Best Binoculars for Hiking (Buying Guide)
Ahh, the old binoculars. A handy device that we often see, stowed away in the back of the closet. Maybe your grandpa had a pair he handed down to your father. Weighty and impressive to the touch, they often told a story. Feeling something like a family heirloom because you know they unlock new worlds previously unknown. You’d wonder why they sit back there, collecting dust adjacent to the poker chips and croquet set. You know, the cool items to improve a recreational environment that we don’t use as often as we should.
That being said, adding a pair of binoculars to your arsenal is a great way to expand the depth of your outdoors experience and bring a new level of excitement and engagement with the terrain. You can see the birds, you can see the foliage shimmering in the wind. You can see your friend’s grubby elbow when he steps in front of the lens. You can impress the ladies when your pair of binoculars reaches farther depths than those of your arch-nemesis, who always seems to be hiking alongside you.
Of course, before you purchase a great pair of binoculars that are perfect for hiking, it’s important to know what characteristics are important and which values you should cater to regarding your individual selection.
So follow along in our helpful guide as we identify the premier market picks and raise concerns and questions you may hope to have answered before you make your choice. Because inoculars are designed to bring clarity to your outdoors experience. And we hope to bring clarity to the process of selecting the item that brings clarity to your viewing experience!
When selecting a pair of binoculars, there are roves of indicators you should consider when buying. The best way to determine which set is best for you is to visit an in-house brick and mortar shop, but we’ve identified all the key characteristics to save you some time.
Binoculars: how do they work?
Basically, binoculars magnify things that are farther away, so you can see them through this ingenious invention. Through this process, you look through the eyecup and out the objective lens. And how well you can see something and how far away it is determined by the magnification power and the objective lens diameter, the two numbers listed in the middle of a pair of binoculars. The first number is the magnification and the second number is related to the objective lens diameter.
What do the numbers on binoculars mean?
Magnification power essentially reveals the strength of the magnification, whereas the size is determined by the objective lens diameter. For example, in 8 x 42 binoculars, the diameter is 42 and the magnification power goes first. Depending on the strength of your binoculars and efforts towards gazing in the wild, whether it be stars, seagulls or sunsets, will help you decide the strength of binoculars needed. While the key differences in a set are the magnification and size, optics and other general features play a huge role as well.
Field of view and magnification
Field of view refers to the total area you can see through your binoculars. Basically, the magnification reduces that area; so the more you zoom on something the more narrow your scope of vision becomes. The landscape becomes reduces as you zoom farther in, and conversely, having a wider field of view allows you to better identify and isolate what it is you’re hoping to look at.
When we talked about magnification strength and the relationship between that and lens diameter, we forgot to mention that magnification explains the ratio of the size of the object relative to plain sight. So a pair of binoculars with a magnification of 8 means that objects will appear eight times closer when using the item.
Common magnifications are 8x, 10x and 12x. Anything greater than that and you begin to lose the field of vision and image stability. You will be so zoomed in that even the gentle quiver of your hand adjusting position will have you lose your sight on the image ahead. Magnification, the field of view and stability often go hand in hand. So in that case, let’s now delve into stability.
Stability is one feature that more expensive binoculars will invest in with a feature called image stabilization. By reducing the natural handheld shake from body movements like breathing, it helps keep your image consistent.
If you’re wondering why this is such a necessary feature, then consider this: the more zoomed in you are, you more pronounced any movement will be. And to help offset the frustrating inability to continually view an animal or leaflet because of your body’s breathing or general movements, consider a pair of binoculars that emphasis this characteristic. It’s a worthwhile additional investment, for sure.
Which binoculars are best for which outdoor activities?
While there are several fantastic sets of binoculars that work well for any outing, it’s best to set into a specific track if you know what you like doing outdoors. Depending on something from birding to whale watching, paddling or stargazing, we recommend looking for specific settings and viewing capacities to match your outdoorsmanship interests.
For backpacking and hiking, size and weight are going to be two factors you shouldn’t overlook (no pun intended). The magnification should be within the normal capabilities, somewhere around an 8 or 10, and the objective lens diameter more or less round 28. Because you’ll need this pair to be a bit more rugged and weather-protected. Look for something with waterproof or water-resistant capabilities to help with exposure to the various elements of a four-season outing.
When looking out on the birds passing by, look into the stronger midsize and full-size models. Something like 8×32 or 8×42 are popular options that offer plenty of viewing capabilities. While a 10-power lens may seem better to see even farther and with more detail, a magnification or 8 will have a wider field of view, which is key to locating birds. Water-resistance capabilities are also nice, but not as necessary as for general adventure outings.
Binoculars for safaris and whale watching usually are in a similar set as the birding, with an emphasis on 8x or 10x magnification. If not sure between the two, I’d recommend the larger when you will be farther away from the animals. And midsize if you need something a bit more compact. Water-resistance is great here, especially with the whale watching escapades. If you’re watching the foe of Ishmael, the captain from Melville’s iconic novel from the bastion of a boat, look to upgrade to a fully waterproof model.
Fully waterproof binoculars are also preferred when paddling on the water, whether in a canoe or kayak, or the all-popular stand-up paddleboard that has exploded in popularity. For something a bit more stationery, like stargazing, maximum magnification is the most critical. 10×42 or 10×50 are options to consider. If you want to delve into any stronger of a model, you’ll have to invest in a tripod to stabilize the viewing structure.
While there are several aspects of binoculars we could mention, it’s important to reference lenses and prisms especially. When looking for additional binoculars features, UV treated multi-coated lenses, zigzag prisms, and extra-low dispersion glass will get you the best bang for the buck. Why? Because this helps improves the central image you’re focusing on by cutting out the harmful UV rays. The zig-zag prism (also called a Porro-prism) captures light more efficiently, creating a crisper image.
Good lenses produce in higher-end optics curtail the curving at the end of an image, improving distortion of the image and reducing blurriness a higher magnification. Also, the color brightness will be better and more correct, contrasted against what some lower quality lenses can provide you. Essentially these additional upgrades will help emulate the truest depiction of what image you are seeing in the distance, at the best most imitable form of the natural positioning.
Best Binoculars for Hiking – Overview
1. Skygenius 8×21 Binoculars
- [ Professional Roof Prism Binoculars ] Designed with 8X power magnification, 21mm objective lens and 369ft/1000yds large field of view, allows you get a wide and clear view from over 1000 yards away
If you are looking for a light pair of binoculars that you can take on any day trip, this pair from the folks at sky genius is a great call. Weighing only 0.38 pounds, they pack a powerful punch and can show everything at 8x magnification standards. The 369 ft at 1,000 meters field of view means you can see for miles and miles as the Who famously sung, or at least something like that. With this petite foldable pair, you can fit them into your pocket or backpack for effortless portability. They’re super for kids and adults alike, and the multi-coated optics within form a crisp and clear image. They also come with a 12-month warranty and 24/7 customer service from the company, which is an awesome perk. You won’t have to worry about being broke with a busted pair of binocolulars to boot, that’s for sure.
- Super lightweight and powerful
- 12-month guarantee
- No lens covers provided with packaging
2. Binoculars for Kids by Dreamingbox
- ★Super Safety: Soft rubber surrounded eyepieces are included for eye protection so children don't hurt their eyes or face. Other brands do not have this safety feature! There is extra coating...
If you’re looking to invest in a simple pair of binoculars for younger ones to spark that outdoorsman spirit, we love this pair from dreaming box. The product is super affordable, durable and simple, with a non-slip scratch grip and shockproof capabilities. When considering what you would need from a children’s device, it didn’t leave any stones unturned.
We all know kids are prone to hurting themselves in an astounding number of ways, so the adder soft supper protection around the eyepieces are an appreciated addition. And the shockproof rubber acts as an armor against falls, slips, and cracks. They may be viewing the scnery with scraped knees, but their binoculars shall stay intact!
And just because they were designed for kids doesn’t mean the quality within has been skimped on. The FMC prism green coated optics system helps the scene ahead seem more realistic. So it’s more than just a kid-friendly choice; it has adult-friendly features as well.
- Superb price for introductory pair of binoculars
- Shockproof design to last and last
- Limited capabilities regarding distant viewing
- The petit size means they may not fit adult faces
3. APEMAN 12×25 Compact Folding Binoculars
- 🌆【Clear Low Light Vision】Apeman Binoculars have adopted Bak-4 roof prism, 25mm big objective lens and fully multi-coated green film optics with great light transmittance, delivering clear...
This is a super pair of binoculars for almost any outdoorsmen’s activity. They are both shockproof and waterproof, and the rubber coating provides superior protection to ensure long-lasting durability. Plus, the 12x zoom through multi-coated lenses will low night vision capability means you can see you for longer and make out a crisp image all the while. No more squinting looking for the fox roving across the faraway plains.With a great field of view vision, your subjects will seem shockingly close. And soon you may be able to walk up closer to those items in view because they’re so lightweight, they won’t hamper you down with burdensome weight.
- 12x zoom for a great in-depth viewing experience
- Rubber coated for durability
- Sometimes the powerful zoom not ideal for wide-angle scenery
4. Aurosports 10×25 Folding Binoculars
- Perfect compact lightweight binoculars for bird watching. Can be Used for both day and night (low-light-level night vision, can't see anything in complete darkness)
These compact binoculars are a great choice for bird watching and other great outdoor activities. Hikers will agree these are some of the best compact binoculars available due to their lightweight use, as well as the complimentary neck strap. Wearers will notice a difference in comfort immediately, and birders will remark on the superb image quality coming from these guys.
The focus knob in the middle makes it easy to find brighter images with a fantastic wide field of view. Low light conditions are easily resolved thanks to the design, though you cannot see in complete darkness.With 10x magnification birds will be easily evident through the vortex optics, meaning the viewing experience is second to none. For the price point and inventive quality, we strongly recommend this pair.
- Great for hiking and bird watching
- Large field of view
- The rubber grip is known to feel a bit flimsy in the hands
5. Bushnell H20 Waterproof and Fog proof Roof Prism Binoculars
- Quality optics with stunning HD clarity
These high quality binoculars are a great choice for their objective lenses and awesome quality optics. Plus any worries about fogging won’t be a problem. The rubber armor around the binoculars means that they’re rugged enough to be a pair of hiking binoculars that you’ll use time in and time out. For the trailblazer that needs a carrying case, this is the perfect set for you. The compact size and slip grip design make these a great pair of eyeglasses. With serious considerations on the waterproofing design, they are a superb pair for a wonderful price.
- Large center-focus knob for easy adjustments
- 100% waterproof design with O ring seal
- Pricier than some of the introductory options
6. Vortex Optics Diamondback Prism Binoculars
- 10x magnification and 42mm objective lenses, these Diamondback binoculars are the workhorse of Vortex lineup; known for impressive optical quality and durability.
These are some of the most comfortable binoculars we’ve come across during our review. The multi-position eyecups twist for adjustable eye relief. Plus a right eye diopter accommodates for focal differences in your eyes. We appreciate that the product, when listed on amazon, comes in a variety of optical options depending on your needs. This flexibility is a fantastic way to maximize buyer share for any outdoorsmen users, and the short hinge design means anyone will be able to store and use them as well.
- Great clarity and precision
- Eyecups come in a multi-position format
- You pay for quality, and these are more expensive
7. Nikon 7577 Monarch 5 10×42 Binoculars
- All MONARCH 5 binoculars are now built with Nikon's premium ED (Extra-Low Dispersion) Glass for a sharper, clearer and more brilliant field of view.
These binoculars from Nikon are built for extreme use in any condition. Both waterproof and fog proof with added lightness without forgetting rubber ripped protection, they are the best pair of binoculars on the market. With an extra-low dispersion glass built-n, the result is a sharper, clearer and more brilliant field of view. The fully multicoated eco-gate lens provides a light transmittance across virtually the entire visible light spectrum, with a fantastic 51.3-degree field of view. However with this unbelievable product comes at a steep price, one of the highest we’ve come across in this sector. Though with a reliable name behind it, you’ll be able to hold onto this pair for years to come.
- Waterproof and fog-proof durability
- Lighter than predecessors
- Most expensive option on our list
Within the binoculars market, the most important aspects depend on the individuals’ needs. Depending on whether you’re a whale watcher or admirer of birds, sunsets or sandy beaches, there is a different pair of binoculars to recommend. That being said, we love the Aurosports 10×25 Folding high powered binoculars because they can fit any expectation and at a great entry-level price point. They’re rugged and durable enough to take on the trails, and powerful enough to view beautiful animals from a safe distance. The multi-coated lenses and waterproof protection make them a convenient and easy choice!
Bonus tip: While you’re at it, check out this super informative video on optical quality!