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Best binoculars 2021: Get closer to nature with a set of binoculars

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best binoculars 2021

Fancy doing a spot of birdwatching or getting closer to the sporting action?

This is our pick of the finest binoculars you can buy

Apart from birdwatching, there probably isn’t many instances you can think of that require a pair of binoculars.

But there are many more (legal) use cases than you think. Going to the races for the day?

They’ll come in handy if you want to watch the horse you backed make it across the finish line.

A good pair can greatly enhance your enjoyment of the great outdoors; a bad pair can put you off for life.

But how do you tell the difference? And are cheap binoculars always a bad move?

To help you make the right decision, we’ve put together a list of the best binoculars you can buy.

And if you don’t know your objective lenses from your Porro prisms, then scroll down the page to get the full lowdown on what features you should be looking for in our handy buying guide.

1. RSPB Puffin 8 x 32: The best binoculars under $80

Viking RSPB 8X32 Puffin Binoculars

The general rule is that the cheaper the binocular, the more difficult it is to focus and see a clear image. These compact binoculars buck that trend spectacularly.

Typically sold at RSPB bird reserves, they cost a bargain $75, yet the image you see through them is clear and crisp with little distortion.

You won’t spend ages adjusting them thanks to the wide 7.5° field of view.

True, for $75, you don’t get such luxuries as extra-close focusing (take the 8 feet close focus claim with a large pinch of salt, it’s actually longer than 10 feet).

And they’re quite soft at the edges of the field of view. The strap and pouch are basic, and eye-relief is a low 13.6mm. Glasses wearers would be well advised to try these out before buying.

However, the binoculars themselves feel solidly made, they’re light and portable and offer screw-out eye-cups – a lot more than you’d expect for the money.

Key specs – 8x magnification; 32mm objective lenses; 7.5° field of view; 13.6mm eye relief; adjustable eyecups; 2.5m (claimed) close focusing distance; 489g (with strap and lens caps).

2. Opticron Discovery WP PC 8 x 42: Optically, the best binoculars under $300

Opticron Discovery WP PC Mg 8x42 Binocular

These short, stubby Opticrons may not look particularly exceptional. Still, if you want the very best in optical quality for not much cash, they’re a good shout.

Technically, they’re slightly better quality than the Celestron Trailseeker 8 x 42 and present a sharper, clearer image that’s more neutrally colored.

They focus 2 feet closer – as close as 5 feet – which means they’re excellent for getting up close and personal with butterflies and bees.

They’re cheaper, too, than the Trailseekers and feel better made, with a smoother focus dial and longer 22mm eye relief, so they’re better for glasses wearers.

However, we’re not too keen on the cheap-feeling lens caps.

Where these Opticrons fall slightly short is in what’s included, or rather not included, in the box. All you get is a basic pouch and a simple, non-padded strap.

The Celestron’s include a stretchy neoprene strap, a pouch with extra compartments, and a harness.

Still, suppose the best quality image is important to you. In that case, they’re fantastic for the money and represent a big step up from the cheaper Olympus 10 x 25 and RSPB Puffin 8 x 32 models.

Key specs – 8x magnification, 42mm objective lenses, 7.5° field of view, 22mm eye relief, adjustable eyecups, 5 feet close focusing distance, 1.9 pounds (with strap and lens caps)

3. Swarovski EL 8.5 x 42: The best binoculars money can buy

SWAROVSKI 8.5x42 EL Binocular with FieldPro Package Green

Question: What does £1,800 get you in a pair of binoculars?

Answer: The best image quality on the planet. That’s no understatement.

If you’re serious about your bird-spotting and money is no object, these Austrian-made Swarovski EL 8.5 x 42 are for you.

They’re so bright and clear that looking through them feels like an exercise in biological enhancement.

In low light, they’re so good they almost feel that they’re brightening the image; in good light, what you see is so sharp and clear you’ll forget you’re peering through binoculars at all.

Optically, they’re beyond reproach, with exceptional sharpness across a wide 7.6° field of view and no discernible chromatic aberrations.

They offer a touch more magnification than most of the binoculars we’ve used at 8.5x. Yet, they’re not at all difficult to hold steady and close focus is superb: you can peer at subjects from 5 feet.

Focusing is incredibly easy on the finger, too. The focus wheel is both light and smooth and super accurate.

The EL 8.5 x 42 are also highly practical and incredibly well-made. The eyecups feel solidly constructed and extend out in three notched stages (eye-relief is an extra-long 20mm).

The stretchy padded strap included in the box attaches via quick release clips to the side of each barrel, allowing for the quick attachment of other accessories.

Strap length adjustments can be made quickly. By simply rotating a dial on each strap to release and spinning it back the other way to lock the strap in position once you’ve made your adjustments.

Dioptre adjustment is super easy. Made not by grasping a ring on the right eyepieces but by flicking the focus wheel up, adjusting to your eyes, and flicking it back down to lock it in.

Naturally, these binoculars are solidly built and waterproof to a depth of 4m.

The Swarovski EL 8.5 x 42 are truly exceptional binoculars. They’re not cheap, but if you do have the money and nature watching is your passion, you will most certainly not be disappointed. They’re simply magnificent.

Key specs – 8.5x magnification; 42mm objective lenses; 7.6° field of view; 20mm eye relief; adjustable cups; 5 feet close focusing distance; 4.24 pounds (with strap and lens caps)

4. Canon 12 x 36 IS III: The best binoculars with image stabilization

Canon 12x36 Image Stabilization III Binoculars

Image stabilization isn’t just for cameras. Canon has also built its shaky hands reduction tech into its binoculars range, and it works incredibly well.

Pop a pair of AA batteries into a compartment on the Canon 12 x 3 IS III’s belly, press a small button on the top. Like magic, all handshake disappears, leaving you with a crystal clear, super steady image.

Normally we wouldn’t recommend using a pair of 12x magnification binoculars without a tripod. Still, with stabilization, these work just fine, and optically the Canons are splendid.

They present a sharp, bright image right out to the very edge of your field of view with neutral color representation.

There are some downsides, though. The high magnification level means the field of view isn’t particularly broad. At just 5°, you’ll spot less than you would with a pair of the much cheaper Celestron Trailseekers.

These aren’t quite as bright to look through as binoculars much cheaper, plus there’s visible color fringing around objects set against bright backgrounds.

They don’t focus particularly closely, either, so they’re not great for peeking at insects and flowers. And eye-relief isn’t very long at 14.5mm. Glasses wearers beware.

And we’re a little disappointed with the accessories supplied in the box. The strap isn’t padded. Bizarrely, you don’t get lens caps for the objective lenses. And also, the rubber, non-adjustable, roll-down eyecups won’t be to everyone’s taste either.

Even the ocular lens caps aren’t tethered. However, for that stupendously good image stabilization, we’re willing to forgive a lot.

Key specs – 12x magnification; 36mm objective lenses; 5° field of view; 14.5mm eye relief; non-adjustable eyecups; 20 feet closest focusing distance; image stabilization; 1.46 pounds (with strap and 3 x AA batteries)

5. Celestron Trailseeker 8 x 42: The best binoculars under $250

Celestron – TrailSeeker 8x42 Binoculars – Fully Multi-Coated Optics – Binoculars for Adults – Phase and Dielectric Coated

The best all-rounders in the binocular business are light, practical, and offer up a bright, sharp image with a wide field of view.

The Celestron Trailseeker 8 x 42 delivers on all these fronts. The field of view is an impressive 8.12°.

The “phase-coated” optics deliver a crisp image (although it does soften a little at the edges of the field of view). Also, the close focussing is an impressive 6.5 feet, so you’ll be able to observe insects and flowers close up as well as our feathered friends.

Despite this and a comparatively reasonable price, the Trailseekers are well-designed and well-built. They come with a generous selection of extras.

The tough-feeling green rubber housing is fully waterproof. The eyecups are adjustable in three stages, with eye-relief stretching all the way out to 17mm.

However, what’s most impressive is the range of accessories on offer here. The neoprene-padded strap, high-quality carry bag, lens cleaning cloth, and even a shoulder harness all supplied in the box.

Key specs – 8x magnification; 42mm objective lenses; 8.12° field of view; 17mm eye relief; adjustable eyecups; 6.5 feet close focusing distance; 1.45 pounds (with strap and lens caps)

Olympus 10 x 25 PC I: The best compact binoculars for close-up spotting

Olympus Tracker 10x25 Porro Prism Compact & Lightweight Binocular

Compact binoculars are great to keep in the car or take on a trip when you’re traveling light, and the Olympus 10 x 25 PC I are some of the best around.

They weigh a mere 9.9 ounces, even with the lightweight neck strap attached and fold up small enough to fit in a jacket hip pocket.

Despite this, the high 10x magnification and narrow 25mm objective lenses, image quality is exceptional – sharp and much brighter than you might expect.

They’re well built, too, with a smooth focus ring, twist-out cups with 15mm of eye relief, and close focus that lets you get nearer to your subject than most other binoculars.

It’s advertised at 8.2 feet, but we were able to focus at around 5.6 feet. Coupled with the 10x magnification, this makes them excellent for insect and plant spotting.

The downsides of that extra magnification are that the field of view isn’t very wide – a mere 5.2° – they can be tricky to hold steady. The price is a little on the high side, but we love these compact binoculars. They’re superb.

Key specs – 10x magnification; 25mm objective lenses; 5.2° field of view; 15mm eye relief; adjustable cups; 5.6 feet close focusing distance; 9.9 ounces (with strap and lens caps)

How to buy the best binoculars for you

 

To look at, one pair of binoculars would appear to be much the same as another. Some might be smaller than others. By and large, they’re made up of a pair of barrels with lenses at either end, attached to each other with a hinge in the middle.

Dig deeper, however, and you’ll discover there’s a whole world of features and specifications that determine how good a pair of binoculars are and the sort of spotting activities they’re suited to.best Binoculars

What type of binoculars should I buy?

You’ll probably have noticed if you’ve ever looked for or used a pair of binoculars that they all have a pair of numbers – like 8 x 42 or 10 x 25 – written somewhere on them.

The 1st number on them designates the magnification level. So, an 8x pair will enlarge your subject eight times, while a 10x pair will make it ten times bigger.

The 2nd number tells you how large the objective lenses (the big ones on the end) are in millimeters.

The most important number is the magnification level. You might think here that bigger is better, right?

Well, that’s not strictly true. While a 10x or 12x magnification will allow you to see things further away that bit closer, higher magnification such as this has knock-on effects.

At higher levels of magnification, it’s usually hard to hold binoculars steady enough to see a stable image. Higher magnification also usually means a narrower field of view.

Field of view (or FOV), is another figure usually stenciled on the binocular somewhere. It refers to how much you can see from left to right when you’re peering through them and it’s normally expressed in degrees.

What is the best magnification level for bird watching?

The sweet spot for birdwatching and nature-spotting binoculars is 8x. This gives you a reasonably broad field of view (around 7 to 8 degrees) and magnification and allows you to hand-hold easily without getting too much distracting shake.

Suppose you’re more of a stargazer and need binoculars for looking at the moon and constellations. In that case, you’ll want a higher magnification level – 12x and up – but you’ll need to think about attaching them to a tripod.

What benefit is there to buying binoculars with bigger lenses?

The objective lens size is most critical to the quality of the image you see through your binoculars.

The larger the lens, the greater its light-gathering ability is. Too small, and the image will be murky and dim; too big, though, and the binoculars will be too bulky and heavy to be practical.

That’s why in this test, we’ve mostly focused on binoculars with 42mm objective lenses (and why most manufacturers do the same) because they strike the best balance between light gathering and practicality.

If you want pocketable binoculars, choose a pair with 25mm lenses or 32mm.

If you’re mostly going to be stargazing or mounting your binoculars to a tripod. In that case, you can get away with larger lenses.

In summary, then, an 8 x 42 pair of binoculars 8x magnify a scene and has 42mm lenses; a 10 x 25 pair has 10x magnification and 25mm lenses.

best Binoculars

Should I care about features such as prism types or ED glass?

You might hear the other terms connected with binoculars and see on specifications sheets are Porro prism, roof prism, and ED glass. 

Porro and roof prisms: All binoculars use prisms to keep the size down. Otherwise, they’d all be huge and look like a pair of telescopes strapped together.

Prisms come in different flavors, though, and the type of prisms used dictates the shape and size of your binoculars.

Traditional A-shaped binoculars use Porro prisms. Porro prism binoculars tend to be larger and bulkier than roof-prism binoculars but slightly cheaper.

More modern H-shaped binoculars use roof prisms. These are the most popular type in use today because they tend to be smaller and lighter than Porro-prism optics.

ED or HD glass: ED (extra-low dispersion) glass (also referred to as HD glass by some manufacturers) is a special type of glass that’s designed to keep chromatic aberrations under control.

You can spot chromatic aberrations by looking at a dark object silhouetted against a bright background – a kestrel against the sky, for example. It manifests as color fringing around those objects.

Binoculars with ED or HD glass tend to keep such fringing to a minimum, and the image you see through them will be clearer and sharper as a result.

However, ED glass is more expensive than standard glass, so you’ll tend to see it only in more expensive binoculars of above £200.

The other key features to look out for

Close focus: Great for spotting insects and inspecting flowers from close range. The best binoculars let you focus from as close as 1.5m away.

Waterproofing: You’re going to be using your binoculars outside, so it’s best to be sure that they won’t let in if you’re caught in a rain shower. They’ll fog up, and condensation will form on the inner surfaces if this happens.

Fog proofing: To prevent binoculars from fogging up when transitioning from the cold outdoors to the warm indoors, manufacturers fill their binoculars with an inert gas (usually argon or nitrogen) with no water content and thus inhibits condensation.

Eye relief: If you wear spectacles, binoculars with long eye relief and adjustable eyecups will make it much easier for you to see the full field of view while wearing your glasses.

Look for binoculars with an eye relief of 14mm or longer. The more, the better, though, as this will give you more opportunities to tweak for the best view.

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Last update on 2021-02-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Sports & Outdoors

Best Camping Gear in 2021 for a Weekend Outdoors

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best camping gear

Unless you’re venturing into the wilderness with a bow and arrow, a pack of matches, and a rope, you’re going to need a few things. ​

Best Camping Gear

Camping has evolved a lot from the days of classic tents, PVC folding chairs, and beans over the fire. It doesn’t matter if you’re going backpacking in the Adirondacks or are car-camping in Yellowstone. Here is an essential camping list we swear by.

From shelter and warmth to food, water, toiletries, bear spray (yes, bear spray), even games, and stuff for your pup, we guarantee even the most experienced outdoorsman will find something on this list that enhances their adventure-seeking.

Coleman 8-Person Instant Tent

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This 14-feet-by-10-feet tent is baller AF. You can sleep eight people (apparently), and there is even a room divider. We’d probably stick to a family of five or even go all out on a couple’s week in the wilderness (plus an air mattress).

This tent is only suitable for campsites you can drive directly up to due to size and weight. But you can stand in it.

Ozark Trail 4-Person Dome Tent with Vestibule

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If you’re looking for a more traditional dome tent for light-use, this 8-feet-by-8-feet tent with a full-coverage fly sleeps four people. But the best part is the European-style vestibule that can store all your gear and clothes, allowing you to maximize sleeping space.

Marmot Limelight 3-Person 3-Season Tent

This roomy tent is perfect for three seasons … and three people (or two people and two dogs)!

There are two doors for easy in-and-out, taped seams to keep the elements out if the forecast calls for rain, and a mesh canopy for stargazing. Weighing in at only 6 pounds, it’s perfect for backpacking.

Gear Aid Tenacious Tape

Other amazing invention we didn’t know existed until we needed them desperately. Gear Aid makes super-strong, waterproof adhesive repair tape for backpacks, tents, tarps, ski gear, and so much more. Carry with your tent at all times.

Coleman Comfort Control Sleeping Bag

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Going from a toasty campfire to your tent can throw off your body temperate quick. Get warm in this bag, which keeps you warm in temperatures as low as 30 degrees while giving you the ability to peel off layers as the night goes on.

Never spend another night tossing and turning in your tent.

TETON Sports 101R Celsius XXL -18C/0F Sleeping Bag

If you’re looking for a synthetic bag you can toss in the washer after a weekend backpacking trip, this polyester mummy-shaped bag with Tri-Fusion insulation is your best bet. Our favorite part?

TETON Sports gives a durable compression sack along with every sleeping bag for stuffing your sleeping bag into. It has heavy-duty straps for ultimate compressibility.

Hyke & Byke Eolus 0 Degree F 800 Fill Power Hydrophobic Goose Down Sleeping Bag with ClusterLoft Base

Whether you’re heading out on a backpacking or kayaking trip, you can be sure to expect moisture. Made with Down Tek, the feathers in this 3.7-pound bag absorb 33 percent less moisture and dry 66 percent faster than standard down.

With the ability to withstand temperatures as low as 0 degrees, you’ll be toasty warm in every climate at every altitude in this sleeping bag.

Therm-a-Rest ProLite Sleeping Pad

When you’re backpacking, it’s all about weight and size. You don’t have to sacrifice comfort at all. Sleeping on the ground is terrible no matter what way you look at it.

This sweet sleeping pad is super small when stuffed in its sack and weighs in at just over a pound (for the regular-sized option).

Intex Prestige Downy Airbed Kit with Hand Held Battery Pump

The secret to a good air mattress while camping outdoors is recognizing that you probably won’t have electricity before you get to the campsite. This twin airbed comes with a handheld pump — just don’t forget six C batteries.

TETON Sports Camp Pillow w/ Pillow Case

Some car-campers prefer to bring a bed pillow with them. We prefer not to have our bed smell like a campfire for a week after a trip. This 8-inch-by-12-inch pillow with SuperLoft Elite fill is perfect for car-camping and comes with a lifetime warranty.

Looking for outdoor or survival gear?

Check out Muddy Hunting – New Products

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Last update on 2021-02-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Best golf balls in 2021: The perfect golf balls for putting, driving, and learning

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golf balls

Golf games can be incredibly close affairs, so it’s essential to take advantage of every edge you can. While many players will focus their energy and money on new clubs, your choice of the ball could be every bit as crucial.

Picking the right golf ball allows you to boost and support the key areas of your game.

With the right balls at your disposal:

– you can extend your driving distance

– master spin for your putting

– increase your ability to play in cold conditions.

There are golf balls to suit every budget and playing style, and we’re going to outline all the best options in the buying guide below. We also have some top tips on how you can save money while still picking up some premium balls.

Heed our advice, and your golf game should improve by leaps and bounds – and all without breaking the bank.

The best golf balls to buy in 2021

best Golf Ball

1. Titleist NXT Tour golf balls: The best golf balls for the average golfer

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Titleist is a highly revered brand in the golfing marketplace. The NXT Tour golf ball is a perfect choice for average golfers with a low or medium handicap.

They are designed specifically to improve playability for golfers in this intermediate category between beginners and experts, with a softer and responsive feel that will help you step up to that next level.

A soft compression core couples with a thin Fusablend cover to create a ball that will fly off the tee at pace but with solid shot-stopping accuracy that help you approach the green with confidence.

It has everything you need to graduate from a medium handicap to a high one in basic terms.

Key specs

  • Quantity: 24 (used)
  • Different design options: None
  • Dimple count: 302

2. TaylorMade Burner Soft golf balls: The best golf balls for beginners

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With their Burner Soft range of golf balls, TaylorMade’s popular brand has gone for a very durable product.

The resilient Iothane cover and low-drag aerodynamics ensure that the Burner Golf balls are very long-lasting. This makes them perfect for beginners. You can practice endlessly with these balls, and they’ll keep delivering top-quality results.

These balls have a REACT core that makes them fast in the air. This should come in handy when you’re trying to hone your driving abilities and other long-distance shots.

However, they’re also still soft when you need them to be, so your short game won’t suffer at all. These are another strong all-around set, especially if you’re just starting out with the sport.

Key specs

  • Quantity: 12
  • Different design options: None
  • Dimple count: 360

3. Bridgestone E6 Speed golf balls: The best golf balls for distance

If you’re in search of the perfect ball to improve your long game, Bridgestone’s E6 Speed golf balls will fit your requirements. Bridgestone employed their ‘Delta dimple’ here. It is designed to create smoother air resistance and better velocity. This should help your shots from the tee to stay in the air for longer. Also, getting you further along the fairway and quite possibly improving your handicap. Rather than focusing on the spin as some other balls do, these E6 Speed golf balls are dedicated to helping your balls fly straighter and longer. If you’re currently wasting extra shots on the fairway and struggling to stay on par, these balls could transform the way you play.

Key specs

  • Quantity: 12
  • Different design options: White or Yellow
  • Dimple count: Unspecified

4. Titleist Pro V1 golf balls: Best golf balls for high handicappers

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Titleist Pro V1 golf balls, used by many pros, are among the very best golf balls on the market. They are engineered to be true all-rounders. This makes them the ideal choice for high handicappers who want to improve their game as much as possible in every imaginable area.

These balls have the next-generation 2 ZG process core, contributing to longer distances from the tee. The 352 dimples should also aid your long-distance game, giving you enhanced consistency and control in your drive. And when you get close to the hole, the soft urethane elastomer cover system should deliver ‘drop and stop’ greenside control. This allows you to land the ball with top-notch accuracy. Finally, the responsive ionomeric casing layer should help with your speed and spin shots.

Key specs

  • Quantity: 12
  • Different design options: Standard Numbers (1-4), High Numbers (5-8), Pink Numbers
  • Dimple count: 352

5. Second Chance Callaway Warbird golf balls: The best cheap golf balls

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The Warbird golf ball from Callaway is a powerful long-distance ball, boasting an optimized core, ionomer cover, and hex aerodynamics.

It’s perfect for getting up the freeway, while the soft feel will also come in handy when you’re putting. It’s a speedy ball with loads of positive reviews on the web.

However, to make them even more tempting, you can buy ‘second chance’ packs of Warbird balls second hand through Amazon.

There’s no shame in buying used golf balls when they’re of this high quality. You can stock up and improve your long game without over-stretching your budget. If that sounds good to you – and it should – then the Second Chance Warbird packages are perfect.

Key specs 

  • Quantity: 12
  • Different design options: None
  • Dimple count: 382

6. Bridgestone E6 Soft golf balls: The best golf balls for winter

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The dual dimple technology within the soft Bridgestone balls will give them reduced drag and increased lift.

This makes them perfect for zipping through the dense, cold winter air. The anti-side spin inner layer is designed to reduce hooks and slices. This could also help your putts to stay on target when you’re playing in frosty conditions.

They come in yellow, too, which could be useful if you’re worried about losing a white ball in the frosty grass. Even when the sun’s shining, these are top quality balls that will help you drive straight and putt consistently.

Key specs 

  • Quantity: 12
  • Different design options: White or Yellow
  • Dimple count: Unspecified

7. Srixon Z-Star Men’s Golf Balls: Best golf balls for a spin

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These Srixon Z-Star golf balls have a soft urethane cover and a thin urethane coating.

These are combined to create a very effective ‘spin skin’ on, giving them an excellent feel on the grass. This makes them the perfect balls for improving your short game and perfecting your putting technique.

Aerial shots will also be boosted, thanks to a new dimple pattern, which is designed to enhance speed and reduce drag.

As if that weren’t enough, the outer core of these balls has been through a temperature process in a vacuum, giving the balls an added firmness that will help improve the speed of your shots.

Key specs 

  • Quantity: 12
  • Different design options: White or Yellow
  • Dimple count: 338

How to buy the best golf balls in 2021

Golf balls

There are countless different types of golf balls to choose from, which can make it tricky for you to pick the exact right ball to suit your game.

What’s more, there’s a lot of variation in the pricing, and you don’t want to waste your money on new balls that do nothing to meet your golfing needs. Putting in some thought before you buy could save you cash and enhance your game.

What are the different types of golf balls?

There are some apparent differences between balls that you can spot just by looking. High visibility bold-colored balls, for example, or snazzy matte finish golf balls. But other differences can be more subtle.

Distance golf balls, for example, have a larger core than the average ball. This can boost the distance of your drives. Low compression balls give a softer ‘feel’, allowing for closer control. ‘Tour-level’ balls tend to be the high end, super-reliable options.

If you’re on a budget, it’s well worth keeping an eye out for ‘second chance’ balls: these are second-hand balls that the big brands are reselling.

They’re cleaned up and inspected to make sure they’re in great shape, and they’re a good, cheap way to get your hands on some quality golf balls.

Are you buying golf balls for a long game or short game?

Certain types of golf balls are more durable and reliable over time than others. Perfect for players that golf regularly and for lengthy periods of play.

Tour-level balls are usually designed for a longer and more regular playing routine. At the same time, cheaper options may force you to put in some extra effort, which can tire you out sooner.

The difference between long-term and short-term balls is often found in the ‘dimples’ on the ball’s exterior. If you’re looking for a ball you can drive with all day, keep your eyes peeled for deep dimples that maximize your distance.

golf balls

Are you a beginner or a high handicapper?

Whichever stage you’re at in your love affair with golf, there will be a perfect golf ball to suit your needs.

If you’re just starting out, look for something that will boost your drives while supporting a softer putting game. You don’t need anything fancy just yet.

Once you’re getting the hang of the game, you’ll find that snazzier options can help enhance the trickier parts of the game.

Spin shots and chipping are the key areas where you can push towards a lower handicap and shave a few shots off your game.

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Last update on 2021-02-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Sports & Outdoors

The Best Rowing Machines in 2021

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best rowing machine

Looking to get a full-body workout at home? This is our guide to buying the best indoor rowing machines from $200 to $1,500   

Even if you’ve never set foot on a boat or grasped an oar, having an indoor rowing machine at home is a great way to get fit.

As every single stroke uses nine major muscle groups, rowing machines provide a great way to increase fitness by burning calories and building muscle in a low-impact way that’s easy on the joints.

And best of all, you get to sit down while you’re doing it.

Here you’ll find the Buying Guide to the various types of rowing machines, as well as a quick overview of the key features that you’re going to want to consider before choosing.

Suppose you just want to take the plunge right away. In that case, you’ll find our rowing machine Best Buys below, but if you want to learn a little more, then read on.

Our buying guide will give you some insight into which features are most important, so you can choose a rowing machine that’s right for you.

Concept 2 Model D

 Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5 Performance Monitor

Concept 2 has been defining the gold standard for gyms and serious home rowers for many years. The Model D is close to perfection. At £860, it’s certainly not the cheapest out there, but the overall quality is difficult to beat. Whether you’re just a super-keen beginner, or semi-pro oarsman looking to keep in shape, the Model D delivers.

Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine 

Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine Rower with LCD Monitor

If your budget can’t quite stretch to the Concept 2, then the Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Rowing Machine Rower with LCD Monitor is the one you’ll want to go for. It’s a basic model, but if you just want a simple, affordable rowing machine that’ll help kickstart your fitness regime, and aren’t experienced enough to need a rowing machine that can provide high resistance, then you can pick it up for $200.

How to buy the best rowing machine for you

best rowing machine

What type of rowing machines are there?

The first and most important thing to consider when buying a rowing machine is what type of damper it uses to mimic the effect of dragging an oar through the water.

The four main types of machines use either air, water, hydraulic or magnetic designs to provide resistance.

Air

These rowing machines are the most common type and generate resistance through a flywheel. In essence, with an air-based machine, the harder and faster you row, the higher the resistance will be.

Because workouts intensify as your effort intensifies, air rowers ensure that you maintain a higher level of expended effort. They can be noisy, however.

Water

Water resistance models are designed to mimic real rowing experience and are intended for serious, experienced users. These use large water-filled tanks and internal paddles to create resistance as you row.

As well as being expensive, these models will also produce a lot of noise while rowing.

Hydraulic

Hydraulic rowers, often referred to as piston rowing machines, are usually the most affordable and compact option. These machines use a pair of hydraulic pistons to generate resistance.

Not only are these machines usually the most budget-friendly option, but they also tend to be the most flexible in terms of storage. Most fold up for easy storage.

Magnetic

One of the most popular resistance types for home users is the magnetic rowing machine. One of its major benefits, as opposed to the other types, is that it’s very quiet.

These machines use magnets and a flywheel to adjust the resistance levels. You can increase or decrease the resistance either by adjusting a slider or through a digital console.

best rowing machine

What other features should I look for?

Most rowers will come with an LCD display to show you how far and how fast you’ve rowed, but, naturally, some will provide more advanced metrics.

If you just want a rower to get a quick exercise fix, then there’s no need to choose a model that provides advanced workout data, but spend more.

You’ll be able to compare your performance between workouts to track your fitness gains.

More advanced models will include features like heart rate monitoring, calorie counters and allow you to race against a user-defined pace boat.

Others will include a USB port so you can export the data from your workouts to your laptop or computer and upload it to third-party fitness tracking apps.

It’s not unusual for the pricier rowing machines to be compatible with ANT+/Bluetooth smart wireless heart monitors, either. Splash out on a compatible wireless chest strap, which costs around $20 to $50, and you can track your heart rate whilst you row.   

The best rowing machines to buy

1. Concept 2 Model D: The best rowing machine to buy

Whether you’re already a serious rower or have ambitions of becoming one, it doesn’t get much better than the Concept 2 Model D.

Designed to give you a complete full-body workout, the Concept 2 is virtually silent and exceptionally smooth when in use.

The technology included also sets this rower apart from the rest on the market. The Performance Monitor 5 really is a superb display that is unwaveringly accurate.

It’s backlit, so it can be easily read in dim or bright light and presents an array of data. You can calculate your distance, speed, pace, calories, and watts for each workout you do.

Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5 Performance Monitor

You can choose between five display options: all data, force curve, bar chart, large print, and having a pace boat/pacer. The USB flash drive port also means you can export all your workouts on to a Mac or PC. As well as all that the Model D can support ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart wireless heart rate monitoring.

The ergonomic handle makes this rower comfortable to use, while the adjustable footrests mean it’ll be right whatever your height.

When you’re finished with your workout, the Concept 2 Model D separates into two pieces for storage. If there is one issue with it, though, it is the size. At nearly 9 ft, its footprint is big, even for an indoor rower.

If you’ve got the required space, though, we have no hesitation in recommending the Concept 2 Model D.

Key specs 

  • Dimensions when assembled: 8 ft x 2 ft (244 cm x 61 cm) With Clearance for Use: 9 ft x 4 ft (274 cm x 122 cm)
  • Dimensions when stored: 25 in x 33 in x 54 in (63.5 cm x 83.8 cm x 137.2 cm).
  • 14-inch seat height
  • 500lb user capacity
  • ANT+/Bluetooth support: Both
  • USB workout upload: Yes
  • Warranty: Two years

2. The WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine: The best water resistance rower

This is as close to real rowing as you’ll get from an indoor piece of kit.

Handcrafted from ash wood, WaterRower’s Natural Rowing Machine is an absolute marvel to look at. It features a water flywheel and water tank, which mimic the actual feeling of rowing out on the river. The water itself provides resistance – the faster and harder you row, the harder your workout will be.

Smooth and quiet, the WaterRower is designed to absorb vibration and sound, so you can enjoy the feeling of real rowing without the hum of a noisy flywheel.

The Series 4 performance monitor accurately tracks your stroke count, heart rate, intensity, distance, although it doesn’t track calories burned. It is compatible with ANT+/Bluetooth heart rate chest straps, though these are sold separately.

WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine w: S4 Monitor & Hi Rise Attachment

With a weight capacity of over 660lbs, this rower can accommodate most users with ease. And in between workouts, the frame folds up to save space.

The LCD display is hard to see in bright light, though, and almost impossible in darker rooms. When you’re paying almost $1500 for a piece of gym kit, that’s disappointing.

That said, though, if you’re looking for an indoor rower that accurately mimics the feeling of real water rowing, the WaterRower Natural Rowing Machine is a good choice.

Key specs

  • Dimensions: 82in x 22in x 28in
  • Weight: 114 Lbs (With Water)
  • Storage Dimensions: 28in x 22in x 82in
  • Weight Limit: 660lbs
  • Ant+/Bluetooth support: ANT+
  • USB workout upload: No
  • Three years parts, five years frame

3. Stamina ATS Air Rower: The best rower for $300

Stamina ATS Air rower is, as numerous reviewers have noted, a sturdy, well-built air rowing machine that gives gym quality at a relatively reasonable price. This one also offers air and electromagnetic resistance – which gives a smooth, consistent workout.

The reinforced aluminum frame allows the unit to be sturdy yet lightweight. The 2-year in-home repair warranty certainly gives peace of mind.

Stamina ATS Air Rower | Rowing Machine | LCD Monitor | Dynamic Air Resistance | Folding Design | Tone Muscle and Improve Heart Health

The unit’s small footprint is also ideal for those whose space is at a premium. Users can fold the unit up and place it against the wall when it’s not in use to save space.

The backlit 6×8″ display tracks: speed, stroke, distance, time, revolutions, heart rate, and more. If you’re new to rowing, you can start your routine at a low resistance level and work through one of the easier training programs to enhance your fitness before moving through 16 increasingly difficult levels.

Naturally, being nearly $600 cheaper than the WaterRower and Concept 2, there aren’t quite as many functions – you can’t set a pace boat, for example.

But if you’re happy with that, this really is a great, affordable rowing machine for users of all fitness levels.

Key specs

  • Dimensions in use: 77” long x 18.75” wide x 22” tall
  • Folded dimensions are 48” long x 18.75” wide x 28” tall 56cm
  • Weight Limit: 250 lbs
  • ANT+/Bluetooth support: No
  • USB workout upload: No
  • Warranty: Two years

 4.XTERRA Fitness ERG200 Folding Magnetic Resistance Rower Machine: The best for under $200

This is a magnetic rowing machine, which is more in common with the mid-range models on this list than the top end. There are 8 resistance levels in total, although it should be noted that these may not provide enough of a challenge if you’re an experienced rower.

The XTERRA ERG200 is foldable (a must-have for rowers unless you have a lot of space) and has wheels to move it around. Its design looks and feels a lot more solid than many other budget models.

The pedals are large and designed for comfort – they do have a velcro strap. However, they do come loose after extended vigorous rowing.

XTERRA Fitness ERG200 Folding Magnetic Resistance Rower

You’ll get a 3.7 inch LCD display with seven features that you can scroll through one by one in terms of the monitor. This tracks the total count, calories burned, count per minute, distance traveled, and time.

A useful feature is the scan mode, which will flip between the main readings – so you do not need to press any buttons during your sessions. It should be noted that this display is not backlit, though, so it’s hard to read in dim or overly bright light.

For under $200, this is a sturdy, well-designed rower and effective, that although it doesn’t come with as many bells and whistles as other models, does a good job.

Key specs

  • Dimensions in use: Unfolded: 71.9” x 20.7” x 31.5”
  • Folded: 36.4” x 20.7” x 47.3” 
  • Weight: 55.1 LBS
  • Weight Limit: 250lbs
  • Ant/Bluetooth support: No
  • USB workout upload: No
  • Warranty: One year

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Last update on 2021-02-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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