I had the opportunity to try out two pieces of birding apparel from Wunderbird, a long-sleeved Tee (The Peregrine) and a hooded sweatshirt (The Gyrfalcon).
The three features that set Wunderbird apart from any other outdoor apparel are high-tech fabric, top-opening pockets for bearing the weight of optics and other gear, and padded shoulders to ease the strain of carrying a tripod. I was very pleased with all three.
The first thing I did with the Peregrine was to go for a jog. I have never been thrilled with “quick-dry” synthetic fabrics, but I was amazed by how quickly perspiration evaporated from this shirt. It was a good first impression. Next I wore it birding.
I always wear long sleeves when birding, even in extreme heat, to protect my arms from sun and vegetation. The fabric of the Peregrine is substantial, but the breeze passed right through and kept me comfortably cool even in direct sun with temperatures over 80 degrees F. The Gyrfalcon is made of thicker, more tightly woven material. I had a chance to try it one morning when the temperature had dropped into the upper 50s F., and found it to be very comfortable even when temperatures started to rise.
Wunderbird advertises that their garments repel mosquitoes. I am blessed to live in an area that doesn’t have many biting insects, so I wasn’t able to test this feature. But other reviewers have been very pleased with the fabric’s effectiveness in this regard.
Each garment has two pockets in front that open at the top (I like to refer to them as kangaroo pouches) designed to take the weight of your optics off of your neck. I carry my binocular fairly high, so I used the upper pocket. The pocket is shallow, so your binocular only goes in about half way. This allows for quick and easy removal when you need your optics. The lower pocket is larger, so if you are not using it for a binocular, it could carry snacks, a small water bottle, or other gear. Both pockets on the Peregrine close with a zipper. The lower pocket on the Gyrfalcon is much larger, and has a small patch of Velcro to keep it from hanging open.
With my binocular in the top pocket of the Peregrine, I felt the weight distributed across my shoulder blades. This was very comfortable and actually felt like it was improving my posture. The Gyrfalcon fits more loosely, so I felt the weight of my binocular pulling down the front of the garment. But it still felt good to have the weight off my neck.
The Gyrfalcon also has pockets on the sides to warm your hands.
The Shoulder Pads:
All Wunderbird garments have padding on the shoulders to make carrying a tripod more comfortable. While the padding can’t do much to mitigate the weight of a scope, it does help to protect the skin from bruising, especially if you have bony shoulders like mine. I also carry a small camera bag over my shoulder while birding, and the padding made carrying that lighter weight noticeably more comfortable. If I had worn the Peregrine under the Gyrfalcon, I think that would have been even more effective.
The first time I wore the Peregrine, either the stitching or the edge of the padding felt scratchy on my shoulders. On subsequent trials, I wore a cotton T-shirt underneath and that seemed to fix the problem.
The hood on the Gyrfalcon has three elastic chords to adjust the fit. This keeps the hood from getting into your field of view.
The Wunderbird web site has a guide to help you order the right size. My measurements fell between small and medium, so I ordered medium. I found that size to be a little baggy, so if you are between sizes I would recommend ordering the smaller. I think a snug fit would help distribute the weight of your optics more effectively.
Wunderbird birding garments actually do what they set out to do; they protect you from weather and other environmental hazards, they take the weight of your binocular off your neck, and they protect your shoulders from being bruised by your tripod. In other words, they make birding more comfortable so you can do it longer. What could be better than that?