As the temperature starts to rise outside, many of us will pack our bags and head into the field. In archaeology, summer is a time for excavations and travel. Since a majority of these excavations will not likely be in your backyard, we here at ASOR thought we’d put together some tips for packing for your dig. So, without further ado, in no particular order, “10 Tips for Packing for a Dig.”
1. Write it down
People often make lists when packing for any trip. This couldn’t be more important when you’re traveling across the globe (as many of our members do) for months at a time. Sure, you could probably buy anything you forgot at a local store near your dig site, but it’ll probably be MUCH more expensive and/or hard to find. So why not save yourself the trouble and make a list, and check it twice (or four or six times).
Also, be sure to make a personal and professional list. What are those items that you absolutely cannot live without, and what are those items that you need to bring for the dig itself. The ASOR Blog recently had a post on dig fashion. You might want to check it out.
Some excavations send out checklists. If yours does – take it. Love it. Care for it. Most importantly, follow it. That list is most likely compiled from the wisdom of past dig participants. People who were where you are now. If you’re lucky enough to receive a list, cherish it. If a list wasn’t sent out, don’t be afraid to ask for tips on what to bring from someone who has been to that dig.
2. Find out the laundry situation
Every dig is different. Some will have access to a washer and dryer – some you’ll be washing your garments by hand and stringing them up on a communal line. This will help you determine what kind of laundry soap you bring or buy while traveling. How much of a certain item to bring or even what kind of items to bring. Which brings us to our next tip…
Boxers, briefs, cheekies, bikini, or classic (lovingly known as “granny panties”). Whatever you’re comfortable in, be sure to pack a decent amount. There are two ways to approach this. Your first option is to pack enough skivvies for the entire trip. They’re small items and lightweight, so these garments wouldn’t take up too much space in your luggage. Your second option (referring back to tip 2) is to pack all black underwear of a kind you feel most comfortable with all of your dig colleagues seeing. You’ll most likely have a communal laundry and it’s likely multiple people will at some point see your undergarments. If you don’t want people to see your leopard print ruffles, then leave them at home.
Socks pose less chance of embarrassing you, unless you wear the same pair every day. You will encounter many smells on a dig, but smelly socks do not need to be one of them. Pack enough socks to last you between laundry days, or one pair for each day of the trip. Keep in mind that, for better or worse, like you, the socks will not be the same at the end of the field season.
5. Bathroom items
Bring deodorant, and lots of it. It’ll be hot and you’ll be working six to eight hours a day. Also, be sure to bring enough of any other bathroom item you may need (toothbrush, toothpaste, shaving cream, soap, razors, feminine products). Think about the amount of time you’ll be over there, and pack accordingly. Seems obvious, but sometimes you need that 12th reminder before you actually stick it in your bag.
Pack it and use it. We don’t care that you’ve never gotten sunburned in your entire life. The sun will be shining the whole time you’re outside digging, and sunscreen is a lot more expensive over there. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, and 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer over the course of their lifetime. So, pack it.
Even if you don’t listen to us, and you don’t put it on your skin, bring it. You could always make a new friend by sharing it with one of your more sunburn-prone dig buddies.
7. Snacks, Snacks, Snacks, Snacks, Snacks, Snacks
Everybody! (Is that reference too old yet?) Though, yes, snacks. Chances are you’ll be eating six times a day, and you may love it and won’t be able to get enough of the cuisine over there. There’s also a chance that you will not like something, and that’s when snacks come in. Pack some of your favorite granola bars, those cannot-live-without cookies, peanut butter. Whatever comfort food you like. Pack some of it. If you’re going on a hike on your off day, and two hours in you’re starving – BAM – granola bar. Guess who just became super popular on that hike? Probably the person that read this list and packed everything they needed.
While we’re at it, bring Gatorade Powder, or Emergen-C, anything that you might want to put into your water bottle. Plain water can get boring, and we cannot stress the importance of staying hydrated. So bring a water bottle (or two), and pack flavors with your snacks.
ASOR is not responsible for your popularity at a dig.
8. Formal clothes
You don’t need to pack for prom, but you should pack at least one nice “going out” outfit. Whether it’s checking out the local night scene (if there is one), or going to a nice group dinner with the dig directors, you’ll need at least one “nice” outfit. So, guys – pack a tie, button-up, and nice slacks. Ladies – you have more options (sorry fellas), pack some nice slacks, or a skirt that at least covers your knees, and a top that covers your shoulders.
In case you’re wondering what clothes to wear while you’re working, most dig sites have their own guidelines when it comes to that. A safe bet is khaki cargo pants, longer khaki shorts, short-sleeved shirts in light colors, hat/bandana, or (at the sites that allow it) a wide-strapped tank top.
A dig can last for weeks or months. Don’t forget to pack all the necessary chargers and cables needed. Don’t forget to pack a converter if you’re going to a country with different outlets. Like sunscreen, those get expensive.
10. Bring a bag you don’t care about
It’ll get dirty. It’ll get very, very dirty. This is not the trip to bring your brand new, white, Birken bag. This is the trip to bring your most functional, comfortable bag that you don’t mind having sand in for the next five to eight years. You may only be in the field for a month, but you’ll have precious sand in your bag for years to come.
So, are you pumped? You should be. Go get packing, and be sure to have an open mind. The experiences you’ll have while at a dig will be unique and amazing. Be open to the people and situations, and you’ll have a blast. We here at ASOR would love to hear about your experiences when you get back.
If you have any tips for people packing for a dig, comment below! The more tips we can pass along, the better!
If you’re interested in applying for a fellowship for next summer, check out some of the fellowships offered by ASOR.
Want to hear more general advice about going into the field? Check out some wisdom from our past fellowship recipients on the “Where Are They Now?” page.
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