Swag Bag

Chance favors the prepared birder, and that means packing the right stuff. Much of the gear here comes in quieter hues to help you blend into the background and increase the odds of adding more birds to your list.

1. Pair Canon’s 7D Mark II fast-shooting camera ($1,799; canon.com) with Canon’s rugged, compact EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lens ($1,699; canon.com), and you’ve got a cutting-edge combo guaranteed to produce high-caliber images, whether you’re in a desert or rainforest.

2. Stay cool and comfortable all day, thanks to the generous brim and cotton-blend sweatband of the Tula Sierra palm hat ($35.99; tulahats.com).

3. With a weightless feel and the crisp, vivid colors delivered by ChromaPop technology, you might forget you’re wearing Smith’s
Audible sunglasses
($269; smithoptics.com).

4. Incredibly soft, wicking, quick-drying, and with button-tabs to roll up the sleeves—just a few reasons Woolrich’s Solitude Flannel Shirt ($79; woolrich.com) is a go-to layer. 

5. The Gitzo GT3532 tripod ($929.99; gitzo.com) provides an ideal mix of strength, thanks to its carbon-fiber construction, and ground-to-eye-level adjustability. Top it off with a Wimberley Head Version II ($595; tripodhead.com), whose gimbal design allows easy rotation for tracking birds. 

6. Mop your brow, signal for help, or get quick instruction on tying handy knots with
the eminently useful Survival bandana ($9; amazon.com).

7. Farm to Feet merino wool socks (starting at $18; farmtofeet.com) are just as comfy and durable as the competition but come in way cooler colors.

8. The Thermacell Mosquito Repellent Camp Lantern ($59.99 ; thermacell.com) does double duty, creating a 15-foot-by-15-foot skeeter-free zone and putting out 300 lumens.

9. The compact Swarovski ATX 25 spotting scope ($3,775; swarovskioptik.com), with a 65mm objective module combined with an angled view, provides outstanding optical performance that won’t weigh you down and offers endless opportunities for digiscopers.

10. Unmatched for comfort, warmth, and waterproofing, you won’t mind spending hours in the fleece-lined Muck Boot Pursuit Stealth ($204.95; muckbootcompany.com).

11. Fill Stanley’s 1.1-quart Classic Vacuum Bottle ($38; shopstanley-pmi.com) with hot coffee in the wee hours, and it’ll still be piping hot when you need that mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

12. Keep tabs on changing weather patterns with Oregon Scientific’s Wireless Weather
($49.99; oregonscientific.com).

13. Go invisible beneath the Kwik Camo Photography Blind ($119.95; outdoorphotogear.com); made from lightweight, breathable, 2.5-ounce polyester carbon, it’s big enough to cover a fully decked-out photographer, and zips open for easy binocular use.

14. The Grabber All Weather blanket ($15.47; grabberworld.com) weighs next to nothing but provides a toasty cover when the mercury dips.

15. The Langly Alpha Pro ($249; langly.co) might look retro, but the waterproofed canvas bag will hold all of your modern camera gear, including a 15-inch laptop, and the snap closures make for easy access.

16. Need to cross a stream or scree field? Pull out these collapsible, lightweight carbon-fiber Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork trekking poles ($159.95; blackdiamondequipment.com), grab hold of their comfy cork handles, and proceed with confidence.

17. The Vapur Eclipse ($11.99; vapur.us) is an anti-bottle; the pouch rolls up when empty, and comes with a handy carabineer.

18. If the birds are scarce, see if the fish will bite with the Tenkara Sawtooth fly rod package ($159; tenkararodco.com); the ultralight 12-foot rod collapses to the size of a baton and is capable of snagging an 18-inch-long fish.

19. AquaTech’s Sensory Gloves ($49.95; aquatech.net) are made for shooting in the cold. The tips of the thumb and index finger are covered in a thin layer of neoprene with a small hole, allowing the digits to poke through to manipulate equipment.

20. Small and durable, Field Notes notebooks ($9.95/3-pack; fieldnotesbrand.com) slip easily into your vest pocket. Bonus: The bright-orange cover ensures you’ll never forget it in the field.

21. Picking out birds on gray, flat days is no problem for Leica’s Ultravid HD-Plus 42 binoculars ($1,899; us.leica-camera.com), which boast a bright viewing image and excellent contrast.

22. Tackle tough terrain with confidence in Vasque’s Eriksson GTX boots ($219.99; vasque.com); made of 2.2mm waterproof leather, a GORE-TEX liner, and a Vibram Summit sole, these boots were made for walking.

23. The deceptively simple Survival Pod key fob from Bison Designs ($17; bisondesigns.com) contains a cord, knife, fire-starter, and duct tape in one tiny package.

24. With its numerous pockets, front and back double yokes for ventilation, and all-around durability, the Woolrich Wool Stag shirt ($139; woolrich.com) could become a favorite layer.

25. There’s nothing wrong with taking a little nip in the field. Stanley’s 8-ounce stainless steel flask ($25; stanley-pmi.com) is a satisfying vessel with a slim body and wide mouth for easy filling—and emptying.

26. H Is for Hawk ($26; groveatlantic.com) is experienced falconer Helen Macdonald’s riveting account of battling grief by training a Goshawk.

27. Made from 100 percent polyester micro-fiber yarn, the North Face Dipsea Cover-It ($22; thenorthface.com) is a light, versatile tube that can be worn as a neckband or headband. 

1. With a breathable shell that repels moisture and resists ripping, the Mountain Hardwear Plasmic Ion Printed Jacket ($140; mountainhardwear.com) is well suited for trailing after songbirds in the brush.

2. Pack a Sea to Summit Dry Lite Towel ($21.95; seatosummit.com) to quickly dry off your gear—and yourself.

3. A versatile camera with a solid magnesium body, Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-GH4 camera ($1,699.99; Panasonic.com) is a high-speed machine that produces detailed images and high-quality video.

4. Rain, sleet, or snow won’t prevent you from recording the ups and downs of your photo-graphic outings with the Rite in the Rain Journal Kit ($50.21; riteintherain.com); it has an 80-page notebook, pen, and zipper case.

5. A balance of style and sun protection, the Tilley women’s TOH1 Twill Bucket Hat ($76; tilley.com) is made from a blend of organic cotton and hemp, and rated UPF 50+.

6. Made from a soft polyester/spandex blend, with jersey paneling along the sides, mesh-lined back ventilation, and handy pockets, ExOfficio’s Camina Trek’r shirt ($60; exofficio.com) is built to breathe.

7. With full-density cushioning and exceptional wicking, Farm to Feet’s Asheboro Camping Hiker socks ($23; farmtofeet.com) will help stave off aching tootsies.

8. Tame the tangle of wires in your camera bag with Gardner Bender cable ties ($7.99/100; gardnerbender.com).

9. One of the finest spotting scopes out there, the Vortex Razor HD 16-48X65 ($1,599; vortex optics.com) features a triplet apochromatic lens system that provides bright, high-definition views even when you’re a long way from your quarry.

10. When you’re packing super light, pop a tiny-but-mighty Olloclip Telephoto + CPL lens ($99.99; olloclip.com) on your iPhone to snap shots with 2x optical magnification.

11. The ultimate heavy-duty camera bag, the waterproof Ape Case ACPRO4000 roller backpack ($319.99; apecase.com) has plenty of padding—both in the ample pockets and on the cushy straps and back—and serious wheels, delivering a smooth ride.

12. In his classic tale The Peregrine ($15.95; nybooks.com), J.A. Baker tracks the daily comings and goings of a pair of Peregrine Falcons in eastern England.

13. Vasque’s Lotic shoes ($99.99; vasque.com) were made for the life aquatic; a fast-drying upper that drains water quickly, and the Slickrock sole with Vibram’s tenacious Idrogrip rubber make these snug puppies virtually slip-proof.

14. Unparalleled in their price range, Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 binoculars ($299.95; Nikon.com) come with standard armored fogproof housing. This latest model is fitted with phase-corrected roof prisms that align incoming light wavelengths, delivering crisp edges and enhanced color fidelity.

15. No need to haul fuel with the BioLite KettlePot and CampStove ($49.95 and $129.95; biolitestove.com). Just gather some wood, and the stove creates a smokeless campfire to boil water, cook a meal, or generate 2 watts of electricity—enough to charge a smartphone.

16. The large Sea to Summit Dry Lite towel ($26.95; seatosummit.com) packs into a
book-sized mesh carrying case. 

17. When foul weather moves in, simply unstuff the Helly Hansen Loke jacket ($100; hellyhansen.com) from its built-in pocket pouch. The shell’s front storm flap keeps out wind and rain, and the side vents prevent overheating. 

1. The harshest environments are no match for AquaTech’s All Weather Shield ($99.95; aquatech.net). Made from three-ply ripstop waterproof breathable fabric, the cover protects camera gear without sacrificing shooting capabilities.

2. Nikon’s Monarch 5 10x42 binoculars ($329.95; nikonsportoptics.com) have the same great features as their rugged 8-power siblings, and they’re nearly a full ounce lighter than their predecessors.

3. The small but mighty Swiss Army Climber ($41.50; swissarmy.com) comes fully loaded: two blades, scissors, toothpick, and more.

4. Know your subject: The Peterson Field Guide to the Birds of North America ($26; houghtonmifflinbooks.com) has all the info you need.

5. Marmot’s Artemis jacket ($250; marmot.com) offers the mobility of a softshell, thanks to the 2.5-layer NanoPro MemBrain fabric, and a hardshell’s characteristic waterproofing.

6. Go ahead and abuse Woolrich’s Felt Outback hat ($49; woolrich.com)—the handsome water-repellent wool cap will pop right back into shape.

7. Balancing your camera on a lumpy log is a cinch—just plop it atop a beanbag.

8. Made from moisture-wicking polyester, Patagonia’s Capilene 1 silkweight crew ($39;
patagonia.com) will keep you cool and, with 50+ UPF, sunburn-free.

9. When the bugs are thick, a Sea to Summit Mosquito Head Net ($9.95; seatosummit.com) offers a soft, comfortable shield.

10. The MSR Windboiler Stove System ($129.95; cascadedesigns.com) is an ideal companion for light travelers. Its radiant burner and windproof design mean you can boil coffee water and get your caffeine fix fast, no matter the weather.

11. Sheets of rain and 60 mph winds pose no problem for the aerodynamic Senz 6 Automatic umbrella ($79.95; us.senzumbrellas.com).

12. With numerous straps and accessories, the LowePro Rover 45L backpack ($329.95; lowepro.com) can carry a heavy load. And the sturdy-yet-comfy design ensures that no matter the terrain or weight load, your pack and gear will stay comfortably and firmly attached.

13. Stash a Coleman Emergency Poncho ($2.99; coleman.com) in your bag, and you’ll never have to worry about that surprise storm.

14. Forget filling up before you leave home: the LifeStraw Go bottle ($34.95; lifestraw.com) contains a built-in filter that traps 99 percent of waterborne bacteria and protozoan pathogens, meeting U.S. EPA drinking water standards.

15. Thermacell’s Heated Insoles Foot Warmer's ($134.99; thermacell.com) rechargeable insoles, operated by a wireless remote, have two settings, and one charge lasts up to five hours.

16. Organize cords. Store extra memory cards. Keep accessories dry and separate. The Ziploc Slider Freezer Bag may just be the world’s most versatile field accessory.

17. The ergonomically shaped insole of the Helly Hansen Fryatt Low HT shoe ($120; hellyhansen.com) is remarkably supportive, and the toe and heel caps provide extra protection on uneven terrain.

18. The merino wool in Icebreaker’s Aero Short Sleeve Crewe ($64.99; icebreaker.com) means you’ll stay dry, fresh, and chafe-free.

19. Farm to Feet Portland merino wool socks ($20; farmtofeet.com).

20. The small Sea to Summit Dry Lite Towel ($16.95; seatosummit.com) tucks easily into your pack, and the silver antibacterial treatment stops bacteria and other microbial life in their tracks.

21. The Therm-a-Rest Treo chair’s ($99.95; cascadedesigns.com) cushy, compact seat unfolds to sit 13 inches high, and the tripod base with rubber caps is stable on sand and slick rocks alike.

22. A disposable shower cap makes for cheap, easy protection for your gear.

23. For a handy alternative to disposable warmers, simply charge Thermacell’s hand and pocket warmers ($69.99-$79.99; thermacell.com), and they’ll warm up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit for five hours.

24. Sleeker than the traditional model but just as durable, Nalgene’s On the Fly bottle ($12.99; nalgene.com) is BPA-free, won’t leak, and the flip-top opens with one hand. 


1. Eddie Bauer’s MicroTherm StormDown jacket ($199; eddiebauer.com) will keep you toasty with super high-loft 800 fill and Down-Tek moisture resistance, and the fleece-lined shoulders mean you don’t have to sacrifice mobility for warmth.

2. The 100 percent polyester Kavu Siri scarf ($20; kavu.com) wraps around your neck for warmth or sun protection—and looks sharp to boot.

3. You won’t be groping for Mizu’s 27-ounce M8 Fully GITD Bottle ($21.95; mizulife.com) in the pre-dawn blackness—this stainless steel beauty glows.

4. Farm to Feet merino wool socks (starting at $18; farmtofeet.com).

5. When you’re muddy or sweaty, reach for the aloe vera-enriched, compostable Sea to Summit Wilderness wipes ($3.95; seatosummit.com).

6. The Thing With Feathers, by birder, naturalist, and Audubon contributor Noah Strycker, is a funny, enlightening journey into the lives of birds.

7. Packed with protein and fiber, Clif Bars will refuel you while you wait in your bird blind.

8. Wild ($15.95; randomhouse.com) is Cheryl Strayed’s account of her solo, three-month, 1,100-mile hike through California and the Pacific Northwest.  

9. Patagonia’s Vented Spoonbill cap ($45; patagonia.com) has you covered with a long brim, extended back flap, and glare-cutting underside.

10. Patagonia’s Capilene 1 Silkweight Tank Top ($29; patagonia.com) is a workhorse that will keep you cool, dry, and chafe-free all day long.

11. When you’re reluctant to leave the field, a Lara Bar will tide you over. Fruit, nuts, and little else is used to make these tasty, high-energy snacks (each has a max of nine ingredients).

12. There’s a reason Petzl’s Tikka headlamp ($29.95; petzl.com) is a classic: an 80-lumen beam that extends 150 feet, and leaves your hands free.

13. Crazy Creek’s Hex 2.0 Original Chair’s ($51.50; crazycreek.com) hardy 210D coated ripstop nylon seat provides a barrier to mud and sand—and easily converts to a flat mat.

14. The pros always pack a jump drive and plenty of memory cards for transferring images.

15. Rite in the Rain’s 32-page Birder’s Journal ($7.95; riteintherain.com) is the perfect place for sketches and notes inspired by a day in the wild.

16. The MagLite Mag-Tac LED flashlight ($99.99; maglite.com) is a slim, attractive beast that throws 310 lumens up to 600 feet.

17. Sea to Summit Dry Lite towel ($26.95; seatosummit.com).

18. Smith’s Marvine sunglasses ($119; smith
) are stylish and tough, thanks to their impact-resistant Carbonic TLT lenses.

19. Never misplace your binos again, with Maven’s customizable 8x42s (starting at $900; mavenbuilt.com). Choosing your own color is just one perk—these bins also have serious, high-performance components.

20. The Leatherman Wingman ($39.85; leatherman.com) is a pocket-sized stainless steel tool with spring-action jaws—and a 25-year warranty.

21. Scarpa’s Zen Pro shoe ($169; scarpa.com) has the feel of a running shoe, but the EVA midsole and Spyder 2 sole can take on steep, rocky terrain.

22. You don’t need a professional DSLR camera to take memorable bird photos. The Sony Cyber-shot Digital Camera RX100 III ($799.99; sony.com), a pocket-sized shooter, offers both impressive low-light performance and fast autofocus.

23. Kingbird Highway ($14.95; hmhco.com), by renowned birder and Audubon field editor Kenn Kaufman, chronicles his Big Year, when, as a 16-year-old, he crisscrossed the country.

24. The Lifeline Trail Light Dayhiker First Aid Kit ($8.99; lifelinefirstaid.com) is just 3.7 ounces but has enough bandages, ointment, and more for three.

25. All Terrain’s DEET-free Herbal Armor Insect Repellent ($8.99; allterrainco.com) repels bloodsuckers with sweat-resistant citronella, peppermint, cedar, lemongrass, and geranium oils.

26. The fully loaded Nikon D4 camera ($5,999.95, nikonusa.com) rattles off 10 frames a second, features a bright optical viewfinder, and has impressive video capability. Tamron’s top-notch150-600mm f/5-6.3 lens ($1,069; tamron-usa.com) is quiet, and won’t startle the birds.

27. Icebreaker’s Tech Lite Short Sleeve Crewe Tropical Canopy T-shirt ($79.99; icebreaker.com) is soft, breathable, and naturally odor-resistant.