Binoculars: One of My Favorite Minimalist Purchases


“Sometimes I think that the point of birdwatching is not the actual seeing of the birds, but the cultivation of patience.”

– Lynn Thomson

A few months ago, I sprung for a decent pair of binoculars. Not the amazing (and, at over $2K, well out of my price range) Zeiss binoculars a birder let me look me through at a bald-eagle event, but a more moderately priced pair of Nikons.

I spent months wavering over the purchase. Would I really use the binoculars that often? After all, I’ve bought stuff for hobbies before that didn’t pan out. Would this be different or something to sell on Craigslist in a few years?

So I did a lot of research about the right binoculars for birders, since my husband and already spent a lot of time watching birds. I also knew I’d want to be able to focus up close, so I could see frogs, butterflies and other small critters.

“Virtually anyone who spends much time outdoors owns (or should own) a pair of binoculars.”

– Chuck Hawks

I’ve only had the binoculars three months and already I’ve used them so much that my cost-per-hour is well under $10. I’ve taken them to the nearby National Wildlife Refuge for birdwatching a few times and to the beach.

Without the binoculars, I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the bald eagles in their nest, the baby Canada geese following their parents, the mother harbor seals with their pups or the grey whales spouting in the ocean.

“For me at age 11, I had a pair of binoculars and looked up to the moon, and the moon wasn’t just bigger, it was better. There were mountains and valleys and craters and shadows. And it came alive.”

– Neil deGrasse Tyson

The biggest use of the binoculars has been at home, though.

No, I’m not spying on the neighbors.

Most evenings, my husband and I sit on the patio or the balcony and watch the birds and squirrels. We’ve seen quite a few matings, including red-tailed hawks and turkey vultures. The local California Ground Squirrels now have babies scrambling over the rocks.

We’ve looked at the moon and the stars and the distant mountains. We’ve watched butterflies, dragonflies and airplanes. Baby starlings crying in their tree-hole nest, mouths agape and waiting for food.

With the close focus these binoculars have, we watch the birds at our own feeders, too. We can see them perfectly well without the binoculars, of course, but the level of detail visible with the binoculars is amazing.

“To be really happy and really safe, one ought to have at least two or three hobbies, and they must all be real.”

– Winston Churchill

Should you get a pair of binoculars? Maybe, maybe not. Depends on what you enjoy doing in your free time.

I’m telling you this story not so you’ll rush out and buy binoculars, but to show how much enjoyment can come from mindfully made purchases. Shop like a minimalist.

Before you buy, do your research. Not just about the product, but about you live. Will you use it? Is the particular model best for the way you plan to use it?

What’s your favorite purchase or gift? Why?