Some time ago, I was doing research of waterbird migrations with a friend of mine, a young ornithologist currently busy writing his Ph.D. thesis and trying to annoy most of us by uplisting some subspecies to full species and downlisting some species into mere races! A knowledgeable birder and great company, he was able to forget just about everything. On several occasions, he lost some screws and minor parts of my tripod en route (he couldn’t believe that and even accused me of deliberately hiding the screws), on others, he forgot to take his binoculars with him (“Why does it matter, you’ve brought the scope, haven’t you?”). More than once, I’ve suggested to him that he puts a checklist on his front door, so he can tick what he has taken and realise what he hasn’t: binoculars – tick; field guide – same as the spotting scope, most of the time he counted on me to carry this; your own head – ouch, I’ve forgot it! Trust me – he was capable of forgetting his head.
This brings me to the topic: my own non-necessity checklist. A morning or a day trip, I mean – not an expedition. For example, when I’m birding alone, I rarely carry snacks – being outdoors, I am satisfied with air alone, it seems. But if someone next to me starts eating, that ruins the air-factor and then I do carry a sandwich or so… Also, if temperatures aren’t very high, I carry a minimum amount of water – barely enough for a sip or two before I use the rest for instant coffee.
Here it is – my non-necessity checklist:
• Rucksack – I have never found a rucksack that I would consider ideal, but in order to call it usable, it should have around 40 litres of capacity and that arched frame to push it away from ones back and allow the air to flow.
• Mobile phone – something I have never learned to like, barely accepted as a potentially useful item. I have a bird guide in it, which I mostly use to search bird songs faster. Still, during birding, the bloody thing should be in the airplane mode!
• Water canteen – used to carry a smallish Sigg, size for two coffees, but recently a thermos flask 0.4 litres (not so good for warm liquids, but keeps the cold water nicely fresh all day).
• Instant coffee bags – I usually keep several in my rucksack pockets.
• Chocolate bar (if the weather is not too warm) or a sandwich.
• Victorinox – one of those larger models with lock blade.
• Gardening kneeling pad – for sitting, perfect size.
• Insect repellent spray – so I could spray it over my trousers and socks against ticks (I do not mind a mozzie or two… ok, more than a few dozen mozzies do tend to bother even me).
• Sun block and lip balm – when I do not forget it…
• Toilet paper and wet tissues – self-explanatory.
• Matchsticks and/or lighter – I do not smoke, and never had to use it on a birding trip, but I do remember capsizing a kayak and like to have it, just in case.
Absolute necessities aside, what do you carry with you on a field trip? What’s on your list?
Here’s my list:
0 Binoculars & Strap
0 Spotting Scope, Tripod & Carrying Strap
0 MP3/Speaker Playback Device
0 Field Guides
0 Notepad & Pen
0 Lens Cleaning Cloth
0 Light Lunch
0 Trail Mix / Cheese Crackers
0 Lip Balm
0 Insect Repellent
0 Hat w/ Brim
0 Layered Clothing
0 Rain Gear
0 Sun Glasses
0 Backpack (Rucksack)
0 Camera & Digiscope Adapter
0 Mobile Phone
0 Towel, small
Your list pretty well mirrors mine except for a compass, as noted on TLM;s list. Two of the best birders I know got lost in a large forest they had visited many times. They ended up having to spend an unplanned night in the woods after having the forest service, police, family, etc. searching for them. Luckily it was the middle of the summer. The one thing they both said was that if they had carried a compass they would have been out in a couple of hours.
Actually, I do carry a compass with me, but not only when I’m going birding – I do it all the time. Yet, I never use it, I do not have to, so it is more of a fetish item than birding equipment. The last time I’ve used it was quarter of a century ago while drawing maps of the caves I was exploring.
Beside compass, I also carry a head torch – but do it all the time, not specifically for birding.
Tide charts are very useful on the coast, especially if the tides are very big…up to 10 metres in the north of Australia. Nice to see the birds rushing forward as the tide comes in, but also nice to know when high tide is and where they will be roosting.
I’ve recently added a small pair of hedge clippers to my items as I frequently walk / bird cross-country through areas with large blackberry stands.
Good idea. I know some places with a lot of blackberries, in Montenegrin karst, very dry area with a lot of rain that eats away the rocks, leaving their tops knife sharp, and often overgrown with blackberries. I wasn’t birding back then, bud looking for caves to explore. It was summertime, extremely hot weather, and I was exploring the area wearing only hiking boots, swimming trunks and an army belt with an oversized knife, good for nothing but a machete surrogate… “Ah! The good old time—the good old time. Youth and the sea. Glamour and the sea! The good, strong sea, the salt, bitter sea, that could whisper to you and roar at you and knock your breath out of you.”