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Tent in front of mountain range

Equipment Needed at Field Camp

Before camp begins you need to decide what supplies you lack and/or purchase them. There is a Walmart and other camping supply stores in Pocatello, if you wish to purchase items just before you head out.

Lost River Field Station is located in Mackay and is 70 miles from the nearest Walmart and 100 miles from the nearest organic food store. This is the rural west. However, Amazon will deliver to the field station, so it is possible to order things on-line and get them delivered at field camp, but it is easier to just bring them.

The weather in Idaho will vary from below freezing, cold rain and snow in the first weeks, to 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, a dry heat during the last weeks, and sometimes a 50F temperature change within a few hours.

We will map in all weather, so bring the appropriate clothing and field gear. The terrain will vary from rolling sage- and cactus-covered hills to angle-of-repose slopes with pine trees. We will begin some days by wading across cold mountain streams.

Camp Essentials

Sleeping bag -- You will use your sleeping bag every night.  A light fleece blanket to put inside your sleeping bag if you think you might need it. The temperature will not be below 25 degrees F, if that. We will be in tents, and will provide pads and cots. The tents are two to six person canvas tepees and wall tents with floors. There is an extension cord to each tent so you can have light and music in the tents.

A top sheet--We provide foam pads and cots, but you may want a topsheet to cover the foam pad.

Towels and toiletries --including sunscreen (you burn fast at high elevations!), bug repellent, etc.

Headlamp or Flashlight and batteries ! ! ! .....for those nighttime walks to the bathroom. Many use a headlamp

Large backpack -- You do not need to buy or bring a large backpack unless you have one and think you might use it, but you need something to carry supplies in the field. Many people suggest a pack with hip straps.

Mapping Gear

Day pack -- to hold mapping gear.  A hip belt helps distribute the weight.

Clipboard -- to hold maps, photos, pencils, rulers. One with a cover is necessary to protect the map from rain and snow.  Make one from 9" x 11" sheets of masonite and plexiglass hinged with duct tape, or buy a fancy aluminum type from Miners, Forestry Supplies, Office Max, etc. You might want to bring thick rubber bands to hold your clipboard closed in the howling wind.

Rock hammer (±belt holster) -- from hardware store

Hand lens – 5x or 10x magnification

Swiss Army Knife or Leatherman -- just don't put it in your carryon luggage.

Field book -- about 5"x 7".  Hardback books are best.  Waterproof paper is not necessary. 

Brunton compass -- we have some, but please bring your own if you can or borrow from your school.

Water bottles or Camelback -- smaller folks need at least 2 quart capacity, larger folks 3-4 quarts.

Drafting Supplies

Protractor/Ruler combination (metric & English units)

Mechanical pencil with hard lead I recommend the Pentel Graphgear 1000 Mechanical Drafting Pencil with 0.3 mm lead (find it here on amazon). The fine lead will help you be neater in your mapwork. This pencil was a game changer for me because the tip retracts, so you don't waste so much lead and stab yourself. Bring lots of extra lead! And you'll probably lose this pencil the first week, so bring many. You'll thank me when all of your peers are getting docked for having sloppy map work.

Eraser -- several to fit your mechanical pencil, or cartridge-style

Colored pencils (about a dozen)

Indelible felt pen to label samples

2 black permanent ink pens (1 coarse tip--.5mm) and 1 fine tip .35 mm). You will need these to draw your final maps. Please get them in advance, as they are at a premium at camp.

Personal First Aid Kit

There is a complete first aid kit supplied at camp, but a compact, basic first aid kit for yourself is nice. [Band-Aids, moleskin, painkillers/fever reducers (aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc.), ace bandage, adhesive tape, allergy medications if needed, diarrhea medication, wet wipes, elastic bandage, tweezers, Neosporin (antibiotic cream), hydrocortisone/anti-itch cream, knee brace -- If you need it, bring it; don't be proud]

Other Items You May Want To Have

Flashdrive --  Just in case you need to transfer files or download pictures or save your field camp assignments.

Camera, digital --  We will have computers at camp that you can use to download your memory cards.

Laptop Computer -- Not necessary but useful. If you can't part from your laptop, you can bring it, but be aware that it probably will get dusty and that the tents have been known to blow over in thunderstorms. If you bring it you will want a case that you can store it even in your tent. We will have computers on site for e-mail and our digital mapping exercises.

Cell Phone -- Lost River Field station is right at the fringe of cell phone range. New towers were put up recently. But you may find you don't have service. We have a land line at camp (208-588-2030) and you can buy a calling card.

Blue tooth car transmitter -nothing worse than driving to the field with no music...

Fishing gear -- the rivers are cold and turbid during snowmelt but several are excellent trout streams after they clear.

Cash -- You will need some cash for personal beverages, food or entertainment in town.

Musical instruments -- Sharing and making music at Field Camp is one of the best things we do. Bring fiddles, guitars, harmonicas, etc.

iPods -- These are fine but they serve to isolate people from each other. Thus we discourage their use in the public study areas, and during field mapping. We do have a boom box at camp and people always share their music via CD’s and iPod transfers. This is in fact a highlight of camp.

Trailers -- If you want to bring a trailer to live in, that is fine. Normally we have several spaces available in trailers for those who don’t want to sleep in the tents.


Layers of synthetic fabric for warmth. Bring three layers of insulating clothing plus a shell. (The key is to have layers, with a windproof jacket and pants and gaiters over your boots. We walk through a lot of moist sagebrush and willows).

At least one synthetic wicking T-shirt.  Cotton is the worst thing to have next to your skin when you are cold, so get at least one of these.

Workout pants or long underwear from the Nike Outlet store are great under nylon running pants or lightweight nylon wind pants. Check that the fabric does not trap moisture.

Wool sweaters or work shirts are also fine. Two midweight layers are better than one heavy-weight layer.

Rain gear -- A Gore-tex (or similar rain-proof) coat and rain pants are essential. If you can afford both, a nylon wind shell (or workout shell) and a waterproof rain jacket are ideal. It WILL RAIN on you (also snow).

Hats -- necessary to protect you from sun and rain. Some people use baseball caps, others prefer straw or felt cowboy hats. Something to cover those ears from the sun!  You will also need a fleece hat for those frosty mornings.

Gloves -- ditto on the frosty mornings, lightweight gloves are useful for warmth and protection from sharp rocks. Cotton or leather, or fleece gloves are fine.

Socks -- changing socks often keeps feet healthy and happy. Wool or polyester hiking socks - 4 pairs.  Wet-suit socks—if you have some, they sure make the cold stream crossings less painful, but are not necessary. Several pairs of light weight under-socks (polypro or silk). These prevent blisters

Boots -- Use hiking boots, not logger's boots with heels. One pair is ok, but using two pair will make each last longer, allow wet boots to dry, and be more comfortable in the long run. Boots with a minimum of exposed stitching will survive longest. The moderately priced composite boots (Asolo, etc.) will work for lighter weight folks, but will almost certainly be worn by the end of camp. Heavier weight leather boots will last longer, provide more support, and are well suited for heavier people. Break-in and waterproof the boots before coming to camp.

Note: every year at field camp someone experiences boot failure --many boots blow apart at the seams. We hike off-trail on rocks, so that we constantly scuff the uppers and rip the stitching. Former students unanimously recommend that you bring boots with as little exposed stitching as possible. If you are buying new boots, for your own sake, break them in for 2 weeks before you arrive.

Gaiters -- a pair of hiking gaiters will keep sticks and stones from falling into your boots. This is another item some students find remarkably important.

Sneakers (for around camp and light hiking) and/or Tiva-like sandals -- bring a pair to wear while wading rivers.

Underwear -- long polypropylene underwear is good to wear under nylon pants on cold days.

Pants -- baggy, cotton or nylon pants work well.

Shorts -- You will map in these most every day once the weather breaks in mid June.

Shirts -- whatever you like. Real desert rats bring a couple of long-sleeve, button-down, baggy, polyester long-sleeve shirts to protect from the sun.  The new synthetic T-shirts that wick perspiration away are great if you sweat a lot.

Belt -- strong enough to hold hammer and Brunton compass.

Swimsuit -- by July you'll be basking in the sun.

Bandanas -- many uses for a couple of these.

Sunglasses -- it is bright at these high elevations.

Camp and going to town clothes -- whatever is comfortable for lounging.