Selecting Hunting Binoculars
by: John W. Brendemuehl
01. Price Range.
The price range of between $200 and $500 seems to satisfy the majority of hunting enthusiasts.
Binoculars costing less than $200 often are found to be lacking in at least one desired feature, while those with prices above $500 may not offer substantial additional features to justify the price increase.
When considering binoculars costing less than $50, durability is suspect at best. Used constantly in outdoor settings one may suddenly find these inexpensive binoculars to no longer function properly. This category of binocular is probably best suited as a beginning model, or one for occasional general use.
02. Magnification & Aperture.
These are the two numbers associated with all binoculars. The first value (“8”) is the power of the binoculars. Meaning that the object being viewed will appear eight times closer, or larger, than if seen with the naked eye. The second value (“42”) records the size of the front (objective) lens as 42 mm and indicates its light gathering capability.
Theoretically higher aperture ranges are better suited for early morning dawn and late evening dusk viewings. Game often is most active during these hours, and the dimmer light requires higher light gathering capabilities from your binoculars. However, as the size of the objective lens increases so does the overall binoculars weight.
Typically the numbers most often associated with hunting binoculars run in the 8 – 10 magnification and the 40 – 45 aperture ranges (8×40, 8×42, 8×45, 10×40, 10×42, 10×45). In very dim light, you may even want to go to the 50 mm range.
03. Eye Relief.
This is the distance between where your eyes are placed and the rear ocular lens. The recommended minimum distance is 14 mm. Eye relief is important to for the comfort of the binocular user, especially when the binoculars are used for extended periods of time. Eyes placed closer than the recommended 14 mm blink more often, thus increasing eye fatigue and discomfort.
Better hunting binoculars have at least 14 mm adjustable eye relief features and normally include twist up eyecups.
04. Lenses Coating.
Hunters want to clearly see their target without distortions. The best hunting binoculars have fully multi coated (FMC) lenses. This means that each of the binoculars internal lenses has been coated at least twice with anti reflective layers on both sides of all lenses. Lens coatings are necessary to create a brighter, clear image and to correct any color distortions.
In this regard, be aware of terms such as “fully coated” and “multi coated”. Multi coated lens have coatings on only some of the sides of the internal lenses. Fully coated lenses have even less coatings.
Hunting binoculars that produce the brightest, clearest images almost always have fully multi-coated lenses.
05. Waterproof & Fog Proofing.
Waterproofing and fog proofing are important binocular features because hunters often encounter changes in weather conditions during the hunting day. This can be changes from sun to rain, from warm to cold, or include sleet and snow. The moisture condensation associated with these weather changes are prevented with a solidly constructed waterproof/fog proof binocular. A non-functional binocular (fogged) half way through a hunt can be an extremely demoralizing event.
Waterproof binoculars are purged of their interior oxygen, have this purged space replaced with nitrogen, and are O-ring sealed to create a waterproof/fog proof construction. Fog proofing normally is a by-product of this waterproofing construction.
Insist on hunting binoculars that are specifically listed as both waterproof and fog proof. Some models may be designated as “weatherproof” or “water resistant”. Be leery of any proofing verbiage that is not specifically listed as waterproof and fog proof.
06. Construction & Use.
Hunting binoculars are often used over rugged terrain where it can be dropped or bumped against a rock or a tree. Look for hunting binoculars that are designated as shock resistant or offer rubberized exterior armoring to help provide physical protection.
Also, be aware that significant banging, dropping, or jars can cause damage to the binoculars interior alignment and weaken the waterproof/fog proof features of the binocular.
While often considered minor at first, binocular neck straps or a body harness can become more important as the day goes on. The neck strap can secure your binocular close to your body to prevent it from banging around, while the body harness helps to ease the weight of the binoculars.
A solidly constructed binoculars case provides protection when the binoculars are not in use. And attached lens covers prevent wasted time looking for loose covers.
Better class hunting binoculars normally have some shock resistant capability and include (with the purchase) a carrying case and a binoculars neck strap.
07. Closing Thoughts.
A good binocular will enhance your hunts for years to come. Buy the best you can afford for the hunts you are going to make. While the brand of binoculars often come down to a personal choice, their initial cost should be computed over the years you plan on using them for your hunting enjoyment. A $250 investment used during five annual hunts breaks down to a cost of $50 a year.
About The Author
John W. Brendemuehl
Webmaster at ICU Binoculars (www.icubinoculars.com)