Many years ago I attended the army Map Reading Instructors Course, where part of the basic navigators kit included binoculars. Since then I’ve made a point of carrying a small pair of folding binoculars as well as my map and compass. Afterward I remember hearing of some new technology, GPS, and asked if I could go on the course for it, to be told that it was a fad and wasn’t worth bothering with. Here I am around 15 years later, having gone through 5 GPS units, to keep up with changes in technology. I’m also on my fourth pair of binoculars…
Choice of binoculars is dependent on what you want to do with them, how much weight you are willing to carry, and of course how much you are willing to pay. A friend of mine has a pair which he uses for birdwatching, which would set you back a four figure sum. The optics are stunningly clear, so much so that going back to my pocket binoculars feels like looking through cataracts. My own experience has led me to generally use the small folding type of binocular which can be picked up for only a few pounds, although more expensive models are available.
My old binoculars, a cheap and cheerful pair, had begun to become less reliable. Wear and tear had taken their toll, screws regularly came loose and the rubber eyecups had become loose. I was loathe to part with them though, because I had found them suited to my needs. Good clear vision, small and light, the kind you wouldn’t look at and think “I could save some weight by leaving those”. A chance visit to an outdoor shop led me to their replacement, Barska 12X32 folding binoculars. Normally retailing at around £60 these are more expensive than I would usually look at, but with a good bit off in the sale I was tempted. Similarly they are a bit bigger than my previous ones, and heavier too, weighing in at 280g, less case. These binoculars offer nothing radical. They follow the traditional setup, one for each eye. A metal bridge supports the two armoured lenses and holds an easily adjusted rubber focusing wheel. A cord loop allows it to be worn around the neck, although I usually remove these as I find they invariably drape over the eyepiece when you don’t want them to (if indeed you do ever want them to). Setting up is straightforward, adjusting the right eye via a diopter, then using the central focusing wheel to make any final adjustments.
Initially I found them easy to use, however over time I’ve had a few niggles. For a spell I seemed unable to get them to focus properly, especially on distant objects. However having become accustomed to them I’ve realised that for close work, such as birdwatching, or for identifying landscape features they are acceptable, the 32mm objective lens providing enough light to give a clear image. At longer distances however I there’s an element of haze or fuzz, which you must expect. These aren’t top of the range.
These are available for around £60 RRP (less if you are willing to go online) and are well made, easy to use and have a good quality clear image up to a point. For general birdwatching and as an aid to navigation, you could do a lot worse for the money.
Stockists: Blacks, Amazon
Weight: 280g (Less accessories: cloth and carry case)