Inventory: What goes in your birdwatching rucksack?

You don’t need much to enjoy the hobby of birdwatching. As long as you have a decent pair of boots, a warm jacket and a pair of binoculars, you’re good to go. But what other items can make or break a day’s birding?

For me, birdwatching isn’t necessarily about the birds. Like many, I take a holistic approach to the hobby, meaning that you should consider the entire experience. It’s a chance to let out the inner-anorak. It lays dormant in many of us, but it can flourish without judgement if you really prepare to enjoy yourself in the field. Here’s a rundown of my essential items when preparing for a trip out...

  • Flask
    An essential! I recommend spending a bit and getting yourself a fancy one. Tea or coffee are both equally acceptable, as long as you pack a small tupperware with some bourbon biscuits to compliment it. You could also consider packing a hearty soup instead.

  • Sandwich
    Treat yourself with the bread, here. I’d avoid the white loaf and go posh with a nice ciabatta or focaccia. Fillings? Well... Normally a really tangy cheddar cheese with piccalilli or chutney. Or perhaps brie and cranberry, or peanut butter and marmite (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it). Even just squished leftovers can work. Cold spaghetti bolognese and garlic mayo, as disgusting as it sounds, is to die for in a sandwich.

  • Snacks
    Limitless options! Malt loaf (with butter so thick you can see your teeth in it) is always a good choice. A handful of various nuts or a good apple, like an Egremont Russet, are also high contenders for the top snack.

  • Notebook
    I’m not one for using apps to record sightings. I spend my working week looking at screens already, so I opt for a battered moleskine and a decent pen to record the day’s findings. The notebook also allows me to draw little maps, sketch wildlife or even scrapbook bits of bark or feathers.

  • Entertainment
    Planning a trip to Titchwell? Great! For longer journeys, I often prepare some listening material. Don’t get me wrong, I could leave Radio 4 on, but I’m going through a bit of a 'metal' phase, so I’d rather listen to the latest Behemoth record. There’s also hundreds of great podcasts and audiobooks out there, so sometimes I download some of those in advance.

  • Attitude
    It’s always great to chat to fellow hobbyists, but always be mindful to share that same enthusiasm with dog walkers, young families and other passers-by! Your friendliness gives the hobby a good name and encourages inclusivity. 
  • Brilliant. 

    I like the last para: "Attitude

    • It’s always great to chat to fellow hobbyists, but always be mindful to share that same enthusiasm with dog walkers, young families and other passers-by! Your friendliness gives the hobby a good name and encourages inclusivity. "

    As a former hill and mountain walker, that is one thing that denotes a true outdoors person, their ability to be friendly and helpful.

    The rest, I fully agree with, though I have to confess, I tend to add camera gear to my pack as well.....

    Some tripod carriers are pretty good for carrying a days rations, though many I find are too small.

    This time of year, I'd add something like gloves, and one pair I've found to be great with binoculars and cameras, RAB Powerstretch gloves, they're just right for operating the buttons and dials, and great at keeping those digits warm....

    https://rab.equipment/uk/power-stretch-pro-glove

    A small head/hand torch might be of some advantage, for that long walk back on these short days..... 

    You might like to have a read of a blog I wrote many years ago for a major outdoor retailer, called: "What's in my pack?" While it's predominantly for the hills and moors, and few good pointers wouldn't go amiss in a bird watchers pack....

    http://peak-rambler.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/whats-in-my-pack.html

    Mike

    Flickr Peak Rambler

  • Hi

    I use a multi pocket vest most of the time :)

    S

    and see this from years ago :)

    community.rspb.org.uk/.../bird-bag

    For advice about Birding, Identification,field guides,  binoculars, scopes, tripods,  etc - put 'Birding Tips'   into the search box

  • Hi

    during spring lockdown I bought a PENTAGON (MESSENGER UTILITY COYOTE)

    shoulder bag for my left shoulder as my camera is over my RH shoulder along with my tripod

    It holds the usual swiss army card extra digi cards extra lens cloth folded loo roll notebook pen
    membership cards optical screwdriver lipsyl Lens brush and compass

    Also a 2" split ring around the strap for odd attachments

    S

    For advice about Birding, Identification,field guides,  binoculars, scopes, tripods,  etc - put 'Birding Tips'   into the search box

  • Love this post! Particularly the end paragraph. Lovely writing style too.
  • Thanks, Mike! Great additions. As a non-photographer I forget that many others also have that gear to lug around, too.

    I agree about the scope carriers. I like the convenience of them but I agree that they lack storage space. As for the torch and gloves, that’s a great shout. I should start leaving those in the glovebox along with my field guide.

    Also, thanks for sharing a link to your blog. I’ll check it out

    And thanks, More great suggestions. I’d love to get myself an item of clothing with pockets galore like you’ve described.

    Thank you too to - Glad you enjoyed it
  • In reply to Jack Stevens:

    Jack Stevens said:
    Thanks, Mike! Great additions. As a non-photographer I forget that many others also have that gear to lug around, too.

    I agree about the scope carriers. I like the convenience of them but I agree that they lack storage space. As for the torch and gloves, that’s a great shout. I should start leaving those in the glovebox along with my field guide.

    Also, thanks for sharing a link to your blog. I’ll check it out

    You're welcome Jack.

    It's always interesting to see what others carry, often it can provide useful ideas, not just what to carry, but how to carry things.

    Many modern rucksacks have external loops for attaching items, like ice axes, tent poles and many other things, and that includes tripods, monopods or whatever, and you don't have to have a brightly coloured pack either, shop around and there are some good ones with plain colours, or if you shop around some military clothing specialists, an army pack made by a well know British manufacturer are available.

    Mike

    Flickr Peak Rambler

  • Jack Stevens said:
    It’s always great to chat to fellow hobbyists, but always be mindful to share that same enthusiasm with dog walkers, young families and other passers-by! Your friendliness gives the hobby a good name and encourages inclusivity. 

    Generally, I can thoroughly agree with this.  I do find I struggle for friendliness when someone's dog is running riot in an area where birds are breeding - you don't always get a polite response when you point out it should be on a lead.

    Our herring gulls are red listed birds.  Think about that the next time you hear some flaming idiot calling for a cull of them.

  • Not being a photographer my sac is lighter than many but as we spend a lot of time on the moors, when allowed of course, there is always a basic hill walking gear in there, lightweight waterproofs, hat and gloves even in summer,basic 1st aid kit map and compass.and a headtorch A drink and snacks bird book sit mat all into a small rucksac. Bins round the neck,if a scope is needed I have a light one and fing a monopod can act as a walking pole. Recent restrictions both corvid and health meanthis often stays in the car as we are not often fore than 1/2 mile away from car park

    Pete

    Birding is for everyone no matter how good or bad we are at it,enjoy it while you can

  • Thanks for your comments, Clare and Seaman! I agree - the politeness doesn't go both ways sometimes And I I like the suggestion of first aid stuff, that's really practical.
  • Jack the first aid kit comes from years of teaching folk the basics of hill walking it also includes a whistle to signal for help when the mobile has no signal

    Pete

    Birding is for everyone no matter how good or bad we are at it,enjoy it while you can