Hello! do you have any recommendations for field-work appropriate clothing? NC is very spicy right now and the only thing I can get out of my mentors is 'wear shoes and sunscreen', which is good advice but not especially helpful. Thank you!
Oooh boy spicy is right. I have been digging and digging for photos other people have taken of me at bioblitzes, and the best I could find were these:
They’re not… uh… too helpful. But notice there’s one thing you can see in all of them? LONG SLEEVES. Sam’s photo was taken in 91°F/32.8°C (in a swamp—very humid!). James’ photo was taken in 84°F/28.9°C. This may seem counter-intuitive, but I am adamant about long sleeves All The Time (and actually, in James’ photo, I am legitimately wearing a jacket). Several reasons: (1) I hate the way sunscreen feels but I’m paler than a blind cave newt’s belly (2) I hate wearing bug spray (3) when it’s hotter than balls out, you’re not going to feel any cooler in short sleeves (4) long sleeves actually help you cool down better by maximizing convective cooling aka the reason you sweat in the first place. Also, related to (2) I hate wearing bug spray: you can spray your clothes with permethrin, an insecticide which chemically binds to the fabric of your clothing and lasts for weeks and through several washes. If North Carolina is anything like Texas, you know that insecticide is not exactly optional. One thing to note: permethrin, when it’s wet, is extremely toxic to cats, so if you have pets, spray outside or in a garage where they can’t get exposed.
Anyway, I took the liberty of staging some photos so y’all can see what I look like in My Natural Habitat. Temperature was 95°F/35°C in these photos. I also included supplies/accessories because they have been very helpful for me and y’all not may know about them!
Headlamp: You don’t realize you need a flashlight in the middle of the day until you don’t have one. Or maybe it’s not the middle of the day! A headlamp lets you see in the dark and use both hands (amazing!)
Wide-brim hat: Protects your face/neck from the sun, and makes it a lot easier to take photos and use binoculars.
Wet bandana: Take a normal bandana, get it wet, and tie it around your neck. Offers extra sun protection AND keeps you cool. If it’s really hot out, wrap it around your forehead.
Hand sanitizer: Hopefully self-explanatory. Look out, if it’s hot out it will be HOT and RUNNY. Shake the bottle before opening!
Camera support clips: I have a superzoom camera which is pretty heavy. These clips let me take all that weight off my neck, since my backpack is supported by the waist strap.
WATER WATER WATER: WATER WATER WATER WATER. My backpack holds a 64 oz water bladder. In the morning, I will fill it all the way up with ice water and it will stay cold all day. Drink A TON OF WATER.
Long sleeves/quick dry shirt: This may or may not be one layer. My neon green/yellow shirt is one thing (also thin and breathable!) but I frequently layer a button-down shirt over a shorter sleeve shirt to avoid using sunscreen.
Sweep net: If you’re doing field work already, you know if this is useful for you or not. If you aren’t familiar with sweep nets, these are great for finding bugs that are hiding in tall grasses. The net is a sturdy canvas (lightweight mesh nets will easily tear). Usually you’ll catch a ton of grasshoppers and spiders.
Nitrile gloves: I only wear these when mosquitos are really bad. Because most of my body is covered, all they have to go for are my hands and face. And oh boy, mosquito bites on your hands are the worst. Also helpful if you have a tendency to manhandle plants while chasing bugs before realizing … wait… is this poison ivy…? Also useful if you wanna touch something real gross without touching something real gross!
Man-pouch: It’s not actually called a man-pouch, but that’s what I call it. These are molle pouches or something like that, and they’re like a tactical military thing I guess? It’s basically a fanny pack with belt loops and a carabiner instead of straps. They are pocket paradise. More on this next photo.
Quick-dry underwear: Nothing is worse than wet sweaty underwear chafing you all day. I wear synthetic undies, typically marketed as activewear, but any synthetic material will work to be honest.
Long pants: If you stay on trail all day, shorts are probably fine. But… who does field work from a trail? I wear quick-drying hiking pants, preferably a lightweight fabric but when I do manage to overheat, it’s not my legs, so I’ll also wear pants designed for cooler weather. Benefits of long pants: tucking them into your socks and/or boots to avoid ticks and chiggers; nobody noticing the mis-matching socks you threw on because you were running late.
Waterproof boots: I don’t know about you, but if I see something in the water, I’m gonna go in the water to see it better. In this photo I’m wearing my rubber boots, but I also have waterproof hiking boots that are more comfortable for longer distances. For my swamp trip in 2017, I also bought super expensive/super fancy waterproof socks, which were a lifesaver because we crawled through the swamp first thing that morning, and I definitely went in way deeper in the water than the tops of my boots, but my feet were dry all day.
pStyle: If you don’t have the anatomy that lets you pee in the woods without getting half-naked, I highly recommend this particular product. I did a TON of research on pee funnels, and this one got the best reviews and I can see why. It’s more of a spout than a funnel (so it won’t overflow), it eliminates the need for toilet paper, and it’s easy to use one-handed. If you’re out in the field for a long time AND/OR it’s super hot out, you will need to go eventually. Before I got this thing, I would just… not drink water to avoid dealing with this issue. That’s bad when the heat index is 120°F! Drink tons of water—NO EXCUSES!
Snacks: Ya gotta eat! I like clif bars and skittles! 😀
Man-pouch II: The Pocketing: This thing has so many pockets. I keep lots of stuff in my backpack, but it’s a hassle to take it off every time I need something. So I keep things I might need in an emergency in it: extra snacks, ruler, first aid supplies, and extra batteries/memory cards. You may want to hold a notepad, collection supplies, magnifying glasses, etc. If your pants are deficient in the pocket department, this is a great solution.
The other side, for good measure. My backpack has lots of pockets for extra layers (either to put on or take off, depending how the weather changes). If rain is a possibility, I’ll shove my rain-proof shell in there. I also have my backpack loaded up with my knee/wrist braces and my cane.
More fashion accessories!
Gold Bond Rapid Relief anti-itch cream: This is the only anti-itch cream that works for me.
Emergency eyewash: I typically only need this at night, when eye gnats kill themselves in my eyes. I thought they were attracted to my headlamp, until I read up on it. No, there are flies which specifically fly into mammals’ eyes and I hate them. They’re horrible. If you need this, get the kit with the cup, and keep the cup in a mini-travel pill zipper bag as shown to keep it clean.
Moist towelettes: I don’t keep these in my backpack. I keep these in my car in the cooler with ice. Do this, trust me.
DEET wipes: I hate bugspray, but sometimes ya gotta. When I went to Malawi (you know, where the mosquitos carry the lethal strain of malaria?), I didn’t want to mess with a dinky travel size bottle of bug spray. These wipes fit in a pocket and you can take as many on an airplane as you want and nobody can stop you. Also, you can have them in a hot car and they won’t explode! Fun!
Sunscreen on a Stick: I hate sunscreen, but oh man I keep getting sunburns on my hands and it’s silly. This stuff doesn’t feel like sunscreen, so maybe I’ll experiment with short sleeves someday? (ha ha ha ha ha)
Emergency backup camera: Ya never know! Mine is a waterproof camera I bought 12 years ago, still takes great photos (and it’s WATERPROOF!)
Keep in mind: this is what I wear, and not necessarily what I recommend for everybody. You’ll need to try a few things out before you discover what works best for you. Plenty of people I go on bioblitzes with wear t-shirts and shorts, but plenty of people I go on bioblitzes with aren’t crawling through poison ivy and trampling through fire ant nests. Also, it’s possibly worth noting I have chronic health conditions which mean I’m (1) extremely sensitive to cold and (2) in pain all the time. This translates to (1) when normal humans are sweaty messes, I’m still wearing a jacket because I’m cold (2) when it *does* get a bit warm for me, I don’t notice because my shitty body lost attention privileges ten years ago.
Hope this helps!
June 10, 2018