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 32 of 43

31 November 2018 | Birder's Guide to Gear you leave your hands or head exposed. In the same way that a wetsuit keeps a div- er warm, wearing thick insulating layers limits the exchange of body-warmed air and cold outside air. Also, be aware that if you struggle with poor circulation and get cold hands or feet easily, consider tying your shoes looser or sizing up your gloves to help ease that process. Little things can make a big difference. To keep your core warm on a blister- ingly cold Christmas Bird Count, natural down garments do the job best, using the static air captured in the feathers to provide an insulating barrier between you and your surroundings. Good down can be an expensive investment, though synthetic down apparel is rapidly gaining traction as a viable alternative for those who want to save money or avoid pur- chasing animal products. There are major drawbacks to down layers, as they tend to be bulky, taking up a lot of space in your day pack when not in use, and often are too warm for most of our birding experiences. Good alter- natives are thermal fabrics and apparel, which (in theory) hold and reflect your body heat. These can be excellent choices for staying warm without bulking out too much. From a different perspective, losing heat to the environment can work to your advantage. Removing a layer can be a challenge in and of itself, especially with binocular and camera straps and having to rearrange the contents of your back- pack. Instead, sometimes all that is need- ed is to remove an article of clothing from your extremities, giving your body a way to vent heat and thus cool off your core temperature without too much hassle. Rainy Days Staying dry is key when birding on rainy days. On pelagic days. On cold days. On windy days. Actually, staying dry is impor- tant regardless of where you are. Not only is wet clothing uncomfortable, but the evaporative process can also lead to a chill far worse than the ambient temperature. A trash bag can keep precipitation out, but it can also hold perspiration in, making you damp. Even if temperatures are be- low freezing, physical exertion makes you sweat, and that sweat can ruin your day if it does not wick out of your clothing—no matter how much you are wearing. In rainy and windy situations, Gore-Tex shell layers are the items of choice. This fabric is designed to simultaneously resist water and breathe, excluding rain and al- lowing sweat to escape. It also does an amazing job of "cutting the wind", as even the slightest breeze blowing through your shirt can turn a nice day into a frigid one. The downsides to this technology are that it is expensive and does not last forever. Even a good jacket has to be replaced every few years. If you want to make an investment, Gore-Tex Pro products main- tain their integrity longer and endure harder use than consumer-level Gore-Tex, though with the caveat of a considerably steeper price tag. Keep Your Cool! The flip side of conserving your body heat is staying cool in a hot environment. This is one of the biggest areas where I struggle as a birder. The oppressive heat of the desert or the all-enveloping heat and humidity of tropical birding seems to suck all the energy straight out of me, and I know I am not alone with this feel- ing. In this situation, proper hydration plays the biggest role in a safe experience, though the importance of apparel can- ■ Accessorizing with an umbrella can be an essential tool to keep both yourself and your optics dry on a rainy day. Photo by © Joel Such

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