Optics for backpacking...

Discussion in 'Backpack Hunting' started by jmden, Dec 31, 2007.

  1. jmden

    jmden Well-Known Member

    Nov 2, 2003
    Be interested in what other's have found in this regard. I just posted the below on Long Range Optics, but thought it might be the start to possibly helpful thread to those of us who are putting on the wilderness miles and packing meat and camp on our own two legs. :p


    I'm not saying this is the best, but this was the best compromise of price (for my budget at the time) and packability (size, shape). Check out the size. The straight, tapered shape makes it very packable.

    Bushnell | Elite 60mm with 15-45x Zoom | 781548P | B&H Photo

    Sportman's Warehouse had the Nikon (virtual twin in size and shape) for $499 and the Bushnell Elite for $399. Bushnell was made in Japan and the Nikon in China, much to the salespersons surprise and mine. Glass in Bushnell seemed slightly better in side by side comparisons on a tripod. I got mine online for about $280 somewhere, I think.

    My main goal was to be able to count points at 1K plus and it's done that. I can easily determine if I'm looking at a branch antlered bull at 2 miles+. It's not the best for low light conditions, that's for sure. And, it's not like looking through a Swarovski or Leica, but my budget won't allow a spotting scope from those guys and even if it did, their large size and weight make them very unappealing to me when it's time to put them in my backpack.

    I also bought this Manfrotto tripod as its size, packability, weight, price and many great features won me over.

    Bogen / Manfrotto | 785B Modo Mini Tripod | 785SHB | B&H Photo

    At the same price, here's it slightly larger and heavier brother:

    Bogen / Manfrotto | 785B Modo Maxi Tripod | 785B | B&H Photo

    These tripods have an amazing array of features given their price, size and weight. Just what I settled on. Good luck.
  2. lerch

    lerch <strong>SPONSOR</strong>

    Nov 15, 2004
    Price sucks, i know, but from my limited experince in backpacking and fair to decent experince in optics i'll tell you this, Swaro Swaro Swaro.

    As far as binos and spotting scopes go nothing i have seen compares to swaros. From what backpacking i have done most of the time we are trying to pick out very small details of partially to completely hidden animals at very long distances. when thats the task I just cant short sight myself. there are lots of good optics out there for less but when it comes to the chance of a lifetime I am reminded of a quote i read in a Eastmans Hunting journel "dont buy the best optics you can afford, just buy the best!!!"

    take it easy

  3. jmden

    jmden Well-Known Member

    Nov 2, 2003
    Yep, no doubt on the Swaro advice. If Swaro had a model shaped a little more compact like this new US Optics scope, I might think a bit harder about the investment:


    USO Spotting Scope(Pics) - Sniper's Hide Forums

    Sure would like to see some reviews from folks in the know about this scope. It may be the best compromise between good optics, size and weight out there at the moment.
  4. Ernie

    Ernie SPONSOR

    Jun 18, 2007
    We have used the standard fixed leupold's, leupold's new compact and then I have carried the 12-40 Leupy variable when they first brought it out in the late 80's or early 90's (Can't remember:D). Incredible fov and its eye relief is awesome on all powers for guys like me who wear glasses. I just upgraded to the HD version this past year.
    Not compact (not heavy for its size either) but it is geat for extended glassing for long periods of time.
    sscoyote and myself have found a lot of bedded elk and deer through the years at stalkable and beyond stalking range with it.
  5. Alan Griffith

    Alan Griffith Well-Known Member

    Aug 22, 2005
    US Optics


    The US Optics looks VERRRRY interesting. The problem is we don't know what sort of resolution it will give. I would think being a US Optics glass, it would be fantastic but......we don't know for sure yet.

    I asked this type of question over on the Sniper's Hide Forum w/o any response to date. Still waiting.
  6. silvertip-co

    silvertip-co Well-Known Member

    Jun 20, 2007
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2008
  7. xrunt

    xrunt New Member

    Jan 2, 2008
    Any of Swaro, Zeiss or Leica in a 10X42 bin and lose weight by not carrying spotting glass. A lot of guys like the top end Zeiss better than Swaro.
  8. 30-338

    30-338 Well-Known Member

    Jan 25, 2008
    Zeiss for me

    I just did and extended side by side between the Leica and the Zeiss top enders. I concluded the following...

    Leica...more pleasant tint,better at looking "into" foliage, trees, etc.My first choice for pleasure viewing or birding.

    Zeiss..."Flatter" field of view, more neutral color rendition, and definitely a brighter binoc

    I selected the Zeiss mainly on the brightness factor. If you are in the market get in touch with Alex Roy at EuroOptics LTD

    He was very helpful and knowledgeable and sent me the two binocs to do the trial..His prices are good and I cannotrecommend him too highly 30-338
  9. tjonh2001

    tjonh2001 Well-Known Member

    Aug 13, 2007
    dont forget about leica they make great optics. i use the 10x42 geovids (range finder built in) i also have the 15-60 power spotting scope. i have had great luck with these. i would say that swaro would have been my scond choice. you will be happy with eather set. remember if you buy s=good ones they will last you a life time.
  10. rtv900

    rtv900 Well-Known Member

    Dec 16, 2007
    I have been using a Leupold compact 15-30x50mm. I really like its size and weight. It is great in the field. The clarity is really good. For years I just used binos. Finally I purchased the spotting scope and what a difference it makes. You can really reach out there and see the animals. Now I dont go on a trip without it.

    I will mention that it does not work so well on the range. It does not get you up and close enough to the target to see small bore holes.
  11. phorwath

    phorwath Well-Known Member

    Apr 4, 2005
    Walk In Sheep Hunts

    I used the 12-40x Leupold spotting scope for sheep hunting in Alaska for about 12 years. It was a very good spotting scope for its relatively light weight. Eventually a friend bought a 15-45x Zeiss Diascope. I compared the two scopes side by sides one Alaskan evening and decided the upgrade to the Zeiss was worth it. So I've been using the Zeiss Diascope for about 4 years now. The Zeiss is a little heavier and bulkier than the Leupolds were, but they transmit more light, have slightly better resolution, and the extra power is very helpful for sheep hunting. 20-60x is a better power range for sheep hunting, but I've never found a high quality waterproof spotting scope in that power range that was light enough and compact enough for me to pack around in sheep habitat. So my compromise was the Zeiss Diascope.

    For binoculars, I have some 8x20 Swarovski's that I tend to carry when I'm also packing the spotting scope. I also have a set of 8x30 Swarovski SLC's which are easier on the eyes than the 8x20s, but again it's a weight and bulk compromise that usually leads to me selecting the 8x20s when I've got some ground to cover and am packing the spotting scope also. If the 8x30s were as light as the 8x20s, I would always take the 8x30s.

    After I've accepted and settled on the costs I'm willing to incur, I would say my selection in optics is then primarily selected based on the game I'm hunting, and secondarily by the number of miles and the nature of the terrain I expect to cover. The 20-60x Zeiss Diascope spotting scope is easier on the eyes and transmits more light than my 15-45x scope based on my side by side comparison, but the 20-60s were simply too heavy and bulky for me to want to haul them around on my style of backpack hunting trips. If you don't have to walk too far and the terrain is moderate (say caribou and moose hunting), then the bulkier & heavier optics are awfully nice and comfortable on the eyes for extended sessions of glassing the countryside.

    I've used lesser quality optics for many years also and managed fairly well, but as I was more able to afford it, I've always gone with higher end optics. The good glass just seems to make the countryside come to life.
  12. bitterroot bulls

    bitterroot bulls Active Member

    Apr 17, 2007
    Pentax as good as Swaro?

    I also used and loved my 12-40 X 60 Leupy spotter. It served me well, but I came to desire more power. I began looking into a relatively compact 20-60. At first the choice was obvious: the 20-60 X 65 Swaro. But then I started researching spotters on the bird watching websites and found Pentax spotters were often rated ABOVE the Swaros, at a significantly lower price. Some websites listed the Pentax as the "reference standard" that all other spotting scopes were to be judged by. Too good to be true, right? Wrong. When I first looked through the Pentax 20-60 X 65 ED I was shocked. It was absolutely tack-sharp. The resolution was impressive, but resolution is not really as important when looking at top-end scopes. In my experience, there are few scopes that show NOTICEABLY better resolution when you get to $600 + scopes. I compared the Pentax 65 ED with the Leupy HD, Swaro 65 and Zeiss 65 FL. The resolution of the Pentax was clearly in line with the Swaro and Zeiss, but then the less-expensive Leupold was not far off. But flatness of field, and color correction are immediately noticeable. Side-by-side with the Swaro and Leupy the Pentax is significantly better. The image is very similar at comparable powers with the Zeiss, but the Pentax goes to 60 power. Both the Leupy and Swaro are "warmer," having a slight yellow tint in color. The Pentax has no noticeable chromatic aberration until the very edge of field, again better than most. How about versatility? The Pentax will take any 1 1/4" standard telescope eyepiece including the world famous Televue Naglers and Pentax's own must-be-seen-to-be-believed XW series fixed power eyepieces. In the 65ED, the XW10 yeilds a 70 degree apparent field of view at 39 power! All of this in a package just larger in dimensions and weight than the Leupold 60mm. I did love my Leupy and heaped praise on it many times, including on this website, but I do believe I have found a better product ... Oh, and I got mine new with the zoom eyepiece for $600 on ebay. You here a lot of "Swaro or nothing" talk on this website and others, but if you want to save money and sacrifice NOTHING, look at the Pentax spotting scopes.
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2008