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From Bags to Binoculars: Essential Gear for Better Birding

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The rare green-breasted mango

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The rare green-breasted mango

Before you set out to spot a green-breasted mango or an ivory-billed woodpecker, you need the right equipment.

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Adding bird sightings to your life list can be an exciting pursuit—unless you’re poorly outfitted. Sitting (or standing) quietly for hours in a variety of environments and weather conditions while you’re hungry and squinting through bad binoculars is a recipe for disaster and a turnoff for any hobby.

Get outdoors with the right gear, and you might be surprised how long your patience holds out, especially when it means spending more hours or traveling more miles to see that spectacular rare bird. Important elements—durability, breathability, wind resistance, warmth, and comfort—will make your birding Big Year much more pleasurable.

OtterBox Venture 25 Cooler
When you’re out in the field, having refreshment storage along is key. This durable cooler keeps your food fresh, and add-ons like a cutting board, cup holder, and dry storage tray make it optimal to include in your outdoor adventure. 

Buy Now: $230, otterbox.com

Filson Field Pack

This all-season field pack has the classic Filson look, but lightweight tear-resistant ballistic nylon makes it comfortable to carry around all day. While large enough to pack your essentials, it’s also stylish enough to bring along to the café later.

Buy Now: $95, moosejaw.com

La Sportiva Troposphere 2.0 Longsleeve
A great base layer means you have the flexibility of more time in the outdoors. With seamless construction, a body-mapped venting system, anti-odor treatment, and a comfortably cozy knit fabric, this shirt lets you stay warm and dry for hours.

Buy Now: $55, sportiva.com

ExOfficio Bugsaway Sandfly Pants 
Birds don’t always show up in the most welcoming environments, and these pants help keep the bugs away while you’re standing still. The cut provides airflow for warm days, and deep pockets help store gear you need to access quickly.

Buy Now: $80, exofficio.com
Arc’teryx Squamish Hoody
Light and compressible, this hooded windshell packs into its chest pocket when you don’t need it but provides effective shelter when the wind whips up. The breathable fabric lets moisture vapor easily escape, so you stay comfortable all day.

Buy Now: $159, arcteryx.com
Zeiss Conquest HD 10x42 Binoculars
The compact size and lightweight design of these binoculars make them easy to pack, and ergonomics ensure easy operation. The 345-foot field of view and HD-lens system gives sharp detail to help birders catch views without breaking the bank . . . too much.

Buy Now: $1,050, bhphotovideo.com

This article originally appeared online on November 1, 2017; it was updated on May 21, 2019, to include current information.

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