Birdwatching in the backcountry can be a unique and enthralling experience that allows you to see species you don't get to enjoy at home and in more settled areas. Sitting alone in nature and watching birds flit about also helps you feel connected to the earth and its creatures. But your birdwatching experience can quickly turn from enjoyable to frustrating if you do not have the right gear.
Along with comfortable, breathable hiking clothes, here are a few essential supplies to bring on your backcountry birdwatching adventure.
With the weeds and brush often found in backcountry areas, you won't always be able to get close to the birds you spot. A good pair of binoculars will allow you to see the birds more clearly without risking injury on dangerous terrain.
Most birdwatchers prefer 8x magnification over 10x because 8x gives you a wider, brighter image. Binoculars with adjustable eye cups also tend to be the most comfortable. Make sure you also purchase a neck strap so you do not have to hold onto the binoculars when climbing on uneven terrain.
If the temperature ends up being cooler than you expected, a balaclava can keep you warm without adding too much bulk to your pack. You lose a lot of heat through your head and face, so adding just this one item when you start to feel chilly can help keep your body temperature up. You can pull the balaclava — or ski mask — over your chin, over your mouth and chin, or even just over your head depending on how much heat assistance you need.
Never enter the backcountry for any purpose without a good knife. You may need it to cut through weeds that get tangled around your boot, cut a bandage to treat an injury, or, in the worst-case scenario, defend yourself. For most backcountry birdwatchers, a knife with a three to four-inch blade is sufficient. Look for a thick, stainless steel blade with some weight to it, and you won't have to sharpen it very often.
Sturdy Hiking Shoes
The hiking shoes or boots that you wear on casual wooded trails may not be sufficient for birdwatching in the backcountry. Due to the uneven, ungroomed terrain and boggy areas, you will need tall boots. Those sold as 10-inch boots are often a good choice; they keep your ankles and feet dry should you encounter a marsh or large puddle.
Try boots on before you buy them, and wear them around town a few times to break them in before your birdwatching trip. New boots can cause blisters when they're not broken in, and a painful blister can turn your birdwatching trip into a nightmare.
Pack two or three pairs of extra socks in case you do step into a marsh and get your feet wet. Hiking and standing for hours in wet socks can lead to blisters and infection. Wool socks are a good choice because they breathe well and keep moisture away from your feet. Choose socks that come up over your ankles for better protection.
A Field Guide
You may normally rely on your phone for bird identification purposes, but in the backcountry, you may not always have service. Look for a field guide appropriate to the region you will be exploring. Find one with a layout that is easy for you to navigate, and make sure it is compact enough to fit into your pack without taking up too much space.
If you bring the items above along with you on your backcountry birdwatching adventure, you're sure to have a fun, safe time. Contact Bargain Center if you're in the market for a pair of binoculars, backcountry boots, a knife, or other gear.