Tuesday, July 10, 2018

A hoodie...just for birders?!

My Wunderbird Gyrfalcon hoodie - pockets for binoculars and field guides, and lovely padded shoulders to reduce strap burn 
What a poser
  I pride myself on being prepared for every birding trip. I check the weather forecast, and plan accordingly...layers, layers, layers! And let’s not talk about the pockets on my camera bag stuffed with an embarrassingly nerdy array of ‘just in case stuff’ — I’m looking at you, safety pins, Benadryl, rain poncho, mosquito hood, duct tape, band-aids, sun-block, and granola bars.
  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.

Click to visit Wunderbird's website