Lifechanging Upgrades?

Gear That I really like , and which have made my life easier while I am out

  1. Gore-tex Jacket (Absolutely 5*)
  2. 30 Litre Backpack with a space for a hydration pack
  3. Dry Bags
  4. High Lumen Torch (USB chargeable)
  5. USB Chargeable and USB Charging Battery Bank

Gear That I think will be “life changing” (Wish list)

  1. Light weight solar setup to charge the battery Bank (Goal Zero Type) that includes a AC / DC converter
  2. A lighter camera (Mirrorless / Bridge etc) long zoom and macro both - with GPS

I have no idea how I used iNat so long before getting a GPS logger. I entered locations manually for my first few thousand observations. I can’t imagine going back, it cuts SO much time and guesswork out of the process.

Other than that, my current boots (completely water-proof, no heel rub) and current camera bag (lots of room, padded, actual backpack instead of a shoulder bag) have done wonders for not only making things easier but saving a lot of stress and pain on my body.


I personally don’t know how people find such success with smartphones. I feel like using it in those situations brings the risk of dropping it in a puddle so high that it might just be cheaper to buy a separate (old) camera than to try to save money using a smartphone for everything.
Even if it didn’t seem financially more dangerous, I can’t even get the iNat app to load my observations, it just crashes. Do most high frequency mobile app users have incredible internet connection or something?
The most life changing thing I’ve ever gotten was a 15 year old digital camera for a hundred bucks. Photos take 1/4 as long to take, and have almost double the resolution of a phone.


How much does that cost?
People always say there should be GPS coordinates on phone photos but my phone doesn’t seem to do that.
Whenever I look into GPS I get the impression that maybe I’m looking at the top of the line ones. Usually 150 minimum when I look, but that’s theoretically more expensive than a phone with a gps in it, so that can’t be the cheap tech

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I wonder if you checked your Settings? My phone’s Settings has Location Services as On/Off switch.


I think smartphone camers are hit or miss. My impression is that flagship phones (the ones that cost the most, get advertised aggresively) can be very good. Some related posts that might be helpful:

I personally use an Android-based Pixel 4a, which is mid-tier, costing about 1/3rd the price of a flagship phone. No manual focus, auto-focus isn’t great, and it can take multiple shots to get a good photo:

I haven’t tried a macro lense yet…


You should maybe try the camelbak drinking systems. I think on the long run they are more ecological then these Baby Food Pouches and serve the same cause… when Empty, they don´t take up a lot of space and you can easily refill them and drink from them without hasseling around :-)


For sure, get pants infused with permethrin (and a shirt). I recently went on a trip to the Pine Barrens and while my friends were harassed by Chrysops, ticks, mosquitoes, etc., I went off scotch free.


You can spray any clothes with permethrin yourself. It isn’t really necessary to buy them already treated.


That’s a good option for sure!

My wife uses a camelbak and is pretty happy with it, but I’ve had a problem with getting the long drinking tube to dry properly between long intervals of non-use, often needing to flush it with dilute bleach to get rid of the mildewy flavor.

Regarding the ecological impact of the baby food pouches, I’ve been using the same few for the last 4 months, so they seem pretty durable so far.

One obvious risk is degredation of the PET plastic from which they’re made and leaching of plasticizers, I’m sure there’s more since the pouches are so flexible. I store them out of direct sunlight though, hopefully that helps.

I think, based on texture, that camelbak uses PVC with plasticizers as the pouch resin and silicone rubber for the hose, not sure though…

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I just got the Merlin app, and it has really helped with birdsong ID.


If you’re using a larger camera using a shoulder sling rather than a neck strap. Makes an enormous difference.

I prefer the Hama ‘Quick Shoot’ because the mounting plate is flat so you can still rest the camera on the base, and it also has a secondary tripod mount screw hole, so you can attach a baseplate. There are lots of different shoulder slings to choose from though.

If you have a large lens on the camera, getting a hip holster to go with the shoulder strap. Another massive difference as it puts the majority of the weight on your waist instead of your shoulder.

I use the Hakuba camera holster GW-PRO G3 - Japanese link to the company itself, but you an find them on Amazon and other places. Again, there are many models to choose from, this is just the one I like.

Cotton bandanas, extras of them too. I generally have 2-4 with me. They are good for sweat, cooling off if you’re too hot (get them wet), as pads to rest your arm or camera on if you have jagged rocks or something similar that you’re trying to brace against, for making quick pouches to carry things, etc, etc, etc.

A larger hand lens. Not one of the tiny ones that are common with botanists and geologists, but a 4-5 cm folding one. Makes peering at small things much more comfortable and it’s large enough that you can take photo through it. Also, in an emergency, in sunny conditions, it’s big enough to use for making a fire and things like that.

I use a pocket magnifier kind of like this one

A small, high powered flashlight. one of the ones that can be ramped up to be extremely bright for a few hours run time (eg 800-1200+ lumens), or turned way down for tens of hours run time at the low setting (eg 10-15 lumens). For nighttime and cave photography I use one of these now instead of a flash. Hold it in the same hand that does the focus so it’s up near the end of the lens. At the bright setting you an get relatively long shots, and at the lower settings you can get closer shots without washing them out. Some of the small torches like this have tripod mount screws so you can even mount them directly to the camera flash shoe if you want.

I have a few of these. The E200s Angel Eyes is a good choice, but the dual lights can sometimes make for odd shadows when photographing things up close, as in this Glyphodes bivitralis moth observation. This has a tripod mount, which is really nice, as well as a magnetic back so it can stick to things. I also use several of the Fenix torches and headlaps which are excellent quality.


You store it [the camelbak] in the freezer. Then there is no need to worry about fully drying it out, and no gross growth ;) Just make sure to ‘thaw’ it for like 5-10 min before bending it around a lot when you pull it out.

I use my constantly (Search & Rescue) so I don’t ever freeze it anymore; and I just have to clean it about 3x a year, they sell a cleaning kit if you want or just need a long armed small tube brush. Usually the growths start in the top of the loop so once I see that I know to clean it :) I don’t know why you would use bleach, eww. Just a bit of soap in hot water swish around in main compartment and then drain through the tube; then soem rinses of water, this will clean it great if there is nothing actually growing.

Camelbak makes little cleaning tabs too if you like. I’ve heard folk use those little denture cleaning tabs with equally good results but basically same idea.


My friend told me about that ap, Merlin
I am hard of hearing and don’t usually hear birds, and when I do, I usually don’t hear whole song or hear it ‘correctly’. So far it seems pretty accurate and I’m actually learning what birds are around. When he and I are out in the field he’s always like “oh theres a viro and this that and other” and I always joke when he’s on about the tenth new call he hears, “know how many I’ve heard?” NONE! xD I rarely see birds either, hiding in the leaves with no audio to zone in to where they are. Even if I can hear something, my ability to figure out direction is almost non existant. So litterally the little popup on the ap of what it hears is my only way to tell what birds are around unless it flies right in front of me and i can see where it landed.


Great idea regarding freezing the camelbak!

Regarding bleach, municipal drinking water treatment basically uses the same process on a larger scale, so I think it’s safe enough for decontamination as long as I use unscented.

I clean it out with water after so it’s not as though I’m drinking dilute bleach, so maybe a bit less eww?

Ha you are probably right I mean they make tabs of it to treat ‘wild water’ - I’m so sensitive to chlorine so I can’t see putting it in a bladder I drink from (most municipalities use chloramine not just chlorine now; chloramine is less volitile so it stays in the water much longer to the end of the lines) but our house is so close to the plant when they treat the water it’s worse than showering in a pool >.< like you turn on a faucet in the kitchen and it just fills the room with that “Your In a Public Pool” smell. So I’m always treating our water with vitamin C (it reacts, neutralizing it - it just precipitates out but its so little you won’t notice it in a jug). Most water filters (at least older ones like the one in our fridge) don’t work on chloramine but my vit c trick will work! so that was my use all that ochem for something solution haha. (Now we have a Berkey filter though).

Protip if you like cold water, I use a platic 4cup measuring scoop, fill it with ice, dump it into your camelbak first. Then fill with water. Mmmm cool water for hours. If I’m using a bottle, I actually keep a nalgene in the freezer half full of water, frozen, so topping it off the empty half with water works great for about 4 hours of cool water.

For water i refil from streams/etc (‘wild water’) I use a UV sterilizing pen. I can’t stand any of the add-a-tab purifiers the taste makes me wanna puke. But most water around here is in limestone streams so it is wonderfully sorta sweet flavored if let be!


Absolutely seconding the boots. Upgraded from wearing rain boots to hiking boots and redwings(depending on the terrain) and it has been an immediate improvement. Grip makes a difference

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I use a DSLR for most of my stuff, a TG6 when it’s wet or something super tiny, but I kick myself whenever I don’t put my iphone in my bag… sometimes, the sensor on the TG isnt doing what I like or I would prefer to be able to more quickly share an image (to send to a biologica or social media) and it just works… it will shoot images extremely fast and often can handle weird stuff like illumination from a LED flashlight, this in particular makes the sensor on both my DSLR and my TG6 go haywire (even with adjusting for the “flicker” frequency), however the iphone just nails it sometimes… usually for insects, but I honestly think it takes better plant photos than my Nikon sometimes… I also can get away with carrying only a 150-300 mm lens on my Nikon, but still having the flexibility to take captivating landscapes if need be…

Now I also have a low-end samsung A02 (yes, it exists) and it’s camera is pretty much garbage and generally useless for IDs unless it’s like a big iguana or something

again it depends on the caliber of your phone of course…

I dont upload anything through the mobile app, it’s just a little to clunky, and I’m often sorting through 80 or more images to perform a “bulk upload” If you are having trouble with it, you could download Whatsapp to your desktop and phone, link your devices, and send the pictures “to yourself” and then drag them into iNat… works wonders, especially for audio observations.

that said, I also keep my iphone in a very expensive case, and guard it with my life, and put it into my camera bag immediately after using…

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This connects with the thread on how language matters. In Britain, pants are worn under the trousers.


Absolutely this. I have added about 15 thousands observations with manual locations - for many there was nothing else to be done, because they were historical ones, but I did that also with new observations … until I got really fed up with it and realized that I can just log my position with my phone to a GPX file and then geotag all images by time using ExifTool. What a world of difference!

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