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Best compact binoculars for bird watching on a hike

You may not immediately think of it, but binoculars are another essential item to take with you on the hike. So in addition to a pair of good walking shoes, a pleasant jacket and a bottle of water, taking a pair of binoculars with you will ensure you make the most of your walk and fully engage with and interact with nature!

After all, with binoculars you can try to spot that singing bird, or those wild animals at the edge of the field. Being able to see such things up close enriches any hiking or outdoor experience. And those binoculars don't have to be a carry-on, there are plenty of compact, lightweight binoculars to choose from.

Interactive nature walks with compact Bushnell binoculars

From hiking and camping to every outdoor activity imaginable, binoculars add even more fun to outdoor trips. From the American binocular brand Bushnell, there are a number of compact roof prism binoculars that are well suited for this purpose. These compact binoculars are categorised under different series: Powerview 2, H20, Prime, Nitro and Forge. The quality of the binoculars is categorised as 'good', 'better' and 'best'. Here, the Powerviews are the entry-level binoculars and the Forge is the absolute top model.

Read more about:

  • Powerview 2 Compact entry-level binoculars
  • H20 Waterproof binoculars
  • Prime Most popular binoculars
  • Nitro Best choice for nature enthusiasts
  • Forge Top-notch binoculars
Powerview 2 verrekijker
Powerview 2 verrekijker

Powerview™ 2 - a nice compact entry-level viewer

Are you not (yet) convinced that binoculars enhance your experience on a hike? Or do you think you don't go hiking often enough to justify buying binoculars?  Then simple binoculars may be the best binoculars for you. For example, the affordable Powerview 2 10x25 or the Powerview 2 8x21 (both in price range up to £50) are nice binoculars to start with and you can see if they appeal to you. Of course, it may turn out that you have no desire at all to take a closer look at those wild boars.

What do the numbers behind binoculars mean?

For the Powerview 2 10x25, the first number indicates the magnification of the binoculars, i.e. 10x. The second number is the lens diameter, hereby 25mm. The lens diameter determines how much light comes in, and the magnification of the binoculars affects how big the diameter of the exit pupil is on the side of your eyes. A large lens diameter combined with 8x or 10x magnification gives a nice large exit pupil. This gives you a pleasant and calm image. This makes prolonged observation more pleasant.

Durable housing and multi-coated optics

The robust and versatile Bushnell Powerview 2 binoculars combine rugged design with modern styling. In total, there are eight different binoculars to choose from. They have a durable, lightweight Aluminium alloy body, making them impervious to heat or cold. In addition, they are splashproof. The folding roof prism design makes for very compact binoculars. This makes for greater ease of use and you can easily store them in almost any jacket pocket or backpack.

The glass has multiple coatings that ensure vivid images and a sharp, clear viewing experience. The soft rubber grip along the sides of the binoculars reduce the risk of falling and provide a confident feel in the hand, even with one hand. Despite the affordable prices, there is still a whopping 5-year warranty on the Bushnell Powerview 2 binoculars.

Drie H2O verrekijkers
H2O verrekijker in water

H2O™ - waterproof binoculars (for on the boat too)

The Bushnell H2O Series also includes a number of compact binoculars suitable for taking with you on a hike. The H20 binoculars are very similar in design to the Powerview 2 series, and these are also entry-level models. There is a big difference between these two series, though. Namely, the H20 is fully waterproof and nitrogen-filled so no condensation can form inside the binoculars. Not even if it goes completely submerged. So if you want to use the binoculars on a boat in addition to hiking, go for compact binoculars of the H20 series. Then you won't have to worry about water damage to the binoculars if they accidentally fall into the water.

ingedraaide oogkap
uitgedraaide oogkap

Can you use binoculars with (sun)glasses on?

If you wear glasses, the eye cups (eyecups) of the binoculars should be turned inwards. Conversely, people who do not wear glasses should turn the eye cups outwards, making them a little longer. This has to do with the distance between your eye and the glass of the binoculars. This has to be a certain distance to correctly project the image onto your retina. If you wear sunglasses in summer, this also applies, turn the eye cups inwards. Though of course, with sunglasses on, you will not see the correct colours, and you will not have the same experience as without sunglasses.

twee liggende bushnell prime verrekijkers
Prime verrekijker in hand

Prime™ - Popular binoculars

With the Bushnell Prime Series, we arrive at the 'Better' category. How do 'better binoculars' compare with 'good binoculars'? This is where it comes out how important those different coatings are, for example. In these, you get a better colour impression. Also, the optical quality is better, so you can still see everything well in lower light. You pay a bit more for these binoculars, around £150. Prime binoculars have a 20-year Bushnell warranty.

What is the best ratio of magnification to quiet field of view in binoculars?

Because we are often busy working, it is nice if you can go outside to take a breather in nature. Binoculars allow you to look around quietly, with the Prime 8x42 having the best balance between magnification and a quiet field of view. 

At 10x magnification, you may have the advantage of being able to see details at long distances better, but here the field of view is narrower than at 8x magnification. A wider field of view gives a quieter impression and you are less affected by vibrations.

"In binoculars with a larger eyepiece, the view is also just a bit more comfortable."

In binoculars with a larger eyepiece, the view is also just a bit more comfortable. This is because the exit pupil of those binoculars is slightly larger. They also let in more light. When dusk falls or in heavy clouds, you can still see well. You can calculate the size of the exit pupil yourself by dividing the lens diameter by the magnification of the binoculars. For the Prime 8x42, it is 5.25mm (42:8=5.25). A higher number gives more light output.

Convert field of view from degrees to metres

The field width (Field of View) is usually named in the binoculars' product information. The number indicates the field width at a distance of one kilometre (1000m). Usually the field width is given in metres, but sometimes in degrees. Converting from degrees to metres is as follows: A pair of binoculars has a field width of 6.5 degrees. If you multiply that number by factor 17.5, you know the field width is about 114 metres (6.5x17.5=113.75). Indeed, 1 degree at 1 kilometre distance is 17.5 metres wide.

Wandelaars op de dijk

Good choice for birdwatchers

Compact Bushnell Prime binoculars are a great choice for nature lovers who want to peer through their binoculars often and for long periods of time. The fully multi-coated optics, phase-coated BAK-4 prisms, and Bushnell's patented EXO Barrier give a sharp, clear image in all conditions.

  • EXO Barrier Protection - A protective lens coating adheres molecularly to the lens, repelling water, oil, dust, dirt and preventing scratches.
  • IPX7 waterproof construction - O-ring sealed optics stay dry inside when submerged in three metres of water for up to 30 minutes.
  • Fully multi-coated optics - Multiple layers of anti-reflective coating on all air-glass surfaces ensure bright, high-contrast images.
Bushnell Nitro verrekijker in hand
Bushnell Nitro verrekijker in hand

Nitro™ - Best choice for nature enthusiasts

Bushnell's Nitro series is just another step up from the Prime. Thus, with this viewer it is still a tad easier to shift focus. The image remains nicely stable. The clarity and vividness of the colours ensure high image quality. It is surprising what nice images you see through such compact binoculars. Not only the quality goes up a notch too, the price level is also slightly higher. For a Nitro 10x42 binocular you will spend around £350. For a pair of binoculars with a 20-year warranty, this is a good price.

Like the Prime series, the Nitro series has EXO Barrier protection, an IPX7 rating and multiple coatings that ensure bright high-contrast images.

What is the diopter control for?

On the right eyepiece of Bushnell binoculars, there is a dial with plus and minus to correct the diopter. Diopter correction allows you to adjust the diopter to compensate for any deviation between the strength of your eyes.

  1. Look through the viewer with your left eye only and focus on a straight shape about 100 metres away. While doing so, keep your right eye closed. To focus, use the focus ring that is often on top of the binoculars. 
  2. Now look through the binoculars with your right eye only, keeping your left eye closed. Turn the dioptric ring so that the part that was in focus is in focus again. Now you have adjusted binoculars to suit your eyes. You can now use the binoculars correctly.
Bushnell Forge verrekijker
Forge verrekijker in hand

Forge™ - Top-of-the-range binoculars

Bushnell Forge binoculars are among the absolute best. These are some of the best-performing binoculars known today. If the Nitro series already has high image quality, the Forge series surpasses it. With these binoculars, you really look your eyes out. The ED Prime Glass reduces chromatic aberrations (green and purple edges around an object) and ensures the sharpest imaging. It delivers fantastic colours, resolution and contrast making the image look like 3D. It also has a dielectric prism coating that ensures vivid colour reproduction and allows 92% light transmission. This gives extremely bright images. Even in low light, you can easily distinguish shapes.

"It gives fantastic colours, resolution and contrast, making the image look like 3D."

EXO Barrier technology is applied to the glass of every Forge binocular. This technology repels water and dust, so the glass stays clean and you won't lose sight of that beautiful bird due to a raindrop. In addition, Forge binoculars have an IPX7 waterproof housing and are particularly comfortable to hold. The lens caps are attached to the body of binoculars, so you don't have to worry about losing them in the field. With a price tag of around £450 for a Forge 8x42 for some people on the hefty side, but you get the rest of your life's viewing pleasure in return. After all, you won't find better compact binoculars than the Forge any time soon.


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