What’s In My Bag: Field Work Edition

For my job at the Arizona Game and Fish Department, I play a variety of different roles, one of which is going out into the field on various projects such as surveys and captures. In my undergraduate degree, even in my few one-off field work expeditions, I quickly noticed there’s an unspoken understanding of what to wear on days out and you can’t help but feel judged if you don’t dress down enough (not to mention, the following are quite practical): over-the ankle boots, cargo pants, a light long-sleeved shirt and all the sun-protective gear you can spare.

In addition to dressing the part, it’s important to have all the supplies you need:

Backpack: I fell in love with this backpack when I bought it back in March for hummingbird field work. It’s small, but fits all the essentials and is of extremely good quality. Not to mention, the raincover recently came in handy.

Water bladder: I read on a forum that this bladder fits my bag the best and does it ever! Per suggestion of Alex my field partner, I was looking for a bladder that zips shut as he’s really satisfied with his and I’m very satisfied with mine as well.

More water: Because even on a good day, my 1.5 liter bladder may not cut it. I bring an extra few liters of water in a jug and I have a 32-ounce Hydroflask for an extra cold treat later in the day.

Cell phone, portable charger and wallet: In case of an emergency, even in the middle of nowhere, it is common you are able to get a text message through for help. I also use the compass tool on my phone. Additionally, I keep my wallet on me in case I have a medical emergency: I have card in my wallet indicating that I’m a covered government employee and another card warning that I’ve been in contact with possible disease-carrying plants and animals.

Hat, sunscreen and sunglasses: I use a simple baseball cap and cheap ($15) but comfortable pair of sunglasses for my days in the sun.

Multi-tool: Although I used it yet, it’s best to have it when I eventually need it. I bought a simple multi-tool from Ross for $8.

Pencils and notebook: For taking data and notes. These came in handy when our tablet overheats (which is often).

Windbreaker: Even in hot weather, you never know when it’s going to rain in Arizona. I like having my windbreaker to wear when it does rain and shed it after it stops so I’m dry again. I got this Columbia windbreaker a few years ago and love it.

Gloves: Because I often encounter things too hot to touch with my bare hands such as metal containers or want to protect my hands from getting scuffed when I climb large rocks. I bought a simple pair of gardening gloves from Target for $8.

Bandana: We sometimes encounter active fires and rancid smells in our field work.

Headlamp: Just in case we stay out longer than expected or need to do repairs on the truck.

Toilet paper and trash bag: Usually, I sweat too much to have to pee, but just in case…

Snacks and lunch: I try to bring something that won’t melt and doesn’t need to be refrigerated. My weapon of choice is usually some kind of granola bar, fruit, a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and some crisps.

Book and headphones: Even in the field, animals have a mind of their own and don’t always behave the way we’d like them to, which leads to hours on end of waiting for them to perform our desired behavior. I will often bring something quiet to keep myself entertained (usually a book or pair of headphones to listen to music) while we wait for the animals to behave.

Change of clothes: Because with usually a long drive back to the office ahead of me, I want nothing more than to get out of my sweaty, wet and dirty clothes.

Overnight gear: On the odd occasion I have to spend the night or two doing field work, I bring along a sleeping bag, pillow, pajama shirt, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant and medication.

Field work is such an important part of conservation and I always look forward to getting out of the stuffy office!


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