You’ll be astonished at how much difference you will have in your observing experience using Alpine Innovations‘ Bino Bandit. The device uses a few square inches of neoprene, fashioned into the shape of a bandit mask.
Pros: Simple to use, eliminates peripheral glare.
Cons: Can increase eyepiece condensation in cold weather.
The Bino Bandit is a cowl that fits over the eyepieces of your binoculars to shield your eyes from peripheral light. It was developed for daytime outdoor pursuit enthusiasts, but is just as effective at night.
It’s constructed of a supple neoprene-based fabric that has a plush black inner lining. The outside comes in a variety of “camo” options, including dark grey “Stealth Shadow” and “Vanish Shadow”, which I imagine will be the favorite for astronomers. However, the outer color makes no difference to the efficacy. Also, inthe dark, no one can see it anyway, so just get whatever is available.
You can fit the Bino Bandit over a wide variety of eyepiece diameters; the manufacturer reckons 32mm and above, and we found that it easily stretches over chunky 46mm eyepiece barrels.
When you first use it, you’ll immediately notice the immersive experience that it confers, day or night. You’ll find that your attention is directed entirely on what is in the eyepieces, and that the night sky seems to have more contrast than usual. Stars seem brighter with richer colors.
In winter, you’ll welcome its ability to exclude eye-watering chilly breezes, although when the eyepieces get very cold, the lack of air circulation can trap eye-moistened air so that it condenses on the lenses. This problem is trivial to remedy by folding down one or both sides. (The same condensation occurs with normal eye-cups, so this isn’t a “new” disadvantage.)
The side-flaps of the Bino Bandit buckle together like a makeshift rainguard, protecting the eyepieces when they are not in use. For protection from descending debris and dew, the Bino Bandit is as effective as a tethered rainguard but, unlike a rainguard, it doesn’t flop around your chin when you’re observing.
The Bino Bandit is a useful little item that you can transfer between binoculars. I’ve only had the Bandit for a little more than a year, so I can’t comment on its longevity. That said, there’s not a lot to go wrong in normal use, and neoprene-based fabrics are usually pretty resilient.
Bottom line: Enhance the quality of your binocular views with this remarkably simple accessory.