Q: I see lots of people buying binoculars that are totally the wrong fit for them and wrong for their activity, whether bird watching or hunting.
Can you offer some tips on buying binoculars?
COLLEEN SWEENEY, Boise
A: Trying to explain what binoculars to buy can leave people with a glazed look in their eyes.
Objective this, prism that, 8X32 or 10X42. Yikes! I still don't completely understand it.
I'm not going to give you a science lesson and spout off high-tech terms.
Basically, I have a pair of 8X42 Bushnell Trophy series binoculars I stumbled upon in the store, and I totally love them. I ended up getting a second pair so I would have one for the house and the other for the rig.
They are fog and waterproof, naturally, for the outdoors.
I really like them because when I look through them while wearing glasses they work great. I'm not going to explain the principle, just look through the binoculars with your glasses and if you can see and focus easily, great.
That's the key when shopping for binoculars - try them out in several ways.
Use them in the store in low light and see how they perform. Look out the window of the store at something in the distance and see if the field of view is what you like.
See how they feel on your face. Really. When you move the two lenses apart or closer together, do they conform to your eyes and face? If something is crooked or not fitting, you won't see clearly through them.
Feel them. Do you want to carry something that big on a backpacking trip? You might want a lighter pair.
Save the heavier ones for the dry box on your boat or in the glove compartment of the car.
I got some tips from Matt Bates, Bushnell product manager, and a few other experts, to try to boil down simple tips on getting binoculars:
Use: Before purchasing a pair, think what you'll be doing with them. Think about size and weight, magnification power, whether they fit your face, and how much light is coming through the lenses.
You don't want huge binoculars for backpacking, or a tiny pair if you want to see clear across the Owyhee River canyon.
All-weather performance: Every outdoors person knows they have a chance of being drenched in a rain or snowstorm. Fog and waterproof binoculars will provide all-weather performance, long-term reliability and peace of mind when conditions take a turn for the worse.
Low-light performance: If you need binoculars that perform well in low light (like trying to spot wildlife at dawn and dusk) then full-size binoculars with 42 to 50mm objective lenses will gather a lot of light, providing the best clarity in dim light.A pair of 10X25 binoculars may give you a dimmer view because the lenses are 25mm instead of 42mm, because larger lenses gather more light.
Let's back up. Take 10X42 and 8X32. The first number is the magnification, and the second one is the size of the lenses.
Power: Bigger isn't always better. Remember, the front number in binoculars is the power of its magnification. The "8" means objects will appear eight times closer than they do to the naked eye.
While 12-power and 16-power binoculars have greater magnification, more power doesn't mean better binoculars. You have to be able to hold them steady to get the benefit of that extra magnification. The higher it is, the harder it is to hold steady and keep the image from jiggling.
It's important you think about how much power you'll need in the field. Out in the open country of the West, a 12-power binocular might be the right choice, but if you spend a lot of time in the woods, less is more. You may only need 8 power for watching a ground squirrel or bird close to your campsite.
Field of View: The lower the magnification, the wider the field of view will be, assuming the lens width is the same. If you're trying to see a lot of country, a wider field of view is better.
A wider field of view also makes it easier to spot something. If you're trying to spot a bird in a bush or a bull elk on a mountain, it will be quicker and easier through a pair of 10X50 binoculars than a 10X32 pair, which will be like peering through a straw.
NEED A PACK
Q: What model pack are you wearing in the front page of the City of Rocks story (Feb. 21)? It looks big enough to carry a lot, but not too much.
I enjoyed the City of Rocks article. I've been there twice and want to go in the snow.
VINCE MATTHEWS, email
A: My daypack is a Deuter Futura 32, and I love it. I mentioned this in a past column.
I've had been looking for the right daypack for 30 years and finally got it.
The shoulder strap and waist belt system is extremely comfortable. The padding on the straps and belt provide support and, the pack also has a mesh-ventilated back that allows air to flow between you and the pack. All this stuff makes the pack a dream to carry.
I can carry a JetBoil stove and cups, tea, soup and coffee, a first-aid and survival kit, wind-proof lighter, knife, water bladder, wool gloves and hat, rain gear and snacks with no trouble. My point-and-shoot Panasonic Lumix camera fits in the belt pocket.
It has top lid pockets and top and bottom access to the inside of the pack. There's a zip divider that lets you have two separate compartments top and bottom.
It also has zippered side bellow pockets. That's where I keep the gloves and hat and M&Ms.
Another thing I like is a detachable rain cover that is stashed in the pack.
I just like the fit of the pack. It sits snuggly to my body for tele-skiing, or for scrambling.
Oh, by the way, the pack has an internal SOS label that gives you tips on how to signal properly in case of an emergency.
Hopefully, I won't have to use them.
They think of everything. By the way, that was my wife in the photo. She has a Gregory women's pack with a similar shoulder straps, waist belt and air-flow mesh back system.
It's very comfortable and has ended her quest for the perfect daypack.
The point is, try on some of the newer daypacks and especially look at the shoulder straps, waist belt and air flow mesh back systems. You'll be surprised at the comfort.
Expect to shell out $130 to $160 for this style of daypack.
Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445, Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors