Not unlike a good pair of boots, most out­door ori­ent­ed peo­ple know the true val­ue of a qual­i­ty pair of binoc­u­lars. Peek inside any law enforce­ment vehi­cle and chances are that you’ll find a good pair of field glass­es on the dash, or close at hand in the pas­sen­ger seat. Aside from allow­ing one to view birds, wildlife, and oth­er things of inter­est at a dis­tance in good detail, a pair of binoc­u­lars can be use­ful in sev­er­al oth­er ways, and they could even save your life.

 Fire Starter
The basic tech­nol­o­gy in most binoc­u­lars is made up of con­vex and con­cave lens­es in a tube, essen­tial­ly an upside down micro­scope. In a seri­ous emer­gency sit­u­a­tion a pair of binoc­u­lars can be dis­as­sem­bled and used to start a fire. This method is accom­plished in much the same man­ner as doing so with a mag­ni­fy­ing glass.

 Smart Phone Zoom Lens
Update your social media sta­tus with a pic­ture of a wild crit­ter. Most smart-phone cam­eras are equipped with an auto-focus much like the human eye. Sim­ply hold the cam­era lens up to the right eye­piece and let the image come into clear focus. Some adjust­ment to the binoc­u­lars focus may be nec­es­sary. While not exact­ly pro­fes­sion­al grade, this option is lighter and cheap­er than any tele­pho­to lens.

Sig­nal Mir­ror
Many light­weight pock­et binoc­u­lars uti­lize roof-prism tech­nol­o­gy. This basi­cal­ly means that there is at least one small mir­ror inside each tube. In an extreme, emer­gency sit­u­a­tion the binoc­u­lars can be dis­as­sem­bled, aka smashed, in order to get at the mir­rors. These angu­lar mir­rors are small but could be used to sig­nal search air­craft. The lens­es could also be used in the same fash­ion if backed by some dark cloth or oth­er material.

FishingBait buster
Some­times it seems that every boat on the water is catch­ing fish but yours. Take a sneak peak at what the oth­er anglers are reel­ing in. Good optics will reveal shape, col­or, and if close enough even the size and type of the bait, fly, or lure. Binoc­u­lars are also great for spot­ting schools of bait­fish on open water, and can quick­ly dis­cern whether that flock of gulls is harass­ing some her­ring or just a jet­ti­soned ham sandwich.

Splin­ter spot­ter
Invert­ing a pair of binoc­u­lars essen­tial­ly turns them into an awk­ward micro­scope. Even though awk­ward, the mag­ni­fi­ca­tion is extreme­ly help­ful in locat­ing for removal those tiny splin­ters com­mon in out­door set­tings. This method works even bet­ter with a part­ner, as the extra set of hands can help with the tweezers.

 Bear Aware
Dis­cern­ing the dif­fer­ence between a griz­zly bear and a black bear can be dif­fi­cult even at close range. Binoc­u­lars can help one dif­fer­en­ti­ate one species of bru­in from the oth­er. Optics are also use­ful in locat­ing cubs well in advance of stum­bling between them and their pro­tec­tive mother.


Some­what less expen­sive, and by far less bulky than a tele­scope, binoc­u­lars are an ide­al way to view the night sky. Even inex­pen­sive mod­els can give depth to craters on the moon, and enhance the col­or and shape of stars and plan­ets. Field glass­es are also a fan­tas­tic way to give a more visu­al ‘pop’ out of mete­or showers.

Of course you can always use your optics for the reg­u­lar rea­sons; bird watch­ing, wildlife view­ing, biki­ni spot­ting, etc. But isn’t it nice to know that in a pinch, that lit­tle extra weight around your neck could also be a lifesaver.

by Kurt Dehmer