Christmas gifts for geologists: field beverages

Other suggestions: [Cameras] [Tough Gear] [Maps]
Finding an appropriately rock-orientated present for a geologist might seem a daunting task to the outsider. Raiding an outdoors shop can be risky, since they already seem to own more field gear than normal clothes; whilst buying them a pretty rock risks getting “Humph, it’s only quartz.” So, for those of you who are currently tempted to give up and give them a gift voucher, over the next few days I’ll be discussing a few possible options which would certainly go down well with my inner rock geek, so might also win you brownie points with the ones in your own life. The comments will doubtless provide agreements, disagreements and further suggestions from the rest of the geoblogosphere.
First up, there is the issue of liquid refreshment in the field, particularly the pressing issue of how the hell you’re supposed to get a decent caffeine fix when you’re away from civilisation. This is an especially serious problem if, like me, you consider instant coffee to be an abomination. In South Africa, I was eventually driven to taking my little Pyrex desk cafetiere with me on field trips, which was good for me, but not so good for the cafetiere, which at least had the courtesy to get me to the end of the Northern Cape trip in July before cracking up. Fortunately, somewhat more practical (and durable) options exist for field caffeination, in the form of toughened cafetiere mugs: once the coffee has brewed, you push down the plunger, and then drink straight out of them. I’ve looked enviously on ones like this before.


However, I think the ultimate field coffee gadget has to be these babies.


They even have a little storage compartment in the base to keep fresh coffee in (although, for extended trips, you’re probably going to need a somewhat larger sealable container (for example).
A good Thermos flask will never go amiss for those who geologise in Northern European climes; as well as hot drinks (or at least hot water to put in your funky cafetiere mug), I’ve always found that a lunch break on a chilly field day is made infinitely more pleasant if you’re supping on warm soup rather than cold sandwiches. For cold liquids, there is of course the mighty SIGG bottle:


However, don’t go thinking that a beaten-up looking SIG bottle is automatically ripe for replacement; the number of dents can act as a proxy for time spent in the field, and hence wear and tear carries a certain amount of prestige. The Platypus is also quite popular, because you can drink from them without stopping to rifle through your bag.


Personally, I’ve always thought they looked rather disturbing, particularly if you put fruit juice or something in them (it doesn’t help when you hear them referred to colloquially as ‘bladders’).
Finally, for somewhat more robust field refreshment, there’s always one of these:


But I’m not sure that you really want (or need) to encourage us.

Categories: field gear, fieldwork, gifts and gadgets
Tags: , , , , ,

Comments (9)

  1. Julia says:

    Pah, amateurs use hip flasks. Real geologists put alcohol in their Platypus bags…

  2. Bob O'H says:

    This stuff would work for field ecologists too. Except that the Platypus bag would have to be pretty strong. Coming back from sampling reeking of vodka makes you look like a bit of a waster.

  3. Lab Lemming says:

    When I took my undergrad field course, the TA carried a whisperlite and stovetop espresso maker in his backpack. He’d light up and brew a shot on the outcrop whenever we were sketching structures for more than 10 minutes.

  4. Thomas M. says:

    Those who think the Platypus may not be strong (or large) enough might be interested in a Camelbak. Wonderful combination of a backpack and a liter (or more) container of liquid with a tube attached. It can make a nice replacement for carrying water bottles around all day, assuming you have a place to fill up at once in a while. If I recall correctly the most popular models are the MULE and HAWG.
    I’ve also heard that it works just as well for holding your liquor as it does water….

  5. Thomas M. says:

    My bad, the MULE and HAWG both have three liter bladders in ’em, not one. The biggest difference between those two is whether you want a full-sized backpack or not.

  6. Erik says:

    Those plunger thermos thingys aren’t very good. You should pour the coffee into something else after plunging, not drink it while it continues the brew. The plunger just stops you from pouring out grounds, it doesn’t do anything to stop the brewing process.
    This has been today’s coffee snob moment.

  7. Chris Rowan says:

    Well, it would be much better if you could somehow incorporate a Gaggia into your rucksack, of course… still, I’m not sure the brewed coffee would remain in my mug for long enough for overbrewing to be a particular problem.

  8. Silver Fox says:

    If the field-brewed coffee stays in the cup-sized French press too long, it’s just called “cowboy coffee” – which is perfectly fine for the field! 😉

  9. Jayson R. Jones says:

    You GEO’s have a lot to learn from us ARCHY-type Diggers. My daughter bought me a pair of field glasses…but not really field glasses. It is a two canister storage (about a pint each side) container for alcoholic beverages. I use one side for my Single Malt Irish and the other side for Brandy. The ‘plunger thingy’ is called a French Press…and is an old item in my pack. Stanley makes the BEST Thermos…absolutely indestructible.
    IGLOO makes a neat cooler that plugs into your cig lighter and keeps beer cold for days. Katadyne makes a filter purefier that comes in several sizes…great for taking into the field when water may not be safe to drink. If you are still in South Africa, get a pair of elephant hide boots custom made. I got a pair years ago and they are great. A tip o’ the Tilley to y’all.
    Luv Ya