No, I don’t mean a way cool thingie that has 10 gigs of RAM and calculates your water chemistry without getting anything wet.
I’d like to discuss the personal stuff you have that tends to get co-opted for fieldwork.
When cell phones that were small enough to carry around easily came out, I thought they were a useless bit of frippery. Then I realized that with a cell phone, I could call my sweetie anywhere in the country and not have to worry about scary hotel phone charges.
So I broke down and got a cell phone. I had a tiny “anytime minutes” allotment and a ginormous nighttime minute allotment, so I made a lot of calls at 9:05 pm and I didn’t want to use it during the day. Also, the company I was working for had a byzantine phone use reimbursement policy that required advanced math and several spreadsheets to figure out. And a field person/company cell phone ratio of about 6:1. So I kept my cell phone a secret, for personal and emergency use.
I lasted for about a week before I discovered how convenient my cell phone was and started using it to contact fellow field crew members, and about 2 months before everyone in the company started calling it. Eventually, as I got put in charge of larger, long term field projects, I got ahold of a company phone and never really gave it up.
The real problem with personal field equipment is with the more delicate stuff. Like a laptop. I used to have a crappy old laptop that was fairly sturdy, but then it died spectacularly. I got a snazzy new laptop and then a big bout of fieldwork that needed one (lots of data logging). Luckily, I was able to borrow a more field-appropriate laptop (read: yank it from the person who wasn’t quite sure if they were done using it).
So I’ve been able to avoid using my more expensive and/or fragile personal electronics in the field, for the most part. But I have friends in consulting who have ended up using personal laptops, blackberries, and other expensive stuff for work almost exclusively, with no real payment. Hey, when I was in consulting I wasn’t working for some poverty-stricken nonprofit. If the company wants to use high-end electronics, it can find the money to pay for them.
Note: This is a long weekend for me - I'll be blogging somewhat erratically in the beginning of next week.