Probably one of the most important hunting items are the humble binoculars. Not only can they help you to scan the landscape more comfortably, but they don’t have the narrow field of view of gun optics. At a single glance, you can get a lot more into your vision.
Many of us have been hunting or know someone who has been hunting, and all bar one that I know, everyone else has a good pair of binoculars in their kit bag. It seems like something you don’t want to forget.
We reached out to our friends at Palmetto State Armory to ask for their options.
“A hunting kit bag should contain everything that you think you might need, and binoculars is one of those must-have items. They can be very small and light and for the benefit that they offer, you should absolutely pack them. There are many manufacturers on offer to you, but we would suggest you don’t go for the cheapest available. A $20 pair is unlikely to ever offer the views that you need, so shop carefully.”
So what are your options? How will you know if the binoculars you are choosing will do what you need? Head on over to The Best Binoculars for some in depth reviews, but continue reading to get an idea of what you need to be considering.
Ultimately the best way of choosing a pair of binoculars is to visit a store and try several pairs before making a final choice, although some information may help in making that decision.
A pair of binoculars has an Objective Lens, and Objective Lens Diameter, a Magnification Power and an Eyecup.
The numbers on binoculars signify the strength (magnification power) and size (objective lens diameter). To explain further 8 x 42 indicates ‘8’ as being the magnification power and ‘42’ is the diameter (in millimeters) of the objective lenses (the lenses closest to the object you are viewing).
Objective lens gives an understanding of how physically big the binoculars are and also how much light they can gather. Understanding what these numbers mean and how they will affect your viewing will help decide which binoculars will be best for different scenarios.
If you want binoculars for a specific purpose the basic guidelines will help you to make your choice. While magnification and size are a good starting point, optics and features need to be factored into your decision.
If you are choosing binoculars to take on a backpacking / hiking adventure the size and weight will be a key concern, as you will need a compact pair of binoculars with a magnification of 8 or 10 and an objective lens diameter of less than 28.
For example 8 x 25, 10 x 25, 8 x 28 and 10 x 28 would all be good choices. A water resistant or waterproof pair with a rubber coating would be more durable and help protect from the elements.
If the weight of the binoculars is not the primary consideration, midsize and full size models would be suitable for birdwatching. 8 x 32 or 8 x 42 are popular choices as the magnification of 8 will give a wide field view an important factor when trying to locate birds.
Water resistance is also advisable and models which won’t fog up when going from a warm vehicle to the outdoors. If you need binoculars to take on safari or perhaps even to do some whale watching then 8 x 32, 8 x 42, 10 x 32 and 10 x 42 are popular models for these activities, as also is water resistance.
If your adventures will take you onto the water either kayaking or canoeing then a lower magnification of 8 is advisable, as a higher (10 power) magnification can make steady viewing very challenging, 8 x 32 is the popular choice. Choosing a waterproof model is obviously a good idea as well.
Maximum magnification and light gathering ability would be a wise choice when gazing into the sky at night. 10 x 42 and 10 x 50 are options worth considering, but if you do choose the higher magnification it would be wise to choose a tripod to hold the binoculars steady.
To try and simplify, binoculars are described in three sizes – Compact binoculars where the objective lens is less than 30mm (8 x 25, 10 x 28 etc). Midsize where the objective lens size is from 30mm to 40mm (10 x 30, 8 x 32 etc) and full size where the objective lens is greater than 40mm ( 8 x 42, 10 x 50 etc).
Lightweight models are an ideal choice if they are to be carried in a backpack. Midsize models can give a brighter image and are comfortable to hold for long periods.
Full size binoculars while giving a bright clear image are often found to be too heavy to be held for any length of time.
While the most popular choice of binoculars has a magnification power of 8 or 10 models are available with higher or lower magnification. 8 power binoculars give a wilder field of view while the 10 power binoculars will give a closer more detailed view.
An 8 x 25 and 8 x 42 pair of binoculars all provide the same magnification, an object will appear 8 times closer than it would to your naked eye. Magnification power also has a direct effect on your field of view, lower magnification expands it, higher magnification narrows it.
A narrower field of view can make it harder to locate small or moving objects, such as birds, when you scan far away.
Other factors such as eyepiece design can also play a role, and the ‘field of view’ spec is the one to check in order to get a true picture. The spec states the width of the area which you can view at a glance, 1,000 yards from where you stand.
The Objective Lens Diameter determines how much light your binoculars gather. Two pairs of binoculars which have the same specification will differ only because the pair with the larger objective lenses will capture more light and provide a better image.
It also helps to understand the optics of binoculars, the lens materials and coatings. The makeup of the glass and the coating on the lenses which reduces reflections all add up to determine the clarity and brightness of an image. The Prisms are the optical elements that direct the light from the image through the binoculars to your eyes.
Porro prism binoculars feature wide barrels in front which aren’t aligned with the eyepieces. Roof prism models have eyepieces and objective lenses aligned. The difference in the appearance doesn’t say anything about the optical quality, but having roof prisms allows binoculars to be smaller and lighter.
Finally it is worth bearing in mind that whilst binoculars may be described as water resistant, although this will protect them from the rain, it does not mean that they should be submerged in water for any length of time.
Armed with some basic knowledge, it is still advisable to try out different models of binoculars, check how comfortable they feel in your hands, and the optical clarity and brightness.