Sunday, 28 October 2012

Essentials to pack for a field expedition

Regardless of what kind of science you do, fieldwork tends to involve broken equipment. It’s close to impossible to anticipate what will break, and bringing duplicates of everything is expensive. Here are therefore some essential tools to bring along for the best chance of getting your work back on track. 

  • Duct tape – the universal fix-it tool
  • Electrical tape – did you know that electrical tape sticks to itself underwater?!
  • Zip ties in a wide range of sizes – shove a few up the sleeve of your wetsuit if diving
  • Rope and string of various diameters
  • WD-40
  • Metal file – one application: cutting an extra tooth in your expandable wrench so it opens wider
  • Sandpaper – good for removing rust
  • Rags – so you don’t have to cannibalize your clothing to clean up
  • Instruction manuals – maybe
  • Leatherman or other multi-functional tool
  • Vice grips
  • Chocolate
  •  Zip-top bags and Sharpies – you can thus organize remnants of broken equipment for later identification/salvaging. Also, you can store melty chocolate in these
  • Extra batteries
  • Containers to keep things dry that are supposed to stay dry (like laptops)
  • Electrical plug adaptor and/or voltage converter
  • Money
  • Someone more clever than you

Though, sometimes you need to break out the big guns
What items have you found yourself grateful for, or wishing you had brought along?


  1. Aquarium sealant. Uses:

    1) waterproofing electrical equipment
    2) inexpensive rust-proofing. Cover that baby with aquarium sealant to keep the salt water at bay.
    3) keeping electrical tape sticking to itself underwater (it does stick to itself for a certain amount of time, but it will stop if you wrap it around a cable and drag it behind a boat for a couple hundred miles). Put aquarium sealant over the cut end of the tape to keep the end from coming off and the tape from unraveling).
    4) keeping stuff where it needs to be. are your zip ties sliding around on your line? Aquarium seal those babies.
    5) protecting yourself from sharp edges (keep getting stabbed by the cut-off ends of zip-ties on your line). Aquarium sealant is squishy!

    Oh yeah, and zip ties.

    1. Awesome advice! I will totally add that to my accoutrement!