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Hiking / Bird Watching Experts, I need you...


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Could anyone recommend a couple of christmas presents for the missus? She's slowly getting into walking/hiking and with that comes interest in all the things we come across while we're out. The other day we sat and watched a heron resting in a tree for a while and she mentioned she would like some binoculars, and for once in my life I made a mental note to get her some for Christmas. She also needs a day pack rucksack so that she can carry her own shit instead of me doing it.

So - binos, I'm looking for something powerful enough for her to use out on walks to get a better view of birds and animals, but they need to be quite robust, not too heavy, and ideally not too large. And of course not too expensive either :D. Any suggestions?

For the day pack, I have a 30 or 40lt Berghaus job which suits me quite well, but I am very open to recommendations for a ladies one. I would prefer one with a hard frame and decent ventilation for her and with chest straps and a waterproof cover. Apart from that I don't think there's anything too critical but I am really no expert so very open to suggestions.

Thanks in advance, and no I am not going dogging. Honestly.

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reformed nice guy

Always call them a pair of knockers from now on

Edited by reformed nice guy
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Snake Plissken

I wouldn't spend a fortune on a pair of binos unless you know you will use them a lot. Get some small 8x20 type and see if she likes them, uses them etc You want them small and light as most the time they are sat in the bag. If they're too heavy and bulky they get left at home.

I really like osprey rucksacks and they have lady specific ones, you need to check the back size - they have information on the website but ideally go and try them on in a shop and put some weight in it.

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58 minutes ago, Snake Plissken said:

I wouldn't spend a fortune on a pair of binos unless you know you will use them a lot. Get some small 8x20 type and see if she likes them, uses them etc You want them small and light as most the time they are sat in the bag. If they're too heavy and bulky they get left at home.

I really like osprey rucksacks and they have lady specific ones, you need to check the back size - they have information on the website but ideally go and try them on in a shop and put some weight in it.

Excellent, thanks - that gives me a god starting point for both items.

1 hour ago, reformed nice guy said:

Always call them a pair of knockers from now on

That'll make me sound like a pro, right?

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How about a cd (or probably there's an app these days) on birdsong identification?

I used to be into bird watching but I seem to find more interest and satisfaction now in trying to identify birds from their calls or songs (probably because my eyesight is so shit these days I can't actually see any birds!)

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3 hours ago, Royston said:

How about a cd (or probably there's an app these days) on birdsong identification?

I used to be into bird watching but I seem to find more interest and satisfaction now in trying to identify birds from their calls or songs (probably because my eyesight is so shit these days I can't actually see any birds!)

That might be worth a look for a little extra present, but she's never shown that much interest in birdsong - she'll spend hours looking through books to identify something that she's seen on the feeders though. Pity - personally I could listen to blackbirds for days,  their song is absolutely beautiful to me.

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7 hours ago, Fully Detached said:

 

So - binos, I'm looking for something powerful enough for her to use out on walks to get a better view of birds and animals, but they need to be quite robust, not too heavy, and ideally not too large. And of course not too expensive either :D. Any suggestions?

If you can afford it I suggest you get some 10*40 (or 8*40). The larger the second number the better as this is field of view.. much easier to find something. The magnification, first number, doesn't want to be too large as they are hard to hold still and you will get a shaky image. 

Whatever you do don't get a pair of zoom binoculars complete waste of money.

If she takes to it and you want to give her a treat try a visit to the Farne Islands a couple of miles off Northumberland. Visit nesting time May/June They are NT owned and worth getting membership for one year just to visit. 

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7 hours ago, Bilbo said:

If you can afford it I suggest you get some 10*40 (or 8*40). The larger the second number the better as this is field of view.. much easier to find something. The magnification, first number, doesn't want to be too large as they are hard to hold still and you will get a shaky image. 

Whatever you do don't get a pair of zoom binoculars complete waste of money.

If she takes to it and you want to give her a treat try a visit to the Farne Islands a couple of miles off Northumberland. Visit nesting time May/June They are NT owned and worth getting membership for one year just to visit. 

7x50 is adequate.

Not much point going over 7x magnification. 50 is the size of the lens at the front, which lets in enough light. 40 is a bit small.

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16 hours ago, Fully Detached said:

For the day pack, I have a 30 or 40lt Berghaus job which suits me quite well

that's a massive bloody rucksack for a walk! what the hell are you carrying?

Decathlon always seem to have a good range of sizes in.....

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One percent
39 minutes ago, nirvana said:

that's a massive bloody rucksack for a walk! what the hell are you carrying?

Decathlon always seem to have a good range of sizes in.....

He doesn’t want to bury the bodies too near to home. 

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Fully Detached
1 hour ago, nirvana said:

that's a massive bloody rucksack for a walk! what the hell are you carrying?

All my own stuff and all of my wife's - life will be so much better when he has her own. For me, obvs.

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1 hour ago, nirvana said:

that's a massive bloody rucksack for a walk! what the hell are you carrying?

I just checked again - its 20lt, although not being an expert I tend to pack badly and always fill the damn thing.

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10 hours ago, Bilbo said:

If you can afford it I suggest you get some 10*40 (or 8*40). The larger the second number the better as this is field of view.. much easier to find something. The magnification, first number, doesn't want to be too large as they are hard to hold still and you will get a shaky image. 

Whatever you do don't get a pair of zoom binoculars complete waste of money.

If she takes to it and you want to give her a treat try a visit to the Farne Islands a couple of miles off Northumberland. Visit nesting time May/June They are NT owned and worth getting membership for one year just to visit. 

Ah excellent, thanks - I will avoid zoom, and smaller is definitely better, both for weight and storage but also she's not the biggest bird in the world so easier to hold.

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7 minutes ago, Fully Detached said:

I just checked again - its 20lt, although not being an expert I tend to pack badly and always fill the damn thing.

cool I think 20litre is ideal size for what it's worth lol

For info I got a dirt cheap 20 litre sack off aliexpress to use on the bike when shopping, i find that if I slacken off the straps loads it not uncomfortable even when I have lots of stash in it from a 'dumpster dive' lol.......actually I could do with a bigger one when the Aldi bins have good stash in em! :Jumping:

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belfastchild

7x50 is about right. Can get smaller, lighter cheaper ones to try out first. Ive a cheap (100 quid) rubber armoured light zoom pair that I wouldnt really recommend (but they are light) and a really old zeiss 7x50 set that my dad owned and are still going strong.

Backpacks, as above, decathlon have a good range. Ive a small 17l day pack I got there about 5-10 years ago and has been around the world with me. It takes up to a 2 litre water bladder as well which is useful if you dont want to be rustling about taking backpacks off to get bottles of water or have them sloshing around making noise. Have a range of backpacks from about 10l up to 80. 17 and 25 are the ones that get used the most, both take the bladder and have waterproof covers.

Would also recommend some of the small folding seat pads, arse/stomach can get cold/wet if sitting/lying for long times somewhere.

Get some of the wee travel bottles for fluids so the likes of suncream, aloe etc can be carried in small day quantities rather than lugging around more stuff. Reduce the amount you carry in other words.

Telescopic walking poles and split them, one each. If you can get the photography ones  (trekking monopod) with the built in mini ballhead you can use those for the binos (with zoom that would be shit if holding by hand) or camera etc.

Good quality green/heavy poncho for sitting on or wearing so as not to disturb the wildlife. If planning to go out in summer get some head netting (for flies, midges etc).

My day pack has most of that with cereal bars, swiss army knife, leatherman type thing, paracetamol, tissues, plasters for blisters etc etc. Think more about you and your comfort, you can use a hand held monocular but if you are wet/damp/uncomfortable you wont be there for long.

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3 hours ago, belfastchild said:

7x50 is about right. Can get smaller, lighter cheaper ones to try out first. Ive a cheap (100 quid) rubber armoured light zoom pair that I wouldnt really recommend (but they are light) and a really old zeiss 7x50 set that my dad owned and are still going strong.

Backpacks, as above, decathlon have a good range. Ive a small 17l day pack I got there about 5-10 years ago and has been around the world with me. It takes up to a 2 litre water bladder as well which is useful if you dont want to be rustling about taking backpacks off to get bottles of water or have them sloshing around making noise. Have a range of backpacks from about 10l up to 80. 17 and 25 are the ones that get used the most, both take the bladder and have waterproof covers.

Would also recommend some of the small folding seat pads, arse/stomach can get cold/wet if sitting/lying for long times somewhere.

Get some of the wee travel bottles for fluids so the likes of suncream, aloe etc can be carried in small day quantities rather than lugging around more stuff. Reduce the amount you carry in other words.

Telescopic walking poles and split them, one each. If you can get the photography ones  (trekking monopod) with the built in mini ballhead you can use those for the binos (with zoom that would be shit if holding by hand) or camera etc.

Good quality green/heavy poncho for sitting on or wearing so as not to disturb the wildlife. If planning to go out in summer get some head netting (for flies, midges etc).

My day pack has most of that with cereal bars, swiss army knife, leatherman type thing, paracetamol, tissues, plasters for blisters etc etc. Think more about you and your comfort, you can use a hand held monocular but if you are wet/damp/uncomfortable you wont be there for long.

Great advice, cheers - he gets sausage fingers so a walking pole is also a possibility, but I hadn't even thought about using them to steady the binos - that's another present sorted out!

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Re binoculars. Do your own research but 7*50 are the ones recommend for boats note that @MrPin and @belfastchild are both nautical.

8*42 or 10*42 are the ones birdwatchers usually use. 

With its wider view, an 8x42 binocular is best at shorter to mid-distances, especially if you need to follow small, fast or erratic moving objects like birds or other smaller mammals. ... 10x42 binoculars work best for normal to good light conditions over mid to long distances.

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6 minutes ago, Bilbo said:

Re binoculars. Do your own research but 7*50 are the ones recommend for boats note that @MrPin and @belfastchild are both nautical.

8*42 or 10*42 are the ones birdwatchers usually use. 

With its wider view, an 8x42 binocular is best at shorter to mid-distances, especially if you need to follow small, fast or erratic moving objects like birds or other smaller mammals. ... 10x42 binoculars work best for normal to good light conditions over mid to long distances.

Well my only real argument is 7x is enougn magnification without your hands wobbling, and yes a 50mm lens is heavier than a smaller one, but lets more light in.

You could use a tripod.

I got my 7x50s from Strathspey, who seem to have quite a range, at reasonable prices.

Yas, I bought the nautical waterproof ones.:S

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belfastchild
32 minutes ago, MrPin said:

Well my only real argument is 7x is enougn magnification without your hands wobbling, and yes a 50mm lens is heavier than a smaller one, but lets more light in.

 

Probably the limit with cold wet hands. My cheapo pair are 7-21x40 small, light and pretty much unusable at the 10-21 end of the scale but ok with a walking monopod/tripod

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Truth is there’s no right answer..  there are trade-offs.

The larger they are the better light gathering and clarity you will get. This makes the biggest difference but is a trade-off against how big a pair of binoculars you want to carry around.   To go in a bag / pocket you are looking at an 8x20,  for best clarity you want an 8x40 or 8x50.   
 

The other way is to throw money at it for better optics and coatings,  but it’s a law of rapidly diminishing returns.

My advice would be to look at an 8x20 and an 8x40 pair..  decide which is the right physical size for you,  then buy some from a known brand at a modest price point.  
 

After that consider getting a camera with a super zoom lens.   If you’re going to be lugging something massive around,  you might as well get a picture for your efforts too!

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Been a little slow to return to this but many thanks to everyone for the opinions, especially on the binos because it is something I know nothing about.

12 hours ago, Libspero said:

Truth is there’s no right answer..  there are trade-offs.

I think that's the main point, and I'll need to take a guess at what will suit her best on a weight/size/magnification basis because if I go too big or too heavy it'll be me that ends up carrying them! But I will visit a shop in the next week or so and at least try a few pairs to get a feel for what magnification I can get with a manageable size and weight.

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Percy Hotspur
On 22/10/2021 at 22:03, Fully Detached said:

That might be worth a look for a little extra present, but she's never shown that much interest in birdsong - she'll spend hours looking through books to identify something that she's seen on the feeders though. Pity - personally I could listen to blackbirds for days,  their song is absolutely beautiful to me.

She's never shown any interest in Birdsong? I thought it was a decent filum.
 

Birdsong.jpg

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7 hours ago, Percy Hotspur said:

She's never shown any interest in Birdsong? I thought it was a decent filum.
 

Birdsong.jpg

I didn't even know they'd made a film out of it. Don't think the wife has even read the book, despite me banging on about it for all these years.

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Binocs

1. Dont go anymore than x8 as you get shake that makes id difficult. With 8s you can also use them for close id of butterflys. I would suggest 8x25 (for compact folding/pocket size) or 8x40/8x42 for round neck/putting in rucksack. The latter would be my choice for serious watching but a pair of the former are more portable; I have both, so you could buy smaller one this year and other next year.

Brand to go for is Opticron, maximum quality for sensible price.

Two types, Porro prism and Roof prism. Former are easier to manufacture so cheaper for same quality of optic/lens. Roof easier to seal/waterproof. For 8x25 you could go for either as when raining they can slip in pocket easier, for larger I would go for Roof prism. Also, is she is clumsy I.e drops things, and often in puddles I would go for Roof prisms as they are more robust.

R.e sound resources etc, you can get most of these free online; I often use bird sound files on my phone to attract territorial males so they come closer/I get a closer look.

R.e guides-something that a) slips in your pocket, b) has a waterproof cover if possible, and c) has id sections on colour and/or size and/or shape.

 

Rucksack

Second Osprey, they do a nice 22L called Talon, and she is likely to be their s/m size unless she is very petite (then go for S)...if you go for s/m then you could use it as well if you are under 6ft. That said, they are not cheap, so unless you are hiking for hours/days I think something from the Decathlon range would suffice as their quality is not bad for the price. I would avoid Mountain Warehouse/Millets/Blacks own brands as I don't think their value is as good as Decathlon.

 

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On 28/10/2021 at 11:23, MrXxxx said:

Binocs

1. Dont go anymore than x8 as you get shake that makes id difficult. With 8s you can also use them for close id of butterflys. I would suggest 8x25 (for compact folding/pocket size) or 8x40/8x42 for round neck/putting in rucksack. The latter would be my choice for serious watching but a pair of the former are more portable; I have both, so you could buy smaller one this year and other next year.

Brand to go for is Opticron, maximum quality for sensible price.

Two types, Porro prism and Roof prism. Former are easier to manufacture so cheaper for same quality of optic/lens. Roof easier to seal/waterproof. For 8x25 you could go for either as when raining they can slip in pocket easier, for larger I would go for Roof prism. Also, is she is clumsy I.e drops things, and often in puddles I would go for Roof prisms as they are more robust.

R.e sound resources etc, you can get most of these free online; I often use bird sound files on my phone to attract territorial males so they come closer/I get a closer look.

R.e guides-something that a) slips in your pocket, b) has a waterproof cover if possible, and c) has id sections on colour and/or size and/or shape.

 

Rucksack

Second Osprey, they do a nice 22L called Talon, and she is likely to be their s/m size unless she is very petite (then go for S)...if you go for s/m then you could use it as well if you are under 6ft. That said, they are not cheap, so unless you are hiking for hours/days I think something from the Decathlon range would suffice as their quality is not bad for the price. I would avoid Mountain Warehouse/Millets/Blacks own brands as I don't think their value is as good as Decathlon.

 

So sorry for the delay in acknowledging and responding - that's a fantastic post, thank you very much! Totally agree regarding the quality of the lower end back pack brands, wife bought some Mountain Warehouse boots last year that fell apart and went in the bin 8 weeks later as she'd lost the receipt to take them back with.

 

I am off for another look at the binos - really appreciate the help, cheers! :Beer:

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