#STEMSaturdays: What Women Need in the Field


Gum boots, check. 

Water waders, check. 

Waterproof notebook, check. 

Prepping for field work can be time-consuming… especially when it’s your first time! The reality is that women sometimes have to take extra precautions for their health and safety while out on the field, especially when it’s in the middle of nowhere. We asked some #womeninSTEM what common things they brought to the field when they were doing work… and what things they brought that wasn’t on the ordinary packing list. For privacy, we have made everyone’s responses anonymous:


A rape whistle. Pretty self-explanatory, but many women carry whistles in case they are about to get attacked. These whistles can also come in handy if you think a large predator may attack you- but be careful! Not all defensive tactics include loud noises – some animals do not appreciate lots of loud noise.


Breast pump (and replacements). Are you a #womeninSTEM who is also a mother? Sometimes our fieldwork takes us away from our families, but that doesn’t mean Mother Nature stops in its tracks. Replacements are essential, as you never know what will happen in the field.


Personal mini freezer. Unless you want to pump-and-dump, having a personal mini freezer to store all that breast milk is needed. Or, have superb labelling skills so no one mistakes your milk for… well, who knows what. 


Extra hair ties. Unless you have short hair, you know how annoying your hair constantly being in your face is. If you’re like me, you carry extra hair ties during every day so why not bring a ton during the field work?? I usually bring another packet, just in case. They make good rubber band substitutes as well, and vice versa.


Diva Cup*. I don’t use a diva cup, but I’ve heard rave reviews from friends who have taken them out to the field. I can understand the appeal: having to hang on to tampons can be a bit gross, especially in confined places and when you’re the only female in your group. Diva cups are a brand of menstrual cups, which are flexible and designed for use inside the vagina during your period to collect menstrual blood. On top of less landfill waste, depending on flow you can go up to 12 hours before emptying the cup. The cons are that it can be pretty messy, not helping with the “ick” factor that comes with a period.


Extra menstrual necessities. For those who use tampons and pads, don’t forget to bring extras just in case your flow is heavier than normal or something else happens. A waterproof case comes in handy, too, to store everything!


Birth control. Also to have handy? Extra birth control! You never know if you may stay a little bit over on your field work, so having extra is always good to have. Better to be safe than sorry.


A clothes line. This was something I didn’t even think of, but is smart! In some regions, it’s disrespectful for women to hang their delicate laundry to dry. That’s why a clothes line inside your tent is brilliant- you get dry undergarments and don’t offend anyone. Just make sure not to hang the line above where you sleep, as constant dripping is not fun.


Antibiotics. UTI’s are no fun- but they are especially no fun when out in the field. I take multivitamins and some preventative medications with me into the field in case anything crops up. Discuss this with your doctor beforehand.


Anti-yeast medicine. As above, talk to your doctor before getting this type of medicine. I also take Gold Bond powder to keep myself dry… well, everywhere!


Hair conditioner. I tend to take little bottles of shampoo and conditioner with me, but usually bring those little traveling samples. I bring two conditioners to one shampoo, since I tend to fly through a conditioner bottle.


Moisturizer. If you’re gonna condition your hair, you can’t forget your skin! In harsh weather conditions, it can really zap your skin and leave you feeling quite dry. For my sensitive skin, I use Nivea and Aveeno.


Fake wedding ring. Many women can feel unsafe in an environment that doesn’t see women as equal members of society. This means that ‘hiding’ behind a fake wedding ring may bring some women safety and comfort. I have a cheap band that I take with me when I go to foreign countries, just in case.


What uncommon/common things do YOU take with you on the field?

*this article is not sponsored


About the Author:

Melissa C Marquez is a marine biologist and science communicator based in New Zealand. She is the founder of the Fins United Initiative.  You can find her twitter here, and support her on Patreon here