Collecting trips undertaken by the author, particularly to Ethiopia in the 1960s and 1970s, offer insights into the practical issues that confronted earlier collectors. Biological collecting has evolved in response to changing motives for collecting, better forms of transport and increasing bureaucratic restrictions. Zoological collectors of previous centuries focused on establishing inventories of what species were found where. Collectors in the field were preoccupied with the logistics of trapping and transport, and with their own health and survival. During the twentieth century these worries progressively diminished, but fieldwork became increasingly constrained by a developing desire to conserve the world’s remaining wildlife and a suspicion that collectors might in some way be benefiting themselves at the expense of the countries in which they collected. The author’s experience came at a time when a long tradition of collecting (of vertebrates at least) was coming to an end. Today’s research questions are of a different nature, requiring a different approach, and collectors benefit from far superior resources.