I began working offshore three years ago. Before my first hitch, I was pretty clueless as to what working offshore entailed. I was prepared to hop onto my first helicopter flight outfitted with my crisp, blindingly bright orange coveralls and shiny, green hardhat. Luckily, I mentioned my new wardrobe enthusiasm to a college buddy, who informed me that if I sported my new gear on the chopper, I’d most certainly look like a ‘dorky carrot‘ in a sea of normal street clothes. He instructed me to wear something comfortable and to make sure I donned long pants and closed toed shoes. I was then, and am still, grateful for that sound advice!
Since then I have flown to work on plenty of *hotshot choppers and feel rather confident that I have, not only a correct flight wardrobe, but also my packing checklist, down pat. I did go through some trial and error to get to this point so when my boss asked me to throw together a packing guide for some of our company’s new hires, I figured an offshore packing guideline might be a handy resource to have on the internet.
(*Hotshot: Hotshot drivers are freelance drivers for the land-based freight and oil and gas industry. These drivers transport goods for any company or carrier without signing an obligation agreement – CAD/US. In the US, the helicopters assigned to personnel transfer to the rigs are also incorporated under this term.)
Small disclaimer: I work in the Gulf of Mexico. Therefore, this offshore packing list is geared towards that working environment. However, a lot of the basics should be applicable across the globe. This guide is also a working list so, feel free to add comments below if you see something missing or have any questions. Have a safe hitch!
As a general rule of thumb, it is best to check with the local heliport as to the restrictions on items and baggage weight for their helicopters. Baggage weight allowances range from 25-35 lbs. per bag. It is typical that you are able to bring on two bags – one being your PPE/personal clothing/toiletries bag, and the other being your backpack that contains your electronics and laptops.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Hard hat with removable hearing protection
- Steel-toed boots
- Coveralls (2 sets)
- Safety glasses
- Impact gloves
- Toothpaste/Tooth brush
- Mouthwash (Must be sealed.)
- Hair brush
- Face Wash
- Contact Solution
- Nail Clipper/Nail File
- Shower Shoes
- Hair Ties/Rubber bands
- Feminine Hygiene products
- Prescription medicine (Ensure you have enough filled for a 4-week hitch.)*
*If you have a monthly prescription and explain your work situation to your doctor, most doctors can change your prescription, to up to 3 refills at once, which should cover a full hitch’s worth of medicine. This is typically covered by insurance so that you don’t get charged for having to fill the prescription early/prior to your hitch.
Most Rig Medics will have basic medicine easily available but sometimes it’s nice to have your own basics like Advil, Melatonin, and cough drops on hand.
It’s always a good idea to check with the heliport on which medicines you are able to take. For example, on the east coast of Canada, it is prohibited to bring Advil and Aleve offshore. Also, all medications need proof of the original prescription and must be in the original prescription bottle – no mixing pills!
- 4 T-shirts/Work Out Tops
- 4 Sports bras
- 4 Pairs of athletic pants/shorts (yoga pants)
- 4 Pairs of long cotton socks for your steel-toed boots
- 4 Pairs short socks for tennis shoes
- 5 Pairs of underwear/boxers
- 1 Light jacket/hoodie
It is hot, out there in the Gulf of Mexico. I recommend light-weight, loose clothing and/or athletic clothing to wear under your coveralls. Every rig I have ever been on has had a lightning-fast, complementary, 24/7 laundry service. If you drop your clothes off before bed you should have them back when you wake up.
Some rig galleys (lunch rooms) allow you to wear your coveralls in them as long as they are not super dirty or muddy. However, a few rigs do not and typically ban tank tops and shorts in the galley. I recommend that if you are going to a new rig either check beforehand and/or make sure you pack a pair of longer pants and a t-shirt or light jacket, just in case you need to change into them in the locker room before going to eat.
Shorts and tank tops are typically acceptable in the gyms. I would also pack a light jacket because the heliports and the even the accommodations can get chilly, as the A/C in accommodations and units on deck, is top-notch! Most rigs allow you to wear crocs in the accommodations. Crocs are wildly popular offshore- get excited, you will see all different kinds: Camouflage, football teams, bright orange, classic black, etc. If you can’t stomach wearing crocs, or your rig doesn’t allow them, then just wear your tennis shoes.
When you fly to/from the rig you will need to wear long pants and tennis shoes/boots. Almost everyone wears jeans, tennis shoes/boots, and a T-shirt. Again, I also recommend a light jacket or hoodie. You can wear jewelry/wedding rings on the flights in the U.S. but they are banned on most rigs so you may want to opt to leave them safely at home for your hitch. In Canada, all jewelry is banned from being worn both, at the heliports and offshore.
- Company Laptop and Charger
- Cell Phone and charger
- Converter – most rigs were built in geographical locations that need converters for the outlets to be able to use them with North American electronics.
- USB storage stick
As with most questions, check with your local heliport to inform yourself on the restrictions they may have in place for your electronics. Some helicopter contractors will not allow any cell phones, e-cigarettes or any other personal electronic device on board the chopper. Alternately, some of these electronic devices are not allowed in the cargo hold of the aircraft and must be kept on your person.
Lighters and matches are never allowed offshore!
Miscellaneous/ Optional Items
- Snacks/candy (Sharing, sparingly, is a good way to make fast friends!)
- Protein Powders
- Playing Cards
- Power Adapter
- External Hard-drive
- Water bottle/coffee cup
I recommend purchasing an external hard drive – 1 or 2 terabytes. Most of your co-workers will have ones with TV shows and movies, which you can watch during your down time. The internet isn’t strong enough for streaming, so having an external hard drive is nice. The rigs also have tons of food but some people like to bring candy or sunflower seeds as a snack. Also, check to make sure your rig has outlets that will work with your chargers- you may need an adapter or converter. Most rigs have packs of recyclable bottles of water, but some use jugs of water. Meaning, it might be nice to have a personal water bottle or coffee cup to fill up and cut down on waste.
I forgot something!
Depending on the rig, some installations will have ‘stores’. Not only for extra PPE and industrial items that you may need in the field to fix equipment (billed back to your employer), but also a store that you may be able to purchase extra shampoo, conditioner, cigarettes, candy bars, etc. Cash is always essential to bring! If not for these instances, but there is always a raffle, draw, poker/bingo game or someone in need of borrowing a couple bucks. These events will help to better acclimate you into offshore life and may help to expedite your face’s familiarity and friendliness towards the rest of your new crew.
Please feel free to leave your comments and additions to this working list. Are there any differences in the locales that you are working in? Drop us a line and help us make this the ultimate, master list!
Julie Taliaferro is a Senior Mudlogging Geologist in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2014, she graduated from Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama with a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology. Since then she has been working on deepwater and ultra-deepwater exploration and development projects. In her three years working offshore she has had the privilege of meeting many inspiring women. With Women Offshore she hopes to help foster a community which connects, encourages, and advances females in this field. She currently lives in Lafayette, Louisiana and her hobbies include traveling, cycling, and cooking.