How to Survive Your First Fieldwork Trip

With the warmer weather coming up, many of us in STEM fields will be off for fieldwork. For those who are going on fieldwork for their first time, it can be a bit scary! But here are some tips to help you get ready for your trip.

Many of us in STEM will eventually have to get out there and get dirty…for science! Whether you’re collecting soil samples, recording animal behaviors, or digging for bones, you might have to do some fieldwork during your research career. Fieldwork can be a labor-intensive, but fun and rewarding experience – but only if you’re properly prepared! Here are some easy tips for anyone about to go on fieldwork for the first time…

  • Double check your travel plans. Yes, this is always a tip on #STEMSupport, but I can’t reiterate enough how important it is! Especially if you’re in charge of moving any equipment or samples – you’ll want to have all of your paperwork on hand (folders are your friends!) and know exactly how you’ll be getting from Point A to Point B ahead of time. And don’t forget to double check your accommodations as well, and how you’ll be getting there! I’ve had to lug heavy suitcases from my drop off point to my accommodation because of poor planning, so it always pays to be prepared, especially for your first fieldwork trip.

Planning Fieldwork


  • Have A Weather-Ready Wardrobe. When packing, make sure you’re bringing ready-to-work clothes: old shirts and trousers ready to get put through the mud (literally in some cases!), work boots with steel toes – whatever it is you need to work comfortably and safely. You should also do a little homework and see what the weather is like at your destination, especially if you’ll be traveling somewhere in a different climate. Rainproof clothing is a must (you can also buy rainproof liquid/spray as well). Layers are also the best way to go if you’re going to be outside doing a lot of labor-intensive work – sweatshirts, jumpers, tank tops are all solid clothing options for ever-changing weather.

Wardrobe for Fieldwork


  • Don’t forget your toolkit. Depending on what kind of fieldwork you’re doing, you may need to bring some equipment along with you. For some, that might just be a notebook and a pencil, but for others, it might be a whole toolkit! If you’re bringing equipment, make sure you have any and all paperwork or necessary special arrangements made for transporting it. If you’re able to pack it in your suitcase, make sure it’s all properly kept away – the last thing you want is your sharp trowel stabbing a hole through your favorite t-shirt!


  • The Pack/Unpack Rule. Another bit of advice that has now made it onto multiple #STEMSupport articles, but again – I think it’s valuable! Between clothing, toiletries, and equipment, you might be faced with an overstuffed suitcase. And if you’re flying to your destination, you probably don’t want to be hit with overweight luggage fees. The “Pack/Unpack” Rule is simple: you pack up your suitcase, then immediately unpack it again. Take a second look through what you’ve packed, and you’re sure to find a few things you can do without. Repeat as many times as needed! I’ve managed to take off a few pounds from my suitcase weight just by living by this rule, so I definitely recommend it.


  • Take advantage of traveling! If your fieldwork period is long, you’ll likely have days off. If you’re traveling somewhere new, take advantage of the free time to explore and enjoy yourself – as fun as doing in-field science is, sometimes you just need a day to go for a hike and drink at a local pub, you know? Fieldwork isn’t a vacation, of course, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself while you’re away – so good luck and have a great experience on your first fieldwork trip!

Enjoy Your Fieldwork


Thanks for reading! If you have suggestions for topics you would like #STEMSupport to cover in the future, feel free to contact me on Twitter @ArchaeologyFitz. I also write at animalarchaeology.com.

This is #STEMSupport, a bi-monthly article that will tackle common questions and issues others may face within STEM.

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