Binoculars are essential to any outdoor adventure

Paul Smith
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What’s the most critical piece of equipment that every outdoor person must own?

This is a very tough question. A room full of anglers and hunters would surely not all agree on this one. Some would say a 9wt fly rod for salmon fishing is tops on their list. Others cherish that trusty 30-06, the rifle that’s never failed to put moose in the freezer.

Others count their trucks as indispensable. Trucks are pretty important. It’s difficult to drive to Labrador’s Pinware River with a full camp in tow without a truck. Neither is a moose hunting adventure to Red Indian Lake in the cards for those of us who drive just compact cars.

But I think I’ll exclude vehicles from this debate. We all love our mode of transport, whether it be an ATV, snowmobile, truck or boat. I know what I hold dearest to my heart when there’s a giant bull moose laying on the ground several miles from the nearest road. In that circumstance, my quad is No. 1. The days of me lugging quarters of moose on my back through bog and over barren are long past.

I’m thinking along the line of a personal item that you take just about everywhere you go in the outdoors.

Could it be a compass? You’re getting warmer.

I often carry the mystery item around my neck with my compass. But I keep a pair of these in my truck at all times even when I’m not wandering in the wilderness. You never know when you might need a closer look at something interesting — a wood duck, merganser, coyote or caribou.

You may have guessed by now I’m talking about binoculars.

The way I see it, binoculars are essential to any adventure or outing. I wouldn’t dream of going moose hunting without them, and they’re along with me each and every time I venture in the woods, with or without a gun.  

I’d be totally lost without my binoculars. No longer could I scan the ridges to the north of our cabin for moose and caribou. The identity of ducks at a distance would remain a mystery.  I’d never see again the velvet hanging in a bloodied tangle from the massive antlers of a dominant bull moose readying himself to greet intruders stepping onto his domain.

Perched on a hill and glassing the crooks and crannies of the countryside with a fine pair of binoculars is one of life’s simple pleasures. You’d be surprised what you might see if you take the time for a close look. Thank you so much Mr. Lippershey.

The first telescope was invented in 1608 by a Dutch lens maker by the name of Hans Lippershey. His occupation was grinding and polishing lenses for vision correction and magnifying glasses.

He discovered that if you hold one convex lens in front of another and look through them in combination, far away objects appear much closer. Eureka! He promptly built the world’s first telescope.

Italian scientist Galileo Galilei got wind of the new technology and built a telescope of his own. He pointed it skyward and discovered moons revolving around the planet Jupiter. He observed the first objects in space not appearing to orbit the Earth.

Oh my, the Earth might not be the centre of the universe after all. Galileo said so and ended up in a huge tangle with the Christian church.

As I said, you might be very surprised by what you see when you spare the time for a look.

Binoculars are essentially two telescopes mounted parallel so you have one for each eye. The sophisticated binoculars of today are simple highly evolved offspring of Lippershey’s invention.

So, the big question is what do we really need in a pair of field glasses? Should you buy a big pair of super powerful binoculars that will surely hang like a millstone around your neck? Do we need glasses like navy captains once used on the bridge of a battleship as they called shots on the enemy flotilla 20 miles away?  Not if we have to carry them all day on a backcountry moose or caribou hunt.

What about those delicate little glasses that ladies carried in their purses to the opera? Surely they are compact enough for a long day in the field. Moose are typically further afield than the singers and actors on a stage, and the conditions are always a tad rougher.

We hunters need something in between these extremes of binocular construction.

I got my very first binoculars for Christmas when I was just a wee lad of 10. They were the big, heavy sort, akin to the ones Capt. Ernst Lindemann might have used on the deck of the Bismark as he guided shells towards the battle cruiser HMS Hood. Only mine were probably not near as high in quality.

German engineers make some of the finest optics on the planet.  

I lugged around those monstrous optics through my first three or four moose hunts.  They did the job and I spotted many fine critters, but my neck was developing a crook from the constant strain. I ended up carrying them in my pack and only taking them out when needed. My binoculars were becoming a pain, both literally and figuratively.

Compact glasses were new on the market, and I bought a pair for about $50 at a local department store. You get what you pay for. They were light to carry, but the optical quality was dismal. In low evening light, I couldn’t see a bloody thing. I ended up once again carrying around my battleship glasses.

Finally, I decided to do my homework and invest in a good quality and suitable pair of hunting binoculars. After quite a bit of research, I decided on a pair of 10 x 50mm Leopold roof prism glasses. I was pleased as punch with what I got in terms of both optical quality and portability. I could carry them all day without neck cramps and lowlight performance was beyond belief. I could literally see in the dark.  

There’s quite a bit of technical jargon to wade through when deciding on binoculars. I’ll fill you in on the details some time in the next few weeks.

Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard’s Bay, fishes and

wanders the outdoors at every opportunity. He can be contacted at

Organizations: Eureka!

Geographic location: Labrador, Pinware River, Red Indian Lake

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