What’s in your dig bag, Mark Schuler?

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In our “What’s in your dig bag?” series, we asked working field archaeologists what they carry with them out in the field. We wanted to know what gear they love and what items might be unique to them.

Name: Mark Schuler
Position: Professor, Concordia University Saint Paul
Digging Since:
Current Excavation: director of the Northeast Insula Project at the Hippos Excavations

Mark Schuler Dig Bag

Mark Schuler’s dig bag. Photo provided by Mark Schuler.

What hat do you wear?

Columbia Omni-shade. It has a clip that I can attach to my shirt so that hat won’t get away in high wind.

What trowel do you use?

I carry both a Marshalltown 4.5” pointing trowel and a 5” margin trowel

What’s in your bag? (and why do you use it)

The bag
A typical day pack won’t work at our site. We have a bit of a daily hike up the mountain and must carry everything except large tools. Since basalt tends to be rough on nylon, I use a Maxpedition – Vulture-II™ backpack. It holds 34 liters of gear, has three major compartments, and lots of exterior PALS webbing.

Exterior compartment (personal care): spray-on sunscreen, moist towelettes, tissue packs, basic band-aids in a zip-lock bag, and two extra zip lock bags. There are no facilities at our site and we pack out all but biologicals.

Middle compartment (documentation):
– Rite-in-the-Rain Metric Grid No. 380F (a new one each year) because I sweat a lot.
– Pentel Quicker Clicker mechanical pencils with 0.5 lead. I have been using the same two for more than a decade. Lost one in the field, but found it the next season. Still worked. Still in use.
– iPad 1 in an Otterbox frame. I use the iPad for field notes, for entering data into the small finds database, and for recording elevations shot with a level. Since the spreadsheet converts the measurements into absolute elevations, I can immediately catch any errors in readings and re-shoot the measurement, if necessary.

Main compartment (tools):
– Tool pouch

– Marshalltown trowels
– Ingalls “earthmover” handpick (light and sturdy)
– Small collection of dental picks, leaf and square, metal spoon
– Hardwood tool with pointed and spatula ends (won’t scratch something delicate)
– Ziplock bag of assorted nuts, bolts, and cotter pins (stuff always breaks in the field)

– Camera bag

– My trusty Canon Rebel XSi with extra 4 gig chip and battery (large jpg and RAW at the same time)
– Assorted photo scales and north arrow

– Kendo 8m tape (bright orange as I am always misplacing it)
– Large pouch of 12” zip ties in assorted bright colors (great for pitching screens and fixing all sorts of things, in bright colors so that we don’t miss any when cleaning the site at the end of the day)
– Chaining pins
– Leica Distro D5. I used to carry a large reel tape. This tool gives instant accurate measurements, and I don’t need someone holding the other end of the tape. Its memory and calculation features are a plus. Works well in bright sun

– Extra pair of leather gloves
– Leatherman Rebar multi-tool (normally on my belt)

Hydration reservoir:
In the space for the hydration reservoir I slide a metal clipboard box. It holds the day’s consumables: quart and gallon zip lock bags, paper sandwich bags, sharpies, extra bucket tags, coin envelopes, etc.

Strapped to the PALS webbing:
– First aid kit
– Half meter stick
– Two Nalgene bottles (big mouth)
– (when needed) Manfrotto tripod (190XPROB) with an 804RC2 head


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