Top Pro Tell-All
"It's OK to use saliva to clean your binocular lenses while in the field. Just lick 'em and wipe with the tail of your shirtyou can taste when the glass is clean and when it's gritty. If you ever want to stop conversation on a bus, just take out your binoculars and start licking."
World Series of Birding founder PETE DUNNE recently crisscrossed the country researching a new field guide to North American birds, due out in fall 2005.
Leupold Wind River RB800C, Nikon Stabileyes 16X32, Yukon Optics NVMT 3X42 Sea Wolf, Celestron Vistapix 72212
Clockwise from top: Leupold Wind River RB800C, Nikon Stabileyes 16X32, Yukon Optics NVMT 3X42 Sea Wolf, Celestron Vistapix 72212
Though they're designed for hunters, just about anyone will have a blast with the 23-ounce LEUPOLD WIND RIVER RB800C rangefinder binoculars. Center the digital crosshairs over that distant tree line, press a button, andzap!a pulse of laser light reveals precisely how far away it is, up to 875 yards out. Point the binos in any direction and a digital compass takes a bearing. Even without the onboard distance gauge, the Leupolds remain top-shelf specs with multicoated glass and big 32mm objective lenses to pass plenty of light to your retinas. Stumbling along in bad weather? No worries. Waterproof rubber armor helps protect the Leupolds' delicate silicon innards, even if you take a tumble. $750; 800-929-4949, www.leupold.com
Holding a pair of binoculars steady while bouncing along in a Land Rover is all but impossible. Enter the NIKON STABILEYES 16X32fully functional binos with an electronic servo-control system and gimbal-hung prisms. Wha? It just means the image won't shake when you do. The tech is sophisticated, but the waterproof and fogproof StabilEyes are built for punishment (attach the strap and they even float!), and you still get the benefit of Nikons Mandy Moorepure lenses. Best of all, packing these 40-ouncers means you'll have to leave only one bottle of malt liquor at home. $850; 800-247-3464, www.nikonusa.com
The Russian engineers at YUKON OPTICS have turned formerly fussy night-vision equipment into serious exploration gear with the waterproof, rubberized NVMT 3X42 SEA WOLF. Tackle an easy night hike, finish a multipitch big wall at 3 a.m., or tie up a canyoneering tripthe monocular amplifies visible light several thousand times, while a proprietary infrared system expands range and battery life. Fully multicoated optics decrease glare and improve light transmission. The Wolf is small enough to fit in one hand and can be attached to an optional head mount ($120) when you need your hands to hold the rope. $250; 817-453-9966, www.yukonoptics.com
The CELESTRON VISTAPIX 72212 is a Bigfoot hunter's dreama pair of 8x32 binoculars with high-end roof prisms (burly reflectors that allow for a more compact straight-barrel, as opposed to "dogleg," design) and a built-in three-megapixel digital camera, all weighing just shy of a pound. There's room on board for about 40 high-resolution shotsand hundreds more if you slide an optional SD memory card into the provided slot. A pop-up LCD screen means you can review your shots in the field. The gold coating might not keep you camouflaged, but it will help keep your Celestrons safe from dings should Sasquatch get fed up with the paparazzi. $199; 310-328-9560, www.celestron.com
More to Love...
Slide the 3.8-ounce EAGLE OPTICS UNIVERSAL EXTENDER 2.5X ($119; 800-289-1132, www.eagleoptics.com) onto one of your binoculars' eyepieces and you've got a 20x spotting scope. A rubber gasket securely mates the extender with most full-size 8x binos. » Few among us pay any mind to their binocular strap, but SWAROVSKI's life-vest-red FLOATING SHOULDER STRAP (not pictured, $29; 401-734-1800, www.swarovskioptik.at) is an investment in peace of mind for boaters. It'll keep your spyglasses within easy reach of the gaff hook.