Q:

What binoculars should we buy for the Denali trip of a lifetime?

My wife and I will be backpacking in Denali as a 25th wedding anniversary getaway in late August. The Nikon 10x25 Premier LX L binoculars were recommended an ideal way to see the wildlife. However, Nikon's own 10x25 ProStaff Waterproof ATB's seem to be spec'd identically to the LX L's, except for weight (which we could live with) and, oh yeah, they cost a third as much. We don't want to use inferior binoculars on the trip of a lifetime, but that's a big dollar difference. What's your take? John San Diego, California

Jul 15, 2005
Outside
Outside Magazine

10x25 Premier LX L

A: Whaddya need binoculars for? Denali in late August—you'll be seeing...rain, and lots of it.

Just kidding, sort of. It is apt to be wet then. But you'll have some gaps between the clouds, and binocs will be handy. The Nikon Premiers you're eyeing are certainly a high-end pair of glasses—and at $430, they'd better be. They're fully waterproof and fog-proof, have a magnesium body, and come with super high-quality glass that Nikon says is made without lead or arsenic. So they're a lifetime investment.

The 10x25 ProStaff Waterproof ATB glasses are, on the other hand, much cheaper ($140; www.nikonsportoptics.com). They have a plastic body, but are waterproof, and while the optics are the same in terms of basic dimensions, the glass and coatings aren't as good. So the image you see won't be quite as sharp or clear. Will you be able to notice? Well, maybe. You'd need to look through each of them, side by side, and see what you think.

One thing I'd suggest you consider is a binocular in the 8x30-35 range. A little less pull—the "8" refers to magnification—but also easier to hold. And they have a bigger tube (the "35") so more light gets to your eyes, meaning they're a bit brighter. Steiner's 8x30 Predators ($250; www.steiner-binoculars.com) are an excellent choice, with sharp lenses, waterproof construction, armored coating. And they're still very compact. You might also look at the Nikon Monarch ATB 8x42 ($417), a compact, waterproof binocular that has a nice balance of pulling power and brightness.

And keep in mind, grizzlies seen through these binoculars may be closer than they appear...

Check out the binocs winner in Outside's 2005 Gear of the Year, plus ogle a slew of other great swag, from tents to MP3 players.

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