Birder's Guide

NOV 2018

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 31 of 43

A Guide to Layering 30 Birder's Guide to Gear | November 2018 from the climate-controlled environment of your car or living room, you undoubt- edly have experienced some physical dis- comfort in your pursuit of birds. This ar- ticle is about layering, or clothing oneself in such a way as to stay comfortable and safe throughout the varied and often tem- peramental climates in which we love (or dread) to bird. Layering 101 Although rigorously touted by field trip leaders and informational trail signs, lay- ering is a skill that I often see neglected in the field. In addition to regulating your body's homeostasis, what you wear plays a crucial role in protecting you from biting insects, scratching plants, and damaging ultraviolet radiation. In theory, the concept of layering is simple and straightforward: merely wear or bring multiple "layers" of clothing to be prepared for the world around you. Wear too little, and you are unable to stay warm. Wear too much, and you overheat. If you only bring a heavy down jacket and a cotton T-shirt, you might be comfortable first thing in the morning and mid-after- noon, but the jacket will be too much for a good chunk of the day and your shirt will be too little. Beyond this, things can get less obvi- ous. How to dress for birding is a large, complex, and personal question. What keeps me happy on a brisk fall morning of birding may be totally different than what keeps you happy, as differences in sex, age, physical fitness, acclimatization, and personal preference all play large roles in this question. As a lean young male with a propensity for physically demanding bird- ing, my needs may be quite different from yours. Even for the same person on the exact same day, there is no proper num- ber or type of layers to pack. With that in mind, please take my suggestions not so much as a guide, but as a source of in- spiration from which you can experiment and improve your own birding comfort. Maintaining Your Fire Layering most often and obviously be- comes an issue when you need to stay warm. In some situations we birders get ourselves into, hypothermia can be a real concern. Even a slight chill can quickly turn a lifer White-tailed Ptarmigan into a miserable experience. Some people han- dle cold better than others, whether due to conditioning or high-functioning circu- latory systems, but here are a few tips to help everyone avoid a chilly bite. First, avoid cotton in all its forms. Cotton is cheap and the most common form of fabric in the world. You will be hard pressed to find a non-cotton birding festival T-shirt. The problem with cotton is that when it gets wet, it does not readily dry and thus becomes cold and uncom- fortable. The chance of getting your cotton layers wet may be small on any particular day, but weigh that against serious risk of getting cold and not being able to warm back up. I recommend synthetic "quick- dry" fabrics, in addition to fleece jackets or even wool (keep reading to learn more about wool clothing). Second, a more general note about in- sulation. From both physics and adaptive biology, we know the key to conserving heat and energy is to insulate your system. No matter how many down jackets you wear, the heat will suck right out of you if ■ A Gore-Tex shell layer can keep you both dry and warm, and is an essential for any birder's closet. Photo by © Marcel Such

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