Bird Watching (UK) - - Bird The World -

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.

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