Tools, clothing, bug dope, etc. You need to be well-prepared for tree planting season if you expect to survive. This article will serve as a checklist of essentials to get you ready to plant!
When you’re getting ready for a planting season, the most important thing to remember is to pack light! Remember that there will be times when there’s a camp move and you have to fit all of your gear into the back of a pickup or crummy, then once you get to a new camp location, you have to drag it all from the truck to where you want to pitch your tent. And of course, even worse, if you’re travelling by car at the start or end of the season, you will probably have a very limited amount of space in the vehicle. If you’re flying, every extra item you bring is going to cost you money for baggage overage fees. You should be able to fit everything except maybe your planting gear itself into a single large duffel bag and a single traveller’s backpack. Any more than that, and you should consider leaving some things home.
The gear that you’ll want to bring can basically be broken down into four groups: planting gear, camping gear & clothing, toiletries & medicinal, and miscellaneous. Let’s look at each of those groups separately.
Depending where you work, your foreman or crew boss will usually give you an exact list of what you need. Planters are generally expected to provide this gear themselves as the companies don’t provide it. You’ll probably need a set of planting bags (three baggers are most common), a shovel, perhaps three “silvicool inserts” to go into your planting bags to keep the tree roots from drying out quickly, and a shovel. If you work in BC or Alberta, you will also need a plot cord. All of this gear can be purchased right here on Treeplanting.com at competitive prices.
You’ll need a tent. Bigger is better, so you can store your stuff in your tent without your gear being pushed right up against the walls where it might get wet. You’ll need a sleeping bag. This is probably the item that many people try to save money on, and then regret it the most when they’re shivering in the middle of the night in early May! Your sleeping bag is one of the best things to invest money in. It will last for a couple decades, even long after you’re done planting. Make sure it is good to about twenty degrees below zero. You can’t put a price on comfort. You might also want to pick up a “foamie” which is a large foam mattress, or an air mattress, to put under your sleeping bag. Air mattresses are far more compact, although you have to be careful not to puncture them.
We also need to talk about clothing and items like gloves, hats, boots, and rain gear. However, that’s a pretty big topic on its own, so we’re going to save it for next week’s blog.
Most of this stuff is pretty basic: toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, razors, sunscreen, toenail clippers, condoms. More optional items that most people try to make room for might include: hand cream or moisturizer (guys too), solarcaine to treat bad sunburns, lip balm, Vaseline, zincofax or penaten for chafing and rashes, baby powder to prevent said chafing and rashes, antihistamines if you have allergies, tylenol or aspirin, zantac if you have indigestion, and heat rub for sore muscles. Most importantly for the ladies, you probably can forego the makeup. If you think you’re going to wear makeup to the block, you might want to consider a different type of job in the city.
A day bag (small backpack, preferably waterproof) will be useful for bringing stuff with you to the block each day. You’ll want to make sure it’s big enough to carry your rain gear, your lunch, sunscreen, and any medicines and so on that you think you might need. If you look for what’s called a “dry bag” you should be able to find something that’s waterproof that can carry a fair amount of stuff. You’ll probably carry your water separately from your day bag, either in insulated water jugs, a 4 litre milk jug (or two, once it gets hot), or even in a bunch of two litre pop bottles. You may also want to carry insect repellent.
Back in camp, some of the things you’ll consider useful might include a battery-powered Coleman lantern and extra batteries, an alarm clock that doesn’t rely on batteries, a flashlight and lots of spare batteries, duct tape, and maybe a camera. Lots of people carry a cell phone, which can take care of your alarm clock and camera needs. However, if you plan to do that, remember that power is often limited in a tent camp, so you might have problems in the mornings if you can’t charge your alarm clock. Also, a planting camp is a rough natural environment, with lots of water and dust. If it’s an expensive smart phone, consider getting an Otter box or something really waterproof to protect it. It’s amazing how many planters unfortunately crack their screens or drown their phones each summer.
Final advice? Other than the key items of planting gear, clothing, and a tent and sleeping bag, when you’re not sure whether or not you want to bring something to the bush with you, leave it behind. You can always buy it in town on the next day off if you decide that you really needed it after all. In the meantime, one of your neighbours in tent city can probably help you out. Minimize what you have to carry around with you on camp moves, if possible.