T’S REMARKABLE WHAT
Iyou can get for your money these days, so Helios’s new Lightwing HR range has an awful lot of competition in the sub-£300 bracket. Do they stand out from the crowd? Well, optically, there’s certainly little to complain about. There’s good natural colour and contrast, and a crisp image with very little edge softness, giving you the full benefit of a field of view of 141m@1000m. Colour fringing only showed slightly when following a moving bird against strong sunlight. The image is bright, too – even at dusk I found that they performed remarkably well for non-ed binoculars. Sharp focus was easy to find, and the close focus figure quoted – 2m – actually seemed a little conservative, as they focused down close to 1.5m in practice. Most impressive, perhaps, for binoculars of this price, was the design and build quality. The textured armour is easy to grip, and they’re compact, well-balanced and, at 710g, lightweight. The closed hinge was a little stiff, but might well loosen up after use, and anyway, better that than a ‘floppy’ hinge. Accessories include a fabric case, a decent neoprene strap, rainguard and removable tethered objective lens covers. FOR BIRDING IN wet or muddy places, the traditional Wellington boot has a lot going for it. But you don’t see that many birdwatchers wearing them, perhaps because, at their worst, Wellies are cold, not particularly comfortable and not particularly good for walking any distance in. The Muck Boot range includes some deluxe alternatives to the traditional Welly – I tested one of them – the Chore Hi Work Boot.
MORE THAN A WELLY This boot is so much more than the Wellington of your childhood. It’s well-made, looks good, and feels good to wear. In the hand, it is heavier than you might expect (one of my size 8s weighed about 1,100g), but on my feet, I didn’t find their weight a problem. The lower part is covered in rubber, while the calf-covering parts are neoprene. The toe has three layers of reinforcement and the heel area has four. There’s a tough rubber sole and a steel shank to help with arch support. One nice touch is a wedge on the back of each heel – you use this to help get them off. IN THE FIELD It was a too-sunny-for-autumn day and to test the boots we spent nearly two hours at Burwell Fen, in Cambridgeshire. The Chores have a lovely, soft footbed, my feet were cosy and comfortable, and the wet grass was no problem. I tested the Chores on a brisker walk, too, covering almost two miles in just under 50 minutes on another warm day. The Chores are designed to be an all-year round boot, comfortable from sub-zero to 85F, but I think some people will find them too warm during our warmer months. Even though the rubber doesn’t go all the way up, these boots are said to be 100% waterproof right to the top. To test them, I sat with my feet in cold water for 15 minutes (above) , with the water about 12.5cm below the top of the boots. The immersed neoprene darkened in colour, but all stayed dry on the inside.
SO… If you want to go off the beaten track, where mud and water might otherwise hold you back, boots like this are well worth considering. They don’t come cheap, but putting your feet into them is an absolute pleasure. And if the Chore Hi isn’t quite right for you, take a look at the rest of the Muck Boot range.