I’m a bit of a fanatic about my field kit and over the years I’ve whittled it down to the essentials – everything is useful (and everything sparks joy!) Join me as I unpack and lay bare the whole of my material life while on fieldwork.
[Note that my fieldwork is based in tropical regions – some of this information will be useful for fieldwork in other regions, but it’s not universal advice] 😊
My Field Clothes
Let’s start off with field clothes and the name of the game is quick dry – lightweight clothes that don’t hold moisture and that dry off as you’re wearing them. Doesn’t have to be fancy – when I don’t need a special fieldsite T-shirt (like this one at Tangkoko), I usually grab a couple of lightweight button up shirts from a thrift shop. I also really like rubber boots, but it’s important to find footwear that works for you. Wellies are great for wet climates and they stop things scratching your ankles, and I really like them. But I know some people find they are heavy, sweaty, or don’t have much ankle support. Best recommendation: try out and break in your footwear before fieldwork.
My Hip Pack
This is my hip pack/bum bag/fanny pack (pick whichever makes you giggle most). I wear it around my waist so that it’s nice and easy to reach all of the equipment that I might need in a pinch. It’s much easier than rummaging through a backpack every time you need your notebook or camera. I wear the binoculars cross-body, slung around my neck and one arm, but I’ve heard good things about binocular harnesses [find reviews here].
*I use rechargeable batteries for my GPS and strongly encourage you to use them too! I only have single-use batteries in this photo because the rechargeable AAAs that I brought weren’t holding charge for our laser pointers – I should have researched and found the best rechargeable AAAs before fieldwork. Also note that rechargeable batteries are slightly thicker, so check that they fit your equipment first – they did not fit in some of our remote controls.
This is my backpack. I use it to carry heavier/bulkier items that I don’t need that often. The backpack has an attached rain cover (very useful during the rainy season!) and an emergency whistle (that I’ve thankfully never had to use). Hot tip for field equipment: Lifestraw do a filter that attaches to a water bottle, lasts 40,000 litres, and filters out almost all parasites/bacteria/viruses. Handy if your fieldsite doesn’t have a water filter, and also in an emergency if you need to get water off site. Also, the amount of water that you need to take out with you every day is going to vary by fieldsite.
Things to think about for your fieldwork backpack: – Does it fit everything you need? – Does it have a waist strap so the weight can be supported on your hips not shoulders? – Does it have a back vent for your sweaty back? – Does it have pockets that work for you? – Is it purple?
My First Aid Kit
Next up in my field kit is First Aid, but the first step to fieldwork health is prevention 👏vaccinate👏vaccinate👏vaccinate👏 Go consult your doctor or travel clinic. Masta Health also has an online tool to check recommended/required vaccines by country https://www.masta-travel-health.com/Booking/Travel
Here’s a quick look at my First Aid kit (there’s an itemised list below). New to me this field season is that sterile kit – it’s a selection of sterile needles and things in case there’s an emergency and I need an IV. Good to have, hope I never need it. (Typo in the photo: latex-FREE gloves)
Here is a list put together for everyone in our research group before our fieldwork started. Different environments have different health risks, so your ideal First Aid Kit might not look like mine, but this gives you a good base. As with any medication, check with your doctor first and stay aware if anything starts to react badly – for example, I found doxycycline was incredibly harsh on my stomach and had to switch to another antimalarial. Just things to keep in mind 😊 And fieldsites often have recommended lists of things to bring too!
Portable first aid:
Tensor bandage; triangular bandage & pins; savlon dry spray; tweezers; non-adhesive dressing; tape; plasters/blister plaster; sting relief cream & antihistamines; paracetamol; water purifying & electrolyte tabs.
Travelling in car (stays at camp when not in use):
Sterile Kit; Gloves
Camp first aid kit:
Tick fork; Thermometer; Malaria test kit; Latex-free gloves; de-worm/de-amoeba; psyllium seeds (constipation relief); instant cool for burns (ice cold); iodine & TCP; Calomine lotion; Vaseline – for mango flies; Cling film – for mango flies; Savlon dry spray; Antihistamine; Eye patch & eye drops; Antimalarials; Steri strips; medical tape; paracetamol; ibuprofen; Imodium – diarrhoea relief; Sennokot (constipation relief); thrush cream – also great for foot fungus!; hydrocortisone cream; sore mouth gel; electrolytes; cystitis treatment; charcoal tablets; hand sanitizer; antibiotic cream; Life systems 50+ insect repellent; strepsil/lemsip (sore throat); gaviscon/antacid
Menstruation in the field
It’s that time of the month! What do you take in your field kit to prepare for your period? Different people will find that different things work for them, so instead of me giving you advice, here’s a great video from @Ehmee:
It can be uncomfortable to ask about periods & fieldwork so a close friend of mine @OutdoorsPeople put together this pamphlet (click here) that leaders can hand out to students before a trip. It’s designed for camping in the UK but has useful advice for any field trip.
It’s almost bedtime, so here’s my setup. Night time temperature can be variable so I have three different options from thin cotton sheet to three layers. I’ve heard people recommend silk sleeping bag liners which sound great, but I have a half/half sleeping bag (half cotton sheet and half thin sleeping bag) that is absolutely magic!! And a boxy mozzy net that doesn’t slope and touch my feet. Good night y’all xx