I've decided to advance in the birding world with an increased level of nerdiness. My wife got me this Sportsman's Warehouse vest for Christmas. It is intended to be a shooting vest and was not specifically made for birdwatching. When we looked at birding vests online the prices were a little too rich for my blood, so we saved about $40 by getting this one with plans to have my seamstress wife modify it as I determine how I like to use it. I selected this particular vest because of the sturdy mesh material that will work for me in summer and can be worn over my coat in winter.
The left breast pocket is perfect for my pocket notebook and pen. The lower left pocket houses my optics cleaning kit (inspired by Bill Thompson III's essay in "Good Birders Don't Wear White"). The smaller lower front pocket is for my skeeter-spray and sunscreen. The lower front right large pocket fits any of my field guides perfectly. One thing about the location of this pocket however is that my walking motion starts the field guide a-swingin' and its perfectly placed to do the most damage to my man parts (see photo below). I quickly learned that if I keep the vest unzipped that I don't have this problem, otherwise, I leave the field guide in my truck. I sometimes use this pocket to carry my iMainGo2 portable speaker with Zune MP3 player loaded with BirdJam or a GPS device. This vest also has a large mesh back pocket that I have discovered works well for my winter gloves or even for a water bottle.
I plan to have Jessica add a magnetic button clasp (more quiet than Velcro) to the pocket holding the optics cleaning kit and the pocket with the bug spray and sunscreen, just so they don't fall out easily. We'll probably modify the bullet sleeves to be longer to hold a pen or two. We may even stitch in padding under the shoulders to provide additional comfort when packing around my spotting scope and tripod.
Using a birding vest has proven to be more accommodating then the hip pack that I used for several years. Easier access to birding tools and better weight distribution. Even with my binocular shoulder harness underneath of the vest, I still get the full range of motion needed to use my binoculars with ease.
If any birding vest makers out there want me to try out and comment on one of your vests, I'd be happy to do so. Just click the "Ask the Avimor Bird Guy" button in the side-bar of this website and send me an e-mail.