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 33 of 43

32 Birder's Guide to Gear | November 2018 A Guide to Layering not be understated. In hot, dry climates, long, loose-fitting, and breathable cloth- ing keeps you much happier throughout the course of the day than most other op- tions. Tank tops and shorts might seem comfortable, but keeping your skin cov- ered and not suffocated will play in your favor. Additionally, you can absorb less solar energy by avoiding dark clothes— even if the effect is minimal, I can feel the difference. I know that I have cast cotton into a very poor light, but a thin, long-sleeved cotton shirt is one of my favorite heat- survival tools in arid climates. Hot, dry air wicks away perspiration, and the loose fit provides good sun protection without feeling stuffy. Synthetic long- sleeved shirts are also an option, espe- cially as many are sold with SPF (sun protection factor) ratings, but they tend to have less breathability and hence feel a lot warmer. In a humid climate, this same cotton shirt would be totally soaked within min- utes of leaving an air-conditioned car, and would stay in that uncomfortable state until the return home. Quick-dry synthetic shirts can be good alternatives, but they have an unfortunate tendency to start smelling bad if not washed frequent- ly, which is important on longer birding trips. The best solution that I have found for this quandary may surprise you…it is wool! Thin merino wool base layers, such as those made by Icebreaker, remain comfortable even when completely wet and naturally resist the build-up of the bacteria that cause bad odors. On a re- cent birding expedition to Panama, I got away with packing two shirts, both meri- no wool, and birded comfortably all day, every day for three weeks. I washed them in the sink every few days, leaving them out to dry for a couple of hours, and they were ready to go again. However, these shirts do have one major drawback, as their price tag makes them all but luxury items for many. Unless you make a habit of long and grueling expeditions, stick- ing to the much cheaper synthetic dry fabrics may be best. The Final Thread This entire article can really be boiled down to: "experiment and find your own comfort". There are many facets of this problem. I encourage you to experiment with your normal birding gear and con- sider new options. Buy a different pair of socks, update your rain jacket, and leave behind your bucket hat every once in a while. Besides clothing, don't neglect other aspects of your physical comfort. Drink enough water, eat enough food, and get enough rest, as all these play cru- cial roles in how well your body copes with the environment around it. No mat- ter what you do, the birding experience may be uncomfortable sometimes. No amount of preparation or expensive wool T-shirts will fix that. Just remember that if birding were always easy, it wouldn't be nearly as rewarding! ■ Dressing in light, loose clothing can make all the difference on a hot, sunny day of birding. Photo by © Marcel Such

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