Optics & Tech
Some of our favorite options for every budget. They’re all waterproof and fogproof and have the key attributes birders look for in bins: good clarity, brightness, color rendition, close-focus capacity, and ease of focus.
Nikon Prostaff P7 8x42 ($160). Specs: 20.8 oz; 9.8 ft close focus; 20.2mm eye relief; 377 ft/1,000 yds field of view (FOV).
Vortex Diamondback 8x42 ($290). Specs: 21.8 oz; 5 ft close focus; 17mm eye relief; 393 ft/1,000 yds FOV
Vortex Viper HD 8x42 ($640). Specs: 24.2 oz; 6 ft close focus; 18mm eye relief; 409 ft/1000 yds FOV
Maven B1.2 8x42 ($950). Specs: 26.8 oz.; 4.9 ft close focus; 18.1mm eye relief; 420 ft/1000 yds FOV
Zeiss SFL 8x40 ($1,800) Specs: 22.6 oz; 4.9 ft close focus; 18mm eye relief; 420 ft/1000 yds FOV
Swarovski EL 8.5x42 ($2,410) Specs: 29.5 oz; 10.8 ft close focus; 20mm eye relief; 399 ft/1000 yds FOV
Canon EOS R5 Mirrorless Camera
Whether you’re a pro or a serious amateur photographer or videographer, the EOS R5 has a lot to like, delivering superb image quality and quality video capture with its 45 Megapixel full-frame sensor. Its ergonomic body design and Vari-Angle Touchscreen LCD are a boon for those out shooting birds, in sometime awkward positions, for long stretches. Wildlife photographers will also appreciate the remarkable "Animal Eye" autofocus lock. Several former Audubon Photography Award winners and honorable mention awardees raved about R5 when asked, for our Summer 2021 issue, about a recent purchase they’d made that they’d recommend to a friend. “An arguably game-changing autofocus system,” said one. “The autofocus system, resolution and low light capabilities for bird photography are outstanding,” said another.
Sony Alpha a6400 Mirrorless Digital Camera with 55-210mm Lens and Accessories Kit
A great entry point camera for photo and video creators. With its 4k resolution this camera has impressive image quality and excellent noise reduction in low light; it also boasts good battery life, and its compact body is quiet when shooting. The accessories kit includes a Sony zoom lens ideal for bird photography and video; add a 16-50mm lens for versatile wider shots and vlogging.
Nikon Lens Pen
A key rule for caring for binoculars, scopes, and cameras: Never clean the glass components with anything abrasive. (We’re looking at you, cotton T-shirt.) Compact, affordable, and useful as can be, this tool for cleaning lenses is a perfect stocking-stuffer for any birder. The retractable brush on one end sweeps away dirt and debris, while the chamois cleaning tip on the other end removes fingerprints and smudges for an unblemished view.
Nimble CHAMP Portable Charger
Don’t risk a dead phone while out in the field. Pack a portable charger to keep your device’s battery juiced all day, allowing you to search bird apps and snap photos with abandon. The Champ is the size of a pack of cards and charges two devices at once.
Jackery Explorer 240 Portable Power Station
If you’re looking to step up your portable power game, the Explorer is an excellent option. With a nimble handle for easy carrying and simple push-button operations, keep your electronics—and those of your friends’—humming in the field. To charge, plug into a wall outlet or a car charger, or secure energy from the sun with a Jackery SolarSaga 60W solar panel (sold separately).
Moment Macro 10x Lens
See nature anew simply by attaching this macro lens to your smartphone. Just position the device near your subject—as close as an inch or less!—to get a detailed, mesmerizing look at plants and insects that birds depend on. Need convincing? Check out this engrossing video about pollinators by Emily Graslie, an award-winning science communicator and video host/producer. Compatible with the latest Apple, Google, Samsung, and OnePlus devices.
AllTrails Pro Subscription
Get off the beaten track to see birds—and then use this app to stay on route. With an AllTrails account, the powerful app offers a searchable database of hundreds of thousands of outdoor hiking, biking, and walking paths, complete with user photos, ratings, tips, and reviews, as well as the ability to filter by a variety of criteria, use GPS to track your hike as you go, and create lists of favorite trails. All of that is free, but the bonus features that come with the annual ad-free subscription are worth it: You can download maps for offline viewing, search for trails by distance from your location, remove ads, and even receive notifications on your phone when you veer off course on a hike.
$36 for one year; alltrails.com
Cotopaxi Luzon 24L Backpack
With more than 20 bright color combinations to choose from, this bag is a crowd pleaser. The lightweight body, made from repurposed nylon fabric, and mesh shoulder straps make for a comfy carry. Two exterior pockets, a zippered compartment, and a roomy main cavity provide plenty of space to transport binoculars, a camera, a water bottle, a layer, and snacks. This pack is made in the Philippines at a factory committed to fair labor and environmentally sound practices.
Eagle Creek Migrate Duffel
This is a sustainable traveler’s dream bag. Made with 100% recycled materials, the wide zipper opening makes it easy to pack and find stuff mid-journey, and the convertible backpack straps add versatility. Sizes: 40L, 60L, 90L, 110L duffels, and a 130L wheeled version.
$99 and up; eaglecreek.com
Urban Native "You Are On Native Land" Dad Cap
This cool cap conveys a powerful message. Remind yourself and everyone you encounter that you’re standing on Indigenous land with this hat by Indigenous-owned Urban Native. Available in several colors, the hats also have a hummingbird patch that pays homage to the creation story of the Ohlone, the people on whose land the brand was started. The cap is made with 100% organic cotton and toxic-free dyes and has an adjustable strap. One size fits all.
Rumpl Original Blanket
It's like a sleeping bag or puffy jacket—but in outdoor blanket form. Keep it handy to wrap around you during an adventure in a blind or to toast up in the car after an outing. The hollow-fiber synthetic insulation, made of 100% post-consumer recycled materials, provides warmth while the weather-resistant coating repels water and protects you from the elements. With dozens of patterns to choose from, there’s a perfect fit for everyone on your list.
Stanley Classic Legendary Thermos
Hot coffee or tea never taste better than they do outside after a bit of a walk. That goes double in winter. Stanley has been at it for a long time and knows how to keep hot liquids hot and cold liquids cold with vacuum insulation. It also make sa bottle that’s leakproof, sweatproof, and practically indestructible—while looking dang good. This 1.5-quart thermos with a collapsible handle and an insulated lid that doubles as a cup is a classic for a reason.
LifeStraw Peak Series Collapsible Squeeze 1L Bottle with Filter Squeeze
A water bottle is a must-have item on any outing, and this one is our new go-to. Collapsible yet durable, the versatile design lets you drink stream water with complete confidence. Simply fill up the BPA-free soft bottle and squeeze: Water passes through a microfilter that meets federal drinking water standards for the removal of bacteria and parasites, then directly into your mouth.
Dometic GO Hydration Water Faucet
The luxury outdoor item you never knew you needed. This rechargeable faucet produces running water with a simple tap, and includes a clever light on the underside that turns on when it’s operating. Just insert the hose into the opening of a traditional jerry can (or purchase Dometic’s custom jug) and get about a liter of water in a minute. The faucet has comes with a puck for faucet placement and a magnetic base for that sticks like glue to metal surfaces.
Amok Draumr 5.0 Hammock
This hammock includes a bug net to keep you at ease in the backcountry and packs small in a stuff sack. (Sleeping pad sold separately.) It can also be adjusted to a seated position—Amok calls this “beer mode,” but that’s your call—so you can watch birds or the sunset in comfort.
Thermacell Rechargeable Adventure EX-Series
Mosquitoes? What mosquitoes? This gadget has an amazing ability to ward off the pests (within a 20-foot zone) that can turn a fun outing into a nightmare. Small enough to slip into a daypack and still fit your usual supplies, the repeller runs for up to nine hours before it needs a recharge, and comes with one 12-hour refill repellent cartridge.
Snow and ice pose no obstacle thanks to these light, easily donned cleats. The ultra-tough tungsten carbide spikes are small but mighty and have superior grip, providing the sure footing to those who want to keep their eyes up for spotting birds, not focused on the ground.
Wazzie Wool Jacquard Mock Neck Long Sleeve Top
With a high mock turtleneck, extra-long sleeves, and insulating-yet-breathable merino wool—plus a gorgeous avian print—this layer will keep you out chasing birds when temps dip.
Patagonia Long-Sleeved Self-Guided Hike Shirt
This field shirt looks like a normal button-down shirt but protects you from the sun (SPF 50), dries quickly, and stuffs small to stash in a day pack. Unlike its counterparts, it doesn’t have straps and buttons that often seem to be more “outdoorsy” aesthetic than functional. Plus, it's made of recycled polyester. Available in men’s and women’s versions.
Let’s Go Birding Together Sweatshirt
Get cozy this winter while supporting Audubon employees who are championing an inclusive, diverse, and equitable bird conservation movement. The proceeds from this playful, sponge fleece sweatshirt benefit Audubon’s internal affinity groups that bring together and support people of color, people who identify as LGBTQIA++ and women, people with disabilities, and others.
L.L. Bean Men's Signature 1933 Chamois Cloth Shirt, Slim Fit
Our reviewer has two of these shirts already—one slim fit, one traditional—and hopes Santa will bring him a third this Christmas. Made from thick, 100 percent cotton flannel, it’s durable, soft, and warm enough to provide a versatile layer for the colder months. More styles available.
Jungmaven Thermal Mountain Henley
This update on a classic Henley will keep you warm on its own when you’re lounging inside planning your next outing, or seamlessly layer under your favorite shirt (ahem, see above) or sweater when you head out the door. The blend of hemp and organic cotton breaths well, looks great, and should last several seasons.
Bird Collective T-shirt
Founded in 2019, the Brooklyn-based company Bird Collective partners with bird conservation projects and groups to design enticing, fun birdy apparel, while donating “at least 20 percent” of its profits to organizations such as Alabama Audubon, Hawkwatch International, and the Yurok Tribe. Their well-made adult and kids T-shirts feature a field guide’s worth of avian diversity, such as tie-dye Cactus Wren and Anna’s Hummingbird, woodpeckers galore, and a proud Greater Sage-Grouse. Pick your favorite bird design or cause, and gift away.
Starting at $35; birdcollective.com
Duckworth Vapor Tee
For those who swear by merino wool, meet what may be the last T-shirt you ever buy. It’s the longest-lasting merino top our reviewer has ever had—her first one is still going strong after five years of weekly wears and continues to have the wicking power and odor-resistance that makes merino so popular. What more, the material and products are 100% Montana-grown and American-made. Men’s and women’s versions available.
Ortovox 185 Rock'’N’Wool Long Pants
If you want insulating bottoms that provide warmth but won’t hold you back, look no further. Men’s and women’s versions available, and they also come in a three-quarter length. The product has other benefits, too: It’s climate neutral, was manufactured under fair working conditions, and meets a responsible wool standard.
Prana Halle Jogger II
Go from traveling to birding in a (fashionable) instant with these stretchy and durable recycled nylon fabric pants. The six deep pockets are perfect for carrying your phone, a pair of gloves, a small notebook, and plenty of snacks.
Outerwear & Footwear
ExOfficio BugsAway Lumen Hoody
This featherweight layer doesn't just provide breezy protection from the sun, it also stops mosquitoes, black flies, and other bothersome bugs that have their pesky designs on you. Don’t worry fellas—there’s a style for you, too.