International field geology campaign checklist

Richard Styron

This is a post that appeared on my old blog on 20 April 2011. It is very slightly modified from that post.

It’s getting close to summer, and various geologists around me are gearing up for field campaigns to exotic locations. Doing this while trying to get the normal semester’s work done ahead of time is pretty hectic, and there is a constant danger of forgetting something. Here is my list of things to bring for my last Tibetan field campaign; hopefully it’ll be of use to others.

As a qualifier, this was 2 month field geology trip that involved mapping, bedrock sampling, and cosmogenic sampling (mostly digging 2 m depth profiles). Weather was anything from 40°C (Beijing in July) to -10° C (? didn’t have a thermometer, although one of these would be sweet; maybe a little portable weather station?) w/ all forms of wind and precip. We camped in the field, but most food preparation was handled by the drivers while we worked. It was basically car camping, with big propane stoves and ‘indoor’ cookware, so that is not included in this list in detail. The list for more specialized work (e.g., GPS campaigns) is a bit different; that might be covered in a later post.

If anyone has anything to contribute, that’d be great. Logistics stuff could also be good, especially sample shipping, dealing with permits and vehicles, etc.


  • sleeping bag
  • sleeping pad
  • headlamp
  • big pack
  • daypack
  • big duffel
  • socks
  • boots
  • shoes
  • flip flops/other sandals
  • fleece
  • down jacket
  • pants
  • thermals
  • t-shirts
  • jeans
  • tent
  • field shirts
  • stocking cap
  • gloves (thick and thin, for warmth and for digging)
  • rain gear
  • h20 bladder

geo gear

  • rock hammer
  • Brunton (2x)
  • map board
  • cosmo sampling stuff: nails, trowel, flagging tape, ziplocks, sed knife
  • cloth sample bags
  • tarp
  • sharpies (lots)
  • pencils, pens, mylar, etc.
  • field books
  • awesome custom flamingo fieldbook holder
  • zip ties
  • pocket knife
  • Leatherman-style multitool
  • Gorilla tape (best duct tape ever, wrap a bunch around your rock hammer, your nalgene, your field assistant)


  • Chinese dictionary
  • Tibetan phrasebook
  • journal articles
  • Infinite Jest (didn’t bring it but should have)
  • Chatwin
  • Dervla Murphy
  • Shantaram
  • etc. (I didn’t have an iPad or Kindle but this would be fantastic, because you could bring books plus all of the maps and papers you could ever need)


  • Dr. Bronner’s or other biodegradable shampoo/soap
  • toothpaste
  • floss
  • sunscreen
  • deodorant
  • wetwipes (45 days w/o showering? No problem!)
  • nail clippers
  • comb

personal items

  • passport
  • receipt bag
  • money belt
  • camping French press
  • good coffee (1lb/coffee drinker per month)
  • Starbucks Via instant coffee packets (key for restaurants, when you really don’t want yak butter tea)


  • Panasonic Toughbook (CF-19; put ArcMap on it and map digitally in the field, if you want)
  • sat phone
  • camera
  • pelican case for camera
  • soft camera carrying case that’s easy to access while you hike (otherwise you’ll take far fewer pics than you should)
  • charger
  • spare memory cards
  • power inverter
  • batteries
  • GPS (uhh just kidding, I would never bring a GPS to Tibet)
  • iPod (w/ battery powered speakers, and something to play it in the car)

first aid kit

  • Mine is an Outdoor Research Padded Cell (#4 or 5), holds the following:
  • forceps
  • water purification tablets
  • hypodermic needles (mine are 18G x 1″ and I’d hate to stick ‘em in me)
  • 4 12cc syringes
  • anti-diarrheal pills
  • band aid multi pack
  • several pairs of latex gloves
  • ibuprofin
  • cipro or other mega-antibiotic
  • SAM splint (these are WAY too hard to find)
  • scissors
  • cleansing solution (I have an Rx bottle filled with 1/2 bleach, 1/2 water, can dilute a lot w/ h20 to rinse out cuts)
  • gauze
  • ace bandages
  • athletic tape
  • epi pen
  • benadryl
  • CPR mouth barrier
  • emergency suture kit
  • Gorilla tape (for when things get real and you need to wrap a body part up that may be very bloody or broken; basically G. tape is the best med tape ever)
  • a little bit of cake frosting in case someone is diabetic

things to buy in China

  • cheap guitar (mine was ~ ¥ 100)
  • cell phone
  • sim card (this looks interesting)
  • jumper cables
  • tire plugs
  • shovels
  • pick axes
  • cooking tent, gear, tables, chairs, etc.