|My Wunderbird Gyrfalcon hoodie - pockets for binoculars and field guides, and lovely padded shoulders to reduce strap burn|
|What a poser|
To prevent myself from stumbling around in an early morning panic, I’ve been known to prepare my gear and clothes the night before a birding session, to the point of laying out a flat version of my tomorrow self out on the ground. My favourite birding clothes have become admittedly threadbare, and are also admittedly rumpled-frumpy, and cause folks to give me the side-eye on the subway.
Where have I historically purchased my birding gear? Korean markets, a going-out-of-business sale at an outdoors store in England, and my go-to, army surplus stores. I was obsessed with finding the perfect boonie hat for close to a year, and my pair of fire-proof fighter-pilot gloves is just great, but they do make folks nervous, I think, especially when I wear them in the summer. They prevent bug bites, and the birds can’t see my hands when I wear them, honestly.
A thought has often fluttered through my mind over the years: “Why is no one making clothes...JUST for birders? Like a thoughtful, from-the-ground-up process — something more profound than the “Tilley hat and a tan vest with pockets for your field guide and notebook” approach. Not that there’s anything wrong with the classics, but I’ve felt for years that birders are a far under-represented target group when it comes to affairs that stray from the realms of optics and field guides.
So consider my mind blown when I came across a post online about a line of shirts from a company called Wunderbird that was designed by birders, for birders (with stuff for men and women). The first thing I noticed was that...am I seeing things...a top pocket for binoculars? Within several seconds I went from thinking it was lame, to realizing that it was not only actually pretty cool, but a great idea. I had to have it. Lucky then that they sent me one to review, eh?
When I got my Wunderbird Gyrfalcon hoodie (comes in my favourite shade of olive drab, ha ha), I found that the bino-pocket does in fact help reduce the “birder neck” involved with lugging the optics around for hours. After taking it for an early-morning test drive the other day (on an anomalous 12°C morning in the midst of a heat wave) I also realized that there were other clever features designed with the birder in mind. The shoulders have integral shoulder padding, to make those hours of scope-lugging more bearable. While I (still...and proudly) don’t have a scope, I found that the strap burn I normally get from three sets of straps digging into my shoulders was noticeably reduced. Hey, this crazy thing actually works?
I’m also a fan of the hand-warming pockets, which are found under the kangaroo-style stuff pouch. That pouch is perfect for hurling objects into in hurry...for those occasions when a bird decides to wait until you’ve pulled out your water bottle or field guide to flash past, and you end up trying to swing your binoculars around with a field guide dangling from between your palm and thumb-tip.
Apparently the hoodie has a mosquito-repellent coating too! The only useful feature it seems to lack is a sono-scrambler that will swiftly and mercilessly destroy the phones of birders caught using excessive playback. Ha ha.
Wunderbird also does some other shirts and accessories for birders. I hope they stick around, because I’m curious to see what they come up with next. I wouldn’t normally gush about a product like this, but I feel like I can make an exception for a small start-up run by birders, passionate about making stuff for fellow birders.
To cap off my initial ramblings, Unlike most of my birding gear, the hoodie looks “normal” enough that I didn’t get stared at on the subway like I was some tuna-hoarding, cottage-raiding hermit. Phew, finally. Well, maybe folks will still stare at my creepy fire-proof fighter pilot gloves, but that can’t be helped. Ugh, I feel about as pale and tired as I look in those pictures.