Binoculars. They all look basically the same, the manufacturers use similar marketing selling points and they come with a long list of industry jargon and numbers that have little meaning. It’s no wonder why many people find sporting optics to be confusing.
For most of history, hunters made decisions about what binoculars to purchase based on what their seasoned hunting mentors recommended. These century-old optics brands lived on through generations of loyal hunters. In recent years, as more sporting optics brands have jumped into the game, hunters are more likely to first borrow and try a friend’s binoculars of choice before buying new optics.
As we should, outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen are discovering what optics are best out in the field in true hunt scenarios. Now that we’re paying attention to performance and noting the small details, there are important basic features we should know well before making purchasing decisions.
Nine features in binoculars that actually matter for hunting:
1. General size
You need full-size binoculars for hunting. Mid-size and compact binoculars are virtually pointless for hunting purposes.
The best full-size binoculars for hunting are at least 8 x 42. 10 x 42 works well for most hunt types. The first number identifies the magnification of power. With 10 x 42 binoculars, an object will appear 10 times closer.
3. Objective lens size
The second number in a listed size identifies the diameter (in millimeters) of the objective lenses. The larger the number, the more light gathering ability the model will offer you. The more light available, the brighter the view. This is ultra important in hunting because low-light situations are common in early morning and dusk hunts. Your high-quality binoculars’ performance in low-light can empower you to spot an animal that you’d miss entirely with poor-quality binoculars.
4. Wide field of view
Field of view sets the maximum distance you can see clearly in binoculars. The wider the field of view, the more potential to identify animals.
5. Glass type
Ask pro hunters and they’ll tell you: There really is a direct correlation between glass quality and the ability to see in low-light conditions, to identify animals and to make intelligent decisions about whether to shoot or not. Extra-low dispersion (ED) glass is the industry’s description for premium glass that essentially eliminates distracting fuzziness in your view. It increases the price tag a bit but it’s worth it for improved image quality.
6. Waterproof, fogproof and the ability to withstand extreme temps.
Hunting binoculars simply must consistently perform well in the elements and in dusty, dirty conditions. Any models that don’t fare well in this category should be immediately dismissed. Look for reference to O-rings, which seal the lenses and block out dust, dirt, moisture and anything else that shouldn’t be inside.
7. Multi-coated lenses
The optics manufacturers’ marketing teams have fun creating fancy names for coatings. Some brands offer a few innovations in this area but in general, lenses with multiple coatings more effectively minimize reflection, improve light transmission and maximize clarity and sharpness.
8. Eye relief.
This the distance between your eye and the binoculars when the entire field of view is attained. The longer the eye relief, the more comfortable the experience for you. If you wear eyeglasses, long eye relief is important. Short eye relief will compromise the view.
9. Comfort features & weight
Considering that binoculars are held for hours on end, weight is important. Look for binoculars that are under two pounds. An ergonomic body design may not seem like a major factor until you actually use binoculars for hours. A bulky, non-contoured body design is uncomfortable. This is exactly when you also appreciate features like large focus adjustment wheels. You don’t want to have to remove your gloves just to adjust the focus. It’s distracting. Eliminating little annoyances like this will keep your concentration where it should be: on the hunt.
All bias aside as a sporting optics designer and manufacturer, we think it’s a great time to be a hunter. Today, more than ever in history, hunters have access to affordable, premium binoculars that aid in hunting and make the experience more enjoyable.
Tens of thousands of hunters have embraced Vanguard optics as their go-to gear. Vanguard spotting scopes and binoculars have earned multiple awards from respected outdoor magazines and websites.
Are you ready for fall?
Vanguard is celebrating this success and 30 years in business this year with mail-in rebate promotions on these bestselling products, valid now through September 30, 2016:
- Take up to $80 off ENDEAVOR ED, ENDEAVOR ED II and SPIRIT XF binoculars
- Get a free ABEO 243AV tripod with pan head ($169.99 value) when you purchase an ENDEAVOR HD spotting scope
- Get a free ALTA + 233AO tripod with pan head ($139.99 value) when you purchase an ENDEAVOR XF spotting scope
- Get up to $30 off PIONEER and ENDEAVOR packs to carry gear
- Purchase a VEO tripod, receive a free VEO 37 travel bag