There’s a reason I wrote this free form poem, and that reason is Exoficio’s anti-bacterial boxer shorts. Yes, today we’re talking about underwear. Let’s face it, a bad pair of underpants can make a field season miserable, while a decent pair will make you, and everyone around you, much more comfortable. Life is messy, especially while doing field work.
I have a confession to make. Targeted advertising works. There I was, planning out a long trip to India, thinking, I need some new pants. I get progressively wider with each passing year, and I was not looking forward to flying for 36 hours in a pair of 32-inch pants on a 34-inch waist. And then, like a primal scream from the ether, on the sidebar of The Thoughtful Animal, was an ad for Scott E Vest travel clothes. And, in my shame, I clicked it.
For a prolonged tour in the field, the little things matter just as much as the big things. And nothing is smaller or more easily forgettable than the lowly travel adapter. I picked mine up in an airport somewhere in Japan as an afterthought, like many travelers, once I got to my destination and realized I had no way to charge up my netbook.
The travel adapter seems inconsequential, but choosing the wrong one can be fatal. I got lucky, because the only one in stock turned out to be a workhorse, but horror stories abound of the unsuspecting graduate student plugging their vital equipment into a suspect outlet and frying a computer, blowing a critical sensor, or setting their shack on fire. Electricity is not to be taken lightly.
Sunglasses are a critical piece of gear if you plan on spending prolonged periods of time in the sun. Not only do they protect your eyes, but the right pair can help you spot marine-life swimming below the surface or boost your bird-watching prowess. An enormous, multi-billion dollar industry has formed to produce and market the right sunglasses to the right people.
It’s all bullshit.
Any good field scientist needs a good camera. At the very least you have to document your sampling sites, record samples, and get good photographs of your methods for the inevitable presentations. A field camera needs to be compact, flexible, easy to use, light on batteries, and durable. Of course, the more advanced photographer may scale up to a robust Digital SLR, but at that point, you already know what you need. For the rest of us, a smaller point-and-shoot will suffice.
I shoot with both a heavy duty DSLR and a light-weight point-and-shoot, depending on the conditions, how much space I have available, and how much gear I have to lug around. When it came time to replace my 6-year-old point-and-shoot with something a little more modern, I wanted something that had more flexibility than the run-of-the-mill pointers while still being small enough to carry around in a pocket. I also put a priority on optical zoom (which is definately not the same as digital zoom). I chose the Cannon Power Shot SX130 IS.
I’ll admit it, my original plan never involved buying an expensive pair of steel-toed boots, ever. I’d been using a $25 pair of steel-cap rubber boots forever. In Australia, en route to a research cruise, I was made aware that my current pair were not going to be appropriate for the cruise, so I wandered into Brisbane and bought my first pair of Blundies.
Field work can be rough. Depending on where your research is located, field seasons may require months of planning, tons of gear, days of travel, and the possiblility that everything may go completely FUBAR at any point. The burden of a successful field season often falls on the shoulders of young graduate students, who may be designing and planning a major research project for the first time. We at Southern Fried Science would like to do a little to help make your field season just a bit easier.