We describe the development of a novel mobile field laboratory, purposely designed for the automated capture and subsequent stable isotopic analyses of multiple gas samples. The multiple capture system is integrated into a mobile laboratory that is fully capable of measuring the concentration of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide trace gases in a flow-through system connected to a gas chromatograph fitted with both electron capture and flame ionisation detectors. The capture of gases is achieved by routing samples through a series of 135 mL gas flasks that are sealed by micro-solenoid valves triggered by a timing system. Trace gas light stable isotope ratio mass spectrometry can then be carried out on gas samples collected by the system (NERC 15N Stable Isotope Facility). The excitingly unique potential of the system to the ecological research field is that it will allow the collection of cyclical data for three different trace gases both in real-time and in situ. We present data arising from the validation of this mobile system as well as a preliminary experimental assessment of this technique. This technique was used to measure δ13C in CO2 and CH4 in soil gases released from waterlogged cores and δ13C-CH4 values were significantly depleted in wet cores compared with dry ones (p < 0.001). Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.