Fossil collecting methods differ from one locality to another so does the equipment, some localities require digging, some break opening concretions, some collecting from the surface, and others require rock climbing. Below is a list of equipment that is handy and great to start any type of field work.
Choosing a backpack, consider a lightweight hiking backpack with multiple compartments to fit your equipment and fossils. Personally, I prefer to carry fossils in a bucket unless the fossil site is hardly reachable and requires scrambling or rock climbing.
If you’re hiking in the wilderness looking for fossils, you’ll need safety equipment as well. Important: bear spray, knives, or any other type of protection should be readily accessible. Please talk to your rangers and learn about the local wildlife and terrain to prevent confusion.
I’m a fan of Estwing geological hammer but choosing a hammer depends on the rock, your weight, personal preferences, and so on. I mostly use this 22 oz geological hammer with a pointed tip and shock reduction grip.
Chisel or chisel sets are great helpers for splitting rocks. You could get a set or start with the one with hand protection.
Rock chips could fly with the speed of a bullet. Eye protection is important. Check certified and impact-resistant ones. You might also like anti-fog/anti-scratch/side covers/space for sunglasses features. I found wearing glasses with an elastic band pretty uncomfortable and switched to the ones with temples.
This brand makes durable sieves of different mesh sizes and a set of 9 stackable sieves. Sieves are great when you work with small fossils or digging the sand in creeks or lakes.
This made in Washington state fieldwork geological book is perfect to record the localities, fossil finds, and all details about the trip, pages could survive water, sweat, grease, mud, and even survive the accidental laundry mishap. In addition to 160 pages, it comes with 20 pages of reference material and rulers.
When you have to work with concretions, split layers, dig or exscavate, knee pads are very helpful. This brand provides the ones with foam padding and gel cushion.
Brunton Pocket Transit Conventional Compass with 0-360 Degree Scale made in Wyoming, USA is the most usable compass for geologists.
This heavy-duty compass provides accurate, quick, smooth azimuth measurements, also takes vertical angle measurements to +/- 90 degrees (or 100 percent grade), with 5-percent grade scale increments and magnetic declination adjustment.
A professional mirror compass with declination correction is a great compass when Brunton compass in not required. Here are the features: fast globally balanced needle with jewel bearing; 20 degrees tilt margin for easier readings; adjustable declination correction; liquid filled capsule for stable operation; mirror for sighting bearings and signaling; sighting hole and notch for accurate bearings; clinometer; metric UTM scales and inch ruler; baseplate with magnifying lens.
The BelOMO 10x is the favorite and most frequently recommended 10x power loupe of geologists and rockhounds to examine rocks and minerals. Absolutely must-have to have in the field.
I found Ziplocs a better alternative to plastic boxes. You don’t need to clean it after each fossil hunt and it saves space in your backpack.
Lightweight and compact, rain poncho assisted me many times in the field. Weather could be unpredictible, especially in the mountains, and it’s better be ready.
Frequently Asked Questions
HOW TO START FOSSIL HUNTING?
To start fossil hunting, you should get answers to FIVE basic questions: WHERE to look for fossils, WHAT are fossils, HOW to identify fossils, WHAT equipment you need, and HOW to document the specimens and localities. Learn More
Paleontology is a science that studies the evolution of species and the history of life. Vertebrate fossils, including trace fossils such as tracks, coprolites, etc., are rare and important, many revolutionary discoveries were made based on just a few specimens, and many discoveries were made by amateurs or museum volunteers. Thus, it is critical to contact your local museum and inform them about any vertebrate fossils or any scientifically important invertebrate or plants fossils. Learn More
WHAT ARE THE BEST BEGINNERS BOOKS?
Here are books that are great to start learning about paleontology and geology.
And browse the library to find more advanced books.
Paleontology and geology online classes are the best way to dive into the field. Most cources are free.
The Resources section includes great online information and apps. The RockD application is highly recommended to everyone.
WHERE IS MY CLOSEST FOSSIL CLUB?
Why should you consider joining a club? You’ll be connected with fascinating individuals who are enthusiastic about paleontology and geology, and they’ll know all of your area’s best finds and fossils. Most clubs have monthly meetings, field excursions, and access to club equipment for members.
Find the clubs that are close to you on the map.