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Basic Field Tools- A Starter Guide


LabRatKing

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This has come up a bit around the forums lately, and with the shopping holidays just around the corner, I figure it is a good time to open up this can of worms! :heartylaugh:

Well that and I am buying up equipment for my new earth sciences students to use, so might as well dig two trilobites with one hammer...

 

But first, a few disclaimers:

I will use brand names for some items. This is not an endorsement, but a statement on quality/price/durability, etc. With tools, not all manufacturers are the same.

Why buy junk ten times, when you can buy the pro-grade once the first time?

 

 Also: Everyone has their personal preferences and different sites require different tools for the job. (Example: I bet I'm the only one that carries a "emergency pack" that can keep me alive for 72 hours in most situations for a fossil hunt and I think the paleo pick makes a better automotive tool.)

There is a certain amount of opinion, personal preference, and experience involved in getting the right tools for the job

 

Last: I am not going to talk about backcountry and general outdoors safety in detail (for the most part).

I am not going to discuss your local laws and such unless my tool suggestions might get you into trouble. There would be too much to cover. This is mostly about tools.

 

This guide is intended for those new to the hobby, not those of us that sweat trilobites and poo T-rex teeth.

 

Next up is SAFETY SAFETY SAFETY. Thou shalt not be Mike Rowe (Mr. Safety Third) Please refer to this excellent thread on how to use rock tools safely:

 

 

Fossil Hunting Field Tools for Beginners:

 

The Basics-

All you really need is eyes and hands for most fossil hunting trips. A bag, satchel, or pack is handy to put your finds in.

A pocket knife and a couple of old screwdrivers are handy too.

Dressing for the climate and weather is also very important.

Prepare for insects ahead of time.

In snake and scorpion country, wear the proper gear.

Know the law before you go.

 

Never ever ever go out alone. It is dangerous and boring to do so.

Always let other folks, not on the excursion, know where you are going.

Write a schedule/itinerary and leave it with someone you trust with your life. Stick to said itinerary without exception.

Leave the solo excursions to us anti-social nihilists.;)

 

Use maps and learn how to use a compass. Smartphone based apps will get you lost and dead. Period.

GPS units are OK if they are designed for backcountry use. Automotive "GPS" is no better than smartphone apps...and will get you lost and dead.

And don't think you thousand dollar backcountry GPS with Iridium Satellite subscription is going to save you...they are only good till the batteries die...

and, in my experience, 99% of users do not know how to use such gadgets properly.

 

Really smart beginners hook up with the local fossil/rockhounding club and limit their first few excursions to those with the club in order to learn from the more experienced. No website or book can do that.

 

In my opinion, channel your internal Indiana Jones, and wear a wide brimmed hat. Look the part and keep the sun from scorching you to death.

 

In addition to the above, the most important bits of gear these days for beginners is a smartphone (or other camera) and a tape measure for those finds you can't take with you.

A camera and tape is also handy to collect information about where you found it and in what member of what formation to help with later identification.

Bonus points for turning location data on on your smartphone camera so that the location data of your finds is imbedded.

Why carry a notebook when you have a computer in your pocket anyway?

 

For folks in the United States:

Buy a tape measure that has both imperial and metric units on it. 

Paleontologists, geologists and all other scientists use metric measures. If you need help identifying something from photos later on, a metric scale is crucial.

Also, you won't have to do arithmetic with fractions out in the field or try to remember which mark is 32nds and which mark is 64ths.

While I learned how to think in metric decades ago, I use this exact tape measure in the field:

image.jpeg.506ec69f1dc6cdeea02ffd0a934cab59.jpeg

 

Please take notes about your finds. Where are you? What Formation? What Member? What other rocks and fossils where around where you found it? What is the date and time? All of this stuff can help the pros help you later on if need be.

 

Finally, use the right tools for the job. A geology pick is not needed on a sandy beach. A shovel does you no real good in a shale quarry. A big bucket can be more useful than a back pack. Think before you pack, in other words.

 

Enough of that. Now that we have covered the first tool (your brain and how to use it) let us discuss the actual tools!

 

 

Hammers-

There are three basic types you will need, depending on what and where you are fossil hunting. rarely will you need all three at the same time, but it is a good idea to have them in the car, just in case.

#1 Geologist's Pick

image.jpeg.731f4a2e25b5e38d098b38f4fe4f587e.jpegimage.jpeg.f2f20039ac7ea62345b22e0b396d527f.jpeg

These are the industry standard for a reason. There are two basic styles, the modern and the traditional. Both are available in a variety of weights and sizes. I prefer the modern 22 ounce (about 624g) size for general use. If you carry a lot of gear, or have small hands, you will want the smaller weights. If you are going to be swinging for long periods, the long handle version will benefit you. Keep in mind that there are size limits on the tools you can use. In the US on public lands in particular, you are better off keeping the 22oz and skipping the bigger stuff.

 

Also, do not make the mistake I made in Arizona a decade back and have these tools out and visible in  driving compartment of your vehicle.

Some law enforcement folks consider this stuff "weapons" and they can make a simple tail-light out become a real fiasco...:DOH:

Keep your tools in the trunk or toolbox, or in a backpack or such to prevent headaches.

 

#2 Mason's Hammer

This is basically the same thing as the geologist's pick, save that it has a chisel head rather than a pointy head.

image.jpeg.693fdd7bba7089d6744de563d31eec79.jpeg

These are best for you shale splitters, though like the pick, it is also a handy tool for moving around soft stuff. Again, I call out the Estwing here. My granddaddy, the life-long union bricklayer stated "If it ain't no Estwing, yinze jus' wastin' yinze money."  That review was good enough for me. Also, one gets what one pays for. I tried to be cool and buy the cheaper stuff and...well...this brand is worth every penny. I have a box of broken, damaged, and useless albeit cheaper tools to prove it.

 

#3 Breakers, Smashers, and Kabonkers (the scientific terminology)

 I'm lumping these all together as they all serve the same purpose: Smashing stuff or driving a chisel. Personally, I prefer a ball peen, a deadblow, and/or a sculptor's mallet, but this depends on the rock I plan on breaking. DO NOT USE CLAW HAMMERS OR THE ABOVE SPECIALTY HAMMERS TO DRIVE CHISELS! They are not designed for metal to metal strikes and are a surefire way to get access to the glass eye/can't get through airport security club. Plus, the lack of depth perception makes later fossil trips a bit more difficult.

 

I prefer the mini-sledge for smashing open stuff.      I prefer a sculptor's mallet for driving chisels.                I prefer a deadblow for all my other kabonking needs.

Masterforce® 2 lb. Fiberglass Sledge Hammer at Menards®               Wood Carving Mallet - H14                   image.jpeg.ce03fd09f1b4e55eaef04342cfcd0287.jpeg

These can be had on the cheap. These images are the exact ones I use, a reverse image search can direct you to a source. 

 

 

Next: Loved by pros, oft ignored by newbies....

 

The paint brush.

Yup. Same one you would use to paint your kitchen or bedroom. Again, there is a range of personal preferences here, but in the field

I carry a couple of cheap, disposable chip brushes and a synthetic angle brush (AKA a sash brush by painters) depending on where I am headed. If weight is an issue, I take chip brushes.

 

                    Sash Brush                                                     Chip Brushes

The 5 Best Paint Brushes According to DIYers - Bob Vila  Chip Brushes | bedrocksupplies.com

 

Next up are chisels. Safest bet is Masonry chisels, followed up by Stonecutter's chisels. You can get by with "cold" chisels for fieldwork, and many folks do, but they are designed for metal work and will not withstand rockhounding as their purpose made counterparts will. You will need to take along a file to keep cold chisels sharp. Most non-specialty masory chisels are no more expensive than their metalworking counterparts.

Pictured are the exact masonry and stonecutter chisels I use.

5fd3ac4225ff5_CC_Carving_ChiselLineUp.5699ce21b0cd393cad5fef5d15764044.8b16628a71f556ff75e0d90e1a78ca30.jpg.ef9306ebeff50f5fb8ad9c0b4cb140ed.jpgstonecutter.PNG.1b790db0a0ed43c422a6ddd49fc1bc49.PNG

 

 There  are also specialty chisels available for splitting shale. They are a necessity for anyone into such work.

They are made from hardened tool steel. They are thin, sharp, and precise. Another is called the "gad pry" and is invaluable for quarry for work and the like.

It is a bit heavy though, and only the Estwing is rated for stone work. It gives you all the benefits of a chisel and crowbar in one tool.

chisels-1-big_2.jpg.c3149acc1c300ed6053557e9d8c54148.jpgEstwing Gad Pry Bar - The Compleat Naturalist

 

Next up is  Digging Tools

 

First and foremost: If you are new to the hobby, know before you go. On US public lands and many other places, most sites are "surface collecting with minimal disturbance only", meaning, it is a violation of the law to dig.

 

For general fossil hunts, I quit carrying around entrenching tools, folding shovels and the like years ago. They are heavy and I almost never needed them. However sometimes one needs to move a bit of soil, and I prefer the "hori-hori" also known as the garden knife. There are lots of them on the market, but only one meets my standards: The A.M. Leonard Deluxe. They sell these as "stainless steel" but they are not. They are Italian INCONEL steel, and will surface rust/patina a bit if not properly maintained. However, I can tuck this guy in my boot or belt, and when used with a geology pick, I rarely need anything else. I use the version that does not have the useless gator serration edge. This is not a sharp knife, it is a digging tool. The serrated edge is handy for cutting weeds and roots in the garden but merely a pain in the gluteus maximus for rockhounding. (sometimes literally)

Leonard Deluxe Stainless Steel Soil Knife | Gardeners Edge

 

Other popular digging tools for fossil hunters:

The classic entrenching tool, also called a council pick:           The classic military folding shovel, often (mistakenly) called an trench tool by         The Estwing Paleo Pick is also popular*

                                                                                        civilians and a latrine tool by military veterans.

Folding Pick and Shovel Combination - Stansport Survival Tool                         Collapsible Camping Gear | Bed Bath & Beyond                                                          pick.PNG.1189dc733e02f1c61b3126ea4fbb69ab.PNG       

 

*Please note that the paleo pick is illegal in many public fossil hunting areas in the USA as it is bigger than the size standards set by law. As of 2020, it appears Estwing has shortened the handle to bring it into compliance, but to be frank, I find this tool to be too heavy and too bulky to carry all day and it doesn't do anything my geo pick and hori-hori can't do. I keep mine in my car in the winter for snow emergencies these days.         

 

The last Item I'll discuss are sieves. Apparently, Sifting for micro and macro fossils has become popular in the last decade or so. Sifting isn't just for paleontologists and lonely kids in the middle of nowhere with nothing else to do anymore! 

 

It is hard to suggest sieves to beginners. Different sizes are needed for different locations. The most basic is just a few sections of "hardware cloth" in various sizes. This is also sold simply as "wire mesh".

It is cheap and you can cut it however you like with scissors. When I was a barefoot farm kid back in the 70s and 80s, I would use a can opener to remove the bottoms of coffee and soup cans and duct tape sections of hardware cloth over the hole. Now one has a combination scoop and sieve for use in lose soil, beaches, and such. Depending on where you live, you can get this product in metric sizes too. This stuff is just galvanized mild steel, so it will rust after a while due to abrasion. You can get other sizes in brass and stainless steel and even copper, but they will cost you.

Jackson Wire - Specification Sheet

 

The best way to use this stuff is start big and work down to small. I won't go into detail as the interwebs are full of how to videos for the techniques you can find on your own.

These days, I splurged a bit a bought a cheap set of sieves made specifically for the earth sciences. Thanks again to the interwebs, you can get very nice sets for really very little money.

I use eight mesh size version of this exact set:

Sieves (Set 6) - Edulab

It can be had for as little as 30USD if you search a bit. Many vendors sell them for three times that...so it is worth the extra effort to find the affordable ones. They are all made by the same overseas manufacturer and feature stainless steel mesh and ABS plastic. They also nest into a pack friendly stack. They are very light weight and a big improvement over my garbage bag full of duct taped coffee cans...

 

If you have money to burn or live in mining country, you can find professional sieves at thrift and antique stores, industrial auctions, etc. . I don't recommend these to beginners as they are heavy and have sharp edges, but they are beautiful to look at and can provide bragging rights. A brand new set of these will set you back at least a few hundred USD. Used ones can be had in mining country for just a buck or two a piece.

Brass Sieve Set TURBS2-S-

 

So, there you have it, an sensory overload of goodies to use in the field.

 

Just remember, all you really need is your eyes, hands, and a bit of common sense, but as with many hobbies, the more you get into it, the more you want the right stuff.

 

Good hunting.

                

 

 

 

 

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Some very necessary things, which should be part of your equip, too:

- adequate First-Aid-Pack (should keep you alive until you can reach someone or getting back to your car)

- adequate helmet (if stones could falling down on your head in the area you are hunting; e.g. quarrys, high walled rock-formations,..)

- good shoes (they should protect you from bend over your ankle and keep the toes save by having a steel inlet protecting them)

- gloves (some rocks can be pretty sharp and furthermore they protect from getting your fingers crushed between the rocks accidentally)

- eye protection (protection glasses; breaking rocks may cause rock/metal splinter which may harm your eyes)

- enough to drink (while working, you will loose a lot of water by sweat - you need to compensate that, esp. in hot areas)

- something to eat (depends on how long your trip is, bringing back needed calories and lost minerals after hard work)

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Don't forget the cyanoacrylate for fragile finds, and packing materials (newspaper, cling-wrap, padding, containers). 

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Nice write up and I have many of the same items that you mention, most just stay in the car, but they are there if I need them.

 

I always bring a Safety cone with me when I am collecting along road cuts. I place it about 5 feet behind my car and I have received compliments from police officers who have stopped by to see what I was doing or asked if I needed help. A little safety may deter an officer from asking you to move along, so far I have never been told to leave.

 

Knee pads are a must in some situations and I also have a portion of a thicker type yoga mat in the car that I like to use when laying on my side in the butter shale of St. Leon collecting trilobites. It keeps my forearm nice and comfy and at the same time my lower back is protected by laying on my side versus bending over.

 

A real must on road cuts id the Estwing Shell Scoop, we always called it a snake stick. It helps with balance and stability when going up and down the cuts, plus it is not bad at reaching out of reach fossils that I see.

 

 

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Here are a few of my tools that I carry in my car when I go collecting. Many times I will only carry my smaller Estwing rock pick, it is my favorite hammer and is balanced perfectly for me. It is the only one that I use when whacking open Mazon Creek concretions, I almost never miss, but when I do, it hurts something bad.

 

1C7AB75B-6EA7-44DE-BC12-D5D17CCD1EC6.thumb.jpeg.255b53a26824c47525d2e3e57936cc69.jpeg

 

FB6103DC-7F97-4C85-91EE-B4B57910B016.thumb.jpeg.0513704f9a7000463a3776876d086ee5.jpeg

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18 hours ago, Nimravis said:

Nice write up and I have many of the same items that you mention, most just stay in the car, but they are there if I need them.

 

I always bring a Safety cone with me when I am collecting along road cuts. I place it about 5 feet behind my car and I have received compliments from police officers who have stopped by to see what I was doing or asked if I needed help. A little safety may deter an officer from asking you to move along, so far I have never been told to leave.

 

Knee pads are a must in some situations and I also have a portion of a thicker type yoga mat in the car that I like to use when laying on my side in the butter shale of St. Leon collecting trilobites. It keeps my forearm nice and comfy and at the same time my lower back is protected by laying on my side versus bending over.

 

A real must on road cuts id the Estwing Shell Scoop, we always called it a snake stick. It helps with balance and stability when going up and down the cuts, plus it is not bad at reaching out of reach fossils that I see.

 

 

I skip the road cones, but wear a high visibility vest for road cuts. For some, I use my vehicle as one would use a cone.

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@Nimravis One time last year I was whacking some concretions and hit my finger pretty hard, gosh that hurt. To prevent that in the future I bought a kitchen tongs that has soft rubber grippers. I don't use it if I'm lightly tapping a concretion but when there is one I want to really whack, I hold it against a large flat stone with the tongs and my fingers are safe. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

OK, I know you all were waiting for this from me....

 

"Please take notes about your finds. Where are you? What Formation? What Member? What other rocks and fossils where around where you found it? What is the date and time? All of this stuff can help the pros help you later on if need be."

 

Out of all the tools and gear suggested above, this is the most important item. Fossils have no value if they have no location information associated with them. Take notes and label specimens!

 

Just a reminder from Erich and the LOCATION NOTE police....

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32 minutes ago, erose said:

OK, I know you all were waiting for this from me....

 

"Please take notes about your finds. Where are you? What Formation? What Member? What other rocks and fossils where around where you found it? What is the date and time? All of this stuff can help the pros help you later on if need be."

 

Out of all the tools and gear suggested above, this is the most important item. Fossils have no value if they have no location information associated with them. Take notes and label specimens!

 

Just a reminder from Erich and the LOCATION NOTE police....

Thanks, LOCATION NOTE police.

Yes, yes, yes and yes.  A good self challenge is to write the notes such that you can refind the site AND the layer you are in if layer is an issue.  A better test is to write this stuff so that someone else can refind the place.  I am currently going through some of my old notes form 20 years ago, and sad to say, on a few of them, I am left wondering Where The Heck Is This?  Fortunatley, this is the exception to the rule.  

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LabRatKing

image.thumb.png.f8f5dc2b5e04877b22d8e07e280aa3e2.pngShopping for more tools thanks to the holiday...

 

Came across A hammer I have never seen before on my favorite geo supply site:

 

Estwing BP500 Burpee Pick

image.thumb.png.f8f5dc2b5e04877b22d8e07e280aa3e2.png

 

Anyone played with these? Looks very shale splitter friendly to me. They aren't cheap, but appears to be a less bulky alternative to a geo pick.

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Bobby Rico

Some members take supper glue on their fossil hunts. I will start adding to my kit I can remember a few times a little glue would have been handy when retrieving fragile specimens.  Nice thread. 

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The nice thing about the AM Leonard Deluxe hori hori is that the tang goes almost up to the hole in the handle. I'm not sure if it comes with a belt sheath or not.

 

Because I wanted a sheath for carrying on my pack belt while hiking, I opted for an MLTools version. It's easily accessible from my packs hip belt. With a velcro security feature for the handle, it is easily and quickly removed and replaced.

 

No rust or issues with metal quality to date.

 

Downside (or not); the tang only goes halfway up the handle (between the red lines) but is about $10 less. I've used it to pry up rock formations 10" thick with some minimal bending. Not the right tool for that job obviously. I have abused the heck out of the thing and it is my most used collecting tool.

 

Based on experience, I wholeheartedly recommend this as an alternative if you have budget constraints.

 

horihori.thumb.png.5443fe0fba7e42dc15779e433bf0b930.png

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7 hours ago, Bobby Rico said:

Some members take supper glue on their fossil hunts. I will start adding to my kit I can remember a few times a little glue would have been handy when retrieving fragile specimens.  Nice thread. 

I use vinac.  I find that superglue is very stubborn when it comes time to remove it in the lab.  Vinac is less powerful, and dries more slowly, but I thank myself when I get the fossils in the lab later.  The general process on small bones is to vinac a specimen, then pedestal it as if making a plaster jacket (directions elsewhere on the web), then wrap it in foil in situ, then slide a flat chisel underneath and separate it from the substrate and wrap it in the same foil by tucking the foil in underneath.   I forgot my vinac once and had to buy superglue at the gas station on the way to the field.  Those fossils were awful to prep.  

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Bob Saunders
On 1/1/2021 at 11:53 AM, Kato said:

The nice thing about the AM Leonard Deluxe hori hori is that the tang goes almost up to the hole in the handle. I'm not sure if it comes with a belt sheath or not.

 

Because I wanted a sheath for carrying on my pack belt while hiking, I opted for an MLTools version. It's easily accessible from my packs hip belt. With a velcro security feature for the handle, it is easily and quickly removed and replaced.

 

No rust or issues with metal quality to date.

 

Downside (or not); the tang only goes halfway up the handle (between the red lines) but is about $10 less. I've used it to pry up rock formations 10" thick with some minimal bending. Not the right tool for that job obviously. I have abused the heck out of the thing and it is my most used collecting tool.

 

Based on experience, I wholeheartedly recommend this as an alternative if you have budget constraints.

 

horihori.thumb.png.5443fe0fba7e42dc15779e433bf0b930.png

as a knife collector and user I would opt for a full tang non serrated blade knife over this any day. For any twisting or prying. 

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1 hour ago, Bob Saunders said:

as a knife collector and user I would opt for a full tang non serrated blade knife over this any day. For any twisting or prying. 

@Bob Saunders

 

Neat! I also carry a full tang, non-serrated blade knife myself. 8" blade, 1075 mono-steel. Made it myself with full hamon clay tempering to hrc  62-63. Its only job is to stay in its sheath unless a mountain lion or other wild critter attacks me...I prefer the dished hori hori with one serrated edge for cutting roots,digging and prying.

 

I think we live in greatly different geographies. Mine is mountainous, hellaciously rocky and with minimal dirt up in those hills. Our plants are things with thorns and they live tenuous dry lives.

 

Have to admit my knife would not stand to prying up 8-10" thick cracked rock formations like I've done with the hori hori. I'd ruin the cutting edge at a minimum.

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LabRatKing
On 1/1/2021 at 11:53 AM, Kato said:

The nice thing about the AM Leonard Deluxe hori hori is that the tang goes almost up to the hole in the handle. I'm not sure if it comes with a belt sheath or not.

 

Because I wanted a sheath for carrying on my pack belt while hiking, I opted for an MLTools version. It's easily accessible from my packs hip belt. With a velcro security feature for the handle, it is easily and quickly removed and replaced.

 

No rust or issues with metal quality to date.

 

Downside (or not); the tang only goes halfway up the handle (between the red lines) but is about $10 less. I've used it to pry up rock formations 10" thick with some minimal bending. Not the right tool for that job obviously. I have abused the heck out of the thing and it is my most used collecting tool.

 

Based on experience, I wholeheartedly recommend this as an alternative if you have budget constraints.

 

horihori.thumb.png.5443fe0fba7e42dc15779e433bf0b930.png

The sheath is optional. I use the non serrated version as it tucks into my boot or the horizontal viking style belt sheath I made for it.

 

The inconel  Leonard uses doesn’t really rust up and put, but does patina...it is a different grade inconel from say, Opinel uses in their super sharp and light knives. (I daily carry a No. 8)

 

A small alternative is the Morakniv Basic 534 is virtually indestructible, nearly as sharp as an Opinel, and very affordable. I just got a replacement as a gift since I lost the one I carried for decades in the Missouri River last spring.

 

 

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6 hours ago, LabRatKing said:

The sheath is optional. I use the non serrated version as it tucks into my boot or the horizontal viking style belt sheath I made for it.

 

The inconel  Leonard uses doesn’t really rust up and put, but does patina...it is a different grade inconel from say, Opinel uses in their super sharp and light knives. (I daily carry a No. 8)

 

A small alternative is the Morakniv Basic 534 is virtually indestructible, nearly as sharp as an Opinel, and very affordable. I just got a replacement as a gift since I lost the one I carried for decades in the Missouri River last spring.

 

 

I've got a Mora 511 in my camping kit. It's my wife's EDC when we hike together.

 

 

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LabRatKing
15 hours ago, Kato said:

I've got a Mora 511 in my camping kit. It's my wife's EDC when we hike together.

 

 

I carried the same one ( though dont remember the model) all over on active duty. It is the only “indestructible” utility knife I know of that actually holds an edge. Usually one has to compromise between tough and sharp. 


I also like the new designs of the hard sheath, though I wish a horizontal option was available.

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27 minutes ago, LabRatKing said:

I carried the same one ( though dont remember the model) all over on active duty. It is the only “indestructible” utility knife I know of that actually holds an edge. Usually one has to compromise between tough and sharp. 


I also like the new designs of the hard sheath, though I wish a horizontal option was available.

@LabRatKing

 

Amazing value for the price. We actually have two. One of them does not stay secure in the sheath so I had to add a velcro securing feature. Solid non-slip grip on those knives with the rubbery handles.

 

Bad memory on part. We actually have the 'Light My Fire' version. I think the closest now is the Companion Spark.

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LabRatKing
28 minutes ago, Kato said:

@LabRatKing

 

Amazing value for the price. We actually have two. One of them does not stay secure in the sheath so I had to add a velcro securing feature. Solid non-slip grip on those knives with the rubbery handles.

 

Bad memory on part. We actually have the 'Light My Fire' version. I think the closest now is the Companion Spark.

Yep. The new design hard sheaths have a cord knob now so one can better secure it. I just use a ponytail holder so it’s still easy to draw.

 

I have a super cheap gerber Gurkha style that I use for the rough stuff. The factory edge was feces like all gerber edges, but easily fixed that issue. It’s full tang and has multiple hammer points. I use it instead of my shale chisels nowadays. Saves on weight for me in the backcountry as my age has made me pay attention to such things. Have a SOG tomahawk that backs that up in certain biomes. Both are excellent for soft lagerstattes like green River.

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Bob Saunders

I have a SOG Fusion Battle Ax FO2T 
      G10  handle with torqe screws made in China . Keep it in the car, I do not know if good for shale.                     

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Just now, LabRatKing said:

Yep. The new design hard sheaths have a cord knob now so one can better secure it. I just use a ponytail holder so it’s still easy to draw.

 

I have a super cheap gerber Gurkha style that I use for the rough stuff. The factory edge was feces like all gerber edges, but easily fixed that issue. It’s full tang and has multiple hammer points. I use it instead of my shale chisels nowadays. Saves on weight for me in the backcountry as my age has made me pay attention to such things. Have a SOG tomahawk that backs that up in certain biomes. Both are excellent for soft lagerstattes like green River.

@LabRatKing

 

I think you've done an awesome job of listing a lot of the potentials tools of the trade.

 

As I collect exclusively backcountry I try to go in as light as possible giving my poor back a break. If I go into known areas where I know I need my mini-jack and chisels I will take it. Nowadays, I mostly abuse the heck out of my hori hori.

 

I did discover some permineralized material I could not access and used your info to select the Estwing Geologic pry bar.

 

I studied your collapsible shovel but will continue to use my Bond LH015 (brand) mini-D for now. It resides in my offroad vehicle and I guess I'm still too cheap to buy another small shovel.

 

26" long and 1.9 lbs. I strap it to the outside of my pack. Short, stout and tough. On your knees you can move a lot of earth with it.  I've only used it once in the backcountry and I currently foresee using it one more time in the next couple of weeks.

 

Bond Compact Off-ROad Shovel

 

 

PACK:  After much hemming and hawing, I finally bought a Direct Action Ghost Mark II. It seemed to have the best balance of weight, storage and places to attach additional pouches onto. It has worked out fine. I've carried as much as 60lbs out.

 

I've added a pouch on each hipbelt. One for snacks, the other for use as temp storage for small finds. Hori Hori hangs from the lower end of the shoulder strap (it unclips) so I'm able to slide the strap through the sheath attachment.

 

On one shoulder I've added a pouch for a cellphone (camera). The other carries my kydex sheathed knife.

 

It has additional clips between the large and small bags sections. I've added an ammo bag with appropriate clips in-between the two. That's where I carry extra tools like my mini-jack and chisels.

 

Lots of storage sections in the small bag section.

 

This pack actually has voluminous water bottle holders on each side of the main bag. I prefer bottles to hydration bladders.

 

GHOST® MkII Backpack - Cordura® - Kryptek Highlander™

 

Downsides:

 

(1) It does NOT have an internal frame so high % of large loads end up on your shoulders, especially if you have a waist measurement under 32".

(2) If you have a waist size under 32" the hipbelt just does not cinch tighter than that. I drink an extra beer or eat more pizza now and then to keep my waist size up.

 

About the only thing you could do to upgrade the info you provided is to add some weight and length information, though that is available if we go and do our own research.

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LabRatKing

My primary field pack these days is a SOG  Evac 18L as I am primarily a backcountry guy these days too

tactical bag pack Tactical Bags & Packs SOG Evac Sling Outdoor Hiking  Backpack Size 18L Tactical Bags & Packs Tactical & Duty Gear

 

Yeah, I know, its considered tacticool junk by internet snobs...but I assume they have never actually used one. While there are larger volumes available, I'm no spring chicken and this size keeps me honest. I can load out my fossil/sampling/field equipment, but lack the space to go overboard when I'd hump 20-30 kilos around. Added bonus, it fits a 3L hydro without sacrificing gear and specimen space.

Thanks to the MOLLE I have added strap pouches (similar to the below) to both the shoulder and hip. These keep my chisels, brushes, and such handy and help balance the load.

Tactical Molle Accessory Pouch Backpack Shoulder Strap Bag Hunting Tools  TAN | eBay

It keeps me honest for sure. I bought one when it first came out and have been abusing it in all terrains in all climates for years and it takes the abuse.

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LabRatKing
7 hours ago, Kato said:

 

 

I did discover some permineralized material I could not access and used your info to select the Estwing Geologic pry bar.

 

I studied your collapsible shovel but will continue to use my Bond LH015 (brand) mini-D for now. It resides in my offroad vehicle and I guess I'm still too cheap to buy another small shovel.

 

 

The gad pry was a purchase I made specifically for the remote areas of Millard County. Super useful albeit a bit heavy. Often wonder why I spent my youth lugging breaker and crow bars around. Only complaint is the quad tip isn't hardened and prone to blunting...but I carry and axe stone in my pack so it only takes a minute to tune it up.

 

As for folding shovels...well, I never used the one issued me all them years ago, but in certain places I take it along (like the sandhills areas of NE and SD). I included it above as we have a lot of folks that hunt the soft sands and silt zones.

 

 I use a cheap Menard's mini shovel similar to yours in areas that allow the longer tools, but the old hori-hori and my tomahawk are my work horses.

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