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We’ve covered before the importance of having a pair of binoculars that you can toss in a backpack, not think too hard about them, or worry over every jostle and bump they might take on the trail. We loved the Celestron Nature DX series of binoculars, but the cool kids love Nocs, a modern, stylish take on binoculars that are good quality without breaking the bank, and which can take some abuse without stressing you out.

Nocs just released a monocular telescope they call the Zoom Tube, and, while I’d never used one before and was a bit skeptical at first, I’ve come to really enjoy this little piece of hardware on the trail.

Why a monocular? Well, first of all, they’re lighter than binoculars, and smaller, so they’re much easier to bring in a daypack. These weigh less than 8 ounces, and fit in the hand very easily. They’re also a lot quicker to use if you’re birdwatching, or trying to track something that’s moving. With only one lens to adjust, it’s so much easier to spot something in the distance, and whip the Zoom Tube into focus than it is a pair of binoculars.

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On a recent trip to Yosemite, I used the Zoom Tube to follow climbers high up on El Cap; having only one lens to focus meant I could quickly find them again if I looked away for a time.

Attached with the Peak Designs Capture Clip.

The Zoom Tube is an 8x32mm scope, which means it has a 32mm lens aperture, with 8x magnification. That’s about the same as using a 400mm zoom lens. Inside are Swiss-designed Bak4 prisms, coated to reduce chromatic aberration and to increase brightness. The eyepiece is nice and large, so it’s easy to spot fast-moving animals, or to spot a climbing route with your eye, and immediately bring it into focus with the Zoom Tube.

Nocs is also releasing a lens that turns the Zoom Tube into a little 32x microscope. It will dramatically lengthen your hiking time because you will absolutely be stopping every two feet to examine the grains in unusual rocks, the patterns of a dead dragonfly’s wings, or the structure of a leaf. It works great and kids will love it.

I use mine with the Peak Designs Capture Clip, a device that attaches to a backpack shoulder strap, that in turn will accept the Zoom Tube, so it’s easy to carry it right there on your chest for easy access.

• BUY $75

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