What is in your field rucksack? Camping in Iceland


When you head out into the field, which is the one item you can’t do without? For Rebecca Williams, a volcanologist at the University of Hull, good footwear is essential!

Inspired by a post on Lifehacker on what your average geologist carries in their rucksack/backpack, we’ve put together a few blog posts showcasing what a range of our EGU members carry in their bags whilst in the field!

Beautiful, eyrie, the land where fire meets ice: Iceland. An Earth scientist’ dream, complete with lava, volcanoes, earthquakes, impossible landscapes, ice, snow, the ocean…Iceland, is a top destination for many scientist who want to better understand the processes which shape our planet. Among them, Rebecca Williams, a volcanologist at the University of Hull, who spent a few days camping on the volcanic island this summer.

This bag belongs to: Rebecca Williams, University of Hull.

Field Work location: Þórsmörk, Iceland

Duration of field work: 10 days

What was the aim of the research?: I was working with Dave McGarvie and Jonathan Moles, from the Open University. They are working on a volcano in the area and had come across the Þórsmörk Ignimbrite. Ignimbrites are the deposits from pyroclastic density currents. This unit is quite complicated and not well understood. It is best exposed in Þórsmörk, so we spent 4 days here doing a recce of the exposure in the Þórsmörk area, trying to understand its many facies and their relationship to each other. I then spent the remainder of the time with a field assistant (Steph Walker from Royal Holloway) doing some detailed work on the best exposures, collecting some samples and recording the details of the deposit. We also recce’d some new areas to try to determine the extent of the deposit and finding new localities for future work.

The one item I couldn’t live without:

Footwear! We covered over 10 miles of rough ground and varied terrain each day, so good footwear is essential. I was very thankful for the trekking sandals when fording the rivers. One fording point is on the famous Laugavegur trekking from the hot springs area of Landmannalaugar to the glacial valley of Þórsmörk. We would often see people trying to ford the river in trainers, crocs and even bare feet! It was clear that this wasn’t ideal, and from some of the screeches, very difficult! But in these trekking sandals, I was able to wade over in relative ease and comfort.

Rebecca in the field. Credit: Rebecca Williams

Rebecca in the field. Credit: Rebecca Williams

In the picture of me in the field, you can see what I actually carry when I’m out and about. The zip off trousers were great for fording rivers – I wasn’t expecting it to be hot enough in Iceland to wear them to work! Strapped to my bag are my sandals for fording rivers, and my hammer. The poles were great for getting around on slopes like the one in the background, and for helping out when fording rivers. Here I’m also carrying a spade – acquired once in Iceland. This is unusual for me, I’m used to working with much harder rocks like the welded ignimbrites in Pantelleria. The spade was very useful for digging through scree slopes and material broken up and crushed by glaciers.


If you’ve been on field work recently, or work in an industry that requires you to carry equipment, and would like the contents of your bag to feature on the blog, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact the EGU’s Communication Officer, Laura Roberts (

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Laura Roberts Artal is the Outreach and Dissemination Manager at The Water Innovation Hub (University of Sheffield). Laura also volunteers as the Associate Director of Communications for Geology for Global Development. She has also held a role in industry as Marketing Manager for PDS Ava (part of PDS Group). Laura was the Communications Officer at the European Geosciences Union from the summer of 2014 to the end of 2017. Laura is a geologist by training and holds a PhD in palaeomagnetism from the University of Liverpool. She tweets at @LauRob85.

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