Pack Rat

Packing for the field is never easy. A simple list of long sleeves and warm socks can help guide you but there always seems to be more than meets the eye. How many long sleeves? How many warm socks?

It can be both overwhelming and exciting to pack your whole life away into two small bags. Minimalizing your life but also finding what is most important to you. As I get ready to head out into the field, I am reminded of my first field season and the knowledge I have slowly acquired with my time in the field.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or talk with someone who’s already been out where you’re going. I ended up spending a summer in a tent just barely wider than myself out of fear of asking questions!
  2. Pack for all weather. I always bring tank tops and fleece-knit tights because you never know what you’re going to need. Just because you work on an island, doesn’t mean it’s going to be palm trees and sunshine.
  3. You don’t need to bring 7 different shirts for every day of the week. Keep in mind that you can always wear clothes again (and again). So if water is a limitation where you’re going, it’s okay to get and maybe stay a little dirty.
  4. When I travel, I tend to fly to my destinations as driving across the country is not always ideal. So I have to fit 3-6 months of clothing in 1-2 bags. My favorite and most ridiculous thing to do is wear my bulkiest clothes on the plane. Muck boots and all. I may get some weird glances but I’m thankful for the extra space in my pack!
  5. E-readers saved my life. As an avid reader, I always want to bring books on my trips, but how does one fit novels as well as everything else they need into their bags? After struggling through a field season or two I finally succumbed to getting an e-reader and it has been great! Not only do they hold a charge for a long time, you can bring as many book as you want without adding any weight to your bags! Also keep in mind that many field sites have great field libraries filled with little treasures! I always recommend checking those out.IMG_2612
  6. When I first started in the field I always questioned how many women products I would need while out in the wilderness. “So for x amount of months, I would use x amount of products, plus x amount of back up products, equals… etc. etc.” I’ve recently switched to using a reusable menstrual cup and I no long need to worry about how many products to bring or even packing tampons in water proof bags in case they get wet.
  7. Bring a USB with a resume! If you’re like me and you don’t bring your computer into the field, you can be prepared and have your resume and cover letters on hand in case you discover an amazing job. I remember frantically trying to download a PDF of an old resume from an email to use when applying for jobs, having a resume on hand is much more convenient.
  8. Hobbies! Even though you’re in the field and working long days and nights, you can always profit from bringing your hobbies with you. I love knitting in the field, not only can I make myself some warm mittens or a hat, but perhaps I can spark someone’s interest in a new hobby and teach them something new. I have learned the ukulele from past field projects. Rediscovered the joy of drawing (even if I’m not great at it). And found new books to share with fellow field researchers.

There are so many interesting things you learn when you’re in the field. What are some helpful packing hints you have learned? What is your one hobby you always bring with you into the field?

Join us on Twitter (#FemFieldSecrets and @FemFieldSecrets) to continue the conversation! Have an interesting story or want to share the things you’ve learned? We would love to hear from you!

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