Close banner

Support Outside Online

Love Outside?

Help fund our award-winning journalism with a contribution today.

Contribute to Outside
GearTools & Tech

What's a killer pair of birding binoculars?

I'm looking for compact binoculars that I can carry for various activities, such as kayaking where size and access counts. Mostly, I'll use them for birding. Rick Port Townsend, Washington

A: Ah, a true Renaissance man—combining vigorous sports like kayaking with more civilized pursuits like bird-watching. What's your favorite? Northern flicker? Rufous-sided towhee? Pigeon guillemot?

Wildlife Binoculars

The ideal binoculars will offer both sufficient pull and excellent light-gathering characteristics, something along the lines of the 10 (magnification) by 50 (lens-opening diameter) Nikon Action EX Extreme waterproof binocs ($240, There's room for debate on the ten-power magnification—some argue that it magnifies shake too much. You have to weigh that against the extra "pull" you get versus a seven- or eight-power binocular. Me? Unless the birds are working a feeder in the yard, I tend to prefer a more powerful pair of glasses.

Trouble is, the Nikons and others of their ilk are more than you probably want to carry. You want some compact binoculars, which while still providing plenty of power will tend to have smaller lens openings and thus a little less light-gathering capability. An example: Minolta's Compact II ($126,, a pair of 10x25 glasses that bring things plenty close and fit nicely into a pocket. Or take a look at an upgrade, such as Steiner's superb 10.5x28 Wildlife binoculars. True, the Steiners are $299 (street price is less;, but they're really wonderful binoculars, with crystal clarity and rugged construction. A lifetime investment, really.

Feast your eyes on more of the best binoculars in Outside's 2004 Buyer's Guide .

Support Outside Online

Our mission to inspire readers to get outside has never been more critical. In recent years, Outside Online has reported on groundbreaking research linking time in nature to improved mental and physical health, and we’ve kept you informed about the unprecedented threats to America’s public lands. Our rigorous coverage helps spark important debates about wellness and travel and adventure, and it provides readers an accessible gateway to new outdoor passions. Time outside is essential—and we can help you make the most of it. Making a financial contribution to Outside Online only takes a few minutes and will ensure we can continue supplying the trailblazing, informative journalism that readers like you depend on. We hope you’ll support us. Thank you.

Contribute to Outside
Filed To: Binoculars and Telescopes
Lead Photo: courtesy, Steiner