While they’ve been around for several centuries now, binoculars have remained the preferred magnification equipment for people on the go. Their combination of portable size and powerful magnification have made it convenient for folks to observe objects from a faraway distance using equipment they can keep within easy reach at all times.
Binoculars can be especially useful if you spend much of your time in the outdoors. When birdwatching, for instance, they’re downright necessary if you want to be able to study small birds without disturbing them. Same with hunting, which requires you to maintain a good distance if you don’t want to spook any game you’re tracking. They’re great to have for other outdoor activities as well, as binoculars allow you to examine the terrain ahead when you’re hiking, observe your surroundings while camping, and look for familiar areas when you lose your way at any point.
These are the best binoculars to bring to your outdoor adventures.
Celestron Nature DX 8 x 42
If you don’t plan to use binoculars for any serious birding or hunting, but simply want one for general use while hiking or camping, this affordable model likely offers all the capabilities you’re going to need. The best entry-level binoculars we’ve found, this budget-conscious device allows you to see objects with reasonably good clarity and brightness, albeit with limited performance in low-light situations. Suffice to say, this will serve you well most of the day, but will really struggle once the sun starts going down. We like the selection of features, from the 7.8-foot close-focus range and 388-degree field of view at 1,000 yards to the easy eyecup adjustments and the rubber grip. It’s also waterproof and fog-proof, so you don’t have to spend big to get binos you can safely take to the backcountry.
Out of all the models in this list, the Monarch M5 probably arguably strikes the best balance in optical quality, ease of use, and price, coming in at a fraction of the cost of more expensive models with comparable performance. It uses Nikon’s ED glass lenses, the same ones used in the outfit’s premium cameras, allowing it to eliminate common distortions and chromatic aberrations, while a dielectric multilayer coating allows uniform transmission across the visible range for brighter, more natural colors. We also love the turn-and-slide rubber eye cups, which make it easy to use regardless of face shape, complete with an intuitive and responsive focus dial.
Not too fond of the boring black, gray, and similar earthy colors found in typical binos? Maybe, you’ll find something refreshing about these waterproof binoculars from Nocs Provisions, which comes in a range of fun, lively colors to bring just a whiff of whimsy to your otherwise drab pack. Optically, it performs on par with other models in this price range, although it’s definitely not as technical as the best options in the lot. As such, it should good enough for those who want to use binos recreationally, but not quite to the necessary level of competence for serious birders or hunters. It’s available in both 8×42 and 10×42 configurations.
We’re most partial to 8x over 10x binos, mostly due to their smaller size and lighter weight. However, if you value higher amplification and wouldn’t mind the extra heft, this 2018 model from Vortex offers one of the best combinations of value and performance. From the clarity and crispness of the image to the brightness and accuracy of colors, it’s arguably the best we’ve seen at under $1,000. Features include a 6.3-foot close focus range (so you can use it even at a short distance), adjustable eyecups with IPD, a center focus wheel, rubberized grip, and a waterproof build.
While both the Nikon and Vortex models above are really good, this more expensive just edges them out in terms of performance. Suffice to say, it’s up to you whether being just a tad brighter, clearer, and crisper is worth a couple extra hundred bucks. If you have the money, we feel it totally is, especially with this model’s impressive sharpness, high contrast, and more vibrant colors. It’s also waterproof and fog-proof, while coming in a magnesium housing that’s both durable and lightweight.
These compact binoculars tip the scales at a lightweight 22.6 ounces, courtesy of a magnesium chassis and lenses that are much thinner than the outfit’s previous flagship. It’s easily one of the brightest binoculars we’ve used, even at this price range, making it easy to identify details from a distance, all while delivering a wide field of view that covers up to 420 feet at 1,000 yards. Focusing is fast and precise, allowing you to move from close focus to infinity in just 1.4 turns on the wheel. This offers arguably the best close-focus among the selections here, too, making for an overall standout option for hunting, birding, and all manners of outdoor adventuring.
This is one of the most the most advanced rangefinding binoculars we’ve seen, combining the outfit’s high-class optics and superior mechanics with precise real-time ballistic calculation and built-in sensors (air pressure, temperature, and accelerometer). It has Bluetooth connectivity, so you can set and track using the companion app, with built-in GPS tracking and compatibility with Kestrel devices (for getting wind direction and wind speed). To keep the size compact, it uses 32mm objective lenses instead of the standard 42mm, allowing them to provide the magnification of binos a third larger in size. Features include a 345-degree field of view at 1,000 yards, distance measurements up to 2,500 yards, 0.3-second rangefinding time, and waterproofing up to 16 feet depths.
If you want to make an investment on a premium pair of binos, consider this rangefinding model from Swarovski, which boasts edge-to-edge sharpness, the widest field of view in its class, and an effective range of up to 1500 yards. It can be configured with ballistics, air pressure, and temperature data for the most accurate reads, while the tracking assistant helps you narrow down where you last hit the target, making it extremely useful when you’re going on a hunt. However, what you’re really paying for here are the lenses, which just look clearer and brighter than most others. It’s also fog-proof, waterproof, and comes with a 10-year warranty, although all that goodness is tempered by a downright eye-watering price.