Wunderbird makes the trek easier, more efficient

As a birdwatcher, I sometimes struggle with how to carry my gear. Thankfully, Wunderbird makes it easier. For me, it goes beyond binoculars around my neck and a field guide in my back pocket. Throw in a camera with a bulky 100-400 lens, an extra lens or two, a spotting scope with tripod, and a surprisingly awkward adapter for digiscoping, and I’ve got my hands full. Typically, what I would have done is throw all of the equipment into a backpack and start my walk. It keeps the equipment in one place, which is nice, but it has several disadvantages. When I need something, I have to stop, take the backpack off and fish for the item to be used. In birding, of course, that means my subject is usually long gone by the time I do all that. But now there is a better way. It’s called Wunderbird, a line of high-tech apparel designed and engineered for the birdwatcher. The line includes a short-sleeved T-shirt (Kestrel), long-sleeved T-shirt (Peregrine) and hooded sweatshirt (Gyrfalcon). Each version comes with several spacious pockets, pouches and padding located for comfort and easy access to your birding equipment. The products are also made of “smart fabrics” that offer ventilation, quick drying and mosquito repellent. I got the hoodie several months ago, but the sweltering summer we had kept the Gyrfalcon tucked away in the closet. I was excited to try it out in fall-like conditions. I instantly liked it. My walk to the nearby pond was more comfortable and efficient. I put the camera around my neck with the strap going behind the hood. The camera and lens combination make for the heaviest piece of equipment and, given the padding around the shoulders, I hardly noticed the weight. The binoculars went into the bottom pouch. I thought the camera lens dangling down would make it clunky to fish out the binoculars, but that wasn’t the case. At one point during the walk in the woods, a bird came into view and perched on a nearby fallen log. I quickly grabbed the binoculars and was able to focus on the hermit thrush seconds before it flew back into the deep woods. The spacious pouch allowed for the binoculars to come out effortlessly without the corners getting stuck on the edge of a pocket. Trying to wrestle binoculars out of tight pockets has cost me valuable seconds in the field before Wunderbird. The top pouch on the hoodie may make it even easier to access binoculars; I’ll try that next time. (Note from author: I’ve tried it. It does make it easier. Way easier.)  Most birdwatchers will have their binoculars strapped around their necks, which would make for even easier access and storage in the pouches. The bottom pouch has two compartments. I used the outside compartment for the binoculars and inside compartment for lens caps and that awkward digiscoping adapter. Talk about corners getting stuck on pockets; the adapter has all sorts of protrusions and odd edges that make it a nightmare to carry in a pocket. Wunderbird solves that problem, too. The inner layer of the pocket also serves as a hand-warmer. The scope and tripod obviously do not fit into any of the pockets, but the heavy padding on the shoulders of Wunderbird make lugging the scope around more comfortable. I don’t normally get too excited about clothes, but a shirt designed for birdwatching was something I had to try. I’ve been impressed with the hoodie and look forward to using it more. Also, the Gyrfalcon looks like a normal sweatshirt when bulky birding equipment is not stuffed into the pockets. There is also an interesting backstory to the creation of Wunderbird and its founder, Gil Gutglick. I’ll leave that for you to check out at the Wunderbird website: www.wunderbirdworld.com. In the meantime, get out, find some late fall migrants, and let me know what you’re seeing out there.

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