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Best Binoculars: Choosing the Best Unit for Your Outdoor Activities

Best Binoculars
Bradley Page
Written by Bradley Page

Buying a great pair of binoculars needs quite a bit of research and knowledge. Just like anything else, a quality pair of binoculars will guarantee you better image quality, magnification and field of view than buying a cheap pair from a discount store.

However with all the number of brands and models out there, how does one sift through the good and bad? Choosing the best binoculars means knowing the ideal features and determining your own needs.

Nikon Binoculars

In this article, we will provide some quick tips about the best features to look for in a pair of binocs. While we’re at it, we have thrown in some top rated products as recommendations.

Our top picks

Product NameWeightField of ViewMax. MagnificationPrice
Nikon Monarch 71.3 lb420 ft / 1000 yards8xCheck price on Amazon
Vortex Optics Viper HD1.54 lb319 ft / 1000 yards10xCheck price on Amazon
Vanguard Endeavor ED1.6 lb340 ft / 1000 yards10xCheck price on Amazon
Pentax AD WP1.65 lb384 ft / 1000 yards9xCheck price on Amazon
Bushnell Powerview0.53 lb378 ft / 1000 yards10xCheck price on Amazon
Celestron Nature DX2.5 lb378 ft / 1000 yards8xCheck price on Amazon

What To Look For In An Excellent Pair Of Binoculars

A lot of binocular brands exist in the market, and each has its specifications. Choosing the one most suitable for your task requires some critical thinking. For that reason, we have written about specific characteristics to help you identify and differentiate the good ones from the bad ones.

Size

It does not matter if you are planning to take your binoculars to the outdoors or to the theater, size is an important aspect you should think of. Smaller binoculars are great because the can fit in every backpack, but the quality of the view might not be 100% clear.

Binoculars Size

Larger binoculars, however, provide a better image but take up some space that you might not even have available.

Magnification

The magnification on binoculars refers to how far away you can look with them. Long story short, if you get a pair of binoculars with high magnification, you will get to look objects located far from you, but your field of vision will be reduced.

You should also keep in mind that binoculars with great magnification powers mean that it can also amplify the hands’ movement which can mean more difficult steady viewing.

Binoculars Magnification

Durability

Since the activity you will be doing on the outdoors might get pretty rough, the last thing you want is to have binoculars made with weak materials. So, selecting the toughest ones should be on the top of your list. If you do so, you ensue having binoculars for a long period of time.

Also, weather may vary in no time. For that reason, you have to make sure that the binoculars you select are both water and fog proof. Believe us when we say: the last thing you want to have is a pair of binoculars with foggy lenses.

Binoculars Durability

Eye relief

A good pair of binoculars should have comfortable eyecups that come really handy for people that wear glasses. Additionally, eyecups have another plus. When there is too much light that can reduce the quality of the image, they provide the necessary shade you need to enhance your vision.

Tip: If you are wearing glasses, get an eye relief that is 0.4 inches or more for suitable comfort.

Intended use

Knowing the type of binocular that’s right for a certain activity is also very important. For example, compact and wide angle binoculars are best suited for outdoor activities while a 8 x 42 binocular is ideal for bird watching. For concerts and stadiums, a wide angle pair with 4 x 30, 5 x 25, 8 x 25 and 7 x 18 specifications are ideal.

Binoculars Intended Use

Not all binoculars are created equal and certainly, there’s not a single binocular that will fit all intended usage. For this, know your most intended usage and purchase the binocular with the appropriate specs.

Best Products on Today’s Market

If you can’t be bothered to shop for a pair of binoculars on your own, you should take a look at the following models.

Nikon Monarch 7 Binocular

Price: Approx. $440Nikon 7548 MONARCH 7

Weight: 1.3 pounds

Dimensions: 1.65 x 5.1 x 5.7 inches

Specific features: Field of view: 420 feet; max magnification: 8x, objective lens diameter: 1.7 inches, rubber armored coating, extra low dispersion glass, fog and waterproof

Best use: Hunting and bird watching

The Nikon Monarch 7 Binocular combines extra low dispersion (ED) glass elements to a weather sealed housing. Nikon’s All Terrain Binocular (ATB) series offers an impressive image quality and ergonomic design. It performs well in low light situations providing an excellent field of view.

The lens covers fit nice and tight, while offering a bright enough image. Additionally, you would not need to remove glasses if you wear them, because the eyecups provide a comfortable support. Also, it is waterproof and fog proof, so don’t worry about getting caught out in snow or rain because you can still use it.

Its 8x magnification is superb for steadiness and is quite resistant to damage with its strong, rubber, outer parts. However like most reviewers state the eyecup covers only fit by gravity and will fall off pretty quickly.

Also, some people found that the focus wheel is not easy to use, so a sharp image is possible, but difficult to get. Finally, it presents distracting chromatic aberration.

PROS:

  • Fog and water proof
  • Comfortable support
  • Strong exterior
 CONS:

  • Loose eyecup covers
  • Difficult to adjust

Related: The same brand also offers the Nikon MONARCH 5 Binocular, which is also made with a premium extra low dispersion glass. It has multi coated eco glass lenses, turn and slide eyecups and smooth central focus knob, and is also water and fog proof but it’s more affordable than the Monarch 7.

Check the price on Amazon

Vortex Optics Viper HD Binocular

Price: Approx. $500Vortex Optics Viper HD

Weight: 1.54 pounds

Dimensions: 7 x 9 x 4 inches

Specific features: Magnification maximum: 10x; O ring seals; fog and waterproof; dielectric prism coatings; high density extra low dispersion glass

Best use: Bird watching

The Vortex Optics Viper HD Binocular significantly steps up their game with its high density extra low dispersion glass. One look is all you’ll need to appreciate its sharp images, color saturation, and contrast. This binocular has an ergonomic design and can be used during low light or bright light.

This pair of binoculars has a rubberized body and comfortable grip, with thumb and finger grips that makes it relatively slip free, very sturdy and comfortable to hold. The zoom is smooth, and the eye relief cups are quite comfy. There’s no parallax or blackout if properly adjusted, which is not difficult to accomplish.

The downsides to this particular model are that the lens protection cups don’t fit quite right since they kind of slide off the binoculars on their own. The neck strap is amateurish looking but can be replaced with a visit to an optics shop, and finally, people usually complain about its field of view.

PROS:

  • Ergonomic design
  • Slip free
  • Easy to use and adjust
 CONS:

  • Lens cup don’t fit well
  • Poor quality neck strap
  • Not wide enough field of view

Related: We also recommend the Vortex Optics Diamondback Binoculars. if you’re looking for a less expensive model.They are made with O ring seals to prevent moisture, dust and debris, they provide bright and accurate images, they offer an ergonomic design, and they are lightweight, durable and are very easy to use.

Check the price on Amazon

Vanguard Endeavor ED Binocular

Price: Approx. $291Vanguard Endeavor ED

Weight: 1.6 pounds

Dimensions: 6.1 x 5.1 x 0.1 inches

Specific features: Field of view: 340 feet; magnification maximum: 10x; ED glass, Bak4 phase coated prisms, 100% waterproof and fog proof

Best use: Bird watching, hunting, and archery

The Vanguard Endeavor ED Binocular are for nature and outdoor enthusiasts. They provide high performance features, like the Premium ED (Extra low Dispersion) glass with Multi Guard coatings that allows sharp, bright images and high contrast even in low light conditions.

The ED glass allows aligning the colors to meet at the same focal plane reducing the chromatic aberration. This prduct comes with an ergonomic, open bridge design that’s comfortable to use. It is a combination of a lightweight magnesium alloy body, with large center focus wheel and 3 stage twists out eyecups.

The Nitrogen charged and O ring sealed design make this product water and fog proof, so you can take it on challenging weather conditions. Also, it comes with emerald coating, which is specifically designed to provide the full spectrum of color within the band of green tones is a plus

Some buyers have claimed that this pair of binoculars is a bit heavier than the ones offered by other brands. Additionally, people say that from time to time, they present chromatic aberration that might be troublesome. Finally, the field of view is not flat, which is also a problem identified by several reviewers.

PROS:

  • Water and fog proof
  • Emerald coating
  • Sharp images
 CONS:

  • Heavy
  • Chromatic aberration

Related: A good alternative product from the same company is the Vanguard Spirit ED Binocular. They are also made with ED glasses, Bak4 phase coated prism and multi coated lenses, they are waterproof and fog proof, are lightweight and compact, and they provide unambiguous images. Plus, it’s a lot less expensive than the Endeavor ED.

Check the price on Amazon

Pentax AD WP Binoculars

Price: Approx. $258Pentax AD WP

Weight: 1.65 pounds

Dimensions: 5.4 x 5 x 2 inches

Specific features: Field of view: 340 feet; magnification maximum: 9x; easily packable, premium multi layer coatings, fiber reinforced polycarbonate, waterproof

Best use: Safari, hiking, and hunting

The Pentax AD WP Binoculars gives you full size performance in a compact sized body. All A Series binoculars offer you excellent viewing quality in a compact, portable and durable design. The open bridge design allows a better grip for steadier view than the conventional top bridge design, particularly important with a small exit pupil.

It has a unique layout, together with a great minimum focusing distance. You can view insects and flowers with a significant detail out in the field. Unlike its compact counterparts, this pair of binoculars offers a 9x magnification without sacrificing a lot in the field of view.

They are waterproof and fog proof, and also have a great design and feel great in your hands. Nevertheless, these are not the binoculars that provide the largest field of view from this list. Also, the exit pupil diameter offered by this pair of binoculars might be troublesome for some people. Finally, people say that its design is not as stylish as it should.

PROS:

  • Compact
  • Waterproof and fog proof
  • Great minimum focusing distance
 CONS:

  • Not large enough field of view
  • Small exit pupil

Related: The Pentax U Series Papilio II Binocular is another great but more affordable pair from the same manufacturer since it has fully multi coated lenses that provide maximum light transmission, minimized internal glare and flare and clear view. Plus, it is made with an innovative Uni body design.

Check the price on Amazon

Bushnell Powerview Binocular

Price: Approx. $200Bushnell Powerview

Weight: 0.53 pounds

Dimensions: 4 x 2 x 2.8 inches

Special features: Field of view: 300 feet, magnification maximum: 10x, fully coated optics and lenses, non slip grip, center focus system

Best use: Hunting, game viewing, bird watching, concerts and shows

The Bushnell Powerview Binocular is a part of the largest line of Bushnell quality affordable binoculars. Regardless of your purpose, you’ll find a variety of magnifications, styles, and sizes, plus fully coated optics for bright and vivid images with a high powered magnification that makes these pack along binoculars attractive for viewing wildlife.

They are lightweight and compact, which is basically what backpackers look for. Also, you would not need the manual to adjust them because they are very easy to use.

Additionally, people say that this product is made with very sturdy materials since they can withstand the expected rough use on the outdoors, and that the magnification provided can be compared with more expensive binoculars.

On the downside, the eye holes are smaller than you would like. More so, it comes with a very thin neck string that is also difficult to replace.

PROS:

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Easy to use
  • Durable
 CONS:

  • Small exit pupil diameter
  • Weak neck strap

Related: Similar products from the same manufacturer include the Bushnell 138005 Binocular, which is recommended due to its clear, crisp and bright images it provides. Also, it is waterproof thanks to the O ring sealing and nitrogen purging, and is made with non slip rubber armor that absorbs shocks and offers a firm grip. It’s just a little bit more expensive that the aforementioned binocular.

Check the price on Amazon

Celestron Nature DX Binocular

Price: Approx. $220Celestron 71328 Nature DX

Weight: 2.5 pounds

Dimensions: 7 x 2.8 x 6 inches

Specific features: Magnification maximum: 8x; waterproof, full rubber armoring, full multi coated optics, phase coated BaK-4 prisms, tripod adaptable

Best use: Hiking, game viewing and bird watching

The Celestron Nature DX Binocular is a must have for your next outdoor adventure. The high quality BaK-4 prisms are phase coated for increased contrast and resolution, and they are combined with full multi coated lenses that provide maximum light transmission through the entire optical path, for brighter images, even in low light conditions.

It comes with a durable rubber armored, polycarbonate housing to protect your product from damage. Plus, they’re tripod adaptable for stability during extended viewing sessions. This model offers the highest magnification available on this model.

You get close to subject, even when you’re glassing at long distances. These binoculars are waterproof, fog proof, and nitrogen purged. Additionally, they have twist up eyecups with multiple stops ensure proper positioning of the eyes, even for eyeglass wearers.

However, most people find these binoculars rather heavy, which is a problem if you are planning to stare through them for a long period of time. In fact, this is the heaviest product from our list. Also, some users have had some trouble to get a proper focus while looking through them; and finally, the eyepieces seems to be too loose.

PROS:

  • Tripod adaptable
  • Water and fog proof
  • Comfortable for glass wearers
 CONS:

  • Heavy
  • Loose eyepieces

Related: The Celestron SkyMaster Giant Binoculars are another great product to take on your outdoor activities if you’re looking for a budget friendly model. They are made with multi coated optics to provide bright and sharp images, large aperture to perform well in low light conditions, they can be adapted to tripods, and are easy to adjust and to use.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap up

We know that selecting the best binoculars for you might not be a simple task due to all those different brands, models and features you could find. However, we believe that the information given before will ease the decision. Remember to focus on the reach the binoculars offer, how comfortable they are when looking though them, how durable and how easy to transport they are.

Now, it is time for you to share your knowledge. What kind of binoculars have you used in the past? What is the most important aspect that you consider when buying binoculars? Tell us about your experiences in the comments.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bradley Page
Bradley Page

With several decades of experience as a backpacker and outdoor adventurer, Bradley is an open encyclopedia when it comes to gear, clothes, and other items that matter on the trail. He tested hundreds of shoes, pants, jackets, and backpacks in his long career and is always up to date with the new appearances in the niche. His experience makes him one of the authority figures in backpacking and he can help anyone to get prepared for a great adventure!

  • Michelle Evans

    Hello! I’m looking for a gift for my father’s birthday. He likes to spend time in nature and hunt. So I want to give him the Bushnell Powerview Compact Folding Roof Prism Binocular . I know that he does not have binocular now, so I’m almost sure that he will be very happy.

  • Bradley Page

    Is this his first pair? The Bushnell is a beautiful and reliable pair of binoculars. It fits right in the palm of your hand and is affordable, as well. Lightweight and durable, your dad will be pleased with her gift – I’m sure of it! 🙂

  • Steven Spencer

    I study zoology and adore outdoor activities. So I really like to watch different birds, when my friends and I are on the hike. I use the Vortex Optics Viper Hd 10×42 Roof Prism Binocular and very happy with it. It works great and makes my hikes even more interesting!

    • Bradley Page

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts with the Vortex Optics and I’m glad that you’re pleased with your choice of binoculars. They’re also lightweight so there’s minimal strain when you use them.

  • Cynthia Carter

    I think that the use of binoculars is one of the most interesting activities on the hike. I am looking for a pair of binoculars that allow me to see as deep into space as possible. Which models from your list would best fit my requirements? What could you advise me?

    • Bradley Page

      Hi Cynthia, I’m afraid these binoculars here can only be suited for outdoors or nature watching, and thus provide a limited range. These can be suitable for bird watching or for the hunt. I’m sure you’ll find one that’s close to your requirements, although a stronger and more powerful deep space telescope is what you need to study the stars and the planets.

  • Allison Myers

    I went to the countryside, to see my grandparents. There’s a forest that I always enjoyed looking at close to their home. That’s good that I took a pair of binoculars with me. It was very interesting to look at nature with Nikon 7548 Monarch 7 8×42 Binocular. I’ll take my grandparents with me next time.

  • Bradley Page

    Hi Allison! My, you have quite an impressive pair of binoculars! The Nikon has always been a favorite brand and this particular model has excellent vision quality, since it’s an All-Terrain binocular (ATB). It is also fairly lightweight and is fog and waterproof – a good value for your money.

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