From the team at BBC Wildlife Magazine
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Best kit for winter wildlife watching

Don't let the cold or wet weather put you off wildlife watching this winter! Get prepared and bundle up in plenty of layers, then get outside and enjoy yourself.

A couple wearing thick winter clothing outside in the snow, holding binoculars
Published: October 21, 2021 at 10:00 am
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Whether you're out enjoying a walk in the fresh, crisp snow or looking for winter migrants at your local nature reserves, it's important to stay warm when watching wildlife in autumn and winter. You don't want to cut your trip short because of the cold or the wet when there's still plenty to see!


Our guide isn't exhaustive of all the kit out there, but should help make your wildlife watching much more enjoyable and comfortable.

Looking for more kit reviews? Our sister magazine BBC Countryfile Magazine has a number of in-depth review articles including the best gifts for walkers, the best gloves for staying warm and the best wellies.

Skyline Summit GORE-TEX Waterproof Boot, Ariat, £170.00.

Two boots on a wooden surface, one is the women's version (lighter brown) and one is the men's version (darker brown)

Ariat are better known for their horseriding boots and clothing, but these waterproof hiking boots are worth noting too. As well as looking stylish, they are comfortable and flexible to wear, even from the first time they are worn.

The combination of leather and Gore-Tex keeps them waterproof – perfect for splashing through wintery puddles and mud as you search for birds or mammals, and they weigh just 538g per boot.

The company has a number of environmental initiatives including a denim recycling program, using recycled polyester, and offering repairs on most of their boots. Their leather is sourced from responsible tanneries, and they work with supplies to improve their environmental stewardship.

Reviewed by Megan Shersby, editorial and digital co-ordinator, BBC Wildlife

Thermal Skinny Outdoor Trousers, Acai, £89.00.

Winter wildlife watching is both cosy and elegant with these trousers from Acai, which are made by women for women. The fleece lining is incredibly soft and comfortable against the skin, whether sitting in a bird hide or walking around a reserve – and they're smart enough to wear when not out watching wildlife too.

The material is shower proof, dry quickly when wet, and are easily cleaned with a damp cloth for light cleaning between washes. The trousers come in range of gorgeous colours including winterberry, aubergine, forest green and storm grey. There's a wide size range available between UK6 and UK22, and three leg lengths to choose from.

Reviewed by Megan Shersby, editorial and digital co-ordinator, BBC Wildlife

Pro Insulated Jacket, Orvis

Orvis jacket

The Orvis Pro Insulated Jacket is at the higher end of the price bracket, but if you’re looking for an investment for watching wildlife in cold weather, this insulated hoodie makes a great addition to your winter outdoor kit.

The key feature of the jacket is its body-mapped insulation, which protects the most important areas (head, core and arms) with PrimaLoft® Gold Active insulation (45% recycled content). I found this kept me warm when staying stock still for long periods of time in November and early December, however I needed an outer layer when the colder weather began to bite. Its ‘ripstop’ polyamide shell gives it good wind resistance yet excellent breathability – making it an ideal option for mid-layering on hikes.

I found the hood a snug fit around my face, which never interfered with my line of vision and kept my ears insulated from windy conditions. When not in use, it made a good snood with its high zip, protecting my neck. Adjustable pull cords round the waist kept the warmth in, and thumb hooks stop the sleeves riding up. The fleece-lined pockets kept my hands very warm, and the handy secret chest pocket ideal for keeping my phone dry in wet conditions and contained.

Reviewed by Tanya Jackson, acting group digital editor, BBC Wildlife

Epiq 600 Fill Hooded Down Jacket, Kathmandu, £180.00.

Stay cosy in this down jacket when the temperature drops. The outer shell is made from 100% recycled polyester with a water repellent finish, whilst the duck down inside is Responsible Down Standard certified.

There's a soft, brushed fabric lining on the chin guard and inner collar, as well as in the two front zip pockets, and the hood is adjustable with a drawcord. It also comes with a separate stuff sack for squishing it away in your bag if the weather turns out to be milder than expected.

There are two colour combinations for both the men's and women's jackets: black and green (pictured above), and blue and red.

Reviewed by Megan Shersby, editorial and digital co-ordinator, BBC Wildlife

Recycled ocean plastic sunglasses, Waterhaul.

Protect your eyes from the bright winter sun with this cool sunglasses. The sight of plastic containers and fishing nets washed up along the shore demonstrates our impact on the planet. However, one Cornwall-based social enterprise has been retrieving this type of jetsam and recycling it into sunglasses.

There are a few different styles available, pictured above is the Kynance. The frames are lightweight yet robust, with a comfortable fit and the entire product can be recycled via Waterhaul’s lifetime warranty.

You can also order prescription lenses through the website (for an additional £20).

Reviewed by Angharad Moran, former production editor, BBC Wildlife

Smith The Roll Pack, Millican.

If you want travel wares that take wear and tear, you could do worse than trust people who’ve been there. Jorrit and Nicky, the founders of Millican, first met in the Andes in the ’90s. Many moons later, they hooked up once again, this time in the Lake District, to launch their own travel goods company.

Within their Mavericks range, Smith The Roll Pack is beginning to take on legendary status. This stylish and durable 25L backpack has it all. It’s light, comfortable, hard-wearing, packs down to a comfortable size but expands to fit all you’ll need for a day on the mountains, in the jungle or on the daily commute. Hidden laptop and phone pockets make it ideal for working on the road, with every conceivable pocket both inside and out. Oh, and they’re now made from 100% recycled materials. Roll on!

Reviewed by Paul McGuinness, editor, BBC Wildlife

Brae beanie and Ascent socks, Rohan.

Rohan’s Brae beanie hat and durable Ascent socks will keep you warm and comfortable on crisp woodland walks and while patiently waiting in wildlife hides.

Made from merino wool and a high-wicking yarn, the three-season socks (available in a range of colours – women’s sizes 4–5 and 5–8; men’s sizes 6–9 and 9–12) will keep your feet cushioned and dry. The beanie is reversible, and made from a merino wool and acrylic blend, so you can stay cosy outside for longer.

Reviewed by Jo Price, deputy editor, BBC Wildlife

Window bird feeder, RSPB.

If you don't fancy bundling on lots of layers and heading out into the cold to see wildlife, why not encourage the wildlife to come to you? See robins, tits, sparrows and other garden birds up close with this ingenious suction-cup feeder, which has a detachable tray for easy cleaning and refilling.

Read more of our reviews on window bird feeders.

Reviewed by the BBC Wildlife team 


Main image: A couple with binoculars outdoors in winter. © Larry Williams/Getty


Megan ShersbyEditorial and digital co-ordinator at BBC Wildlife Magazine, and

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