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Essential Packing List for Protesters

by Michelle Schusterman Nov 14, 2016

If you’ve reached your tipping point and feel compelled to commit to a protest near you, it’s important to pack light and smart.


Keep your ID on you at all times, preferably in a closed pocket or money belt. If you have a regular doctor and/or any health conditions, write any pertinent information, such as contact numbers, list of allergies, and medication dosage or instructions on a small card to keep with your ID.

Slip a little cash and a telephone calling card in there as well, just in case you lose your cell. Don’t forget to write a contact number on you arm with a sharpie — if you get arrested and can make a call your belongings will have been confiscated.

Personal items

Take at least a small tube of sunscreen, even if it’s the wrong time of year. Pepper spray sucks; pepper spray on sunburned skin megasucks.

Ladies, be prepared with both pads and tampons. Smaller tampons are also good for nosebleeds (no shame, gents.) However, when it comes to their traditional use, you might want to stick to pads if there’s a chance of being arrested. Leave a tampon in for an extended period of time and you run the risk of toxic shock syndrome.

Bring along enough medication for however long you’re planning on protesting, and then a little extra, just to play it safe. A small bottle of aspirin will likely make you a hero among your fellow demonstrators.

If you wear contacts, take along an extra pair, a case, solution, eye drops, and your glasses. Tissues and/or toilet paper can also come in handy, for a number of reasons.

Bring food! Calorie-dense snacks are best, like granola or protein bars. Toss in a few packets of honey or hard candy to pop if your blood sugar level drops.


Maybe you’re that girl on stilts wearing a giant sandwich board sign that says TAX THE RICH, or maybe you’re more the quiet type. Even so, being surrounded by angry, like-minded people might bring out the poet in you. Pack a marker or two, as well as a roll of duct tape, even if you don’t plan on carrying a sign. If you change your mind, it won’t be hard to find a scrap of cardboard or paper.

Preventative items

It’s heavy, but worth it — pack as much water as you can stand to carry. Not only does chanting make you hoarse and thirsty, but you might need it for flushing out eyes or cleaning wounds.

Pack vinyl gloves and keep them at the ready. At the first hint of pepper spray, slip them on — you’ll keep your hands safe and avoid worsening the effects of the spray by spreading it when you touch your face and other people.

Bring a gas mask if you’re hardcore, swim goggles if you aren’t. Add a cap or beanie and a bandanna to tie around your face, and you’ll stay fairly shielded so you can help the less prepared around you if the police pull out the canisters.

First Aid

First aid items are small — no reason not to pack them. Band-aids in a variety of sizes, first aid tape and antiseptic will take up little room in your bag. Consider bringing along an ace bandage in case of more serious wounds.

If you have time, look into purchasing a pepper spray antidote, such as the BioShield Decontamination Spray.

Another option is to make your own:

    • 1. Milk, honey, a mild detergent and a pinch of baking soda


    • 2. Cornmeal, milk and honey


    • 3. Half water, half liquid antacid


    • 4. Canola oil (for the skin, not the eyes)


    5. Alcohol (for rinsing… although drinking it might ease the pain more)

Pepper spray isn’t water-soluble, so while rinsing with any of these solutions might bring temporary relief, the pain will still likely last about half an hour. If you rinse with water, make it as cold as possible — warm water will open your pores and let more burn in.

Pack a spray bottle, a few rags and gauze sponges for application, as well as a handful of tongue depressors that can be used as splints for small sprains.


Wear shoes you feel comfortable running in, and think layers when you dress. The bottom layer should be light enough for the warmest part of the day. Pack sweatpants and a waterproof jacket with a hood for nighttime.

Avoid wearing excessive jewelry, particularly things attached to your skin that can rip if grabbed.

Sleeping gear

For long-term sit-ins, you may want to bring a tent or tarp. Do your research first; some cities have ordinances prohibiting such structures in public places, and you may find yourself in a situation where you must either discard your property or face arrest. If that’s the case, a waterproof sleeping bag, blanket, and/or pillow would be your best option.

A good general rule of thumb: don’t bring anything to a protest you don’t want trampled, broken, or lost.

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