f’rinstance, even if nobody else is interested in learning. One thing I would probably try to introduce is the wheelbarrow. Simple, applicable, you’d think they’d have existed forever but nobody thought of it until recently. The history book is so I can figure out if I’m somewhere I really don’t want to be.
    No guns, nothing electronic, nothing computery. I can’t see managing to maintain that stuff.

  141. Miako says:

    I am an asshole. First Thing I’m taking is my husband, who at least has the good sense to be a charmer. HE can charm any lady without understanding the language. Plus, he can carry a tune and is a natural leader. Okay, now that we’ve got the backpack settled… Throw his “emergency” kit in there, as well. I’m wearing the garotte (hey, if you can wear it onto an airplane…), stuffing my entire coat with the penicillin, magnesium sparkers (way way better than matches), first aid kit & book. Oh, and taking a blacksteel knife. A mylar sheet if I can hit the store.

    If I’m headed back to the three rivers of Pennsylvania, I’m bringing Apple Seeds! Put ’em in my coat. Put as many coins as I can stuff into my shoes, doesn’t matter the make or model. I can walk on them temporarily.

    I’d dress both of us impressively, which probably means with feathers and beads. lots and lots of beads. Natives like beads, right?

    If we’re lucky, we end up enslaved or as medicine men. My husband and I know enough first aid to help people heal — sterilization and knowing how to set bones will go a long way.

  142. Miako says:

    Dangabit, he did say europe!

    Five minute version:

    If I’m in my bunker, I’m bringing back some guns and cigarettes. And my husband — he’ll be useful in selling them.

    If I’m at home, bang goes my hiking kit, into the bag. Then my computer case (It’s aluminum). Jewelry, glasses. Spices — at least a pound of pepper, curry, my entire spice collection.

    either way I’m probably dead.

  143. Secondary note: For me the biggest question would be, city or not? Cities are the best place for a weird foreigner to disappear and have some leeway to do unusual things or just try to make a living without a local background and family. But, cities are also where you catch diseases and die. Seriously, cities in medieval times only maintained their numbers from people coming to escape serfdom or make their fortune or whatever, because the death rate was very high. Bad water, no sewer system = bad news. If the period was a bit later I’d try for a sophisticated smaller centre, say a university town like Oxford or Montpelier.

  144. Tuck says:

    On weapons: Anyone who wouldn't take a firearm is a fool.

    Not if you don’t want to kill people. You’re better off with a visible deterrent (eg a sword).

    I think I’d take a whole lot of high-quality hand tool heads — these last dozens and dozens of years. Shafts/handles can be constructed, but it would be easy to ingratiate yourself in any community if you can provide a set of useful tools that anyone can use.

    If there was plenty of time to prepare, taking some time to learn traditional blacksmithing would be very worthwhile.

  145. roothorick says:

    1: I’m not going. Do you have any idea how potent diseases from only a few years ago are against our modern-tempered immune systems? Now multiply that effect by several hundred. I would probably die from an ancient flu within hours of arriving.

    2: Thirty minutes!?!? You’re kidding….. right? Ugh. I’ll take that pistol then. Best to end it early.

    3: I really believe my only chance of survival would be if I had a year or two to prepare. Train myself in chain mail armors and swordfighting. Then bring along a factory-forged carbon steel katana (to match my exotic appearance — yes it’s a different kind of exotic, but they won’t know that) resting in its sheath on my belt, and a well-made suit of chainmail, worn. The “suitcase” would be a wilderness survival kit, probably smaller than your typical suitcase to compensate for the considerable mass sitting on top of me. If there’s any room left, fill the rest up with gold coins stamped with something that would seem exotic to your average european civilian. The plan is to pass myself as a travelling mercenary from a distant land. That is, if the pox doesn’t annihilate me first.

  146. Maureen says:

    Not a lot of appreciation in this thread for the High Middle Ages, land of logicians and technologists….

    You don’t really want to show up in a monk’s robe. Monks didn’t go on the road except in groups of two or more. A lone monk screams “ran away from the monastery, probably because he stole something”. Friars are a different matter, though of course a lone friar also looks suspicious.

    Metallurgy fans really need to go to the Cistercians, who were the iron masters of Europe until the French king stole all their forest lands with wood needed for smelting. Techies in general are probably best off heading for the university towns, because there’s more weirdness going on there anyway, although the natural sciences varied in popularity. Fans of women’s liberation probably want to head for Salerno, where there were many women professors. Any university you go to, they’ll expect you to speak as well as read Latin — though you wouldn’t be the only student who had to learn most of their Latin at the university before really beginning studies. If you’re willing to deal with the other consequences, men can take minor clerical orders and thus receive the fairer treatment of being under the church legal system. There are hundreds of natural philosophers out there to contact, especially later in the High Middle Ages, and almost all are men or women of the Church.

    Al-Andalus is only tolerant if tolerant means “paying high taxes to be allowed to live as a dhimmi” is tolerant. Which is to say, better than many other Muslim lands of the time.

    Over in the area we know as the US, it’s all Mississippian cultures all the time. Highly organized agricultural societies with cities, yes, but usually driven by the sort of worship you get when highly influenced by trade with Mesoamerica. Tons of slavery. Tons of warfare for land, except in the areas that were big totalitarian city-states. If you’re looking for happy peaceful lives, not the place to go.

  147. Maureen says:

    Re: baths

    Hygiene varied widely, because the Middle Ages was long and Europe is big. Bathing was a big Roman thing that continued to be big in all the former areas of Roman influence, from the Middle East to the West. In Europe, bathhouses only became unpopular for the wide populace when the water started spreading cholera and similar diseases, and when prostitutes started driving off all the regular women. In Ireland, offering use of the bathhouse out back was an essential of medieval hospitality, and even up to recent times, there were places in Ireland that had sod bathhouses out back like Scandinavians and Russians have saunas. (And bathhouses.)

    The general description of an attractive character in French and English medieval romance was someone with white (untanned) skin, shining teeth, nice-smelling breath, shining (clean) hair, and so forth. Sometimes you do even get descriptions of the character’s lovely hands, and that includes fighting men. If you were noble, you were at least notionally expected to be clean, during the High Middle Ages.

    I don’t want to paint too ideal of a picture. But some of you folks are picturing the High Middle Ages in a nice place as the same as some grungy village in the back end of the Balkans. And heck, they have bathhouses in the back end of the Balkans.

  148. nobodez says:

    Okay, I’m going to go with the 30-minute time period.

    Okay, first, I put my external frame backpack, sleeping bag, and tent into the suitcase. Then I shove extra clothes into the suitcase. Then I back textbooks (I have prob/stats, abstract algebra, calculus, american history, ethics, music, and religion). Then I pack my Catechism of the Catholic Church and my how stuff works book. By now I’m getting close to the end of my 30 minutes, so I shove my walking shoes into the suitcase, zip it up, put on my hiking boots, and as many layers as I can put on before the limit is up.

    Once back in time I shove everything into the backpack.

  149. Sinblood says:

    I would definitely take some kind of birth control or prophylactic. Unless, as a woman, I preempt my inevitable rape-baby by getting a tubal before my trip. That said, I don’t want to go. I can’t sew or weave or knit and if I went as a me, then my options as a woman alone are limited or scary. :/

  150. gorbashin says:

    Pholm: You mentioned celibacy…just let the fact that women didn’t shave and cleanliness standards were MUCH lower aid you in your path.

    A magnifying glass and microfilm instructions on how to make penicillin, a book called “foxfire”(a complete survival handbook),also on microfilm. Shucks, as long as I’m copping out and going all microfilm, a french/latin/old english language guide, some chemistry and biology books as well. A good hatchet, a .22 bolt action rifle(reliable and easy to maintain)with a good scope and a .22 semi auto pistol. Cleaning kit for both. Binoculars. Someone mentioned rare spices earlier…I like that idea, so I’m gonna take it. The remaining space would be dedicated to around 2000 rnds of ammo and as much spice as I can cram.

    Upon arrival, I’d try to use my knowledge to make myself useful to the regional lord, but at the first hint of things going south, I’m goin’ commando and swiping the crown. That would be the set-up for my whole, doomed-to-be short lived time travel experience…play nice or face 20th century wrath.

  151. Incognita says:

    Ok, so I’ll go with having half an hour.

    I’ve got a full set of Army field kit, so I’m sorted for a big sturdy bag, hard-wearing clothes, poncho to sleep under, water purification tabs, coupla days rations. Call packing that ten minutes. Also taking insoles, my spare boots, all my socks. Zinc oxide tape and surgical spirit (both on hand) to help toughen my feet up.
    Next stop is the college library. Swipe textbooks on basic chemistry, a good overview history, botany, Latin and Old English (given we’re pre the Great Vowel Shift, I’ll probably be nigh incomprehensible even to other English speakers, at least to start with).
    Third and final stop is the shops. Boswells is just down the road – thinking hard-wearing, portable, and a mixture of stuff low-value enough to trade with a peasant and high value enough to get me set up.
    Probably pins, needles etc for the low-value stuff. For high value stuff either it’s got to have immutable value (gold), so as much as I can steal – being a broke student with about five minutes to play with at this point – or I take a risk by grabbing exotic stuff like glass and such.
    I could also do with a bigger knife – mine is sturdy and practical, so it’ll last years, but not much cop in a fight.
    I wouldn’t have time to get a sword, or be much good with one. Not sure I’d take a gun even if I could get one – a rifle stands out way too much, and a pistol is concealable at least but is beaten by a bow, quite apart from concerns about ammunition and repair. A good sturdy long knife, and cut a quarter-staff as soon as I arrive.
    Obviously I’ll stand out like anything from the start. However most peoples reaction to something strange is not “BURN THE WITCH!!!” At least if you’re not horribly unlucky. I can remember enough Latin for the Pater Noster and Ave Maria, which though an average peasant won’t speak Latin they WILL have heard hundreds of times from their own priest.
    The short term plan is to get to a monastery, live on their charity for a bit while I figure out the language. Once I can do that, claim to be a travelling scholar, from somewhere beyond the known world. Prester John’s kingdom might be a good bet.
    When I judge I’m capable of it (language okay, got some local clothes, maybe a travelling buddy or three) get on my way.
    Assuming I haven’t come out of the timewarp where I went in (Oxford) I’d head for the nearest of Oxford, Paris, Modena or Salamanca, where there are universities. A princely court would offer chances for influence, but is also populated by highly capable plotters and back-stabbers, all of whom have an established power base. Even the King’s favourite can easily fall from grace with one mis-step.
    The Church might be an option, but I would feel far too much a hypocrite, and while I’m intelligent I’m hardly brilliant, nor am I the smoothest of political operators, so I’d hardly make it to high office.
    So a university is a reasonable option, despite the clerical association.
    The alternative would be to go for being a merchant – an outward show of obedience to the Church, the occasional forced loan to the local magnate and you can get by. You can also profit from the introduction of a few little innovations like double entry book-keeping (invented surprisingly late); even if everyone copies you, there’s the whole inertia thing, giving you a few years to get going.
    I might even get into the business either of distilling or of hemp – useful for rope etc, also good for getting high. It’s been cultivated for millennia in Asia, but didn’t take off in Europe til much later.
    Guilds would be an issue, but they’re like any power structure, as long as the right people gain out of it they’ll leave you be. On that score they’d be easier to deal with than either the Church or the Nobility. They speak the language Money, not that of Faith or Blood and Honour.
    So, long term aim – be a successful merchant, add as many useful small innovations to my business as possible in the hope others pick them up, treat my wife well (yes, wife eventually. It’ll help you settle into the local networks, you’ll treat her better than the alternatives would, goodness knows you might actually come to like her). Be as liberal with my daughters as I can get away with, teach all my children to think for themselves (just keeping their heads down on religion).
    I think I could live well enough. And that turned into a mega-post, wow.

  152. Darren says:

    Some good stuff here. My idea? minstrel. I can play the trombone fairly well, the euphonium quite well, can sing fairly, and play the piano very well. I would have my memory for piano, and a few books for trombone ( I wouldn’t be bringing the euphonium, too heavy, also definitly include a hymnal.

    I would bring a handgun with a few magazines, but its purpose would be to defend me until I reached a castle. Afterall, I don’t have the oil and cleaning tools to maintain it in harsh enviroments, and don’t want the suspicion.

    Basic clothes as mentioned before, and water purification tablets, fire starter, pot, and small supplies of jerky and bread.
    I would hope to land near civilization, find a lord, and perform as a minstrel maybe even teach someone else my knowledge of instruments.

    for technological advancements, I couldn’t be in a position of power to advise anyone. Even handwashing was resisted by doctors when it was introduced. Just try to live a nice life.

  153. Eric the baker says:

    I’ll post a more complete list a wee bit later. But I want to suggest one specific item that I haven’t seen on anyone’s list so far.

    – A handful of packages of modern yeast.

    You could go with the individual sized packets from the grocery store, or go with a bulk package.
    I happen to have a 1-pound sealed bag in my fridge at this moment. One pound of modern yeast is in a vacuum packed bag about 2x3x5 inches. It’s useful for so many ways. And easily transportable.

    Modern cultured yeast is vastly superior in terms of productivity and reliability to the yeasts of the middle ages. At the time, they were mostly restricted to local wild yeasts (sourdoughs) that were jealously guarded by their owners. You can barter it with bakers in any town you come across. Whoever you give it to, will soon be known for their excellent breads and cakes. (Flour milling techniques would need to be improved of course.) And yes, with proper care the “mother” that you make with your modern yeast is able to be saved for generation after generation of production.

    Also, modern yeasts are excellent for the beginning stages of alcohol production for brewing and vinting. Distill alcohol from those items and you have an excellent anti-bacterial and all around germ killer.

    You’ll make a whole lot more friends and allies by appealing to the needs of their stomachs, rather than executing someone with you handgun.

    (Yes, I am a professional baker by trade. That does likely color my views on this subject. But it’s usually a good idea to go with what you know.)

  154. Captain 420 says:

    I’d bring a suitcase full of black pepper, cloves, and mace. That shit was worth more than gold in the Middle Ages, and what ultimately sparked the Ages of Discovery and Colonialism, securing access to the products of a few plants native to three islands near Java. I’d be set for life, and not have to worry about being tried for heresy or anything like if I brought modern technology.

  155. Corsair says:

    A good thing for everyone to carry would be a small supply of pepper spray. If you piss off a peasant mob, spraying a bit of that would buy you some time to beat a hasty retreat.

  156. Rex says:

    Interesting how some people failed to actually read… and comprehended the situation posed by Shamus. He said – you are standing in your house – you have 30 minutes. It’s a fascinating question – in part because it brings up the question of how prepared are we, each as individuals, to handle a local disaster (natural or otherwise). And in part because of what it reveals about our viewpoint of humanity. All those guns. Hmmmm…
    I know that the premise posed by Mr. Young was that the objective was survival, but what a unique opportunity this would be to make the world a better place. I really admire the comments from people who wanted to bring back modern yeast, medical texts, how-to book, etc.
    Thanks for such a thought provoking question.

    Here’s my multipart thought experiment:
    Part One – There is a pill (only one) that will make you 20% smarter (whatever that means to you) – no side effects. Only you can take the pill (or not) – it won’t work for anyone else. Do you take it?
    Part Two – same deal, but the pill will only work for your spouse (or partner) – you and only you get to decide if they are to take it. Do you have them take it?
    Part Three – Same deal, but there are pills for everyone in the world (and it will carry forward to future generations). Do you have everyone take it, or not?

  157. Doug Sundseth says:

    Rex: “Interesting how some people failed to actually read …. He said – you are standing in your house – you have 30 minutes.”

    The only constraint in the original post was volume; there was no mention of mass, cost, or preparation time.


  158. Itse says:

    The biggest proplem vs. survival would propably be diseases, but there’s not that much one can do about that in the long run, so what ever.

    I wouldn’t take anything “out of date” with me, because I wouldn’t want to draw any more attention than necessary, and nothing I have around the house would make that much of a difference to be worth the risk.

    I have plenty of useful general knowledge of Middle-Ages culture, history and geography in my head, propably more than most people in that time. I can read and write and do math, especially propabilities, which people didn’t know s*** about in those days. I can even speak some Latin. I would be taller than average and propably considered gorgeous by their standards. (I’m slightly-better-than-average looking by todays standards already, and with their lack of nutrition, hygiene and medical care, I should rule in that area.)

    Learning a new language when completely surrounded by one isn’t really that hard, and I’m pretty good with people so I wouldn’t be that much more worried about getting killed by humans than I am today, actually somewhat less because I would be physically notably above average and I have some actual martial arts training, which most people don’t have.

    So I’d take my least-conspicious clothes and some basic travel gear like a wool blanket, my medieval-style knife (would propably suck but it’s useful, even as a weapon) and a small wooden pot. Oh, and the few cast-iron items I have as something easily tradable.

    I’d take all the SPICES in the cupboard (really valuable), POTATOES, tomatoes and basil (I happen to have those around just about always.)

    Knowing how to read, write, do bookkeeping and math, I’d already have some very employable skills, so I’d propably try to find a merchant, landlord or anyone in need of bookkeeper somewhere. Nobody killed bookkeepers, they were too rare, valuable and harmless :) Potatoes give great crop, but I don’t know much about agriculture really so I’d just sell the ones I’d have to my employer and hope he does well with them.

    Middle-Age gambling was totally ridiculous since people didn’t know s*** about propabilities, so making money on that should be a doozy.

    I’d leave my mark on history by writing fiction so modern it would blow the mind of future historians and propably be completely ignored by contemporaries as being too weird. Just look up Cervantes (Don Quixote) and Shakespeare and consider that this would be 300-500 years earlier and break much more new ground.

    I could invent new styles of poetry yearly. New styles of music, new types of theater… I could make horrible versions of all the future-classics, starting with stuff like the most popular works of Shakespeare, and they would still be mind-blowing just because they’d be so modern in style :)

    As long as I wasn’t dropped in the middle of the Alps in wintertime or something like that, I would propably be okay, if I would survive the plagues. (I’d try to steer clear of the biggest cities, because those were ridden with diseases.)

  159. RibbitRibbit says:

    Basic survival 101:
    – Don’t attract attention by anything flashy or outlandish.
    – Don’t try to rule any community (this will get you killed).
    – Don’t try to pass as a supernatural being (see above).
    – Take nothing perishable that is not essential.
    – Take stuff that is very durable or can be mended at the period.

    “How do I not die in the first minutes?” – First-survival:
    – Wear clothes; anything reasonably warm. Since I might be landing in a freezing temperature, also take a good coat.
    – A sack, nothing that looks high-techy or fancy like zippers or a suitcase.
    – Two handguns with ample ammunition, loaded. This is for emergencies only, not to carry in the open.
    – Antibiotics, disinfectants, basically a first-aid kit + booklet.

    “Basic survival” – For the next few days (assuming wilderness):
    – 2 large knives, stainless steel + whetstone.
    – A leatherman.
    – An illustrated list of edible plants/berries/mushrooms.
    – A foldable-sheet personal shelter.
    – A light hammock (or the rats with eat *everything*). Sleeping on a forest floor or in the snow sucks.
    – A mosquito net (or they will eat *me*).
    – Lighter fuel in good quantity (to start a fire) + matches in a watertight case.
    – Long light nylon rope. Mostly to hang clothes on, but also for everything else. NOT climbing (can’t do it properly without pylons and I won’t carry those).
    – Shorter nylon ropes + a booklet on snaring, skinning and tanning/curing.
    – A sewing kit.
    – A hand-powered flashlight.

    “Where am I?” – Knowledge of your place is essential to survival. You can know what the closest danger is, or will be. So:
    – A hand-held electronic device with all kinds of geographical and historical information, manually powered, in a watertight package. This will be used to carry extremely detailed maps of all the world at that period (AND in the next 50 years), then turned off.
    – A map of the world in reasonable detail, made of anything indestructible. Large enough to chart the best naval courses.
    – A detailed map of Europe (since this is the place I will be landing at).
    – A sextant + usage booklet. This together with maps will help me to determine exact location (see next phase), and to set time on my watch.
    – Basic phrases in several languages – Germanic, Old English, Latin, French, Russian. To determine geographic location and ask of my whereabouts (assuming I want to approach people before knowing where the hell I am).
    As a bonus – since I know Hebrew – a way to tell a Jew at this period, and a “cover story” for myself as a traveler from a remote Jewish community that actually exists at that time.

    “Where do I want to be?” – What is the best place to survive in, and who do I want to pass as? (Assuming I want to survive as a part of a human society). So:
    – A compass (along with maps, to get from A to B).
    – Choose a point that is either not occupied (or won’t be occupied in the next decades) but is reasonably close to human settlement (if I want to pass as a frontier man/hunter).
    – A list of past-time “tinkerers” – people who invent stuff and who aren’t known for their overblown ego or vengefulness. Also a list of the projects they’ve been working on. Help them both overcome their blocks and overcome their competition. Hope it will give you food and shelter at their employ and not a cup of poison.

    “Extra stuff” :
    – A wind-up watch, that fits in a pocket.
    – Some copper, silver (taken from modern coins) or semi-precious stones. Not gold or jewelry since this might get unwanted attention. To be used only in dire need.
    – Extra space is filled with books on “next steps” of science advances, written shortly and preferably charted in a “civilization” kind of way (X + Y gets you Z).

    Alternative stuff:
    – Set your course to Spain, join the Muslims and prevent the reconquista. Alternatively set the roots for reformation of the Islam (this will surely get you killed, but it’ll be fun while it lasts, trust me!).

  160. Decius says:

    Influenza, Cholera, smallpox, several varieties of common cold… All of the modern germs that I am resistant or immune to, but nobody back then was. Also, a micro-uzi, a large-caliber handgun, and a ‘hunting’ rifle, with moderate stocks of ammo and a reloader. I’ll worry about the gunpowder when I get to that point. Add the micro-laptop with all the information of the world, tailored to living alone in medieval wherever, and I’m good.

    Hey, wiping out the world by concurrent plagues is a valid solution to -my- survival.

  161. Auke says:

    Chuck Norris.

    Even though he might be more voluminous than a loaded suitcase, I’m quite confident that I’m not (if we are talking about the big, international travel-variety), so he can be the traveller and I’ll be the suitcase.

  162. Fipps says:

    Batteries: Lemons, limes, oranges or any other citrus fruit, or potatoes, with a pair of carbon rods in them. A copper bowl filled with citric acids will also serve though you need to insulate it.

    Beyond that:
    I’d take several good knives, A compound bow, arrows. Two small-arms with ammunition. I know enough about metals and gunpowder to make more ammunition. All other space would be extra clothes, tools, and a sewing kit.

  163. Felblood says:

    Aluminum and silk are ideas that I dismissed initially, but looking at the arguments here, they are probably good ideas. They aren’t unknown enough to generate concern like uridium or polymer cloth, but they still have immense value.

    Spices and silk are probably better trade goods than any sort of metal, since you can pawn them off as imports, and nobody will expect you to know where it was mined/minted.

    In fact I want to trade all my cotton clothes above for silks. So long as I can have it, I want to wear it, at least until I sell it.

    I think it’ interesting what you can learn about a person from their response to this question.

    Since your skills take no space, everyone brings theirs.

    How are your survival skills? I’m a former wildlander, so I can endure discomfort and survive for a few weeks with minimal supplies. My poor hunting/farming skills will mean I need to reach civilization eventually, and that means fighting disease and superstition, but I’m doing better than the guy who brings no supplies, because getting dropped outside of human habitation is a death sentence anyway.

    What sort of skills do you have that could make you a living in a world without modern technology and economics? –Bearing in mind that moneylending for interest is illegal in many areas of Europe, at this time?

    My best chance to buy/rent a space, and set myself up as an artist. I have training in art history, and I can pull out some techniques that nobody will know, without becoming a heretic. Plus, I can advance civilization without starting any major wars (though I may decide to anyway, for the fun of it, see above.).

    I can also invent a couple of gadgets that won’t shake the world enough to get me killed, since I’m an actual engineer/physicist if not a very good one. I won’t even have to plagiarize anyone’s designs specifically, to improve on copying, cooking and housing construction. If I get noticed for that I can become a court engineer or mathematician.

    Those thinking that a chemistry textbook and a GED are going to turn them into Merlin, are probably setting themselves up for disappointment or self explosion. High energy (explosive)chemistry is probably the most dangerous thing you could try to teach yourself, short or juggling the crude explosives you might actually produce with period improvised equipment.

    Are you able/willing to perform manual labor? (I’m too frail and weak, particularly by a working society’s standards, to survive as a peasant, so I have to shoot for at least a noble/artist/scholar type position.) I might be able to pass as a caravan guard or something, but I don’t have the joint health for soldiering, and I’m allergic to war horses.

    How well can you defend yourself?

    I know some Karate and a few things about swordplay, but I don’t have the physical health to be a knight or a mercenary. My knowledge of anatomy and close combat would make me valuable for training younger soldiers, but how do you get that point across in a world where “I know Karate” means “I am a wizard; burn me” and you’re an arthritic with a bad sword wrist?

    I can shoot, but I’m not a sniper, or even a terribly long shot. A small pistol for close defense and concealment is all I chose to pack. A better marksman would bring a rifle, a healthier person might bring a higher caliber pistol.

    How much faith do you have in technology? Guns are better than crossbows, but they don’t make you into an invincible god. Unless you are a gunsmith and a metallurgist, you won’t be able to outfit your friends/troops with them either. Firearms are incredibly valuable, but they have serious social problems and limited ammo, even if you have the skill to use them at range. Use them to get yourself set up to where you don’t need them, not to terrorize the populace.

    I know there’s no reason to expect electronics to survive the dust of the middle ages (being outdoors, especially in a world without paved roads, is really bad for anything technological), so I’m not bringing any. Unless you’re only using for the first weeks, it’s a waste of space.

    How dependent are you on electronic entertainment? Libraries of manuscripts lost to our time are collecting dust and you’re bringing your e-books? Seriously? I hope you’re a fast reader.

    The novel is yet to be invented as such, but that just means that whatever plot you write will officially be the best novel ever written. Buy a quill, and remember, “Revise, revise, revise!”

    To the guys bringing movies or video games: It’ll be hard at first, like it was for me, but it’s better to just let go, than to cling to what you can’t have. You to can learn to go without the hobby that you love. I’m also tabletop gamer myself, and I love to home-brew, so I have the advantage that if I can find a group of open minded people and something to carve dice out of, I’m set for Friday nights. Sure I’ll miss LAN gaming and my PSP, but there’s just no place for Unreal ’04 in the 1200’s.

    Maybe I can invent a wargame somewhere between chess and modern wargaming that will catch on with the nobility. Knights need something to do while waiting out the siege.

  164. In a quick read I saw a few points that make sense, and alot that didn’t. Remember: Survival.

    Good seed sounded intelligent. Antibiotics go bad and run out. I’d go for a wide range of vaccines before leaving and sulfa drugs to fight infections.

    Various versions of the Swiss Army knives: Remembering that aside from the knife, auger, scissors, and pliers (and maybe the wire-cutter) all the other tools are made for modern conveniences (Bottle-opener? Phillips-head screwdriver? What’s that for?). A couple of simple hand-tools might be better…although a Leatherman sounded like the best bet.

    A suitcase might be better served by a guitar with a back that opens.

    Anything that runs on electricity that isn’t Solar-charged is a waste of time. Anything that runs on batteries (no matter how rechargeable) will eventually (within 5 years) die forever.

    Guns of any kind that use cartridges are just as bad as batteries. Eventually they’ll run out. Black powder is, however, available (if rare) or at least can be formulated at the time. A rifled barrel (remember to take a bullet mould) on a flintlock-based weapon will be advanced, but not “witchcraft-level” tech. Take a tap and die (made of tungsten ’cause the locals will wear that out a carbide steel set fast) and some diamond-tip etches. Take some calipers, lab-level measures and rulers, and you could even fabricate a replacement.

    I’d take a hunting scope as it increases the range of your weapon (rifled, remember? And as a bonus It is useful as an optical device). A non-electric microscope would be another good idea.

    I think a probe thermometer for testing food temperatures could be useful.

    Knowledge would be very useful. Someone mentioned microfilmed reference material. That’s a good idea if you use a non-electric microscope to read it. It can be transcribed once you can access the info.

    The only thing I’ve not seen is a PLAN. Besides longevity what is your goal for going back? Are you planning to kick-start the Renaissance 200 years early? Are you planning to sabotage European dominance by helping the Turks? Perhaps you plan to build a third Empire in Africa or the New World (which has already been reached by the Irish and the Norse). This would inform a lot of my choices, to be sure.

  165. Miako says:

    purple library guy,
    of course they had heard of aluminum! they called it mithril. ;-)

  166. Miako says:

    Okay, you wanted a plan: I’m going to run a business, selling boiled water. ;-)

    Everyone else? Most people back then were bandits! They stole from one another at socially acceptable times — whenever gypsies came through! And then they said that the gypsies had done it.

    If you walk into a town looking like the most tasty thing that they’ve ever seen (with Gold! and no Protection!) you will be next on the menu.

    Seeds are the worst idea I’ve heard. American commercial seeds are designed for American commercial fertilizer. If you can find some original Luther Burbank seeds… those might be better.

    Anyway, wearing anything modern is a recipe for getting robbed of it. Having anything that is comprehensible as “wealth” is a recipe to get robbed.

    I’m taking my husband. And I’ve got room enough for what he wants to bring (we talked about this on Friday):
    Lockpicks (locks were really bad back then, and these don’t look valuable nor have an obvious use)
    Book of the Future! (aka what will happen in the next 100 yrs).
    Trap building kit (I WILL be dressed like a local. by stealing a local’s clothes)
    Basic disguise kit (makeup etc)
    Black silks and soft shoes, for emergency use only
    Firearm + ammo, again for emergency use only (it will be needed)

    If the thorium wasn’t a dead giveway, I’m taking an assassination kit. We’ll work legally where possible, and have a way of getting out of town when it’s not. Without the mob on our heels.

  167. Nancy says:

    well, first of all, i would wear as much lightweight hightech clothing as possible (the stuff bikers and skiers wear), and wear a coarsely woven handspun pants and shirt over it. while not standing out is important, most modern clothing will wear out very quickly with the kind of abuse it would be getting, and though you can certainly eventually acquire local clothing, i have no idea how long that’s going to take.
    i also think that i would try to pass as male, at least most of the time- i’m more than the size of a man from that era (5’11”), and nothing good comes from women traveling alone back then. in which case i also need an ace bandage or something for chest binding.
    i would then pack several pairs of smartwool socks, some gloves, a sun hat, a winter hat, and a big silk scarf (warm in winter, cool in summer)
    a pair of good hiking boots that could be repaired by cobblers of the time (possibly dr martens or something similar- the rubber soul is useful and could be passed off as a curiousity while the leather upper could be repaired) and some very comfortable sandals along the same lines (birkenstocks or keens).
    i would bring one of those tiny fold-up ponchos, a high tech winter coat, and reusable feminine hygiene supplies.
    flea/louse soap. (and if i have space, some dr. bronners hemp soap)
    probably at least two weeks worth of MREs- i know this is more than a lot of people are suggesting, but if i get dropped in the alps in winter, i want to be able to survive long enough to get down if i can’t forage. if i land in italy in may, lucky me.
    a mess kit
    one of those really cool water purifier straws.
    a couple of very good knives- an eating knife, a chopping knife, a skinning knife, a gutting knife, and a great big “don’t fuck with me” knife. also a sharpening and cleaning kit. oh, and a knife holder that straps to my calf.
    as many small multitools as i can squeeze in- they would certainly be good for trade.
    a flint firestarting kit.
    a space blanket and a backpacking tent.
    a field manual illuminating the edibility/dangerousness of European plants and animals
    a comprehensive medical first aid kit and book, including instructions on how to do things like grow and use your own penicillin.
    several compasses, and binoculars, and a magnifying glass
    A small but detailed atlas of Europe at the time
    a couple rolls 50″² of nylon rope, of various sizes
    i would build an aluminum frame backpack with all leather external parts- it would look foreign, but not unreasonable, and if i have to walk far (which i most likely will) it would be worth it.
    at least one big notebook and few pencils.
    i would probably bring one small latin dictionary, though i would expect it to be largely unhelpful- only the very learned spoke latin at the time, but if i ended up in a big city i could probably make myself understood.
    sewing needles, buttons, thread, and spices would fill out the remaining space.
    after much consideration, i think that i would bring a small pistol and some ammunition. i’m thinking less of people and more of wild animals. i think using it on a person (unless you were alone, in which case you would want to dig your bullet back out after you fired it) would attract undue attention of the negative kind. however, if i get charged by a wild boar, i’d like to be able to slow it down.
    also some tin whistles/ plastic recorders. and Vaseline. oh, and before i went, i would get some sort of good birth control- the pill would be impractical (you’d have to carry a lifetime supply) and i doubt anyone raping me is going to wait for me to insert a diaphragm or put on a condom, so i would likely go with either getting my tubes tied or implants. potentially the birth control patch. on the one hand, childbirth killed lots and lots of women back then, so i would avoid it at all costs. however, if i were to say, marry or be forced to marry a man who required me to bear children, it would be useful to be able to reverse the birth control if necessary…

    i agree with those who say stealth is your best bet. i would clearly not be able to fully pass, but if i can look convincingly foreign enough, i should be ok. i would endeavor to set myself up as a small crofter or mmerchant of some kind in small village. or take vows as a nun. either would probably be my safest bet.

  168. Tacoma says:

    You should take a black eye-mask, a black derby hat, a black and white horizontal striped shirt, black pants and shoes, and a big bag with a dollar sign on it.

    EDIT: @ Nancy: notice how she went straight from Vaseline to birth control …

    EDIT2: Some of you clever folks need to write a book about recovering technology from the ground up, say in a reverse time travel or post-apocalyptic setting, where you can’t expect to start with anything.
    Title it “Reinventing the Wheel and Everything Else: How to Create the Modern World Barehanded and Naked”

  169. Andrew says:

    No, let’s make the Reinventing the Wheel and Everything Else: How to Create the Modern World Barehanded and Naked wiki and learn all this stuff.
    Can someone who isn’t me make it? I’m lazy and don’t know how.

  170. Jazmeister says:

    C. David: I had a plan.

  171. m®© says:

    while reading the comments, it occured to me that if you would raise a gun in the 1200s ofcourse no one would care.
    Everyone already summed up the useful stuff, but I don’t know if anyone mentioned this before: dirty magazines, you will need them at one point. I mean, hygiene was pretty bad back then, and our modern perception of beauty is very different too. very few women will be slim, (is that how you americans call it? you know..as in ‘not fat’. ugh, I hate it when I’m in the how-you-say position..you probably can imagine me with a thick hispanic or chinese accent) have smooth skin and most of all: normal teeth..
    also I wouldn’t be able to handle getting famous as the stranger that [does something special]. I’m too paranoid, and I have sleeping dissorders. I can’t get to sleep until somewhere around 3am(wich is about now in Holland. and I always have to wake up at six-ish, poor me), and when I sleep, nothing wakes me up..and when something finally has awakeed me, I will stay down for like ten more minutes..no matter what is going on. See where I’m getting at?
    Well, I’m finally feeling tired so goodnight everybody.

    Ps: bad grammar? blame it on that goddamn(sry) touch screen..I don’t have a computer on my room but I still wanted to leave a comment..so kudos for me for writing a long comment on a touch phone!

  172. Yahzi says:

    What’s with all the survival gear? You’re going back to civilization; all you need is money. The pennies in your piggy bank will feed you for weeks.

    hygiene was pretty bad back then, and our modern perception of beauty is very different too.
    Depends on where you go. Also, there will still be plenty of skinny chicks, they just won’t be as popular. The tough part would be accepting that 14-year-olds are considered adults, both with sex and with weapons… that adds up to one scary place. :D


  173. m®© says:

    @Yazhi: I’m 15 myself :p. But I agree, I would never trust any of my classmates with a weapon.

    What I’m wondering is(aiming at Europe): How about gay people, or black/colored people(like me)? For all I know, they might burn me for being ‘a black devil’. End of operation Time-Travel.
    As for gay people: It was very normal for the ancient Greek to be bi/gay(MEN atleast, women were seen as objects. Like slaves). I don’t know about the rest of the world, though. The reason they were gay was mostly because women weren’t allowed outside most of the time, so the men only met each other.
    Then the believe in an omni god came, and it became a taboo.
    I guess I would go to Africa and help my people establish a good culture, by teaching them advanced medicine and giving them advanced technology. two small points of notice: I don’t speak their language, and my modern European deceases would kill them for sure. Maybe I’d just bring lots of marhijuana, cocaine, and become the Pablo Escobar of the Middle Ages. and when I ran out of it, I’d just say that they would get more if they took over the throne for me. While those junks are getting killed by the guard, I quickly think of an escape plan. Before the angry survivors find me.
    I’ll come up with a original object to bring when I feel like. Wich isn’t now:p.

  174. Amadan says:

    Letsee. I’m gonna go with the 30 minute approach, because 5 minutes is a snatch & grab which would simply look like a greatest hits version of the 30 minute list (Whatever I could lay my hands on fast, by priority, etc)

    1100-1300? I’m going to be heading for Ireland. My Gaelic and Old Norse both suck, but I have a basic grounding in at least reading both, and am at least broken-pidgin-talk slowly conversant in 15th century Gaelic. I’ve spent decades studying the history and myths of Irish culture, and fashions remained static enough that I have clothes that wouldn’t look wildly out of place.

    I’ve a stock of good straight willow poles seasoning out back right now, so I’d lash a frame together, quick like, with the reusable zip ties hanging on the wall to my left. Throw down the oilskin canvas tarp and start loading an alpine pack.
    pretty much my whole faire costume basics… 2 raw silk long undershirts, leather vest, sheepskin gambeson, mail hauberk, 3 sets of leather gauntlets, leather gorget, ringmail vambraces, over the knee leather boots with garters, felted wool/mohair bonnet/flatcap, Wool plaid, fringed Brat, woolen kilt hose… many sundry pouches, sporrans, Satchels, belts, pins, broaches etc… nothing really fancy and all handmade.

    More modern clothing to grab…
    my better leathers. I’m a professional leatherworker. Pants, my tough steampunkish double breasted jerkin thing (made from waterproof, oilproof, motorcycle chapleather), my leather kilt, my leather duster. These are clothes that, properly cared for, can last a lifetime, and I have the skills to repair them.
    Silk thermals. my few high tech sports/survival polypropylene blend shirts & socks (nice while they last)
    My padded rappelling gloves, and my fingerless work gloves.

    raid the bookshelves.
    Not much time to be discriminate.
    raid Dad’s collection of old textbooks from his school days, aiming for the pocket editions where he has them. 40’s era textbooks gave better basics.
    The Complete Metalsmith
    Highland Folkways
    The Foxfire series (At least the 13 volumes I have)
    Culpepper’s Color Herbal
    Elizabethan Military Science
    The Backstage Handbook (lots of very concise and useful basic reference information)
    my Latin-English and Gaelic-English dictionaries
    Wars of the Irish Kings
    History of the Irish
    Sex and Marriage in Ancient Ireland (it’s small, and might help avoid the sort of faux pas that can get one killed)
    a couple of my smaller music books.
    The Dangerous Book for Boys (Lots of handy tidbits in very concise form)
    Boy Scout Handbook.
    Dad’s Survival School Manual
    Improvised Muntions Handbook
    Grey’s Anatomy

    A quick selection of the higher quality more durable handtools I own, mainly leather working, wood working and metal working (The aforementioned tungesten tap and die set is a must, as are all the hacksaw blades I own). My framing hammer is a high tech tanged alloy headed, white maple axe handled monster that makes for a decent warhammer in a pinch. All of my needles. My jar of precious and semi precious beads, along with the few gems I have around the shop (some super high quality faceted citrine & amethyst, some decent hunks of raw ruby, sapphire. Raid the jewelry boxes and coin collection for gold, silver, and other stones. Unload the spice rack.
    Raid my shop
    Toss on a quick selection of my better leather skins. They’re better tanned and will last better than anything from the period. I have colors that would be EXPENSIVE. Ditto a selection of my raw fabrics.
    Some of my hardware. Rivets, buckles, steel brass rings.
    artificial sinew & waxed lined cord.

    A few high tech miracles.
    My hand crank LED flashlight. the couple of pepper spray canisters I have around as a disposable non lethal force alternative. Mayhaps a couple of my wee rainbow crystal lights and the stack of extra batteries I have, just for performing minor magic tricks. Every damn lighter I have in the house (The zippos will be useful as long as I can distill a workable fuel) Survival Blanket, Magnesium firestarter, the 3 or so bottles NuSkin antiseptic liquid Bandage I have around, all the cyanoacrylate I have in the shop (great for quick “stiches”). Empty the medicine cabinet and toss in the first aid jumpkit.
    The bottle of Jameson’s. The tiny box of marijuana seeds my ex left (Why not, they might grow :P)

    Finally, weapons…
    what I have here wouldn’t be my idea choices for a jump back in time, but you grab what you can, eh?
    The Ruger Mk1 .22 semiauto and ALL the .22LR shells. It’s a popgun, but its small, fast, concealable and easy to build a silencer for. I’ll probably never manufacture rimfire ammo, so this is of limited duration applicability.
    double barreled break action over-under 12 gauge shotgun. I’ll probably cut this down to a coach gun, but not til after I arrive. No time, thanks.
    A rifle. Probably the M1-Garand, but I might grab the M-1 .30 carbine instead. Sorta depends on what our ammo supplies and reloading supplies look like.
    Bullet molds, as much powder as we have, and all the primers we have. Maybe some spare brass, but that’s less essential.
    A selection of knives. My cold steel fighting knife, my Finnish pukka’s, my 21 inch sgian dearg (make from my old claymore’s blade), my spear point dagger, my nigh-indestructible one piece steel cleaver, a couple of the better kitchen knives & a sharpening steel.

    I’d probably try to bring my bastard sword, bronze shortsword, and bardiche as well. None of the other handweapons around here are “combat grade”.

    Based on my personality and experience, I expect it is quite possible I will manage to ingratiate myself and become chief adviser to one of the Irish Kings and boot off the Renaissance early. The long term goal is the early construction and adoption of a slightly more benevolent cultural mindset… Irish Law in the time period was remarkably intelligent and civilized, and with the technological and social dynamic advantages my knowledge can supply it’s quite possible we can put an abrupt and early death to a lot of unpleasant future events and social constructs. I’d do my darnedest to try and make sure that social moral philosophy advances at the same or faster than technology blossoms.

  175. azmodios says:

    Best Question on the Internets!

    My goal would be personal happiness and then, if I had time, world peace. So this is what I’d pack.

    1. 2X 9mm semi-automatic handguns
    2. A Sniper rifle
    3. If available, an M-16
    4. lot’s of ammo (every extra suitcase crevis would have ammo in it.)
    5. Advil (every extra suitcase crevis, that didn’t have ammo, would have Advil in it.)
    6. 2X small laptops with entire wiki database, plus two backup drives with same. (Thanks for wiki copy idea)
    7. Print-Outs detailing how to make Kevlar, Concrete, Lysol, Bug Spray, Hienz Ketchup and Morphine.
    8. A world map.
    9. That Michael Jackson outfit from Thriller
    10. My Gameboy
    11. My Tom Brady jersey

  176. ClearWater says:

    If you’re going back to the middle ages you’d best take a whole lot of pre-loaded d20s. That way, if you get into a fight you’ll be sure not to fumble.

  177. arnold says:

    Great thread Shamus! (and everybody else who contributed)

    Just a few points to consider.

    * Many comments here seem to think that some form of a gun is necessary. While I am not opposed to guns (and actually am quite a decent shot with both rifle and pistol), I just question how many of the commenters have actually ever fired a real live weapon (not merely a pixelated one)…

    * In many of the comments people speak so glibly of heading here, or there, or to some other destination potentially hundreds of kilometers from their possible landing spot. Again, I wonder how many people have ever been on a survival hike or similar excursion and realized how big a forest can be when you are stuck in one. When you are undertaking a trek of that nature, unless you are one of the people considering trapping prey or gathering berries (or bartering), where are you going to get your food? I tend to think that most of the people here would lose quite a bit of weight in this jaunt…

    * Unlike some commenters, I do not think that height would be too dead of a giveaway; I live in Germany and have visited museums in all of Europe. The general impression that I have is that, yes, in general, people were shorter then. But at the same time, tall people were, although rare, not unheard of. e.g. I believe Peter the Great was close to 2m tall.

    * Regarding clean hands and face–our dental work would probably give us away more rapidly than our complexion. Live in the rough for a few days, and you’ll be amazed at what nature and a bit of good mud can do to your looks…

    * I also question the utility of bringing a bunch of different knives of varying purposes. Assuming basic survival is initially the point, then wouldn’t one good all purpose knife be better than a dozen specialist knives? You could save the room in your suitcase for other useful things.

    * In a similar vein, if one is considering initial survival, then go with the best basic camping/army/survival gear which you can get. Include basic foods(e.g. MRE)/medicines/etc. as necessary. Europe is still a pretty big place, and even nowadays where it is even more densely populated than it was in 1000-1300, there are large patches of land where there isn’t a whole lot of anything besides what nature put there. If you were to end up in one of these places, basic survival gear is going to help you the most, definitely more than gems or gold etc.

    * Alternately, if you are going to end up close to civilization, I do not believe that there was a whole lot of travel in those days. The City that I currently live in gained its rights to become a city in 1288. At the time it matched Frankfurt in size, and was a “thriving metropolis.” Even so, the city probably still had less than a thousand inhabitants (I’m not sure on the exact figure, but say two thousand at the outside).
    There were of course larger cities, e.g. London and Paris, but on the whole, most cities were fairly small and everybody tended to know everybody there. So, unless you hit one of the major capitals, I do not really see any chance of hiding in the city due to its greater population. Accordingly, attempting to pass yourself as a foreign traveler (or emmisary from a foreign King?) would probably be the best bet.

    * I love the idea of bringing a bunch of books–although I do have a pretty good general understanding of most science (Chem, Bio, Physics, Math, etc), case in point: for inexplainable reasons I even learned how to build an atom bomb (in very general terms) in my Chemistry class, my practical knowledge of how one would construct most things out of basic materials is pretty shallow. I do like the above-linked t-shirt though…
    So, even though I don’t have specialized knowledge of how to smelt steel or make gunpowder, I have moved plenty of times in my life. Since I like to read, that means moving books. Lots of books. Heavy books. So I would say that I have experience moving books.
    A suitcase full of books sounds very heavy to me. Moving that 500km across Europe to reach a major capital in order to hide sounds like a major head (or back) ache to me. So in that sense I tend to like the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy approach. Bring a towel, and go. No matter what happens, you’ll always have your towel!

    * I like the idea of bringing seeds to grow things, but with my green thumb, or rather, lack thereof, I don’t think that would be too good of an option for me personally. My wife and I have planted a garden, and the only thing which we can seem to get to grow is Radishes! So, if I decided to swamp the middle ages with little red radishes, then, maybe. But I think not. The other problem with using seeds/growing crop as a way of feeding yourself is that it takes so (pardon my british) bloody long to grow anything. For a rapid growing crop, at least a month or two. For most crops three or four months. So, it would definitely have to be a more long-term project. You would need some other source of food for the time until then.
    Does anybody happen to know of a Pizza shop that claims they can deliver “anywhere”? If so, assuming that that also includes “anywhen”, then maybe I should pack their number. Hey, as long as we have time-travel, it could work. Wierder things have happened.

    * I like Dev Null’s idea about the ultralight. Like Little Nellie in James Bond? If I recall, that fits in a suitcase.If you’re going to go, might as well have some fun. Speaking of fun, what about some things like a slinky or a raquetball? Might be useful as trade goods, but not so exotic (i.e. requiring electricity) as to get you immediately accused of black magic.
    In a similar vein, the actual number of people who were burned at the stake as witches is, in Germany at least, much much smaller than one might assume. According to the guides at various castles and cities which I have visited, it was more of a rumor and intimidation technique than an actual practice. But it still is not fun to be the one person whom they actually decide to burn at the stake…

    * Regarding Languages. I speak French, German, English and passable Spanish. I have rudimentary knowledge of Italian and Latin. In college I took several classes on medieval literature, and have studied how languages evolved. For me at least, the language would not pose an insurmountable barrier. All other aspects aside, I believe that I would get by long enough in that regard to be able to survive.

    * Many people spoke of many “modern” technologies that they would want to introduce. However, I do not recall seeing anybody mention the technique for making paper from wood. Not that I know how to do so personally (wikipedia, here I come once I finish writing this…), but I believe that that would be extremely useful.

    * AAAARGH, you already started the next uber-thread before I finished writing out my comment for this one… Oh well…. My fault for taking days to read it, I suppose… But that comes from having only limited interwebz time …

  178. rayen015 says:

    i would take with me my How It Works book and become an inventor/blacksmith. really i’d take my back packing gear and as many extra batteries as i could and begin my life as a hermit/ranger living in the wilderness.

    interesting thought while i’m here. waht would you take with you to the future? like 2700-3000?

  179. Isobel Shaw says:

    we use a 100W solar charger at home to charge lead acid batteries*;”

  180. Brock says:

    vitamins and an english copy of the Bible …

  181. This is my first time go to see at here and i am actually impressed
    to read everthing at single place.

  182. Vicky Mathias says:

    Vicky, Mathias

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