Jack Packs

From: Richard W. Adkins

Meet Jack.
Jack makes packs of snacks.
Jack’s packs of snacks are called Jack-Packs.

This tongue twisting Suess-like tale is not a children’s story of simple sentence, rather it’s a novel of survival through North Carolina’s violent hurricane history.

Jack Edwards, 20+ years of a camera on his shoulder, now sits in his office as Operations Manager for WRAL-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina. “I started shooting news full time in ’65” says Edwards with a thick eastern Carolina accent, “I imagine I was on the coast for 8 to 10 hurricanes.” No longer shooting, Edwards still remembers those early days of storm coverage, and trying to find food in deserted coastal towns, “When I was covering hurricanes, I knew businesses would be closed. So I always packed my self a Jack-Pack.”

A Jack-Pack. No one is really sure who applied the nameplate to the product but it has stuck for many years. The poetic name refers to a survival pack of food and gear Edwards would pack for himself before heading toward the coast to cover the storms.

Edwards put the camera down for the final time in 1988. Safe inside his office, his new assignment had him helping dispatch younger crews to the coast when storms were moving in. “When hurricane season came along and we sent everyone out, we started getting phone calls (from the crews) that everything was closed. They were having a hard time getting food, that brought the idea of why not (make Jack-Packs) for everybody.”

Edwards convinced the News Director to sign on to the project, he went out in search of waterproof containers to hold the precious booty and began to ask the news crews what they wanted to take along. He quickly learned his taste, and nutrition goals, varied drastically from many of the crews.

“I was packing sardines and Vienna sausages, nabs and beans and franks.” says Edwards comfortable in his own culinary customs. But years of research have skewed the pack to a far different taste. “With talking to everybody who uses them and the nutritionist here, I’m packing more high energy and nutritious foods.” Despite a better menu, Edwards admits the Jack-Pack remains less than formal dining. “Now I’m packing tuna, canned chicken and Beanie Weenies, trail bars and granola bars.”

Once the Jack-Pack became a standard hurricane issue, Edwards began to broaden his focus to more than just feeding hungry news crews. He wanted to keep them safe as well. He says young photographers who are on the coast for the first time need all the help they can get. “They don’t know that the sand can swallow you before you get the camera out of the car.” That was never more evident than hurricane season three years ago. “Sure enough, the first hurricane we had, one guy got stuck on the beach and had to use his hands to dig the car out. He cut his hands doing it so I said OK, I’ll make an emergency kit as well.” A compact shovel is now part of the pack.

When asked what item gets used the most, Edwards sort of grins and laughs “Fix-a-Flat…” he says and seems to see visions of soaked photographers cursing flat tires in the rain. “…It’s used so often now I pack two of them when I can.”

No one knows the value of a Jack-Pack with Fix-a-Flat better than Terry Cantrell. The veteran photographer of more than a dozen hurricanes found his car tires punctured by debris on the road during Hurricane Dennis. Stranded on Hatteras Island with no service station open, Cantrell had few options. “The little donut spare was useless in that kind of weather.” said Cantrell “If it wasn’t for the Fix-a-Flat I’d have abandoned that car right there.”

Edwards likes to hear stories like that. He knows he’s appreciated when his Jack-Packs makes life easier for the crews in the field. When he was on the street, Edwards liked Hard News. He calls hurricanes Hard-ass news. He knows how tough it is mentally, physically and professionally when you’re in the middle of a potentially deadly storm. He also feels his Jack-Packs make a difference in coverage. “If you have food, it’s one thing you don’t have to worry about.” he says.

One less worry in the middle of a storm, that’s something every photographer can appreciate. And a well-packed Jack-Pack can even bring a smile to their faces. “This past storm I had one comment over and over…” says Edwards with big grin; “The one thing they really enjoy is Cheese Whiz!”

Jack stacks away empty Jack-Packs.

Next hurricane season, Jack will bring them back.

What’s in a Jack-Pack? Here’s a list!

  • 9pk Assorted Chips
  • 4 cans Beanie Weenies
  • 1 box Boxed Drinks
  • 2pks Bubble Gum
  • 1 Can Opener
  • 4pks canned Chicken
  • 2pks canned Fruit
  • 4pks canned Tuna
  • 1 can Cheese-Whiz
  • 1pk Hot Beverage Packs
  • 1 box Saltines
  • 2 boxes Granola Bars
  • 2pks Knives, Forks, Spoons
  • 12 pks Nabs
  • 1 jar Peanut Butter
  • 8pks peanuts
  • 2pks Pop-Tarts
  • 2pks Raisins
  • 10pks Mayonnaise
  • 2pks Trail Mix

Jack Emergency Kit

  • Compact Shovel
  • Hatchet
  • Fix-a-Flat
  • WD-40
  • Insect Repellent
  • 1 roll Garbage Bags
  • 1 Box Waterproof Matches
  • 1″ Dust Brush
  • First Aid Kit
  • 4 Cleaning Rags
  • Flashlight
  • Duct Tape

Richard W. Adkins is a TV Photographer at WRAL-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina. Recent accomplishments include the DuPont award, Peabody Award and an Emmy award for excellence in News Camera Work.


  1. […] an article for b-roll.net about what to pack for the long days ahead. They’re called “Jack Packs,” but I’ll let Richard […]

  2. P Benoit says:

    I was born and reared in New Orleans and began my news gathering career while still in high school. Yes, I’ve covered my share of storms, hurricanes and tornadoes in my umpty-ump years. While I have used similar “Jack-Packs” and emergency kits while on these difficult, prolonged assignments, I find this list missing one very necessary item — toilet paper. I ALWAYS stashed a couple or three rolls. From nose swabbing to other obvious uses, these rolls come in very handy, especially if you find yourself stuck overnight in a Red Cross shelter or a National Guard tent. This girl always comes to the job PREPARED.

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