If you want to pick up birding as a hobby, you should know that you need some pieces of bird watching equipment to make the whole experience as comfortable as possible and also assist you in your bird identification goals.
But what should you get? Are a pocket bird guide and a pair of bird watching binoculars for beginners enough? For more info, check out the essential equipment list that we’ve showcased in today’s article.
Table of content
Essential bird watching equipment
1. Bird watching binoculars for beginners
You can’t go bird watching without a pair of binoculars and the best binocular harness for birding you can get.
Both of these can save you a lot of time and effort, and using the best birding tripod can make the experience even better, especially while analyzing the nesting behavior of some species.
10×42 binos are the best as they come with the appropriate objective lens diameter and magnification, but your hands have to be steady.
Otherwise, the images you’ll look at will be shaky. An example of a good pair of binoculars is the Vortex Optics Diamondback 10×42 Roof Prism bino, which boasts multi-coated optics for crystal clear images but also waterproof and fog proof protection. This means that you can use it no matter the weather.
2. Birding field guide
Bird watching field guides allow you to distinguish between the many species that exist in specific regions.
A bird watching guide usually includes species maps, field marks, as well as information related to bird migration.
If you’re a rookie when it comes to birding, you don’t know how to make the difference between one species and the next, especially when you’re out in the wild.
In some remote areas, you might not even have cell reception, so using the Internet for research is not an option.
National Geographic’s Field Guide to the Birds of North America certainly seems to be the best birding field guide for people residing in Canada and the United States as it includes all the info you need from migration areas and range maps to new species drawings and field-mark labels.
3. Birding notebook
While there are plenty of birding magazines that might include a birding notebook, getting an individual one can save you a lot of trouble.
Notebooks are used by birders as they have to write down when and where they see a bird so that they learn its routine.
Notebooks can also be helpful when it comes to the nesting habits of certain species.
Sometimes, you might forget what you’ve seen out in the wild by the time you get back home.
The Indestructible Field Book by Elan Publishing certainly seems like a decent option as it’s tearproof and waterproof, so it’ll be of service even in inclement weather.
Moreover, its pages are made of synthetic paper and the pocket size makes it easy to carry.
4. Essential birding apps
Not just the physical birder stuff matters when it comes to telling the difference between one bird and the other.
There are a variety of ornithology tools that exist today, and many of them are digital, such as the apps that you can download on your phone.
Birding apps can assist you in learning bird songs and sounds, so that you know when a species you’re fond of is nearby.
They can also show you pictures of species that exist in your area and describe them accurately.
For instance, the Larkwire Learn Bird Songs combines education with fun to teach you a variety of bird songs and sounds.
As for bird identification, we found the iBird Pro Guide to Birds to be one of the most useful apps as it comes with a photo recognizer.
5. Birding hat
A bird watching hat can always come in handy, especially when the sun is shining brightly in the sky.
But in some cases, if it’s made of the right materials, a hat can protect an amateur or professional bird watcher from the elements.
Besides, most birding hats are made of breathable materials nowadays, which means that you aren’t going to get sweaty while trying to identify one bird species or another.
It’s paramount for you to remain comfortable throughout your birding session; otherwise, you’ll cut it short too soon.
As an example of a good birding hat, we recommend the Ordenado Waterproof Sun Hat as it comes with UV protection, it’s adjustable and foldable, and it also comes with mesh on the inside to keep you cool.
6. Birding vest with big pockets
As you will improve your birding skills, you’ll notice that you’ll tend to use a variety of gadgets and items for bird identification.
All of them can be conveniently kept and carried in a bird watching vest.
In a birding vest, big pockets matter the most as if they are sizable enough, you’ll even be able to use them to store larger things, such as your binos or your monocular.
The design of a birding vest is similar for both genders, but those marketed for ladies, such as the AFKOXKI Women Sleeveless Lightweight Vest, are chic and feminine, although they’re also winners in terms of functionality.
The Flygo Zhusheng Men’s Outdoor Utility Vest is even better as its camo design enables birders to blend in the environment so as not to scare off the birds.
7. Birding field bag
If you want to use several different gadgets, a notebook, and a variety of other items for the task of bird watching, you need a good-quality birding backpack or a birding field bag.
Birding bags will make it easier for you to carry your gear without putting too much strain on your body.
Ideally, the bag or backpack should be weatherproof so that your sensitive devices, such as your binos, are always protected from the elements.
The Osprey Sirrus 24 Women’s Hiking Backpack is a good option as it comes with padded, comfortable straps, a ventilated back panel, as well as an internal hydration sleeve.
A similar model for men, the Osprey Talon 22, even has an adjustable shoulder harness for a perfect fit.
8. Waterproof hiking boots
When it comes to birdwatching clothing, your footwear is essential.
If your feet are going to be cold or wet, the entire experience will turn sour and you might even risk getting a cold.
Naturally, your equipment for birding matters a lot, but so does what you wear, since bird watching usually takes place outdoors.
Ideally, the boots should have a lightweight and durable midsole and they should boast excellent cushioning so that your feet feel comfortable.
The Columbia Women’s Newton Ridge Plus Boot, for instance, is waterproof, so it can keep your feet dry even when the weather is bad.
It also features a traction rubber sole, so you aren’t going to slip and get hurt. The Newton Ridge Plus II by the same brand is designed for men and is equally as good.
9. Merino wool hiking socks
Another piece of birding apparel that you should consider investing in are socks made of Merino wool.
This type of wool is different from other materials as it keeps your feet warm and cozy, but at the same time, it doesn’t make them sweaty.
If you intend to do your birding in areas where the weather is cold and you’ve jotted down species like the Evening Grosbeak, the Snowy Owl, or the Northern Goshawk on your bird watching list, getting good socks and good boots should be a priority.
The Darn Tough Women’s Midweight Sock and the Darn Tough Men’s Boot Cushion Sock are two good choices as they’re made of breathable fabrics and are very comfortable, especially since they have a seamless design.
10. Quick dry hiking pants
Among the birding clothes, you might have to consider pants that can dry fast, so that they don’t let you be cold and wet for too long.
They should be an important part of your bird watcher supply, especially if you live in the North or tend to do your birding in bad weather.
Besides getting dry fast, this type of pants is lightweight and comfortable, and it often feels like a second skin.
Take Dafangea’s Women’s Hiking Pants, for example, which are both quick-drying and water-repellent at the same time.
Another pair of decent pants for birders are CQR’s Men’s Tactical Pants, which are also water-repellent, lightweight, and made of heavy-duty materials, all at the same time.
The extra pockets come in handy for a variety of birding gadgets.
11. Quick dry base layer
No bird watching accessories are more useful than a quick-dry base layer that can allow you to feel comfortable and warm without running the risk of getting cold due to being sweaty.
With a good-quality one, you’ll be able to carry your bird watching gear and rest assured that once you reach your location, you aren’t going to remain wet in the cold.
Under Armour’s Women’s Coldgear Compression Mock makes a good contender for the title of the best quick-dry base layer as it’s breathable, comfortable, and keeps you warm.
The same can be said for Under Armour’s Men’s Packaged Base 3.0 Crew Neck T-Shirt, which is made out of sweat-wicking material and dries in a record amount of time.
12. Waterproof jacket
It definitely wouldn’t hurt if you also had a waterproof jacket with you so that you can protect yourself from the elements.
However, it needs to be breathable, at the same time, and also lightweight, so that it doesn’t hang heavy on your body and make you uncomfortable.
For ladies, we found the Columbia Women’s Alpine Action Omni-Heat Jacket to be one of the most appropriate ones, as it’s fully capable of keeping you warm when you need it the most.
You can store some of your basic equipment in its handy pockets.
The Outdoor Research Men’s Helium II Jacket seems to be a decent option for male birders as it’s waterproof and windproof, breathable, and remarkably lightweight. It also comes with plenty of pockets.
13. Breathable raincoat
Among the bird watching supplies and equipment you’ll research before leaving on your trip, you ought to consider getting a raincoat.
A breathable raincoat is a friend in need, especially if you aren’t a fan of heavy, thick apparel that can protect you from the rain.
In most cases, raincoats can be stored easily and conveniently in your backpack or birding bag, and they are also very light and compact, so they don’t take up a lot of space.
The Frogg Toggs Ultra-Lite2 Waterproof Breathable Rain Poncho is an affordable, comfortable, and packable raincoat that you can carry with you anytime and anywhere.
Having been made of polypropylene, it has a good chance of standing the test of time and it won’t let you get wet.
14. Solar power bank
What do you need to be a birdwatcher besides a pair of binos and decent clothing to protect you in the wild?
Well, there are several gadgets that can be life-savers, such as a portable power bank.
Having one on hand will prevent your phone battery from dying, so you’ll know that you can get in touch with someone at any time.
A power bank can also charge a variety of other devices, from tablets to weather radios.
These days, it is such an essential gadget that we wouldn’t even recommend researching how to start bird watching before you purchase one.
GoerTek’s Solar Charger has an impressive charging capacity, but it also comes with 36 LED lights, so you can use it as a flashlight in times of need.
15. LED headlamp
While a LED headlamp shouldn’t necessarily be a part of your bird watching kit, the truth is that going birding can often extend well into the night.
For those situations, you need to know that you can make your way out of a forest, for example, so that you get back home.
A LED headlamp can give you the reassurance that you’ll not get yourself in danger or even become a potential victim of predators.
This piece of basic gear can even come with several different light modes, as is the case with Vont ‘Spark’ LED Headlamp, for instance.
This one ticks all the right boxes since it is waterproof, portable, as well as drop-resistant, so it will serve you for a long time, but especially when you need it the most.
16. Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)
You wouldn’t think that a PLB is an essential item that you should jot down on your list of bird watching stuff.
In reality, though, it’s one of the most useful pieces of equipment.
If you get in trouble while you are out in the wild, such a device will emit a distress signal so that someone can find you and give you help.
A good personal locator beacon is the ACR ResQLink 400, especially since it includes a strobe for low-visibility situations, it’s buoyant, so it can float in the water, and it also has a 5-year battery life.
You can operate it for 24 hours at a time, and thanks to the global coverage that it supports, it’s likely you’ll be found by the time things get worse.
17. Birding monocular
When it comes to bird watching ornithology knowledge is very important, but having the right bird watching tools is essential to the activity in itself.
Monoculars are almost just as good for birding as binoculars, and some people prefer them to the latter.
For birding, you should get a small and lightweight monocular that comes with a minimum of 8X magnification and 25mm objective lens diameter.
For anything beyond that, you’d need a birding tripod for image stabilization purposes.
A good example of a monocular that’s perfect for bird watching is the Vortex Optics Solo Monocular.
It both comes with the right specs, and it also boasts fully multi-coated lenses, which guarantee crystal clear images of your favorite bird species.
18. Point and shoot birding camera for beginners
Bird photography gear can help you catalog your discoveries, but also take beautiful pictures of the birds you’re looking to study.
These bird watching gadgets often call for a steep learning curve, especially if you want to get a professional camera.
In most cases, and especially if you’re into bird watching for beginners, an average-level camera will do.
If you have experience with these devices, however, nothing beats a camera with a telephoto lens.
Take the Nikon COOLPIX P1000, for instance, which comes with one of the most powerful zoom lenses out there and allows you to take stable and clear photos of the birds you’re watching.
With it, you can even shoot 4K Ultra HD videos with excellent sound.
19. Bird watching spotting scope
Spotting scopes aren’t the typical birding gear you’d think of right off the bat, but the fact is that they do a pretty good job.
Most function similarly to monoculars, but the difference between the two types of birding equipment is that scopes are far more powerful.
Being equipped with a larger objective lens, a spotting scope lets more light penetrate its construction, which is why the images you’ll look at are going to be even clearer.
If you’re in the market for optical birding supplies, you might as well check out the features of the Celestron Ultima 100 Angled Spotting Scope since it comes with multi-coated lenses and anti-reflective coatings for perfect color and contrast. We might even go as far as to say that it’s ideal for long-distance viewing.
Birding tools and accessories
20. BPA free water bottle
Dehydration can be extremely dangerous and in some cases, even lethal. That is why you need to know that you have some sort of water source with you.
You can achieve this by getting a water bottle fitted with a filter so that you can drink from rivers and streams.
But if you don’t intend to spend a lot of time in the great outdoors looking at birds, you can just as well carry water in a bottle with you.
The Embrava 40oz Water Bottle is a BPA-free alternative that’s specifically designed for outdoor explorers.
One of its most beneficial features is the steel ring it comes with, as it allows you to clip the bottle onto one of your backpack straps, for instance, so that you always have it at hand.
21. Collapsible hiking poles
Hiking poles can give you the reassurance that you aren’t going to slip, fall, and injure yourself.
They provide you with some degree of stability and effectively help you get to your birding spot and then back home safely.
Although some birders might think they’re not as useful as other pieces of gear, the truth is that they can save an outdoor aficionado’s life.
With their assistance, you can regain your balance a lot easier and faster and at times, that can be essential.
The Trekology Trek-Z Poles are foldable, lightweight, yet rugged, so they can improve your safety and your walking speed. They even come with a flip-lock mechanism for adjusting their height.
22. One hand opening multitool
If you intend to do your birding as part of a long journey into the wild, a multitool can always be a friend in need.
It can be used as scissors, wire cutters, pliers, and even knives, and all of these can be useful when you’re in the great outdoors.
The tools do have to be fully functional and you should test them before leaving home.
This will ensure that you don’t end up at a campsite and find that you’re unable to use them at all.
Although it’s not the most affordable option in the line, the Leatherman Wave Plus Multitool seems like an effective item, and more importantly, it’s pocket-sized.
Therefore, you can carry it in your vest pocket, backpack, pants, or wherever you want.
23. Reliable compass
As much as our society has come to rely on gadgets such as smartphones, especially for navigation purposes, sometimes you can be out of range.
The lack of a signal can lead to you being lost in an unknown environment.
If you don’t want to deal with this risk, you should consider getting a small compass.
This tool can be particularly useful when combined with a map as some models also display the latitude and longitude of where you are positioned.
A compact, lightweight, and multi-functional gadget is the Reliable Outdoor Gear Professional Boy Scout Compass. It’s not just a compass as it also has a magnifying glass and ruler included in its design. With its help, you’ll never get lost.
24. Wearable paracord
Another potential life-saver is a paracord. These days, paracords come with a lot of other included features from a fire starter to a built-in compass (in which case you wouldn’t have to purchase it separately).
Most are rather budget-friendly, despite being highly functional.
Plus, the paracord rope itself can be used for numerous activities such as securing your items at the campsite or setting traps.
The X-Plore Gear Emergency Paracord Bracelet Pack seems like a pretty nice deal, especially since it includes everything that an outdoor enthusiast might want to find in such a product.
It comes in three different sizes, so you can even pick the right one as per your physical attributes. Plus, it’s made to last so as to be used time and again.
25. Bug spray
As fun as spending time outside might be, it does come with a series of side effects, and one of them is insects.
From mosquitoes to ticks, some of which can cause serious damage to your health, you have a wide range of critters that want to feed on you.
Ideally, the insect-repelling spray that you will choose for your birding adventure should protect you for a decent number of hours.
Otherwise, you will have to constantly re-apply it, and that might be both a nuisance for you and one for the birds, as they might be scared of the sound.
The Repel Insect Repellent Sportsmen Max Formula Spray provides as many as 8 hours of protection against a variety of pesky creatures from biting flies to gnats, fleas, and mosquitoes.