What are the essential pieces of field gear for a geologist – or in fact any geology enthusiast?   What things should you have to explore the geology, look for minerals and get the most out of your field time…and some suggestions of great items to use?

Now I am assuming you have a navigation device (compass and map) and or/ GPS….so gets look at the other items.


Geologist Field Gear

Beyond great boots, good field clothes and hat, there are just six “H” geologist field gear essentials that you need.


Geologist Field GearThe quintessential image of a geologist is a person swinging a geological hammer!   It even is used by national geological surveys and societies as part of their logo’s or seals.    It was, and probably will always be, the one piece of equipment carried by geologists into the field.  Hammers come in different weights, different head types (picks and chisels) and different qualities.   See our guide on how to pick your forever geological hammer.  And don’t forget to wear eye protection when you use your hammer!



Hand lens

Being able to see minerals and textures in finer details is essential for field geology.  Hand lenses come in different magnifications.  You may find a 10X lens will work for you.  30X is for super fine work.  If in doubt, you can get a whole set!  For me, I love a 10X lens.  See options for these here.


Highlight it

Geologist Field GearRecoding your field data so you can make the most of all your observations and data when you return from the field is also essential.   There is a real skill in taking good field notes – and having a field note book that is durable and weatherproof is essential.  We can’t recommend highly enough Rite-in-the-Rain products.  They are perfect in any conditions, and you can write in them using any lead pencil (although we recommend using a 2B lead for darker, clearer notes and how much easier it is to draw field sketches).  See our guide on how to write the best field notes.



Of all the things that make people sick in the field, dehydration has to be at the top of the list.  People don’t drink enough to replenish the water that they lose through sweating as they haul around the sample.   So in my list of essential items is a way to carry water.  Having something that weighs next-to-nothing, can be easily put in a backpack or field bag, and keeps the water cold is the key.  Camelbacks work great (see Haul it out for what I use).


Haul it out

I have had a lot of different backpacks that I have taken into the field over the last 30 years.  My favorite is the Osprey 28.  It has a load of pockets for storing gear.  A 2-litre water bladder – so it helps with the ‘hydrate’ issue.  It has a built in rain shield for those downpour days.  But the best thing is that the pack is designed so that it sits off your back allowing air to flow between you and the back..making it SO MUCH COOLER to wear.  I love it.   See it here.


Heal it

The final “H” is a way to heal your injuries – and so a small first-aid kit is a real must.   Something that contains items to deal with cuts and abrasions, blisters, headaches, allergic reactions and in which you can carry your ‘must have’ medications is perfect.


I have seen HUGE lists of geologist field gear that people suggest you need.   I think a lot of that is non-essential – and some is very specialized.  However, I would love you to comment about what you find essential that is NOT on this list – and provide some ideas of what you have found to be the best gear for your field work.

Want to shop for these items?  See our Field Essentials page for links to the items we love and use.


Geologist Field Gear – the six “H” essentials!

6 thoughts on “Geologist Field Gear – the six “H” essentials!

  • August 9, 2017 at 6:43 am

    Spot on!!! & in my neck of the woods I would also add ; Hand phone. That is what they call a cell/smart phone in Southeast Asia

  • September 8, 2017 at 11:49 am

    Hey, thanks so much for the compliment. Glad to hear that our stuff has served you so well in the field.

    I’m interested in your opinions about pencils in the field. I always try to find out a little more about what folks use to write with on our paper. I see you prefer softer leads – have you brought harder leads into the field with you? I’ve seen a number of geology course requirement lists that stipulate leads as hard as 4H because the point lasts longer in field conditions. Do 2B points last satisfactorily long for you?

    • September 8, 2017 at 1:42 pm

      Hi Jim…I have used a range of leads…but love the softer 2B. They are dark and allowe to write clearly and draw good diagrams. Harder and lighter leads seem to be too light on the page and don’t allow nice shading in diagrams.

      We live Rite-in-the-rain products….great quality and super in the field!

  • October 15, 2017 at 7:33 pm

    I would also add a hand wedge or chisel to get the rocks that are too fragile for just a hammer.

  • April 29, 2018 at 1:35 pm

    Great list, add, Maps – paper, 7.5 minute, USGS. downloadable, print to any size. Be prepared for no reception.

  • September 1, 2019 at 4:44 pm

    Always a compass/ clinometer . Notebooks and pen, a hammer and appropriate clothing and footwear.
    This was the required “kit” as a Geology student in the ‘70’s.


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