Hi I’m in Iceland! I’ve been here almost two weeks now, and we just had our first full day of work today. I thought I would do a post on what I pack for the field and maybe it will be useful to someone. I’m also hoping it will remind me next year of what I brought and what I can pare down or what I wish I had. (I’m a notorious overpacker. I once clothed myself and another archaeologist when her bags got lost on the way over. COMPLETELY. Shoes and rain gear included. For a week. That’s how much I pack).
Keep in mind, I work in Iceland and my field situation is SWANKY compared to other projects. We live inside, we go to the pool every day, someone cooks us dinner, we can do laundry, I can go to the store if I forgot something or if something breaks. Not at all struggling there. I’ve been to Alaska where I actually had to be prepared for anything and if I forgot something at home, I was out of luck. I packed totally differently for Alaska. So, this might not help anyone who works in a more rural setting.
Also, I’ll link as many things as I can in case someone might see this and be interested in any of the gear I have. Please note that I’m not affiliated with any of these companies and I’m not getting anything for suggesting them (though if Uniqlo or REI want to sponsor me, I’M IN! Send me an email and I will test out gear and get a bunch of dirt and probably poop on it). Also, I don’t shy away from the “weird” stuff, so get ready to hear about my field bathroom tricks (I actually might make a whole post just on this topic or on the topic of being a woman in the field) and all the over the counter medicines I bring (it’s hard to even get Tylenol in Iceland, okay?!).
First of all…what do I pack in? I used to bring a large rolling bag, but now I pack everything in a giant backpack, the Gregory Deva 70 Pack. I also bring the Patagonia Black Hole 32 Daypack as my carry-on and my field pack. The Patagonia is a great field pack because it’s waterproof and the zipper runs all the way down one side for easy access.
I used to bring multiple pairs of boots, but now I’ve settled on one pair–L.L. Bean Storm Chasers. These are waterproof, warm, not super heavy, and offer a bit of ankle support. Of course I also bring slippers or flip flops for my inside shoes (Icelanders don’t wear shoes indoors) and one pair of sneakers for every day wear. I think I’m bringing better running shoes this year (my everyday sneakers are not good for running…learned that the hard way last year). For socks, I love REI merino hiking socks for field days (with a spare pair in my bag just in case!) and my regular colorful Target ankle socks for every day.
I’m a big fan of these Carhartt pants for fieldwork. They’re just stretchy enough, they accommodate my thermal layer, and they have lots of good pockets. I also always have these rain pants in my bag, since the weather can change in an instant. The full-zip sides make it easy to put these on over boots and keep my tops tucked in to avoid drafts.
I live for these Uniqlo HeatTech tops and wore them all winter at home too, sometimes even as a shirt on their own. I also like the REI top counterpart to those bottoms I linked above. Layering is key in the unpredictable Icelandic weather, so I usually have some form of baselayer top, a fleece pullover, down vest or jacket or sometimes both (Uniqlo again, surprising no one), and a raincoat when necessary (I bring two, one for the field and one for wearing around town when I don’t want to be covered in dirt). The Uniqlo down jackets are really great because they’re not super expensive and they pack up really small. They’re not the warmest jackets, but with my layering system, honed over two years working in the same area, I’m usually pretty cozy.
Other gear includes Carhartt beanies (I’m such a big fan! Dear Carhartt please send me many beanies I will wear them forever) and two Buffs–one wool, one polyester. I also always have a bandana around my neck. They’re great for keeping the sun off your neck and for wiping snot onto! I bring a baseball cap for sunny days, which were surprisingly common last year. I use these Atlas nitrile gloves for digging and screening and just recently got fingerless gloves so I can use our iPads for recording without having to remove my gloves on cold days. Sometimes the nitrile gloves work on the iPads, but they’re picky.
Since I spend time in Reykjavik before/after the season and we get to go on short trips on the weekends, I also pack regular everyday clothes–jeans, tshirts, lopapeysa, and a jacket and sweater that doesn’t get worn to the field to keep it dirt-free. I also pack more undies than I could ever need, especially since we have a washing machine.
I don’t usually bring basic toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash, lotions, etc.) since I can just buy those when I get to Iceland. I do bring a mini pharmacy since things that are over-the-counter in the States are hard to get there. I bring the typical tylenol, ibuprofen, pepto, eyedrops, cold medicine (my first year, we all got the plague and now I will ALWAYS pack Nyquil), lactaid (I’m lactose intolerant but there’s so much cheese and skyr is so good), gas-x (see lactaid comment), probiotics, and a yeast infection kit. For real, ladies. The field is a place where yeast infections can happen easily and it can be hard to get the medicine or a doctor’s appointment, especially when you’re at a site in the middle-of-nowhere. So, don’t make it weird. Just bring some Monistat or generic equivalent and hope you don’t have to use it.
My dig kit includes:
- trowel and file
- line level
- folding ruler and retractable tape
- sharpies, pencils
- binder clips for plan drawing
- waterproof gloves, spare nitrile gloves
- knife for coring
- those little heat pack things that you open and then they get hot
- carabiner for clipping random things to other things
And that’s it!! That seems like way more now that I’ve written it out, even though my bag was completely stuffed on the way over! I did bring a few presents and return artifacts though, so hopefully now there will be room for presents on my way back…
I’m hoping to post more here this summer, but until then, remember to follow our Facebook page, our official blog, and the Instagram account that we just started (@scass_iceland).
*Keep in mind, in this post I’m just giving my opinions on the gear I personally like. Please don’t take these suggestions as gospel and please don’t get mad at me if you try something I’ve linked and don’t like it. I’m not responsible for gear failures! It took me four years of fieldwork to figure out what works for me. Even so, I always find myself wishing I could upgrade something or lamenting the fact that I forgot something that would have been useful. This is always evolving, every year, and what works for me won’t necessarily work for someone else. Experiment!!