Essential Clothing and Gear


Clothes, Packing Advice, and Basic Needs and Comfort 

Avoid the Concept of Pampered Luxury


Pack all clothing and personnel items in one soft duffel bagDo not bring a hard suitcase.  You may also want to bring a second duffel-type bag to store your camping gear (e.g., tent, sleeping bag, etc,) for the trip out and back and the 2 day transition trips from Cuba to Sipapu, NM and from Sipapu, NM to Gunnison, CO.  You should be able to lift and carry all bags by yourself! 

For the trip west and the return trip, pack required clothes and personnel items including a flashlight/headlamp/torch and any important medications or other personal items in your day pack.  Although all bags will be available to you during the trip out and back, you will not have time to pack and unpack your non-camping gear duffel bag.  Hence, pack with efficiency and convenience in mind.

All luggage and gear should have a name tag!! (Moms take care of this!)

Clearly label or tag your day pack, duffel bags, sleeping bag, and tent to show ownership.

            Following is a listing of materials for Essential Personal Clothing Items, Other Essential Items, Essential Gear for Camping and Dorm Living, and Essential Field Mapping Equipment and Office Supplies. The BOLD FACE items are essential so you must bring them.  Not doing so will seriously impede your ability to participate effectively and efficiently in the field mapping exercises and sleeping and living comfortably in our camping and lodging sites.  Remarks made in RED should also be taken seriously in order to avoid major inconveniences, such as blisters and your tent blowing away!

            Also noted below at the end of the Essentials listings are brief comments and recommendations on mineral, rock, and fossil collecting and on how much money ($) to bring along and in what format to bring that money ($).  Questions about any of the information below should be directed to Dr. Stephen Harper at


Essential Clothing Items


      Three complete outfits for working in the field; shorts are OK but beware of tough vegetation and cool weather.  Perhaps two pairs of long field pants and two pairs of field shorts so you have both covered.  One casual outfit is nice for rare days off!  Word of warning Students with very fair skin should avoid wearing shorts in the field as this is one less body area that can get severe sunburn! Two to three button shirts with a mixture of short and long sleeve.  One scenario would be to bring along at least 2 long sleeved T-shirts.  These can be worn in the mornings for extra warmth and also to protect against sunburn in other parts of the day.  Make sure your long pants, shorts, and shirts are loose fitting as this is important for comfort in the field.

      Enough field socks and underwear (~9 pairs) for a week between laundry trips.

      T-shirts At least 4 with a mixture of short sleeve and long sleeve ones.

      Brim hat/Bill cap to protect against the Sun.

      Sweater, fleece, light jacket, and/or sweat shirt Perhaps a combination of at least two of these 4 itemsGo with the item that provides the most warmth and flexibility for you.  Also choose items that dry out quickly from sweat or rain.  I find sturdy pullover sweaters and either half zip or full zip fleeces much more flexible and less bulky than sweat shirts.

      Lightweight waterproof jacket for rain protection and heavy shirts/jacket for keeping warm; Rain can come at any time; Cool weather can be anticipated in some of the New Mexico locations and in Gunnison, CO.  Goretex is always a good choice.  However, the $1.00 disposal, lightweight made-in-China ponchos work well but bring at least 2 or 3!

      One pair of tough, sturdy field boots and one or two pairs of casual, everyday footwear; Be sure to wear and break in new boots before coming to the field course. One "expendable" pair of old sneakers is very useful for the hydrology exercise in Cuba, NM.  For non field work days and days off a pair of Tevas or flip flops is desirable.

      Swim Suit Unless you want to take a dip in the cold Rio Grande or Rio Pueblo, this is an optional item!


Other Essential Items to Bring


      Highly-Rated Sunblock (35+); avoid painful, high-altitude sunburn.

      Chapstick for Lip Protection; protect your lips from day one.

      Saline Solution with mister for students prone to nose bleeds

            (~$2.99 in most drugstores)

      PERSONAL MEDICATIONS You will need to make sure you bring enough to cover the ~7 week trip or make arrangements to have refills mailed/UPS/FEDEX to you, perhaps while we are at the Sipapu Lodge and Resort near Taos, NM.  Another possibility is to have your pharmacy phone your prescription to one in Taos.  However, be forewarned, this latter alternative of transferring your prescription to a NM pharmacy can be very difficult as many of the pharmacies that exist in North Carolina and Virginia and other eastern states, do not exist in NM, especially in Taos, NM!

      Sun Glasses; daylight brightness levels will be much higher than in"green", vegetated areas; please use sun glasses.

      Soft-Frame day pack for field gear, canteen, and lunch; no hard frame packs.

      Water Bottles/Canteens; plan on carrying adequate water for a normal field day.  Three to four quarts will be necessary for most exercise locations.  Nalgene bottles are indestructible but other types of water bottles work as well.

      Towels 2 large bath towels, 2 wash clothes, and 1 to 2 hand towels.

      Gloves; soft steer/deer hide leather gloves will save your hands from countless nicks, cuts, and bruises.


Essential Gear for Camping and Dorm Living


      One-person, Two-person, or Three-Person Tent - Before departure to NM, waterproof your tents seams with silica gel or spray and practice pitching your tent in the dark!  Be prepared if you want your tent to stay dry, warm, and not blow away!  Do not bring a Circus sized tent!  If you do not already have a tent, a good place to find reasonably priced Coleman or Eddie Bauer tents is Target or online at

      Foot-long Tent Stakes One or two 4-packs of Coleman Tent Stakes.  These cost ~$2.99/4-pack in Target or other stores with camping supplies.  Please heed our advice in bring extra tent stakes if you want to prevent your tent from being blown away.  Even expensive tents come with flimsy 7 inch stakes only!

      Plastic Ground Sheet/Cover - To put underneath your tent to provide extra insulation and protect from ground moisture.  If you do not already have one, a very inexpensive substitute is to purchase a plastic throw cover that painters use to catch paint spills.  These can be purchased at Lowes or Home Depots for $3-5.  Another inexpensive alternative is a couple of plastic shower curtain liners

      Sleeping Bag - 10-20oF rating or perhaps 0-10oF if you are cold natured.  Holofil or Qualofil bags are just as warm as down-filled bags and much less expensive.  Also mummy bags will keep you warmer than the rectangular-shaped bags.  If you already have a sleeping bag and it is not rated for temperatures for 20oF or lower, you might want to consider getting a Sleeping Bag Liner.  These can make your bag 8-12o warmer.  Generally, liners can be purchased for $15-35.  Try

      Thermorest-type Air Mattress or foam pad for cushioning.  Eddie Bauer Thermorest-type mattresses can be purchased at Target for ~$35.  A wide variety of Thermorest-type air mattresses can found at

      Personal items such as towels, hand soap, shampoo, tooth paste, etc.

      Flashlight (head lamp type is desirable and should be available for trip out), watch, small alarm clock, laundry bag, camera + film or memory card.

      Set of "personalized" metal flatware (i.e., fork, spoon, and knife), a metal or hard plastic plate, bowl, and cup; also a can opener and all purpose pocket knife (Label all these items with your name)

      Tupperware Sandwich Container - Bring 2 for packing your field lunches, and put your name on the bottom and lid of each one.


Essential Field Mapping Equipment and Office Supplies


      Brunton compass for sighting bearings and for measuring strike and dip.  These should be checked out to you by a designated person at your university.  DO NOT FORGET TO CHECK OUT YOUR BRUNTON!  Non East Carolina University students, who are not able to check out a Brunton from your home Geology Department, please contact Dr. Harper by May 01 so he will have time to source one for you.  A Sylva Compass will suffice, but is much inferior to a true Brunton Compass.

      Rock hammer (Eastwing recommended) and holster.

      Hand lens (10X) 10X Hastings Triplet recommended

      Field Book(s)  Two field books (orange K&E type) are recommended.  These can be purchased from Forestry Supply, Ben Meadows Company, or Miners for about $7 each.                                   

      Clipboard Hard Plastic or old fashioned Hardboard; Regular size or legal size, covered or uncovered type.

      Scale - 6 inch-15 centimeter scale/ruler.

      Engineers Scale (triangular in cross section).

      Protractor (approximately 10 cm in diameter) A circular one to plot strike and dip of bedding.   

      Triangles - one with 30-60-90 degrees and one with 45-45-90 degrees.

      Pencils (1H, 2H, 3H, and 1 HB); Mechanical pencils are fine for field notes.

      Soft erasers and small pencil sharpener. 

      Coloured pencils One set with 24 shades or colours.                       

      Ziploc bags - for protection of your maps/field books against rain, sweat, and dust.  Also for collecting field samples.

      Ink pens and waterproof ink for drawing maps; Staedtler Pigment Liner 0.05, 01, 03, 05, and 07 pens are highly recommended.  These are medium gray coloured with a black top and can be bought in a 5-pack (~$10) or individually (~$1.90 each).  Perhaps it is a good idea to bring two of each.  Usually found in the art supply part of student stores.                                          

      Calculator with trig functions.

      Field Day Pack to carry essential field items such as, water bottles, lunch, rain gear, field notebooks, camera, etc.

      First Aid Kit pack band-aids, foot powder, tape, aspirin etc in a small box to carry into the field.  The Field Course vehicles will have larger, more elaborate first aid kits, but it is still useful to have a few convenient items with you at all times!


Mineral, Rock, and Fossil Specimen Collection


Opportunities for shipping or mailing home mineral, rock, and fossil samples will be provided.  We will not carry your personal samples indefinitely.  Collecting or "defacing" rocks of any kind is not allowed at rock outcrops in any National Park or National Monument.  Students should also be respectful even at common collection locations, and remember that future generations of geology students might like to see and collect specimens at some of the same outcrops that you visit during the field course!

Please read a recent article in Geotimes entitled, Geologic Etiquette in a Mechanized Era, at




You can complete the course by spending very little "extra money".  However, in practice students should have about $400-$500 to cover food on the trips out and back and for items of personal interest.  Carry about $200-$300 cash for the trip west and perhaps the balance in Travelers Cheques.  Note that Travellers Cheques are in the early stages of extinction (Dr. Harpers observation) so use good judgment here.  ATM Cash-card machines will be accessible at Abiquiu General Store, Santa Fe, the mini-bank in the Cuba, NM Shell Convenience Store, and touristy areas, such as Taos, NM and Gunnison, CO, but such machines may not be available on our one- and two-day transitions or on the trip out and the trip back.  Do not expect us to drive all over town looking for a debit/cash card machine.  Depending on location, mailing or wiring money can be very slow or impossible.