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Packing for a Dig
What to Pack
Packing for a Dig

Child at a dino dig

Photo by Alfredo De Simone

By Mary Pirkl, Center for American Archeology

After careful consideration, a little research, and some lively discussion amongst your children, you've scheduled your family to participate in an archeological dig program. With great anticipation and excitement, you venture into your storage area, pull down yards of yellowed mosquito netting purchased for a never-taken trip to the tropics, and begin a quest for the large rucksacks purchased on sale years ago. While teetering on a ladder, you suddenly realize that there is no way it will fit into the car let alone a suitcase. So now what?

"What should I bring?" is one of the first questions asked by participants in an archeological excavation. Most projects will provide you with a "Gear List" or at least an overview of what to bring with you and what to expect. In the absence of such information, common sense and economy (space and cost) should dictate your preparation and packing. Ask questions rather than make assumptions; good pre-trip information can make the all the difference in your preparedness for the program. Here are a few guidelines to use while packing:

Lodging & Meals
For programs longer than one day, be sure to get specific information about where you will be staying. If you will be tent-camping, you may not need to purchase a tent - check with friends, or a local recreation office or park authority for the availability of rentals. Families staying in lodges or dormitories will likely need to bring sleeping gear (sheets, blankets, sleeping bags, pillows) with you. Is electricity available? Running water? No matter where you'll be staying, it's always a good idea to bring a battery-powered alarm clock, radio, and flashlight. If your program does not include food service, you'll also need to bring the appropriate cooking/eating utensils with you. Do not assume that grocery stores and/or restaurants are within easy driving distance. Finally, some programs are able to include people with limited physical mobility. If this is the case, ask for specific information about the availability of specially-equipped facilities for your family member.

Location & Climate
The location and climate of your dig site will dictate the type of clothing, bedding, and supplies you'll need to bring. Whether venturing into the mountains, the desert, or into the Midwestern United States, do your research. Most programs occur during the summer months, so seek out information about the normal expected temperatures, humidity, and any temperature differences from daytime to nighttime. It may turn out that you need lightweight clothing during the day and warm blankets at night. Some climates are very hot and humid around the clock, so lightweight sleeping gear is all that's necessary. Plan your apparel with attention to layers: short & long-sleeved shirts, pants & jeans, and lightweight pullover or jacket. Comfortable shoes are a must - but unless you're hiking in the mountains, leave your heavy-tread boots at home (treads can actually damage your excavation unit). Avoid revealing clothing like midriff-bearing tops and very short pants-this will help minimize your exposure to sun, insects, and rash-inducing plants. In some climates, lightweight long-sleeved shirts and pants actually help disperse your body heat much better. Consider, too, what is culturally acceptable for the area in which you'll be traveling.

Essential Items
These items should always be brought with you, no matter where your project is located: sunblock, insect repellent (wipes are available if you can't take aerosols or liquids on a flight), water bottle, sunglasses, brimmed hat, small first aid kit, extra allergy medications, EpiPen (if your child reacts severely to insect stings), emergency asthma inhaler, emergency contact information, hand sanitizer, and other over-the-counter pain relievers and remedies as needed. Though it's tempting, there's no reason to pack your entire medicine cabinet!

Special Equipment
For most projects, there's no need to purchase specialized excavation equipment like trowels and measuring tapes. In cases where you will need to purchase trowels, check with the project supervisor to see if a particular style or brand is preferred. Some projects will sell you this equipment at cost, thus reducing hassle to their participants. Raingear is always advisable - you'll be glad to have it with you.

With a little thought and common sense, packing for your adventure should not become one. Enjoy!

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