A while back I wanted an inexpensive pair of binos for travel and expedition use. But I also wanted them to be waterproof and rugged enough to handle the inevitable abuse by a bunch of liquored-up climbers trying to scope out the nearby clothing-optional beach.
With optics you have the usual tradeoff: features, quality and price. I was willing to sacrifice optical quality for waterproof and inexpensive, and with those caveats in mind I can recommend the Konica Minolta Activa WP (for weatherproof) series of binoculars. At under a pound they’re light, and they’ve survived multiple encounters with my two-year old and my climbing buddies. And the price is hard to beat.
A little binos 101: 8×25 means 8x magnification and a 25mm objective or front lens diameter. Anything higher than 10x sounds good, but will be hard to stabilize. A larger objective = more light coming in = brighter image. The Activa has a diopter adjustment, meaning you can fine-tune the focus to adjust for differences between eyes. Very useful if you need vision correction and want to use binos without eyeglasses, although the Activa has rubber eyecups that can be folded back for use with eyeglasses.
The main tradeoff in the Activa is image quality. Go to a store and grab a low-end brand like Konica or Brunton and a high-end brand like Leica or Swarovski and you will see a HUGE difference in clarity and image resolution. This is due to better materials, technology, manufacturing and quality control. If you’re just looking for a working man’s model, the Activa will do you fine.