I had meant for this to be a short post full of information, and it well…bloomed. So this is all the things I wish someone had told me about what to wear when I started, and all the things I’ve learned that I thought might be helpful to a budding CRM archaeologist. If you can think of questions you still have as this series progresses or think of things you might want to add, contact me or comment below. To read more visit How To Archaeology. Check out the tools you’re likely to use in the field so you’re prepared on your first day.
Ok, here’s another thing you really want to focus on. Especially if you’re going to do CRM long term. Get yourself decent gear. It will last you longer, save you money, and make you more comfortable and safer in the field.
Things to consider when you’re buying clothing for CRM:
1) You’re going to be outside and it’s going to be hot, cold, and rainy more often than it’s super nice.
2) You’re not going to want things that will creep, stick, or rub.
3) When in doubt, buy the next size up, trust me it’ll be more comfortable at the end of the day.
4) If you’re female or have female proportions (curvy with hips/butt) you’re going to have a harder time finding things that fit off the rack.
As I said earlier, you’re going to want to invest in your gear, nice, durable stuff. I get that starting off, most field techs don’t have much of a budget for, well, anything. I’m also aware that I am in a nice place in my life where I can afford $75 pants and a $44 shirt (both at a 20% discount, but still.) However, both the pants and the shirt have a no fuss return policy and I expect them to last me at least four years, if not more with proper care. But lets go back to when I was new and Goodwill was the best I could do.
My best advice is look for sales everywhere. I’m personally not a fan of REI, but I know CRM Techs who are, and if their stuff goes on sale, I imagine it can be affordable. Dicks is another great place to shop (on sale), as is my current crush Duluth Trading Co. (they always have some kind of sale going on.) But hey, even sales don’t make things affordable sometimes. So then what?
Goodwill is a perfectly acceptable place to shop, if you shop savvy. You want to look for smart fabrics when you go there. Things like wicking fabric, heat regulating fabrics (clothing that’s thin but keep you warm or cool), and fabrics that dry quickly. Yes, you’re probably going to have to label shop, but trust me it’s worth the time. So, lets start feet first.
You’re going to want a hiking weight sock. Socks, are the second most important thing you’ll put on your feet, and I don’t mean that ironically, it’s true. You don’t want wet feet from either water or sweat, you don’t want foot rub that leads to blisters, and in the winter you want warm feet. You’re going to want wool socks, merino wool if you can find it. Smart fabric socks just haven’t seemed to live up to their hype for me, but Wool, with a little spandex for fit, are the best. Still, if you have a goto, stick with it.
I know good hiking socks are expensive, but taking care of your feet is a hard-line must. So do it.
There is the practice of ‘double-socking’ it. Where you wear a thiner pair of socks inside a thicker pair. I do this a lot. It’s warmer and it will help prevent blisters and rub. You can get away with this for a while too, instead of having good socks, but once you upgrade, you wont want to go back to cheep, thin, crap socks.
Wear them…. But for real. There are so many kinds of pants out there, my beast advice is, get a pair that fits loosely, that you can bend, crouch, and stretch in, and that won’t get shredded like tissue when you walk through the briars. Also make sure it’s something that will dry quickly, you do not want wet pants all day, Crotch Rot is real!
That said, I’m not a fan of blue jean material in the field. 1) It holds water and sticks/clings when wet and 2) tends to not move very well. I know many techs who swear jeans, and I mean, try it out, they’re cheep at Goodwill, but IMO they’re just not comfortable. Duck fabric or canvas pants will hold up, and the bonus is that’s the kind of fabric that gets turned in to cargo-pants the most often. Cargo-pants equals pockets, and pockets are sublime.
Don’t buy dress slacks, or jogging pants, sweat pants (though I have met one guy who digs in sweats and he swears by them.), or anything too thin/thick. When you want more warmth you’re going to layer, not wear bulkier clothes.
Now, if you are a woman or have womanly proportions, you will find out quickly that there isn’t a whole lot out there for you. You will be tempted to buy men’s clothing. For some of you, this will work fine, but if you hips, a butt, thighs, or a smaller waist to hip ratio, then mens clothing will not be the most comfortable thing, and you’re going to want to look for women’s work clothes. Here’s where the insult to injury comes in, you’re going to pay for those nicely fitting work clothes.
I made the switch to Carhartt about five years ago, and I found them cheep ($15 a pair) on Amazon. I got two pairs of their traditional cut cargo work-pants for women and used the hell out of them. I ordered a size bigger then I needed them, because I like to layer in the winter and move in the summer. At the time we didn’t have water resistant fabric, but they dried quicker than Jeans and they stayed up and over my butt. I also was able to buy them in petite sizes so I didn’t have to roll them up at the leg, or cut them to fit.
Unfortunately this year, my pants finally gave out and I had to have new pants. I didn’t have much luck buying online (nothing fit right and I got tired of shipping things back and fourth) so I tried out Duluth Trading Co, and fell in love. They literally have womens’ work clothes…like clothes…you can actually work in…like real work, in real clothes….
Also they have all kinds of fancy smart fabrics that were quick drying, water resistant, and tear resistant. They also cost me my left kidney, but in the long run I’m ok with the investment. I get most new techs aren’t at this level yet, but it’s something to think about and save for. I have two pairs and they will last me anther five years at least. So, think about that.
Oh yeah, we’re gonna talk about the unmentionables. Do yourself a solid and buy wicking, breathable undies. They make them for men and women. The kind you can find in hiking stores have been the most comfortable, and bonus, you can wash them in the shower with you at night, and they’re clean and dry the next day. Yes, it’s expensive…but again Crotch Rot is real!!!!!
A caveat for those who have periods. You’re going to want to find a monthly system that works for you. I highly recommend the Diva Cup or Thinx Undies. Both are reusable and you can wear them all day given the volume of your flow. We’ll talk more about body issues later, but think about it here.
Shirts are like pants. Look for smart fabrics that wick, regulate body temps, dry fast, and breath. Champion brand has good stuff and tends to run cheep. There’s tons of smart fabric t-shirts at Goodwill, and if you take the time, you’ll find long sleeve shirts, usually button downs, that are vented at the armpits and across the back. Snatch those up, they’re perfect for situations like briars, or protecting yourself from the sun. Again, try to keep your shirts thin, because you’re going to layer your clothes in the colder temps.
How many layers? Well…I personally wear my sports bra, an undershirt that wicks sweat, and a t-shirt with a long sleeve button down over the whole thing. In the winter I might add a thermal layer, I have some very thin, long-sleeve warming shirts, and if its REALLY cold, I have a thick water resit under-armor hoodie I found at a garage sale. It’s gotta be supper cold for me to add my military jacket because it’s bulky and I don’t like having it on and trying to dig.
Minimally, I recommend a wicking undershirt, and wicking t-shirt. I also recommend a long sleeve button down, it will save your skin from the sun, the briars, and ticks.
This will apply to roughly half of us. First off, you don’t have to wear a bra if you don’t want to, I just recommend making sure your clothes don’t become transparent with sweat of you’re going this route. I actually recommend this for everyone–no transparent clothing please.
If you do chose to wear a bra, don’t wear under-wires if you can. Under-wires are uncomfortable in the best of situations, add field conditions to it and they become hell. Look for supportive sports bras, double-bra it if you have to, it’s still better than an under-wire. I get it, those with bigger chests need more support. So try a few things out and find what will work for you. I have a slight chest and can get away with just a wicking spots bra I got at Dicks on sale ($10 for two). They are not fancy, I can’t even tell what the brand is anymore. I wear mine for comfort and extra wicking. Your mileage may vary.
Alright, what’s left?
Get a nice leather one that will fit around you. Belts are a must for keeping your pants up, keeping your crack to yourself, and to hang things off as you’re working. In a pinch belts can be used to tourniquets, bindings, and once for climbing assists. Never underestimate a good belt.
Winter hats, scarves, ear covers, etc.
It will get cold. Invest in ones you like. I don’t have strong feeling one way or the other on any of these, just as long as they keep you warm, don’t restrict vision or hearing, and you like them.
These are their own ongoing battle. On the one hand, I want you to have good ones that will keep your hands warm and still let you feel the artifacts and your pen. On the other hand, you’re going to destroy them when you screen. My solution is double gloving, but that’s not always the best option. Basically, your gloves are going to take a beating and break down quickly as you screen, dig, grab briars, move underbrush and fallen logs, and so on.
I swore by gloves like these for most of my CRM career.
They’re usually cheap, you can find them in any hardware/farmings store, and if you look hard enough you can find them in smaller sizes. I wear a small, and they fit well, hold up pretty good to screening, and when they do finally wear out, I can replace them. Whatever you decide here, I recommend leather. Synthetic leather doesn’t seem to hold up very well, or at all, and artifacts or broken screen won’t cut them as easily. (Ask me about the chert flake that sliced open my hand while I was screening, yes I was wearing gloves.)
As far as gloves to keep your hands warm, do what you gotta do. I choose not to bother as it’s a constant on and off game, especially now that tablets and smart-phones are being used in the field more and more. I usually just keep my work gloves on and suck it up. Hand warmers are best in these situations and you can usually keep them in your pockets or tuck them in your gloves while you work.
Yes, these are a real thing. Yes, you want one. First they keep the sun off you and help prevent skin cancer, and secondly, they are true CRM field fashion. Seriously though, invest in a hat. Get a cheep $10 straw one, or spend a bit more on a canvas hat. You want a wide brim, not just a ball cap, you want to keep the sun off your neck and shoulders as well as out of your eyes. Nice thing about canvas hats is you can wad them up and stuff them in your pack when you don’t need them. I have a Tulley hat I actually inherited, which was a boon to me since I didn’t have to buy a hat. I’ve had it for 13+ years now, and I keep track of it like it was made of gold. I’m just saying, get yourself a nice hat.
Bandannas, scarves, and other whatnots.
Personally, you’re going to want at least two Bandannas on you at all times in CRM. One on your head, the other in your pocket. One to keep the sun and sweat off you or to make into ‘field AC’ and the other to blow your nose, wipe your face, or cover your mouth with when the bugs get too bad. They also come in handy for first aide should the need come up. So keep them on you.
Light scarves kind of serve the same purpose. I think they take up too much space, so I don’t like them, but hey, you do you.
I have one ring I wear in the field and one pair of plain old solid metal studs for my ear holes. That’s all I wear. I don’t recommend wearing things personally, I find them uncomfortable, and sometimes they catch or pull. But again, this is a personal preference. I know lots of people who wear things in the field. I would say though don’t wear anything that you’re going to be upset about losing. Chains break, rings slip, earrings fall out. You will lose things, so don’t take anything that you’re going to miss.
This is the one piece of PPE that I highly recommend everyone in CRM getting. Safety glasses are worth spending a bit more on so you can have a clear pair and a Sunglasses set. You want them to wrap around the side of your face, and you want to take care of them so they don’t get too scratched up. Why? Because no one wants a stick in the eye, briars across the eyes, dirt in the eyes, etc. These things will happen and they will ruin your day and possibly your vision. Just prevent it and buy yourself a pair. Most companies now require them anyway, so beat them to the punch, or you’ll get stuck with those crappy uncomfortable ones. I have a snazzy carrying case for mine and buy them on amazon in twos. They’re cheep, $10 a pair, and I always have them on.
- Socks – Spend the money and get good wool hiking socks. Consider a thinner pair to wear inside (double socking) to prevent blisters and rubbing. Take care of your feet!
- Pants – Look for durable, fast drying, fabrics. Buy a size up, and make sure you can move around in them.
- Undies – just spend the money and get wicking, breathable, quick drying undies. Your junk will thank you.
- Shirts – Go for smart fabrics, and learn to layer. Minimally look at wearing an undershirt and a t-shirt (With sleeves ppl). Look for lightweight, long sleeves button downs to wear over everything to prevent sunburn, getting scratched by briars, and ticks.
- Bras – Optional, but try to avoid under-wires. Go for athletic ones that wick and aren’t too restricting.
- Gloves – Get leather work gloves, you’re going to shred them so try not to spend too much on them.
- Belts – Get a good one, keep your crack to yourself.
- Bandannas – Keep at least two on you, one for your head/neck, one to blow your nose in.
- Jewelry – Minimal at best, don’t wear something you don’t want to lose.
- Winter Hats, scarves, etc – Do what keeps you warm and doesn’t hinder vision or hearing.
- Safety Glasses – A must! Get ones that wrap around the side of your face and consider both a clear set and a sunglasses set.
Links I’d like to share:
Best Hiking Socks of 2018
This is just part two of a series on advice for beginning Filed Techs. Keep reading for tips on clothing, gear, and other field issues. To read more visit How To Archaeology.