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What You Need in Your Field Bag

Supplies Every Birder Should Carry


Whether you carry a field bag, wear a specialized vest or have a preferred tote for birding, there are certain supplies every prepared birder should have in the field. Being prepared will make birding easier, more enjoyable and safer no matter where you are birding or how many birds you see.

Supplies to Keep in Your Field Bag

Every birder has different needs in the field and may choose different supplies to carry in a field bag. Circumstances can also vary depending on the season and birding destination, but essential supplies include:

  • Field Guide: A local guide or overall guide is preferred for details on species likely to be seen.

  • Binoculars: Optics should always be available, whether in the bag or worn from a strap or harness.

  • Notebook: Along with a pen or pencil, a notebook is essential for noting species seen, counting bird totals and making other field observations.

  • Identification: Birders should always have proper identification available, especially if they visit areas near private or restricted lands. Similarly, bringing along a Duck Stamp or park pass is helpful when visiting fee-entry locations.

Just these essential supplies may be enough to carry in a field bag for a casual birding walk or birding in a familiar location. Many birders, however, also consider additional accessories to be just as necessary:

  • Camera: A digital camera is invaluable for recording species seen and can serve as a visual notebook for later identification. Include extra memory cards and batteries to keep the camera ready for use.

  • Water: A long birding walk or a full day of birding requires refreshments, and a bottle (or two) of water ensures that dehydration will not be a concern.

  • Birding Journal: Birders who regularly keep a birding journal complete with written descriptions and sketches will always want to have it available in the field when a basic notebook is not sufficient.

  • Cell Phone: A cell phone can be an essential supply in case of an emergency, and birding apps and bird songs can make it a valuable field tool as well, depending on the model. Always be sure the phone is fully charged before a long or isolated birding trip.

When venturing further into the field or into unknown conditions, wise birders will also be prepared with:

  • Cleaning cloth for optics or cameras
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Insect spray
  • Sunglasses
  • Snacks
  • Towelettes or tissues
  • Aspirin or necessary medication
  • Local trail map

Birders who visit very remote or exotic locations may want to take steps to prepare for potential emergencies. Basic emergency supplies can be helpful to keep in a field bag, including:

  • Flares or emergency lights
  • Flashlight
  • Gloves or seasonal attire
  • Emergency blankets

The exact supplies to carry in your field bag will depend on where and when you are birding, as well as the local conditions, your familiarity with the destination and your overall birding experience. Knowing what supplies can be useful, however, can help you be sure you're prepared for the very best birding, despite any unexpected situations.

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