backpacking binoculars

1:27 p.m. on March 15, 2013 (EDT)
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It's the ides of March and already the birding is getting interesting. I did a search on binoculars here and found some good information, but it's from a while back.

What's the latest and greatest (or tried and true) in binoculars for backpackers? Ultralight, powerful, tough, weather-resistant and affordable being, of course, the unattainable holy grail. :)

Grateful again for your wisdom, Trailspace!

7:22 p.m. on March 15, 2013 (EDT)
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Buy a cheap pair of 8X20s. Here in the US, you can find them for about $25. Sure, a nice pair of Leitz Trinovids are better (I know, I used to sell them many years ago), but at $500 a pair, not 20 times better. Mine are Bushnell. Unless you plan to stare through them all day, it won't really matter. I'm sure this is a minority opinion, but wait until you lose a pair, then think about it.

7:24 p.m. on March 15, 2013 (EDT)
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i have had the same pair of nikon compact binoculars for years - at least a dozen.  they are an older version of their 'travelite' line.  mine are 9x25.  they haven't broken, scratched, or otherwise had a hiccup.  can't speak for the newer models, but these are very high quality, and i didn't spend an arm and a leg on them.  (it looks like newer versions cost around $100).  i'm guessing they weigh 8-10 ounces.  highly recommended.  

10:46 a.m. on March 16, 2013 (EDT)
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I like bushnell too, my buddy swears by his nikons. As long as you get a good brand you will be fine. My bushnells are 25 years old and have never had a prob, they are a little bigger than the newer ones, but not much heavier, 10x20 I think.

10:48 a.m. on March 16, 2013 (EDT)
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Sorry they are 10x50, 341 feet at 1000 yards. Not very compact, but I carry them strapped to the outside of my pack. Its hard to use them in the pack.

5:49 p.m. on March 16, 2013 (EDT)
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I have a cheapie I bought at a surplus store.10x25, 200 ft at 1000 yds they do a good job. I think I paid 20 or 30$ for them. coated optics, tough little set. I take them with me whenever I go out. the main thing  is to go to a store that has a good selection. try them before you buy them. sure a set of bushnells or Nikons would be nice, but if you're on a budget they could be out of reach. there are a lot of no name binoculars out there that will do just fine.

6:22 p.m. on March 16, 2013 (EDT)
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My advice would be to go into a store that has a good selection and look through them... often cheap binos are out of collimation (slight double vision) and or have very dark and soft edges compared to the center. How much that will affect you depends on what you are used to.

For "birding" I would recommend an 8/9/10 x ,not a zoom and definitely not "ruby" coated lenses. Get the widest exit pupil you can (divide the front element by the magnification : 25:8=3.1 mm, 20;8=2.5mm not as good...)

FYI, our pupil closes down to about 2.5mm in the brightest light and opens up to 5 (4x more light) to 7mm depending on your age, at night. Some suggestions Look for "fully coated" "BAK4" and for hiking WP/fog proof something like : Bushnell H20  8x26 about $50  Nikon 8x25  $75 Steiner 10x26 $116

8:41 p.m. on March 16, 2013 (EDT)
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TomD, good point on the benefits of budget binoculars and not having to worry about them. I dropped a pair down a steep rock face last year. Went back a couple of weeks later with a coil of stiff wire and fished them up. No damage to them or me, a bit of luck unlikely to be repeated.

I knew I might do something like that when I started, so I went with the cheapest I could find: Bushnell Powerview 8x21, $14.50 Canadian at MEC. Another selling point, they're 227g/8oz. I ordered online and honestly I expected a disposable toy. But they're really not bad at all! In fact I'd highly recommend them for basic or beginner use, and might still choose them on long or rough trips.

But. Only 8x magnification and a tiny field of vision, and as Franco says, not good around the edges, and some trouble with 'collimation'. (New word! Thanks for that, Franco, and for the excellent technical information. Learning stuff just makes my day.)

So in my accidental, ever-growing bird-nerdery, I'm looking for something better. leadbelly and hotdogman, I like the sound of those, and thanks to trailjester for the surplus-shop reminder.

If I can look across a valley and tell a Sharp-shinned Hawk from a Cooper's Hawk, that will make me very happy, and I'll have you folks to thank!

9:35 a.m. on March 17, 2013 (EDT)
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Has anyone ever used a monocular? I have and realized that for most on-trail spotting this serves it's purpose quite well and not much to it.

Might be an option. 

1:20 p.m. on March 17, 2013 (EDT)
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Rick, I have a spotting scope from my hunting days that I use a lot. I like it better for looking fir landmarks and navigation. It's only down fall is its narrow field of vision, its hard to see something wuth your naked eye, then find it, like a rifle scope. It has lots more magnification than my binoculars, but I dont really like it for sight seeing.

1:36 p.m. on March 17, 2013 (EDT)
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I was thinking something a little more compact such as this Zeiss(of course there are cheaper models/brands available with different features, magnification, etc:)

http://www.opticsplanet.com/zeiss-10x25-b-design-selection-monocular.html

Spotting scopes have their place but for most hikers they are over-kill.

4:52 p.m. on March 17, 2013 (EDT)
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a spotting scope has too narrow a field of vision to be effective for anything other than spotting targets. good idea though.

5:01 p.m. on March 17, 2013 (EDT)
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Trailjester said:

a spotting scope has too narrow a field of vision to be effective for anything other than spotting targets. good idea though.

Based on(what is your experience w/different spotting scopes?) Many have larger objective lenses than binoculars and definitely larger than a pair of compacts.

There are many, and I mean many models and brands on the market. Spotting scopes are typically more powerful than binoculars as you will read in the article contained within the link below.

In regards to spotting scopes there are many guides that use them "spotting" climbers on mountains such as Everest, so on and so forth to track the rate at which climbers are making their way to the summit. I am not sure if you have ever seen Beyond the Limit but these are tools that carry the climbers life in the balance.

The real thing that kills these types of scopes for normal use is the fact that you typically need a tri-pod to use them, and they can be somewhat "large."

Here is a little more on "spotting scopes" since we are on the matter.

http://www.opticsplanet.com/what-is-a-spotting-scope.html

Now back too monoculars.

Here is a Barska monocular with a 40mm objective lenses. 

If you are looking to drain the ol' pocket on a quality higher end item, Zeiss, Leica, and Swarovski's are good names to begin with. I have gone ahead and linked the name's to the company's home page. 

7:20 p.m. on March 17, 2013 (EDT)
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The size of the front objective and field of view are not interdependent. One gives you the brightness the other the angle (field...)of view...
Birdwatching, (that is the OP's interest....) is done with binos when moving and often with a spotting scope (and binos) from a fixed position.

BTW, the larger front lenses of a spotting scope , around 80mm/88mm at the top end, is to make up for the loss of light due to the higher magnification.

So an 80mm spotting scope at 25x gives you the same amount of light as a tiny  8x25 bino.

7:41 p.m. on March 17, 2013 (EDT)
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While I do agree with you on the subject of light transmission I am going to say it does make a difference when comparison of various spotting scopes(hunting mostly) over the years.

Not to mention all of the various sized rifle scopes over the years as well. 

Some of which were tagged manufacturers in the previous post(tail end.)

Then one has to take into consideration that there are wide angle models available. 

Once again, I was initially speaking in reference to monoculars.

Slight difference from a spotting scope.

8:13 p.m. on March 17, 2013 (EDT)
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Well, the scope idea certainly appeals to my inner pirate, Rick, especially after a day spent standing on high rocks and scanning the harbour. :) Honestly, that's an option I hadn't even thought of, so thank you. Do I want both? Just how geeky am I?

Would there be much of a weight difference? Seems like something for one eye would weigh less than something for two, all else being equal...

Also, is there a loss of dimension and depth in what you would see through a single scope? Do things look flat and 2-D?

Saw a Rough-Legged Hawk today :)

10:36 a.m. on March 18, 2013 (EDT)
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Got decade old Nikon's that almost fit a shirt pocket 10X25. They will fit a parka pocket easy, but tend to feel heavy there, and mess up pack straps.

Rick I carry a mono on my bike for grins... I keep the other eye open too. I would tell you what it is, but it's still on the bike and it's in winter storage still. Getting 8 to 14 inchs of snow tonight I guess. I do know it is a Tasco and not a very expensive one but not the power. It's ok..... 3 stars..

11:06 a.m. on March 18, 2013 (EDT)
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Another plus, I could refer to it as my spyglass. Almost time for whales here, too.

11:12 a.m. on March 19, 2013 (EDT)
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Islandess said:

Another plus, I could refer to it as my spyglass. Almost time for whales here, too.

 If that idea of a mono floats your stick, and if a real small size isn't utmost of importance, then seek out used and no longer used hunting rifle scopes.

Many of these have zoom features, are fairly light weight, and have very good optics with assorted range finders built in.

When a scope is swapped off a rifle for a better scope the old one is just about worthless, and for not much money at all you can buy these new for a .22 rifle that are not 1/2 bad too like maybe as little as 30 dollars.....

Recently I bought a 50+ year old .22 bolt action rifle and it had a vintage scope that I didn't really like so well and I went to walmart and for 70 usd I bought a far better scope, but this one happens to be very heavy.

There was a reason... I wanted this gun to be heavy and am not done adding weight to it yet. It will be a paper target gun, and not carried very far by hand. I had to look hard to find a scope that weighs as much as this one does. The weight lends to steady hold.

 

Only top rated gun scopes hold any value, like Leupold, Savorsky and that sort of thing. Scopes as Tasco, Simmons, BSA, Weaver are ok scopes but just don't hold any value at all used... So you might be able to get one to 100 for free.

5:10 p.m. on March 19, 2013 (EDT)
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that's a good idea. the only experience I have with spotting scopes is a cheap one at the range, but a rifle scope might work. I think she is looking for a small size though.

5:24 p.m. on March 19, 2013 (EDT)
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I am not sure if a rifle scope would be a solid option due to the crosshairs will be in every view you look at. 

Honestly(especially for whale watching) I personally think a dedicated spotting scope would be the ticket.

I wouldn't want to use my 3-9x40 Leupold for watching whales or birds. The magnification just isn't there. 

Jmo.

6:25 p.m. on March 19, 2013 (EDT)
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So I went to check Mercer's Marine (mercersmarine.com), Newfoundland's biggest fishing supplier. Oh, the fun to be had in the binocular section under "Marine Equipment". I had no idea some of these things existed.

For $750 you can get 'steady-cam' binoculars that correct for hand and/or boat movement. Ever tried whale-spotting in a heavy lop? There's also a waterproof, floating 'marine binocular with built-in range finder and compass' which might be pretty handy for bushwhacking, $240. And Bushnell PermaFocus self-focusing binoculars! What is this wizardry? Advertised as 'perfect for winter days' because you don't have to take your mitts off. Under $100, but I don't understand how it works. How does it know what I'm looking at? What if I want to see the beluga that just surfaced right behind the puffin?

There's a Tasco 12x25 rubberized tacticool compact binocular for around $20. Nobody here has mentioned Tasco, these are probably crap? Good for those trips when I drop things off cliffs, maybe.

I am leaning toward the Bushnell so many of you recommend, having been surprised by the quality of my cheapies. Mercer's has the H20 Compacts in 10x25, that seems like a good bet.

Oh, and a solid brass folding hand telescope, with case, $39.95. Might be heavy for the backpack, but it sure is shiny.

6:52 p.m. on March 19, 2013 (EDT)
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7:26 p.m. on March 19, 2013 (EDT)
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150X zoom. Holy crow. Sure I could see the birds where Gary is if I had one of those. Or count the whiskers on seal pups, or tell if the moose had fleas...

10:10 a.m. on March 20, 2013 (EDT)
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Trailjester said:

that's a good idea. the only experience I have with spotting scopes is a cheap one at the range, but a rifle scope might work. I think she is looking for a small size though.

 In don't mean 'spotting scopes, which are bench or large tripod mounted.

I mean a rifle scope, just not mounted on a rifle.

I just put one of these on the 50+ year old .22, and I bought it new, but that isn't the point and i didn't pay any 90 dollars either.

This one IMO is too heavy as well, but check out the features.

http://centerpoint.crosman.com/scopes/adventure/CPA416AORG2

My point is to find something like this for free or under 20 dollars used. If one wanted this could be mounted to a rail and then to a walking stick, ir it could be mounted on a rifle stock where a camera is also mounted.

Once more not this scope because it weighs a ton.. It is hard to find a scope that weighs as much as this one does. Over 2 pounds.

This is better than a cheap spotting scope and they do not deal with parallax well at all. Being this scope I linked to is a cheaper scope over all but still very nice that objective lens moves and works just the same way a 35 mm camera lens does.

Better glass does this with out any manual adjusting.

Another difference is rifle scopes have eye relief, so you place your eye around 3 inches from touching the scope. In the events you have ski goggles on because of wind and blowing ice you can still see thru this type of scope.

If one gets clever enough you could mount a camera on a rifle scope and mount the scope ahead of the camera for a cheap long lens effect.

10:21 a.m. on March 20, 2013 (EDT)
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I did mention Tasco and their upper end is ok.... In glass you get what you pay for..... I was going the for free way..... For free you get what you get.

IMO there is no good spotting scope for less than 500 usd, and so i don't own one. 

Rick is right about cross hairs being in the view... A camera will not see them usually.... but you will. If you look at the link I placed, you will see 'Mil Dot' which is a crude ranger finder system that allows you to guess distance once you have learned how. Most of my glass is at my sons house. I don't think I have much of anything you would want really, but he may.

Most of my old glass is fixed at 4x .....

If you go much past 8x you will need a tripod and humans shakes too much. 10x is common and so borrow some of that power and you will see you can't not shake.

150x and you will find the earth shakes, winds too, and you better have that HEAVY glass bolted down, and for sure don't take them swimming!

The Russians make good glass..... Next time a sub pops up see what they have to offer cheap.. Be prepared with some Screech :-)

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