Magnus from High Latitudes has provided insight into equipment we should carry to explore more remote locations. One item that's new to us is a range finder. When charts are between ancient and nonexistent, you could use your thumb to judge distance and your radar for longer ranges. But think about a simple rangefinder for that anchorage or narrow passage.
So it was time to do a little research; laser rangefinders seem to fall into three categories:
Rather expensive, targeted at paramilitary and marksmen.
Cheap enough to be almost disposable and aimed at hopeful golfers.
A middle-ground product hovering around the $400-500 mark.
With no other guide, we looked at models around the latter price range. Searching for something simple and reliable, we ignored those offering more advanced battery-limiting features like stabilization or night vision.
How does a laser rangefinder work?
Laser range finders use laser technology to determine the distance between the device and an object.
Here are a few of the more exciting laser range finders we looked at:
Hunting Laser Rangefinder: Leica Geosystems Rangemaster CRF 2400
This laser range finder is designed for long-range hunting and shooting, with a maximum range of 2400 yards. It also features an integrated inclinometer and a ballistic calculator to help hunters and shooters make more accurate shots.
Nikon Forestry Pro Laser Rangefinder
This laser range finder is designed for forestry professionals and features a unique target priority mode that allows users to measure the distance, in our example to the closest mast in an anchorage. Range is over 1000 yards/meters with an illuminated side LCD. It has a good magnification on the viewfinder and includes an inclinometer, distance to peak, and height.
Bushnell Elite 1 Mile ConX Laser Rangefinder
A laser rangefinder produced by Bushnell and offers a range of up to 1,000 yards, with an accuracy of +/- 1 yard. It features advanced laser technology that accurately measures distances even in challenging lighting conditions. It includes a built-in inclinometer, which measures angles and slopes to provide more accurate distance measurements when dealing with uphill or downhill shots (hopefully not too many downhill).
The True Pulse 200
Designed for hunting and shooting, with a range of up to 1 mile. It also features Bluetooth connectivity and can be used with a mobile app to create custom ballistic profiles and record shot data. (not sure we needed that?)
The Vortex Viper Laser Rangefinder
Offers a range of up to 1,800 yards with a range accuracy of +/- 1 yard. The rangefinder features advanced measurement modes such as Scan mode, which allows you to take continuous distance measurements while panning across an area, and Horizontal Component Distance (HCD) mode, which considers the slope angle for more accurate distance measurement. It also includes a multicoated lens and adjustable diopter, providing a clear and sharp image.
The Best Laser Rangefinder: Summary
There is quite a choice on the market, more than is covered here; many features are standard such as waterproof, shock resistant, variable diopter viewing lens, horizontal distance and distance to target, elevation, and others. I was also surprised how technology and competition have kept prices affordable, considering how cleverly technology is employed.
We opted for the Nikon Forestry Pro at $350 from an internet supplier. Our 14-year-old son used it without referring to the instructions, so there is hope for me here. After a week of use, it's been wet, dropped, and left on constantly without problems, so we are pleased thus far.
I can't pick the "best" from those available, but I can say they are much more accurate than "thumb" or "hand span" reckoning. So have at it!
I was once off the coast "somewhere" looking at a rather large tanker off the port bow. The Third Mate asked me how far off she was, "1 mile about" was my engineer's reply. Globtic Tokyo, at the time one of the world's supertankers at some 500,000 DWT. He answered "She's three miles off". What do I know, really?