Maven’s model B3 compact binoculars are perfect for birders: wide field of view and light weight. This pair has gotten a lot of use in the last six months. Photo by Barb Gorges.
Published July 26, 2015, Wyoming Tribune Eagle, “High-end binoculars, mid-level prices from Wyoming’s Maven.”
By Barb Gorges
There’s a new Wyoming company making binoculars.
You may have seen Maven binoculars mentioned in hunting and birding circles last fall when they came on the market. So far, reviews are good. I’ll add to that, six months after I bought a pair of my own.
The Maven Outdoor Equipment Company, located in Lander, offers three models, each in two sizes of magnification:
–There’s the B1: 8×42, 10×42 ($900);
–B2: 9×45, 11×45 ($1000);
–B3: 8×30, 10×30 ($500).
I went for the B3 8×30 not only because it is in my price range, but also because it only weighs 16 ounces (compared to the larger pairs at 26 ounces or more). Binoculars classified as compacts usually have a narrower field of view, but not these: you get a 430-foot view at 1,000 yards.
The B3s are making a hit with birdwatchers, as well as archers, who want to travel light, said Mike Lilygren, the one of the three co-owners.
Ironically, back in January, I was only sort of in the market for new binoculars as I was growing increasingly unhappy with my Bruntons binoculars.
Lilygren and the other Maven co-owners, Brendon Weaver and Cade Maestas, used to work for Brunton’s optic division before forming their own company. (Brunton is no longer in the optics business.)
Maven was mentioned to me by someone at a store that caters to birders–very generous, considering Maven binocs are not sold through retail outlets. They are only available online, unless you happen to actually be in Lander, or are at an outdoor or birding equipment show Maven is attending.
Without the middleman, consumers can pretty much double the quality of optics they can buy for their money.
Suddenly, $900 for the favorite of many birders, 8×42, looks like a bargain compared to the top of the line Leica, Swarovski and Zeiss models that cost over $2000.
But do the optics compare? For someone like me who has never paid more than $200, the B3 is a big improvement. I notice the difference in distinguishing details on birds, especially in low light situations. (If you want an extended technical discussion and comparison, check out www.BirdForum.com.)
Ergonomically, the B3 suits my short fingers and it doesn’t take much to change the focus from close to far—two quibbles I’ve had with other binoculars I’ve owned.
But the adjustable eye cups do have a tendency to collapse a bit after an hour. I bird without glasses and have the eyecups pulled all the way out. People with glasses leave them all the way down. Lilygren said they’ve noticed the problem in-house, but I’m the first customer to mention it. Possibly, most people use them with glasses or sunglasses.
Standard advice has always been not to order binoculars sight unseen, but Maven will mail you a demo that’s easy to return. So far, only one person has returned theirs—but not because of dissatisfaction, Lilygren said.
Ordering online, www.mavenbuilt.com, allows for customizing the look of the binoculars beyond standard black and gray. Try camo-print bodies and your choice of various pieces of orange, silver, red or pink trim, plus up to 30 characters of engraving—adding as little as $10 or as much as $250 to the price.
Pink trim? There were many requests, and purple may be coming soon.
Lilygren said 75 percent of online customers chose some customization, but the people buying at shows do not. Overall, half are buying custom.
While the glass is ground in Japan by the famed Kamakura Company, the binoculars are assembled in the U.S., then shipped to Lander where they have to pass inspection by the company owners. Lilygren said he was going through a stack of 25 pairs when I called.
A customized pair can take three weeks to arrive, but a stock pair, like mine, can arrive practically overnight with Wyoming’s typical one-day in-state postal delivery.
Besides adding purple, what’s next for Maven? Next year, it will offer a 10×56 and 15×56. Not something birders would tote around. But a spotting scope will also come out.
The Maven Outdoor Equipment Company is proud to be a Wyoming business. Photo by Barb Gorges.
So, what’s with the name “Maven”? The word means “trusted expert” or “one with knowledge based on accumulation of experience.” And that is their forte, compared to other outdoor gear companies, said Lilygren. He and Weaver and Maestas are passionate hunters. The company is based in Lander, the center of the outdoor recreation universe, because that’s where they want to live.
The three know what they want in optics, yet they were humble enough to ask Kamakura about the latest technology they had to offer.
And the three have so much faith in their products, they offer a lifetime warranty. They expect Maven binoculars to last a lifetime.