Why Birders Wear Vests – What they carry may surprise you

Why do birders wear those geeky-looking vests? Well, it’s not because they have terrible fashion sense; there are actually very practical reasons for wearing them. In this article, I will explain the various reasons birders wear vests and you may be surprised by what they carry.

Birders wear vests to carry various items that they may need when bird watching. These items may include binoculars, a field guidebook, a smartphone, food, a field journal, a camera, and any number of other things. The vests have many pockets to put items in, negating the need for a backpack.

Continue reading to find out more about birding vests. I will explain other reasons why a birder may choose to wear one that you probably would not have thought of.

The Reasons Birders Wear Vests

I have already mentioned some reasons birders have for wearing vests but let’s explore a few more.

Birding is a relatively easy activity to do, you don’t need a lot of gear to get involved. Most birders get by with just a pair of binoculars and a smile. So why do some have the need for a vest with multiple pockets?

a man bird watching wearing sunglasses and a vest
A bird watcher wearing a vest – image by chameleonseye from Getty Images.

Discover 13 reasons why bird watching is a lot of fun in this article on the blog.

Some of the items a birder might carry are listed below:

  • Binoculars.
  • A camera.
  • Camera lenses.
  • Lens cleaning accessories.
  • A smartphone.
  • A water bottle.
  • A GPS unit.
  • A bird field guide.
  • A pen/pencil.
  • A birding journal/sketchbook.
  • Money.
  • Insect repellent.
  • Sunscreen/sunblock.
  • Passport/wallet.
  • Food/snacks.
  • Face mask.
  • Car keys.

With a list like the one above, you can see how a vest with multiple pockets might come in handy. However, all of this stuff could quite easily fit into a small backpack. Why not just use a backpack?

Why Birders Wear Vests And Not Backpacks

The two main reasons a bird watcher might choose to wear a vest and not a backpack are comfort and accessibility. There are other reasons too that have to do with not scaring the birds away.

For some people, wearing a backpack to carry all of their bird-watching gear is not ideal. All the weight of a pack hangs from your shoulders and when you have been walking around for hours, it can get pretty uncomfortable.

a man with a backpack standing on a trail in a forest
Those backpacks can get uncomfortable – image by Yuriy Seleznev from Canva.

Learn how to get started birdwatching in this post.

The other problem with having your gear in a backpack is that to access it, you have to take the pack off and rummage around to find what you need. Not only is this impractical but the movements you make while doing it can scare birds away.

Wearing a vest distributes the weight of your gear all around your body. It also keeps all your things within arm’s reach, meaning you do not have to make huge movements that might scare birds off.

Birding vests are lightweight and weigh much less than most backpacks. In addition, some are made from non-rustling material so that your movements don’t create extra noise that may frighten skittish birds.

Why Are Birding Vests Always The Same Color?

Have you ever noticed how birding vests always seem to be some shade of tan? It’s very rare to find one that is any other color; why is that?

a male bird watcher in reeds with binoculars wearing a vest
A birder in his element – image by jhorrocks from Getty Images.

The reason birder’s vests are tan-colored is that it is an earthy color that blends in with most things in nature. Because of this, it attracts less attention from wildlife.

Susanna, a Customer Service agent for Big Pockets who make outdoor vests, jackets, and apparel, told me that it is also expensive to carry multiple colors in so many sizes. She added that tan can also be worn with many other colors.


Now you know why birders and bird watchers sometimes wear vests and why they are mostly tan in color. Not all birders wear them however, I am one such birder who does not. They are just not something that fits my style, I’m afraid.

While birding vests can make people look a little silly and maybe even a little weird, they are a practical way to carry the necessary gear.

Are all bird watchers weird? Find out in this Birdwatch World article.


  • Big Pockets – Outdoor Vests, Jackets, Apparel, Field Gear, and Gifts

Barry Callister

Barry is a bird photographer and bird watcher with over 7 years of experience. He runs his own YouTube channel about photography and promotes his nature photography on his personal website barrycallisterphotography.com.au.

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