Nepal: My first trip with Swarovski’s CL Pocket Binoculars
Hiking the Nepalese Himalayas is no easy task – one of my trekking poles snapped, a camera lens cracked, the hand grip detached from my camera, and my girlfriend lost a pair of shoes when the soles more or less disintegrated as she was hiking. My binoculars, though? They did just fine.
With 50lbs worth of gear on my back (most of which was photo equipment) I was quite relieved with the binoculars’ light weight of only 12.2oz. That’s lighter than any of the camera lenses I had with me. And despite being the lightest of all my optical gear, the binoculars had by far the most powerful zoom at 10x magnification. My camera lenses – even the powerful 70-200mm lens – didn’t even come close.
I took tons of pictures in Nepal, but when I really wanted to get up close and personal with the landscapes I left my camera in my bag and I instead reached for my binoculars. Seeing the Himalayas in this way helped me develop a deep respect and appreciation for the terrain.
See my complete review of the CL Pocket Binoculars in Nepal including a 2 minute video from 13,000 feet in the Himalayas.
My second trip with Swarovski’s CL Pocket Binoculars: Hawaii
With memories from Nepal still fresh in my mind, I brought the Swarovski CL Pocket Binoculars along on a far less challenging trip: Hawaii. Besides stunning scenery and landscapes, Hawaii is also known for surfing, swimming, bird watching, and just plain laying on the beach. The binoculars helped me enjoy all of those things, often in unexpected ways.
From the 30th floor of our hotel room, I could use the binoculars’ 10x zoom to focus on Waikiki beach to see if it was a good day for swimming and if the the beach was crowded. Laying out on the beach every day, I could see exotic island birds fly past overhead as new surfers learned to catch a wave below. I felt like I had front row seats to it all.
After spending several days chilling out on Waikiki, we took a road trip to the North Shore of Oahu. Summertime weather patterns mean a laid back vibe and an utter lack of waves. While I was content to scope out the relatively calm ocean in front of me and the palm trees behind me with the binoculars, I’m sure a repeat trip would be all the better in wintertime to watch world class surfers ride the legendary North Shore break.
If these shots look a bit different to you, check out my post on Exploring Hawaii with Film.
A closer look
When shopping for binoculars it’s important to understand what you’re actually looking at. Let’s talk numbers. All binoculars have a designator like 8×25, 8×42, 10×25, and so on. The first number is the magnification. Swarovski CL Pocket binoculars come in 8×25 and 10×25, which means they magnify 8x or 10x depending on which version you are using. I used the 10x magnification version on both my Nepal and Hawaii trips.
The second number is the diameter of the lens in millimeters. The larger the diameter, the brighter the image and the heavier the binoculars. For me, the CL Pocket’s 25mm diameter is the perfect size for travel without sacrificing too much brightness or image quality. Sizes larger than that quickly become too bulky to travel with; smaller than that and image quality suffers. At 25mm, the view is bright and clear.
Another design feature that I like is the double hinge. Many larger binoculars feature just one hinge down the center, but the CL Pockets fold on each side making them extremely compact and perfect for travel. While it’s a bit impractical, the CL Pockets really can fit in your pocket.
The binoculars come packaged inside a nice professional box. Included in the box are the instruction manual, a carrying case with strap (not pictured), a separate strap for the binoculars, and lens cleaning tissue.
High quality optics are always an exercise in compromise, but the question that needs to be asked is, “Are these the right compromises for me?”
These things are purpose built for travelers and adventurers, and they perform excellently in that role. I am really impressed with Swarovski’s choices for the CL Pocket.
The diameter and weight are the smallest and lightest I’d expect to find while retaining a bright, clear image. That the binoculars endured the rigors of Nepal when so many other things did not is a testament to their sturdy construction and longevity. There are a lot of choices out there, but if you want to travel light yet also see things clearly, you simply can’t do much better than the Swarovski CL Pocket.
Full disclosure: All opinions are solely my own. I received compensation to write this review. Check out my unpaid review here: Swarovski CL Pocket Binoculars in Nepal. Spoiler alert: I liked them back then too.