This post runs through some of the research I’ve done on purchasing survey gear. I am being dragged kicking and screaming into the Century of the Fruitbat* and need to move on from my trusty notebook + camera + hand-held GPS methodology. Below are my preliminary thoughts on this subject as an interested amateur who knows it’s time to upgrade. Any feedback on your experiences with this or similar kit would be much appreciated.

Also- fieldwork flashback #findoftheday begins tomorrow!

Out of Cheese Error – Redo From Start. (Source:

Due to some “technical issues” with newer survey kit I had borrowed, I fell back to my old habits of using a Garmin GPS and my digital camera, with a pocket notebook to record my photo references, waypoint numbers and any notes.

I’ve used this method ever since my undergraduate days, as well as when I worked in commercial archaeology in NSW, but have long felt it was time to move on, due to the post-fieldwork processing time required.

Based on advice from the NNPA and the fine folks of BAJR, I’ve looked into the following software and hardware:


Desktop: QGIS. (I use this exclusively already with no complaints)

In the field: QField for navigation and Fieldtrip GB for data capture.

OS Requirements:  QField runs on Android 4.3 or above. Fieldtrip GB runs on recent versions of iOS (iOS 4.3 and above, on Apple iPhone 4 and 5, iPad 2 and 3) and Android (Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 and above).


As shown above, I’ll require a device which runs Android 4.3 and above. I was recommended the  Android NVIDIA Shield tablet for general field GIS display. It is not on the list of QField compatible devices and I’m a little concerned as forum users have defined it as an Android TV device, which has a reduced list of apps compared to normal Android devices.

The ACER Iconia A1-811 is on the list of supported devices; ACER products appear to be among the best of a bad bunch on the Ethical Consumer report for tablets**, so I will research further into other ACER devices which run at least Android 4.3 and take it from there.

I am interested in purchasing an external antenna to improve accuracy. I’m having trouble finding options for tablets and will need to research further.


As I already use QGIS exclusively I am keen to try out QField, their mobile app. It is still experimental and unable to capture data in the field, but is useful for navigating to your own defined areas of interest as created in QGIS.

Fieldtrip GB was recommended to me for field data capture. Using the Authoring Tool to create custom recording forms, which then can be downloaded by multiple participants for group fieldwork, sounds extremely useful for any volunteer projects I may run. (Almost all of the volunteers I have worked with have very up-to-date smart phones — much better than my old brick — so I may be able to avoid having to provide Android devices for fieldwork).

I am interested in road-testing open source GIS software so I can introduce it to students at Sheffield. Many local authorities are moving away from licenced GIS and specialised recording units for cost reasons and I think it’s important for students to be familiar with what’s available***.


Dear readers, I would love to hear your thoughts on hardware and software you have used for fieldwork data collection.

These are my preliminary thoughts and I will update with more news on my hardware selection in future posts.


* I’m even out of date on this one…. Apparently it’s now the Century of the Anchovy….

**Subscribe to Ethical Consumer and prepare to never want to buy anything new ever again… (I tend to limit technology purchases for ethical and environmental reasons, and buy second hand wherever possible, though sometimes it’s a frustrating process)

***ArcGIS is used at my university, but I have also got QGIS 2.10.1 installed on the managed desktop and planned a lesson introducing QGIS for the “GIS for Archaeologists” students last year. I hope to build on that session next semester and if possible incorporate a fieldwork session using QField and Fieldtrip GB.