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What to Bring to Field Camp

You are responsible for bringing the following articles:

Note: You probably have a lot of these items. Don't feel that you must buy new field equipment if you have items that at least approximate those on the list below. We have listed things that we think you need. Although some items are required, others can be considered optional.

Recommended Textbook:

Basic Geological Mapping, 5th Edition
by Richard J. Lisle, Peter Brabham, John W. Barnes
ISBN 978-0-470-68634-8
September 2011
Paperback, 230 pages

While it may be tempting to bring all of your old course texts with you, we will not have room to transport a library for each student. If you wish to bring some reference material, get together with a couple of classmates and plan for each to pack one or two books in such a way that major fields (structure, geomorphology, hard rock, sedimentology, etc.) are covered.

Equipment Supplied By the Department of Geology:

Brunton compasses, stereoviewers, base maps, aerial photographs, acetate, HCl, acid bottles, measuring tapes, and other items for specific exercises will be supplied.

Each student will be responsible for the return of issue items in good repair. If you have your own Brunton, bring it along.

Field and Camping Equipment:

Sleeping bag

A three-season type that will be comfortable in the 30 to 40 degree (F) range should do. You will need the bag for camping on road trips and for YBRA cabins where bunks and mattresses (but no linens) are provided.


Optional...but strongly recommended: A small tent, tarp, or other rain (bug) shelter comes in very handy on the road trips. It typically rains hard on at least a couple of the nights that we camp. Tents can be shared by pre-arrangement, of course. With or without a tent, you should also consider bringing a plastic groundsheet and some sort of sleeping pad: for example, ensolite for fanatics; Thermarests for comfort-mongers and middle-aged types.

Field Boots

A very important item. Boots should be durable, tie above the ankle, provide good ankle support, and have slip-resistant soles. Expensive hiking boots with tractor-like lug soles are okay but not really necessary, and low-cut athletic shoes are definitely NOT suitable for field use. Be sure to break-in your boots before the field season.


This is primarily for protection from the sun (and/or rain). A hat, together with sun block, is a basic defense against UV radiation that may increase your risk of developing skin cancer at some time in the future. Hats also help protect against more immediate concerns such as heat exhaustion and sunstroke. Why take a chance? The best hats have wide brims and high crowns. They evolved in this part of the country and are referred to as "cowboy" or "western" hats. You can get a relatively inexpensive straw that will do the job. They are available in Red Lodge.


Most students drink a lot of water in the field; two to three quarts a day are about average. If you are unsure about your requirements, err on the side of too much rather than too little water. So you will need some combination of one- and/or two-quart canteens or bottles. Some of us use a couple of nalgene water bottles that can be stuffed into the day-pack. On most days we will not have access to water in the field - so what you pack is what you drink.



A small to medium-sized pack for lunch, camera, rain gear, etc., while in the field.

Utility Belt

Leather, army surplus, etc., for carrying hammer, Brunton, and other stuff. Get one narrow enough to fit the belt loop of a Brunton case.

Geologic Hammer

The "hard rock" type with one pointed and one blunt end is the most versatile.

Hand Lens

One with 10X magnification is a good all-around lens.


To give you something to write on and protect your map from weather. A couple of plexiglass sheets (14"x11") with a rubber band works reasonably well.

Field Notebook(s)

Various types will do, but the notebook should be small (to fit in back pants pocket or day pack) and should have a stiff cover to provide a rigid writing surface. Some have alternate grid and lined page patterns to facilitate both sketching and note-taking. A typical handy size is about 7-1/2" by 4-3/4".

Wrist or Pocket Watch

The best instrument for knowing when to return to the trucks at the end of the day. Reduces risk of spending night on the outcrop.

Safety Glasses

You should never hammer on a rock without eye protection. Prescription glasses (if normally worn) or sun glasses afford some protection but can be damaged. Seriously consider bringing a pair of safety goggles for outcrop use.

Sun Block (Sun Screen)

This is a "must" item. Something around #15 or higher is usually recommended.

Drafting Equipment, Material, and Supplies:

Bring the following:

  • Drafting pen. #0 (0.35 mm) or #1 (0.50 mm) preferred.
  • 6" scale. Scales in inches and centimeters.
  • Small or medium-size plastic triangle. For use as straight-edge.
  • Protractor.
  • Pencils (medium) and erasers.
  • Colored pencils. Assorted colors for maps.
  • Graph paper. A few sheets - OPTIONAL but handy on occasion.
  • Calculator. For roping and tying numbers.

Optional But Recommended Field and Camp Equipment:

  • Camera. If you have one, bring it along. There's a lot of good scenery where we're going.
  • Flashlight. Very highly recommended for camp use.
  • Insect repellent. Montana State animal: the mosquito.
  • Sun glasses. Highly recommended. Sun's bright in the West.
  • Bathing suit. We may have a couple of chances to swim (as recreation rather than necessity).
  • Pillow. Pillows are not supplied except by WMC. If you need one, bring it. Excellent (and space-saving) substitutes for standard pillows are the "camp" types (inflatable or stuffed with synthetic fill) that you can obtain from L. L. Bean or other outfitters and camping supply stores. Of course, some of the more rugged among us simply stuff soiled clothes in a sack, toss it on the ground, and nod off to dreamland.


Bring durable field clothing to include:

  • 2 or 3 pairs of field pants (jeans, khakis, etc.). Shorts are suitable for field work at lower elevations but will not do for colder days.
  • Field shirts preferably with long sleeves for skin protection. Consider bringing at least one heavy shirt for cool weather use.
  • Underwear and socks for a week.
  • Bandannas - very handy field items.
  • Heavy sweater or heavy jacket or the equivalent. Synthetic pile is good insulation, but these jackets sometimes require a wind shell for best results. See weather note, below.
  • Windbreaker (wind shell - those with hoods preferred).
  • Rain gear (waterproof or water repellent jacket, parka, anorak or poncho). It WILL rain on us - typically when we're miles from the trucks.
  • Toilet articles Bring your own towel and wash cloth in addition to the other items.

Miscellaneous Information and Good Advice Department

More On Clothing and Equipment:

If you forget to bring necessary articles of clothing or equipment, you will probably be able to buy them in Red Lodge. There are several clothing stores and at least one camping supply store in town. Product availability and shopping time are limited, however, so do not wait until you get to Montana to purchase important items. They may not be stocked by local merchants.


About Luggage:

In packing your gear, do not use hard-sided suitcases. Soft luggage is preferable because it packs into oddly-shaped spaces in the carryalls much more easily. A large duffel bag is fine, and a combination of medium and/or small duffels is even better. You might wish to pack a small bag with enough gear for the trip out and for other road trips. You will not need field boots, for example, until we get to Red Lodge. Remember - ROOM IN THE VEHICLES IS LIMITED. There will be enough space if you bring what is needed but NOT if you seriously over-pack. Another point - DO NOT bring a pack frame. They are rigid, hard to stuff into corners, and might be damaged in transit. You will not need one during the course. If you intend to backpack after the course is over, mail your pack frame to YBRA. Other extra gear can also be mailed, of course.

Social Note:

You will not need "dressy" clothing. Folks in the northern Rockies are pretty informal, and you will be welcome in even the higher quality restaurants and bars in casual clothes. As a rule, a neat and clean appearance is far more important than elegance of dress. By the way, the "no shirt, no shoes, no service" philosophy is standard out West.


Important Weather Information:

Montana temperatures are either hot, cold, or somewhere between. On many occasions we will work at relatively low elevations (5,000 feet or so) in the intermontane basins of the Rocky Mountain Foreland Province. Temperatures at such locations can be in the 90s (F) or higher. On at least 3 days we will work at altitudes in excess of 10,000 feet in weather that is typically both windy and cold. The YBRA camp is about 7,000 feet above sea level. Mornings and evenings in camp are often cool, if the weather is nice, or very cool if it's raining. And it will rain some of the time. Try to be prepared for extremes without packing several cubic meters of clothing. A good practice is to combine LAYERS of clothing. For example: for colder conditions you might start with a T-shirt or a light-weight, synthetic undershirt; next wear a heavy shirt (flannel or wool); next, a heavy sweater or a down (or fiber-fill) vest or jacket; finally, cap it all off with a wind shell. Various layers can be stuffed in the day-pack if the conditions moderate or if you become over-heated while hiking.