One way to always be ready for nature fun is to have a field bag packed and ready to go at a moments notice. Field bags are an easy to carry small bag packed with the things you like to use to document creative discoveries made while exploring your natural world.
The field bag can be backpack or tote style, but it should allow you to have your hands free, not restrict your movement, and it shouldn’t be too big because you don’t want to carry enough to weigh you down.
You could make your own like the one I give a pattern for in my book Wings, Worms, and Wonder, you could buy one, or if you have a small tote or backpack you could use that.
First, be sure that your nature or art journal fits in the field bag. This will probably be the largest item included. Then, choose a few drawing pens and pencils and place them in a pouch to keep in the bag. These will be used to draw and document discoveries and to write poems or thoughts about the nature being experienced. You can pack a small travel set of paints, but that may be a medium you choose to explore when the journaling session is more planned, as you will have to accommodate for water and what not.
Next, include a small ruler, tape measure, or both. This is great for documenting leaves or other discoveries that may want to be researched later. It is also good in case you want to make a straight line!
Keep a magnifying glass in your field bag. I recommend a decent quality glass. These will run you about $3-$5 at the hardware store or online; in nature catalogues they may be a little more pricey. Magnifying glasses are fun and awesome for seeing the world from a different point of view. Pretend you are an insect to spark inspiration! Magnifying glasses also are great for observing details on insects, flowers, and anything else discovered that you may want to journal about. It is fun to draw and collage macro style details out of context.
I like to include small viewfinder for looking at the world in a flattened way. These could be a square window cut from cardboard or I like to use old slide housings. They give the feeling of looking through a little window at the world. They also help you focus in on a scene or specific area by defining the viewing area and are really great for setting up compositions for drawing landscapes. For some reason they seem to flatten the scene like a photograph would and makes it easier to draw. You may also want to have a collection case or two in each bag. These could be little containers or simple plastic baggies for collecting leaves and seeds. When you get home you may want to add some seeds or leaves into your journal spread with glue. Keeping them in a case or baggie will protect them a bit and also keep them from getting lost in the depths of the field bag.
I also recommend considering carrying a few things like insect repellent, sunscreen, a small first aid kit, bee sting salve, tissues, and perhaps specific safety items like a snake bite kit and a cell phone. Not to scare you but we are following the motto “always prepared,” right?
If you are new to nature, journaling, or are nervous to unplug too much and want to bridge the nature/technology divide, you could bring a digital camera, a GPS, or use identification apps (like for bird songs for example). Remember though, the technology is a secondary means to nature connection, not the end itself. Use it as a bridge and then try your best to move away from it as quickly as possible and into connecting with your natural surroundings in a primary way.
Once your field bag is packed and ready, keep it handy to go at sight of first rainbow or when inspiration sparks! Smooth systems make nature journaling more enjoyable for beginners and experts alike, so set up a system that works for you, and your family, and get outside in every season with your journal as your guide. A world of beauty is out there waiting just for you!
We want to see pics of your nature art journaling field bags!! Share them on Instagram #wingswormsandwonder and tag @how2artjournal.
Find the simple pattern for making the (green) field bag in the picture in the book Wings, Worms, and Wonder. Get it here!
Not feeling crafty? I’ll make a field bag for you! I have a few available like the ones in the picture, or I can custom make them in your favorite colors! A stocked field bag for each member of the family would make an awesome gift that would be enjoyed all year!