preparing for fieldwork

I had a status on my facebook profile a little while ago that I wondered what others did to prepare for fieldwork. My current preparation has involved rather more Bardi preparation and less buying stuff than most previous trips, which is good for my Bardi but a little nerve-wracking. Someone on facebook suggested a stiff drink was a good start, but they work on Irish…

There are things I always take to the field and never use, but I’d think I wasn’t ready if I didn’t take them. One is a reflective space blanket. It’s in case I get lost in the bush. It’s a good idea for hiking in New Hampshire or the Snowies, but less useful in North Australia a) because it doesn’t get cold enough, and b) because I never seem to take it when we go bush, so its reflective purpose is nullified by its staying at the bottom of my pack. It’s been on all my fieldtrips. On the other hand, I have never yet brought too many pens. Another thing that always goes with me is a beaded lizard that lives in my tape bag. A friend gave it to me in Darwin in 2004 and it’s really cute.

So, how do you prepare for fieldwork, and do you have random stuff that always goes with you even if it’s useless?

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3 responses to “preparing for fieldwork

  1. grammar. dictionary. pens and paper. swag. change of clothes. cup, plate, spoon, fork. good knife. food. something to record language with. toothbrush. toilet paper. my luxury item would be some decent coffee (very stuffwhitepeoplelike.com). and some way for me to listen to pop songs i love at the moment for the times I need to escape. oh, and a lighter (which I would probably forget to pack).

    That’d do wouldn’t it? But then I’m always under prepared.

    On an overnight bush trip last year, I packed some clapsticks last minute on a whim which turned out to be great as we had an impromptu bunggul session that people have been laughing about ever since.

  2. Laptop (contains PDFs of most prior publications), recorder, appropriate power cords, batteries, blank CD-Rs, spare CF cards. Backup external hard drive. Pencils with spare lead, pens, various Moleskine notebooks. Cold weather clothing, waterproof boots, beat up t-shirts & pants, a couple of heavy flannel or wool overshirts, one change of nice clothes for meeting important people, rain jacket, lots of socks, a few pairs of heavy wool socks. My ugly old hat. Mints. Something that plays cassette tapes. Toiletries. Swiss army knife. Good digital camera with pocket tripod, cheap disposable camera. Lots of plastic bags for impromptu waterproofing. Possibly a waterproof map case and some maps for placename studies. If the grant includes enough money, then maybe a digital video camera. Collapsible umbrella. Sleeping bag if I’m travelling on the ferry. And of course, a towel.

    I think that’s about it. Where I work I have relatively reliable electricity, as someone at least has a generator if we’re outside of a town. And there’s always a good store in one of the big towns, so I can refill on batteries or whatever.

    I’m no coffee snob in the field, I’ll drink whatever people happen to have. Coffee or tea (if Orthodox) are mandatory for Tlingit people, so there’s always something hot and caffeinated around.

    If we’re out in the woods and there’s no toilet paper, there’s always moss, specifically the Sphagnum species which honestly I prefer to toilet paper sometimes.

  3. I had a neat idea for a lingusitic fieldwork website, maybe on the RNLD wiki. We could post lists of our fieldwork supplies along with pictures of the assembly just before leaving, then just after returning. It’d be interesting to compare, and useful for people just starting out.

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