The first item of outdoor gear I really wanted wasn’t a tent or a sleeping bag or hiking boots. It was a pair of binoculars. I was around ten years old and very keen on wandering round the countryside and coast of west Lancashire watching birds and animals. I didn’t have conscious feelings about landscape or wild places. I just liked being in the outdoors. Clothing and footwear was whatever my parents provided. I had no interest in them. If my clothes got wet because it rained or I fell in a pond or investigated a ditch that was just something that happened. My first piece of outdoor equipment was probably a fishing net so I could catch pond life. These were cheap though and easily purchased with pocket money. Binoculars were expensive and unobtainable and thus lusted after. Eventually, when they accepted that my passion for nature appeared to be more than passing phase, my parents bought me a pair of 8x25 binoculars. With them I felt like a real naturalist, a real explorer.
Those binoculars are long gone but I’ve owned a pair ever since and taken some on every walk, however long. I like watching wildlife, examining possible routes or campsites, studying cliffs and other features and looking at the stars and planets through binoculars. I can observe animals and birds without disturbing them – or endangering myself when it’s a bear – and look for details in the landscape. I wouldn’t be without binoculars.
For well over a decade – long enough that I can’t remember when I bought either of them – I’ve had two pairs. A tiny 8x21 pair that aren’t very bright but which weigh only 149 grams are the ones I take on backpacking trips and long day walks. For shorter walks and around home I have a pair of 8x42s that are much brighter but which weigh 822 grams. They’re also very bulky and I’m always aware of their presence hanging round my neck. I wouldn’t want to walk a long distance with them. Both pairs look pretty battered and have been repaired. Neither is waterproof so in rain they have to go in the pack.
Given my love of binoculars I was delighted recently when I was offered a pair of Eden 8x42 XP Binoculars to test. I was even more delighted to discover that they are waterproof and quite compact for 8x42s – far more compact than my old pair in fact. They weigh noticeably less at 660 grams too (712 grams with padded neck strap). Even better is the performance as they are brighter and sharper than my old pair whilst having the same magnification and wide field of view. The reduction in weight and bulk is enough that they don’t feel that noticeable after several hours slung round my neck. And they take up less room in the pack when I need to store them – for scrambling say but not, as with my other binoculars, for rain. I will certainly be taking these hillwalking and on short backpacking trips. Indeed, I can see that it will be difficult to leave them behind even on long trips.
The binoculars look and feel high quality and should last a long time (they come with a 25 year guarantee). There are many details I like apart from the optical quality and the reasonable weight and bulk. In particular the dioptre control is very firm and stays in position – it slips easily on both my old pairs so I constantly have to adjust it. The extendable eye cups for use with and without glasses are good too. Being fairly narrow the XPs are easier and more comfortable to hold for long periods than my wide 8x42s. There are indentations to stop the fingers slipping too.
The cost is £245, which for good binoculars isn’t that expensive. On my usage so far I can certainly recommend them. More details here.