How do you prepare to go out to explore?

i’m curious to know what preparations folks make before they go out into the natural world to explore. Mine are rather elaborate and I carry a lot of “stuff” so I’m wondering if I just over do it. But I’m walking around a swamp in southeastern USA and often I think I actually need more stuff!

Here’s what I do to prep and what I carry.

I always wear long pants (I make my own wide-legged seersucker pants for coolness) and a long sleeved fishing shirt for the sake of sun protection. And a wide-brimmed hat. And I either wear leather boots or boots I cut off of my hip boots when I got holes in the knees of the hip boots. If it’s really wet, I wear hip boots or waders. And double-sided velcro straps around the ankles of my pants to keep them in the boots.

That’s clothing. Oh, and I spray all over the clothing with bug spray because the swamp is the swamp, after all. Even in a drought like we’re having now.

To carry: I have a harness I put on to carry my mirrorless camera with a 100-500mm lens and I attach little neoprene pouches that I made for the vest. The pouches contain extra batteries and memory cards. I also carry a pair of binoculars.

Then I put on a leather belt with the following attached: a water bottle holder and water bottle with electrolytes added. A pouch with my old girl scout folding knife, a handkerchef, several bug jars, a small paintbrush (to encourage bugs to enter the bug jars), a roll of flagging, and a bag of salted mixed nuts. Oh, and a packet of insect repellant wipes. I also use another water bottle holder to carry my cell phone.

Lately, I’ve also attached one of those plastic stools that collapse to my belt so I can sit down if I have to without being eaten alive by red bugs, fire ants, and the like. Although in a pinch, I have used one of the repellant wipes to sit on and it helps keep some of the nasties away.
Because of the heat and humidity, I’ve had heat exhaustion more times than I should, which is why I carry the water and now, the stool.

Finally, I carry a walking stick, which I need for stability and to use as a monopod with my camera to steady it.

It all sounds far too elaborate and ridiculous but I have about 100 acres to explore of varying terrain and I’ve used everything I carry so I’m not sure what I’d leave behind.

Are others this nutty?


My preparations change depending on the kind of work or exploration I’m doing, but the one thing I always have on me–and that I think all others should be sure to have on them as well–is a well-stocked first aid kit.

Doesn’t need to be fancy (my primary one is a quart-sized freezer ziplock bag that’s survived multiple trips to tropical forests, African savannas, and years of wandering around Carolina forests and swamps), just waterproof, but it should contain enough to temporarily fix or contain most issues short-term in the event something unfortunate and unforeseen should happen. I do a thorough review and restock after every trip, and I bring a second kit with backups to make sure someone else in the group has one if I’m on a multi-day or more remote expedition. Basic First Aid/Wilderness First Aid Training can go a long way too!


I’ve yet to go on long enough trips that i’d need to carry a lot of equipment, just my phone for photos, water, and maybe a snack and bug net. I’ll definitely have to use some of your ideas as well!

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It varies from just grabbing one of my cameras and a small, empty shoulder-bag to full kit depending on what I’m doing.

My main backpack has a suite of gear in it that always stays there, so for more serious things it’s actually easier. I take a few things out of it, add two cameras (one if which is in its own separate bag with extra batteries), and stick a larger bush knife on the pack and that’s that.

For a casual roam around, but not just a saunter about, it’s two cameras (full frame with long lens, and smaller one with macro lens), side bag or smaller backpack with a few nick-nacks in it, and the usual things in my pockets.

Really, the only major difference between what I normally carry every day is the addition of a large knife, and sometimes the removal of my umbrella. Umbrellas are far more useful than people realize, but they’re not so good in dense brush.

Somewhere here is a topic about gear and stuff people take on hiking days.

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long pants tucked into long socks, camera, a lot of miscellaneous garbage thrown into my backpack (dipnet, specimen container, usually some random tupperwares or deli cups for the sake of using them to get clear shots of very jittery bugs or collecting specimens), a lot of water bottles, and then drench myself in like two different bug repellents because I deal with that oh so awful combo of ticks everywhere and Diachlorus horseflies everywhere

I usually make sure my camera battery is fully charged and I usually wear my hiking shoes. Otherwise my clothing depends on the weather and temperature, and I may or may not take a bag with sunscreen, water, and snacks depending on where I’m going.

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If I specifically go for a iNat walk I usually just take my camera with a makro lens installed, my second lens which allows for some more zoom and go. I often explore the area beforehand on maps to have a look for promising paths and then check it out. If I am lucky I did not forget to bring a bottle of water…

I don’t have a car, so the only places I go are places I can reach on foot or on my bicycle, so I’m not doing anything too adventurous.

I always have my wide-brimmed reflective hat since I have light sensitivity and would die without it, and unless what’s supposed to be a two minute walk turns into two hours, I always wear my neon vest, which gives me an extra pocket on the front for my camera, and an extra pocket at the breast for extra camera batteries or small seed packets for either spreading native seeds or collecting them.

If I know where I put it (I have ADHD and lose things often since I forget where they are the second it’s out of sight) I’ll bring my ruler, and if I’m going somewhere with water, I’ll bring my cheap little butterfly net and the plastic tub I got incase I’m able to catch a minnow so I can theoretically get better pictures of it. I have yet to catch any fish with the net, though.

I’ll usually bring a bottle of water that’s filled, and an empty one for any plant cuttings I want to collect. I also have a lightweight mesh backpack that I’ll bring if I’m intending to be collecting anything like fruits or nuts, usually so I can collect seeds and plant them elsewhere :)

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We wear long pants and long-sleeves year-round. We were gifted a pair of Eddie Bauer outdoor pants that we wear most of the time.
In the pocket will be phone (use the camera function a lot)
Large-brimmed hat with strap
Typically hiking boots.
If we go into a prairie, we tuck our pants into our socks.
We have a hip pack with two water bottle holders. We bring 2 small water bottles (extra water in car if going far from home).
Also in the pack go a handheld, old, tiny, pocket camera and the extra set of rechargeable batteries.
If sunny, the pack will have prescription sunglasses.
If we will be gone long, try to squeeze a snack in the pack.
If buggy, squeeze mosquito headnet into the pack.
If birding will be part of our quest, we will wear our binoculars.

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If it is an easy and short local outing I take my iPhone, a big hat, my insect net, and a few plastic petri dishes to put insects in if I catch them and need to photograph them. Over-the counter magnifying reading glasses on a string around my neck. Maybe a few nuts in a container and a small bottle of water if I might be out for a while. Sometimes I take a clip-on macro lens and a forensic bite mark scale.

If I am in the tropics I wear old linen pants and a long-sleeved old linen shirt as protection against the sun. I always wear very comfortable sneakers or rubber boots if I think I am gong to be in mud or some water. If I am on a beach I may wear water shoes so that I can go into the water if and when necessary.

If it might turn out to be very good iNatting, I take a big external battery pack and a cable so I don’t run out of power.

If it is on a good shelling beach, I take a quart freezer ziplock bag (and sometimes a gallon one too), a 2 oz flip-top vial, and a minute flip top vial inside that one. And I wear knee and elbow pads, neoprene with gel inserts, so I can do a great deal of kneeling and crawling on the sand without scratching the skin off of my knees and elbows. If there might be good micro mollusk shells, I take a second, stronger pair of magnifying glasses in a pouch around my neck.

If I may want to photograph seaweeds, I take a long flat plastic food container so I can let each seaweed float out in seawater, which makes it beautiful to photograph.


Long pants and rubber boots … I have a pair with baby tarantulas all over them. One or more of the following, a beat sheet (actually a plastic table cloth), large bucket (beat vegetation with it), large shallow plastic container (works as a rigid beat sheet now … used to have it under a parakeet cage to collect debris), magnifying lenses with a light, BUG SPRAY, small plastic boxes, extendable butterfly net, killing jar, probing needle, paintbrush, plastic bags, phone, glasses, big floppy hat, aspirator, journal, water/snacks, antihistamine, rubber gloves, napkins/rag, disinfectant, band-aids, used to have macro lenses for my phone but not any more.

Personally, it depends on what kind of exploring I’m doing. For more casual walks, I usually just bring a water bottle and my phone. But when I’m going out on a longer trip, I’ll bring a bag with water, sunscreen, bug spray, and snacks. Honestly it depends on what you’re doing and what you think you’ll need! Everyone has different needs so bring what you think will be useful and beneficial for you.

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Since I don’t like venturing into brush, I’m fine with shorts. It helps to know what Toxicodendron looks like, so as not to tramp through it. Honestly, the only reason to tramp through that is if it was part of my job, in which case I would be wearing the required dress code anyway. On my own time, I wouldn’t bother.

I do wear my hat, and UV-protected sunglasses. If I’m going to be in the sun for an extended time, sunscreen, but I’m not one of those people who is so afraid of the sun that they put on sunscreen for any outing at all. The sunglasses usually have to come off when making a close-up observation, but they stay on while walking. Also, my reading glasses, because a close-up observation gives me the same difficulty as reading.

If I’m going far, especially in hot weather, I fill my Camelbak. I bring a lunch, and possibly trail snacks.

Of course, a legal pad and pencil to take notes. When I lived in a wet climate (Washington), I sometimes used Rite-in-the-Rain paper, but that isn’t necessary in California. Smartphone so that I can keep track of time and temperature (I have the AccuWeather app), and find my GPS location when away from familiar paths. AccuWeather is useful in that in addition to the actual thermometer temperature, it also provides the “RealFeel” temperature, that is, the temperature that your body would percieve it be. If I have any doubts as to changes in the weather, I will also bring a light jacket.

These things fit in the day-pack sections of the Camelbak.

ID and insurance cards in case of unforeseen injury.

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Clothing: wide brimmed hat with add-on skeeter netting for summer; smaller brimmed hat for winter. T-shirt/TSC men’s mid-weight jeans (women’s pants do NOT work for me)/socks, all treated with Permethrin starting in April, and then re-applied after 6 washings. Long-sleeve shirt/jacket if necessary based on weather. Waterproof hiking boots. Gaiters! LOVE 'EM!!!
Gear: on my belt I have easy access to my iPhone for photos/notes, and my trusty Buck knife #119 - it’s big, heavy duty, and gets the job done, no matter what.
Walking stick that I found, sanded, oiled, and rigged with pepper spray/bandana/12" ruler.
Backpack: First Aid kit including Benadryl (experienced a most unfortunate yellow jacket nest attack last year), various bug sprays, paint brush, collection containers (all sorts), head lamp, bungees, various plastic bags, small folding kneeling/sitting pad (foam), Clif Bar, rain gear if deemed a Good Idea Just in Case.
Food/hydration: water, protein, carbs, grains, all kept chilled with thin ice pack.
During the summer, I have a cooler in my car with Propel for when I return from my hike.
Also around my waist: Fanny pack with 4 compartments: trail map, phone charger/cable, hand lens, cheater glasses, misc: tissues, headache remedy, caffeine pills, another Clif Bar, lip goo, toothpicks, small bungee, sunglasses/case.

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I used to carry a .22 handgun with me in the old days when I was a specimen collector and for night work in areas where I felt a little paranoid about human activity. But haven’t done that in years. Nowadays it’s just a big camera, sun protection, water for much shorter trips.

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Oh dear–I didn’t mean to repeat something already covered… Sorry…

It’s funny you mention a .22 handgun because my husband is always bugging me to take one with me except with snake shot loaded. But it’s extra weight and I feel loaded down already. Not to mention the fact that I wear hearing aids and by the time I took out my hearing aids to try to protect what little hearing I have left, whatever danger is approaching is probably already upon me and doing whatever damage it’s going to do. He worries about rabid animals, snakes, not to mention stray dogs (pit bulls a good deal of the time) that folks abandon constantly at our mailbox for some unknown reason. (I despise the people who do that! We already have 3 dogs and over the years have adopted or found homes for many, many of the animals dumped on our road, but there is a limit…) Sorry. Went off there for a moment, frothing at the mouth, and generally behaving like…well…a rabid animal.

Anyway, I hope my husband doesn’t see your reply since if gives him more ammunition (if you’ll forgive the pun).

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Wow! That’s a lot of gear. But I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who carries a good deal and there are some really good suggestions in your reply that I might have to pick up on.

The only defensive weapon I’ve carried in recent years was bear spray when we visited Yellowstone. Didn’t need to use it, the only Grizzlies we saw were at a pretty good distance.

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