Tag Archives: gifts

Christmas Gift Ideas: No.2

A terrific gift for boys, girls and men and women of all ages with an interest in the natural world are a pair of binoculars. Binoculars do come in a range of sizes, prices and qualities, ranging from as low as about €10/£8 and even less expensive in the USA, to extremely expensive models in the thousands of all these currencies.

How to choose the right pair: bigger is NOT better when choosing binoculars, and neither is expensive better either. For the naturalist and general outdoor enthusiast weight is always a consideration. A person planning to walk miles carrying binoculars will not want them heavy, and neither will someone planning to watch birds for several hours.
When buying binoculars you will be confronted with numbers, such as: 7×42, 8×30, 8×50, 10×25, 10×50, etc, etc. The first number refers to the strength of the binoculars, for example “10x” means the lenses will multiply your eyesight by 10 times. So, the better your eyesight is to start with, the better you will see things, since the binoculars multiply your eyesight strength.

The second number refers to the width of the front lenses (outer lenses) of the binoculars. In a 7×42 binoculars the front lenses (the “headlights”) are 42mm wide. In an 8×50 binoculars they are 50mm wide. The reason there are different sizes is because the wider the front lens the greater the amount of light that gets let in. This allows you to see more clearly at greater distances with a very powerful pair of binoculars, such as a 20x strength pair. And it allows you to see better on average in lower light conditions, but the difference can be negligible and other factors, such as lens quality can also have an affect.

A 10x26 strength pair of binoculars. The 10x refers to a multiplication of ten times your eyesight strength. The 26 refers to the width of the lenses at the front (which you can see clearly in the photo) which are 26mm wide.

For a gift, particularly for someone who doesn’t know exactly what they want their binoculars for, I would suggest a model with a strength of anywhere from 7x to 10x. I would also suggest that the width of the front lenses doesn’t matter, although a pair with 40mm lenses would be about as big as would be comfortable to hold.

You can get good quality binoculars for good prices: the German company Bresser are the biggest optics company in the world and make extremely good quality binoculars for low prices, even under €20 in many cases. I also have to say I am very impressed with the binoculars made by Tasco, an American company many of whose models are coated with rubber armour. Then you have the likes of Steiner of Germany, Olympus, Nikon, Canon, Zeiss, Leica, and Swarovski.

The UK Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) also have their own binoculars of superb quality and at relatively reasonable prices considering the high quality, all of which can be bought from their online shops and further afield. In Ireland these binoculars are available from the BirdWatch Ireland online store, and their official shop located in Kilcoole, here in Wicklow (a shop that can be difficult to find!).


Christmas Gift Ideas: No.1

During the Great Northern Winter, when the nights are extremely long and tedious it is very, very easy for people to become couch-potatoes, particularly teenagers. But it can also be a time to encourage couch-potatoes to go outside more often when as days start to get longer after Christmas.

It’s not just good enough to point out that there is an outside world to venture into, you need something inspiring, and here are two gifts that go together perfectly:

"Always prepared for adventure"

Along with Sherlock Holmes and Indiana Jones, MacGyver has become a symbol of a type of person, usually someone who is ingenious and a lateral thinker (someone who thinks ‘outside the box’). There are seven seasons of MacGyver available on DVD, but the one you will want to gift to someone (unless they already have it) is the First Season, comprising 22 globetrotting adventures features heists, rescues, near-misses and amazing stunts. Amazingly, this TV series has barely aged whatsoever, looking shiny and new, and you would almost believe it was filmed recently, but set in the mid-1980s. The heroics take place in all sorts of situations and habitats, and in all cases MacGyver uses his ingenuity and knowledge of science and engineering to produce incredible effects, and, amazingly all are said to genuinely possible, although not all the steps involved in the more dangerous creations are revealed, for obvious reasons. High ideals and adventure from a man carrying only, at most, a Swiss Army Knife and things he finds along the way, depending on the situation.

So that takes care of the inspiration: now for the practical outdoor bit, which requires a small multiplex knife/multi-tool. Swiss Army Knives are perfect pocket knives, being big enough without being too big, and legal to carry in most countries where they are extremely popular with scouts, hikers and backpackers. The model pictured is the Victorinox Timekeeper. The model mostly used by MacGyver is the Victorinox Tinker (not to be confused with the Deluxe Tinker), although the almost identical Spartan model was used in many episodes, the difference being only that the Tinker has a Phillips head screwdriver where the Spartan has a corkscrew. The Tinker retails at about €15 which is roughly £12 sterling or $17, although it’s hard to tell exactly with the current fluctuation in global currencies. There are many less expensive Swiss Army-like penknives. Just remember that the more functions one of these knives has, the thicker it is and the harder to hold comfortably. Naturalists will probably find the Farmer model, made by Victorinox, the most useful of all.

This double gift should suit boys and men aged 12 to 50 (although I suspect a lot of women would like these too: just not quite so much), and will probably be all the more popular given that a blockbuster MacGyver movie is already in the early stages of production.