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Check Out The View

A spellbinding view awaited me after a grueling hike to the summit of Pine Mountain. But when I gazed out across the Cumberland Plateau from this high vantage point, my vision suddenly blurred and I began to see double.

What caused this to happen to an outdoorsman in reasonably good health? Well, to be honest, I was looking through a cheap pair of binoculars. It’s a condition that strikes hunters, hikers, bird watchers, and sports spectators all too often.

To stop this eye condition in its tracks, I went on a quest to find a great pair of binoculars at an affordable price for me–and you–this Christmas. So, the research began.

The first thing I learned should have been common sense: you can’t spend 20 bucks on binoculars and expect much of anything. The second thing I learned is that you can also spend upward of $3,000 on a pair of binoculars if you have too much money and need to spend it.

Then I visited a plethora of optics review sites on the Web and read magazine articles and other information. After wading through all that and looking at a multitude of overseas companies, I was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon an American company that I’m recommending.

Leupold & Stevens Inc., a family-owned business based in Oregon, was founded by Frederick Leupold in 1907. With 650 employees, Leupold is the largest American optics manufacturer, making American-engineered, high-quality, waterproof, durable binoculars with great clarity and fields of view.

Along with a full line of optics, including rifle scopes, spotting scopes, and range finders, Leupold makes 45 models of binoculars ranging in price from $129 to $775, all with lifetime warranties.

Company spokesman David Domin says, “You should be able to look through binoculars and see what you see with your eyes, only closer. That’s what we build at Leupold.”

One Leupold model, the McKinley, won the 2013 national “binocular of the year award” in its class ( The two pairs I chose for myself are a little less expensive than the McKinley, but great nonetheless. I went with the compact Yosemite model with a magnification power of 8×30 (objects appear eight times closer), retailing for $150. They’re small, lightweight, and easy to carry on long hikes. The second pair is the larger Acadia model with a power of 10×42, retailing for $275.

These binoculars will last a lifetime and put an end to that awful eye condition for good. We all deserve better views this Christmas.


* For more information on Leupold binoculars, go to
* You can purchase Leupold binoculars at large sporting goods retailers.

* To find out more about how binoculars work, read Great Outdoors column Binocular basics below by Dave Baker.


Binocular basics
from August 2009

It’s difficult to recall how many times I’ve stared at a rock, waiting for it to get up and walk away.

It’s not because I’ve taken some bizarre cold medicine. It’s because I wasn’t carrying binoculars.

A good pair of binoculars is invaluable for the outdoors, whether you’re hunting or you’re just trying to figure out what that yellow bird is fluttering around in the top of a tree. In my case, I’ve discovered that large rocks on reclaimed coal mines in eastern Kentucky are the same color as elk roaming the mountains. It’s surprising how easily the two are mistaken.

Buying your first pair of binoculars is an intimidating process if you don’t know all the terms and what they mean. Let’s start with the basics.

You might see binoculars listed as 8×40 or 10×50. The first number refers to the magnification power of the lenses. The higher the number, the more powerful the lenses. The second number tells you the size of the lenses on the big end of the binocular. The higher the number, the bigger the lenses. Why is this important? Bigger lenses gather more light, helping you see objects better at dusk and dawn. The trade-off is they are heavier.

Lenses with coatings on the glass also enhance the binoculars’ light-gathering capabilities and help color appear correctly. Even if it means paying a little more, you should buy lenses that are multicoated or fully multicoated.

When shopping for binoculars, you might see the term “field of view,” or FOV. This simply tells you whether the lenses have a wide angle or a narrow one. If you usually have trouble finding an object in your binoculars, go with a pair with the wider field of view.

So which binoculars should you choose? I use a pair of 8×32 binoculars. It’s a good size for hunting and hiking. An 8×40 pair of binoculars, which is larger and heavier, is also a good choice if you’re looking for critters when the lighting is low.

Because I spend time outside when the weather’s bad, I chose a waterproof pair filled with nitrogen. The nitrogen prevents the lenses from fogging.

Regardless of what you select, always look through the binoculars before you buy them. Judge for yourself the sharpness and clarity of each pair, and whether the weight is what you’re willing to carry into the field.


Put your new binoculars to good use by visiting a wildlife management area, or WMA. You’ll find maps, directions, and a wealth of information online at Click the tab “Maps & Online Services” to access more about these public areas.

DAVE SHUFFETT is a public speaker and host of Kentucky Life on KET, airing Saturdays 8 p.m. ET and Sundays 4:30 p.m. ET.

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