Q:

What are the best binoculars for the trail?

What’s the latest scoop on a very good pair of compact binoculars that can handle rough weather and hiking conditions? Jes Kailua, Hawaii

Nov 6, 2008
Outside
Outside Magazine
Steiner Predator 8x22 Binoculars

Predator 8x22 Binoculars

A:

There are lots of compact binoculars out there, so you are sure to find one you like.

I’ve had the same pair in my pack for some six years, and I still love them. Those would be the Steiner Predators ($160), a compact glass designed by the famous German glassmaker but, well, farmed out to a manufacturing subsidiary. Nonetheless, they are great small glasses at 8x22—eight-power magnification (quiet good!) with a 22mm opening, all of which is best for daylight. They have excellent resolution—perhaps a bit fuzzy on the edges, but not bad. And they’re tough and light.

Of course, you can spend far more, and up to a point you get what you pay for. Take Nikon’s estimable Premier LX L 8x32. These are fabulous glasses with the same magnification as the Steiners (eight power is about the max for reasonable hand-held performance) but with a wider element for more light transmission. They have environmentally safe glass, hair-on-a-gnat resolution, and a perfect hand-feel, not to mention they are waterproof. But hey, they also cost $950! They better be good. Brunton’s Echo 8x25 ($125) has the same basic specs, without quite the refinement or glass that was hand-crafted by highly paid Nikon elves. Compact, and very nice.

So get thee to a store and try a few pairs. A lot depends on how they “fit," i.e., how they meet up with your eyes, feel in the hand, etc. You’ll know the right pair when you find them.

The 2008-09 Winter Outside Buyer’s Guide is on newsstands now. Look for it online soon so you can get prepped for gift-giving season—even if everything you pick is for yourself!

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