What to pack in your field kit

February 14, 2021 • field work gear

A well-packed field kit is critical to having a safe, comfortable, efficient, and non-embarrassing field experience. The first time I had to pack for an inspection I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off. In the time since then, I’ve accumulated a field kit that I can now basically grab and go for most inspections. Below are some of the items I’ve added to my field kit over time.

Stuff for taking notes

Clipboard. Can be 11x17 sized or 8 1/2x11 sized. Get the box type, which will allow you to keep pens, drawings, and extra paper inside.

Magnet. A big magnet stuck inside your clipboard will let you stick the whole thing to the side of a manlift, guardrail, or wall when you need to free up your hand

Pens. Choose a type that won’t run if the page gets wet. No matter how dry the site is supposed to be, your notes are going to get wet. Bring multiple colors, as this will help make your sketches & notes easier to follow. I’ll have one color for datum, one color for elements, and a color for dimensions.

Paper. If your company has paper with letterhead, choose that. A grid is also helpful. So is a header with space for information it is important to capture, like date, page number, and total page count

Write in the rain paper. Not as pleasant to write with, but good to have in case things get really damp.

Existing drawings and/or blank sketches. If you have some idea of what you’re going to be documenting, it can be really helpful to have a set of existing drawings you can use to orient yourself. For taking notes, I prefer a ‘blank’ sketch I’ve created myself, free of extraneous detail, and often at a larger scale. For example, if you’re inspecting a pier, having a pre-drawn elevation of the pier you can mark up with photo #s is more helpful than an elevation already cluttered with rebar layout information that you won’t be able to verify anyways.

Photo log. No matter how many times I’m convinced I’ll be able to reconstruct what I need from my pictures and my notes, I usually wish I had a detailed photolog explaining all my pictures.

Stuff for in the field

I’m skipping over all the typical PPE, but yes, bring your PPE Gloves. Some people don’t count them as part of standard PPE, but in IMO you should always have a pair.

Emergency contact info for the client and your company A solid bag. One with pockets, pouches, or some other form of internal organization is helpful so you’re not constantly rooting through the whole thing.


Headlamp - one meant to go over your hardhat is best

Grease pencil or lumber pencil for marking up stuff


Measuring tape - the kind that you press a lever to retract

Laser measuring tape



Chipping hammer

Sounding hammer

A longish stick. Sometimes you need to knock shit out of the way, or attach a light to the end of something. A longish stick comes in handy more than you’d think.

Knee pads or kneeling mat

Bio needs


DripDrop ORS

Kleenex / handkerchief

Food - MealSquares, CliffBars, or similar.

Field clothes. I keep jeans, a long-sleeved shirt, jacket, and extra socks in my field kit at all times, so if I’m in business casual at the office and get an urgent call I can easily get geared up.

If you’re going to be somewhere remote, gear for relieving yourself. TP, trowel, hand sanitizer or wipes. If you could use one, a pStyle or similar stand-to-pee device.

If it is going to be cold

Helmet liner

Neck warmer / turtle fur

Hand / foot warmers. There are fancy battery powered ones, I usually just use the disposable chemical ones.

Jacket. I keep a separate work jacket with my field gear so my nice ones don’t get trashed on job sites.

If it is going to be wet / rainy

Foul weather gear / bibs / waders

Extra changes of clothes

Wear proper insulating materials, don’t be wearing cotton underneath your bibs.

Stuff for storing the whole damn lot

I have what I believe is a Husky “stackable storage bin” that I keep my field gear in. It is just the right size to fit in the trunk of my hatchback, and holds my field bag, steel toes, hardhat, jacket, and fall protection. (If you store your own fall protection, make sure it is getting turned in on the prescribed basis for a qualified inspection.)

The beauty of having this one bin that hold all my kit is being able to move it easily between my office, house, car, and hotel. I can drop the whole thing on a hotel trolley and bring it up to my room, or just hold it and carry it wherever it needs to go.

What to pack in your field kit - February 14, 2021 - Sam Hall