TRAVELING WITH BINOCULARS
In October we enjoyed a 1600-mile, 12-day clockwise loop around Washington State. After picking up our rental car at the Spokane airport our journey took us through deserts, mountain passes, the Olympic rainforest, and even across Puget Sound on a ferry.
We enjoyed spotting new bird species, sea lions, jellyfish, Roosevelt elk, and a host of other wildlife. Good thing we brought along binoculars! We wouldn’t dream of traveling without binoculars and use them constantly. Even when we trek to New York City we tote along a pair. But, for this trip, they presented a dilemma.
We wanted to avoid checking baggage on the plane to save cost and the possibility of a lost suitcase.
Delta Airlines limited us to a small suitcase that we could carry on the plane. Squeezing nearly two weeks’ worth of clothes and supplies into these packs was a challenge. It became obvious that we couldn’t fit in our full-size binocs. Mini Binoculars to the rescue! Our Alpen Wings ED compact binoculars easily nested into a hiking boot that we tucked in the pack.
For all around general binocular use, and when we’re traveling by car, we always use full-size binoculars. They fit our hands well, provide a bright image, even at dawn and dusk, and their field of view is wide. Their downside is bulkiness.
Many optical companies sell high-quality compact binoculars. Go for quality. Inexpensive models are nearly useless. Here are the pros and cons of mini binoculars:
Compact binoculars are handy because they are small. They easily fit in a glove compartment, purse, or jacket pocket and take little space in a suitcase. Mini’s are ideal for travel. Quality ones have clear optics.
Having a pair of mini binoculars handy is always better than not having binoculars.
Mini binoculars have a limited field of view and are rarely as good in low light situations as their full-size cousins. We find them a little harder to use and hold than full-size models and would never choose to use minis for long viewing sessions or if we went on specific birding excursions. But they are invaluable when size and weight are limited.
The best solution is to have two pairs of binoculars. One full sized model for general use and minis for travel and convenience.