Spoiler Alert: Conquerwild named the Vortex Optics Crossfire HD Binoculars as the best backpacking binoculars overall!!
When you really want to appreciate nature and all its beauty, sometimes the naked eye just doesn’t cut it. A little bit of magnification can go a long way when you’re out on the trail.
Backpacking binoculars can be an amazing tool for nature-loving hikers, photographers or anyone else who’s looking to enhance their viewing experience.
There are tons of products on the market that range in price and quality. I’ve done my best to find the best backpacking binoculars that money can buy. I emerged with a solid top 4, and I think each product is worth your while. Here are my reviews:
The Products I’ll Be Reviewing:
- Adasion Binoculars with Universal Phone Adapter
- Vortex Optics Crossfire HD Binoculars
- Hontry Compact Binoculars
- Nikon ProStaff Binoculars
Adasion Binoculars with Universal Phone Adapter – Best Value Backpacking Binoculars
Prism Type: Porro prism
When you combine trusty optical power with modern day technology, you get this awesome product from Adasion. These binoculars come with a phone mount which is adaptable to pretty much every modern day smartphone. This means that you can record magnified footage and watch it back at your own leisure.
When it comes to the binoculars themselves, the Adasions boast a magnification power of 12×42. They’re great for both professional use and casual use if you have a steady hand. The field of view is an impressive 367 feet at 1000 yards. Plus, adjustable eye cups make these binoculars great for glasses wearers. They’re also durable and perfect for backpacking. If you need a product that goes above and beyond in terms of special features, the Adasion Binoculars and Universal Phone Adapter is a worthy choice.
- The glass is fully multi-coated.
- The 42mm objective lens makes for a bright and sharp image.
- Adasion has great customer service.
- The phone adapter makes these perfect for recording footage.
- At 18mm, the eyepiece is both large and adjustable.
- The body is made from a durable thermoplastic polymer.
- They come with a quality carry case.
- They don’t offer much in terms of waterproofing.
- Since they use porro prisms, these binoculars are on the bulky side.
Vortex Optics Crossfire HD Binoculars – Best Pick Overall
Prism Type: Roof prism
For a more rugged, efficient and pricey option, consider this killer pair of binoculars from Vortex Optics. The magnification power of these depends on which variation you buy. Here we have the 10×50 version, which is a perfect middle ground for casual backpackers. Vortex gets some extra points for having a product for almost every backpacker’s needs.
In addition to being versatile, this product from Vortex is also super durable. These binoculars are both waterproof and fog resistant, meaning they’re ready for any type of weather. They also have a sturdy rubberized coating, which makes the grip anti-slip. Not to mention, they’re pretty attractive looking.
When it comes to the image, the lenses are multi coated. This means you get a sharp, clear and bright image at all times (hence the “HD” in their name). Also, they can focus down to 6 feet! Overall, it’s hard to find fault with these binoculars, which is why they’re my top pick!
- The eye cups are adjustable, and so is the interpupillary distance!
- It comes with a nice carry case/harness that you can strap to your chest.
- The 10×50 variation weighs only 30.4 ounces. Plus it’s compact with dimensions of 6.7”x5.3”.
- You can buy the same binoculars with different magnification/lens sizes (12×50, 10×42 and 8×42).
- They can be adapted to a tripod.
- They’re made of aluminum and sturdy enough to withstand impact/recoil.
- Their focus range is quite narrow, so they’re not the best binoculars for watching moving targets.
- They fall on the expensive side of the spectrum.
Hontry Compact Binoculars – Best Compact Binoculars
Prism Type: Porro prism
If you’re looking for a product with a price as small as its build, these compact binoculars from Hontry are an excellent choice. They weigh only 0.6 pounds and they can fold down to palm-size. You can toss this thing in your backpack, around your neck (thanks to the included strap) or even in your pocket during a hike.
With 8x magnification and a 25 millimeter lens, these binoculars may not be the best for professional use. However, they’re great for most backpacking adventures. Despite its small size, this product’s ergonomic grip and sturdy rubber armor makes it surprisingly efficient. If your main priorities are affordability and convenience, you can’t go wrong with these. If that’s not your main concern, then these also work as a great backup pair of binoculars!
- They’re super affordable.
- They’re lightweight and compact enough to fit almost anywhere.
- The 1.03 inch eye relief makes it a great product for glasses wearers.
- All glass-to-air surfaces have multiple coatings, which allows for a 96.48% transmission of light.
- They come with a carrying case, neck strap and cleaning cloth.
- Their field of vision is a respectable 362 feet at 1000 yards.
- Due to the small lens size and lower magnification, these aren’t the most powerful binoculars out there.
Nikon ProStaff Binoculars – Most Durable Backpacking Binoculars
Prism Type: Roof prism
Nikon is a brand name that most of us are familiar with- but that’s mostly because of their cameras. With the 10×42 ProStaff, they’ve proven that they can make killer binoculars too! These may be a bit pricer than the other options on this list, but they’re definitely A-list when it comes to quality.
Since they’re nitrogen filled and O-Ring sealed, these Nikon binoculars deflect water and fog with ease. Even when they’re wet, the rubber-armored coating makes them easy to hold and handle. Though my favorite aspect of these binoculars is their more eco-friendly construction. All glass is arsenic and lead-free, meaning you’ll get to have some peace of mind after purchasing.
The glass is also fully multi-coated, which allows for an ultra-bright image. For those of you looking for a super rugged yet functional piece of equipment, the Nikon 10×42 ProStaff Binoculars have got you covered.
- They’re the most eco-friendly binoculars on this list!
- They come with a neoprene neck strap.
- They provide a clear, sharp and bright image.
- They’re great at resisting water and fog.
- They’re quite lightweight at about 1 pound.
- All glass is multi-coated.
- The field of view is 325 feet at 1,000 yards.
- They’re definitely a bit pricey.
Choosing The Best Backpacking Binoculars For You
When it comes to choosing the right product for you, binoculars can be a bit tricky. There are several technical components that make every product different. That’s why I’m here to walk you through all the elements you need to know before making a purchase.
Overall, it’s important that you find a product that balances optical power with convenience, durability and comfortability (plus price of course).
As with any piece of backpacking equipment, you’re going to need to assess your needs before making a final purchase. Not every backpacker is going to be satisfied with the same pair of binoculars.
The entire purpose of using binoculars is to get an enhanced view of something. However, not all binocular lenses are created equally. When looking for a product, there are different levels of magnification to choose from. Your choice should be based on how you plan on using your binoculars.
The viewing power of your binoculars is expressed with 2 numbers. It usually looks something like this: 8×25, 10×42, 12×42, etc.
The first number and the “x” represents the magnification power itself. For example, if you see a 10x, this means that your image will be magnified at 10 times its original size.
For most casual binocular users, you should stick to 8x, 10x or 12x. Anything higher than 12x requires a very steady hand to use effectively. In general, the less experienced you are with binoculars, the lower your magnification should be.
Side note: If you want some extra stability to your image, choose a pair of binoculars that are tripod compatible. This way, you’ll be pretty much guaranteed a steady view.
The second number stands for the diameter of the objective lens (the lens opposite of where your eyes go) in millimeters. Obviously, more compact products will have a smaller number.
Remember that the larger your lenses are, the more light will be allowed into them. This usually makes for a sharper and crisper image.
The Field of View
When it comes to the optics of your binoculars, field of view is another important figure to check out. This represents the amount of area your binoculars can see as measured from 1,000 yards away.
For example, if we look at the Hontry Compact Binoculars, we see that their field of view is 362 feet at 1,000 yards. This means that if you’re looking at something from 1,000 yards away, you’ll be able to see 362 feet of area.
Side Note: Remember that, if you don’t live in the United States, your binoculars may use a different unit of measurement.
Usually, a smaller field of view is better for focusing on non-moving things like mountains, trees, landmarks, etc. If you plan on following a moving target like animals, it’s best to look for a wide field of view.
The Minimum Focal Length
The minimum focal length of your binoculars is the closest distance that they are able to focus on. This isn’t a huge deal for everybody, but it’s definitely worth taking a look at. Any minimum focal length of less than 10 feet is pretty impressive.
If your binoculars were a human head, then the glass component would be like the eyes. It takes in the light and allows you to see everything.
When the glass of your binocular prism is coated, it ensures a clearer, sharper and more authentic image. It works to reduce any reflections that may interfere with your view. This will make colors pop and prevent glare.
The key phrases to look for are “multi-coated” or “fully multi-coated,” where all air-to-glass surfaces have multiple layers of coating. This pretty much guarantees a clear, quality image.
The Prism of Your Hiking Binoculars
Oftentimes, binoculars are defined by the types of prisms that they use. This usually has an impact on the shape and performance of your product.
The prism is located inside the barrel of your binoculars, somewhere in between the eyepieces and the objective lens. It’s a contraption that corrects the orientation of your view. Without them, you’d be seeing upside down, discombobulated images when looking through your binoculars.
There are 2 main types of prisms used for backpacking binoculars.
Porro prisms usually make for a larger field of view and a greater depth of field (the distance between the closest and farthest object in focus). However, they also make for a bulkier pair of binoculars because the prisms aren’t set up directly in line with each other.
Roof prisms are set up directly in line with each other. This makes for a narrower, more streamline pair of binoculars that’s easier to carry.
The type of prism you decide to choose depends on your preference.
Finding The Most Durable Pair of Camping Binoculars
When it comes to backpacking binoculars, it’s important you purchase a durable product. You’ll probably be using it primarily outdoors, so you need something that can hold its own against the elements of nature. Here’s what you should look out for:
The Material of Your Binoculars
You should always try your best not to drop your binoculars, but mistakes happen. Finding a product with a strong body is vital. If you do drop your binoculars, they should be able to withstand the fall without being seriously damaged.
Aluminum is one of the most common materials for the housing of your binoculars. It works great because it’s lightweight and pretty strong. It’s also inexpensive and fairly corrosion resistant.
Magnesium is another super durable, corrosion resistant metal that’s even lighter than aluminum. On the downside, it’s a bit more expensive.
Polycarbonates are also great because they share all of the durable qualities of aluminum and magnesium. They really excel when it comes to temperature resistance. If you’re backpacking in an extremely cold environment, this may be the best choice for you.
Is It Water Resistant?
You never know when you’re going to encounter rain or some moisture. Find yourself a pair of binoculars that can handle getting a little wet.
It’s important to remember that there is a difference between “water resistant” and “waterproof.” Companies often use the term “waterproof” incorrectly, so you might want to check the IPX rating of a product before buying it.
This is a rating system that will tell you exactly how water resistant your product is. You can check out the specifics of the IPX system here.
Even if you plan on keeping your binoculars completely dry, you should still buy something with some water resistance. You can’t go wrong with a nice pair of compact waterproof binoculars.
Is It Fog Resistant?
Fog presents a different obstacle for your binoculars. If they fog up too frequently, they’ll be very difficult to use unless you constantly wipe the lenses clean.
Most of the best lightweight binoculars on the market have fog protection. This is usually achieved with a process called “nitrogen purging” or “argon purging.” This means that the air inside of your binoculars is replaced with one of these gasses to prevent moisture from building up.
The Nikon ProStaff is a good example of a product that’s nitrogen filled.
What Makes For A Comfortable Pair of Hiking Binoculars?
Chances are that you’re going to spend a considerable amount of time holding your binoculars up to your eyes (unless you’re using them as an ashtray or something). If you choose a product that’s uncomfortable to hold or use, you’re going to regret it. Trust me.
Here’s what to look out for when choosing a comfortable pair of backpacking binoculars:
The eye relief of your binoculars will play a large role in their comfortability. This represents the distance that your eye should be from the eyepiece when viewing.
In general, the larger the eye relief is, the more comfortable your viewing experience will be. However, this is totally up to your own preference. If you wear eyeglasses or sunglasses, it’s definitely better to go with a larger eye relief.
If you’re looking for maximum comfort, you might want to choose a product with at least ¾ inch eye relief.
With most binoculars for hiking, the stronger the magnification is, the lower the eye relief will be.
No one wants to rest their eyes on a hard, rigid piece of plastic. The eyepieces (sometimes referred to as “eye cups”) of your binoculars are another important factor of comfortability.
Eyepieces tend to be more comfortable when they’re larger and rubber coated. Many products (such as the Adasion Binoculars) have adjustable eye cups, which is always a plus.
The term “interpupillary distance” sounds more complex than it actually is. It’s simply the distance between the center of your two eyes. When it comes to binoculars, this relates to the amount of space between each eye cup.
Since every single human face is unique, there’s no exact science for what distance will work the best for you. This is why it’s always great to choose a pair of binoculars with adjustable interpupillary distance.
Is It Easy On The Hands?
Binocular comfortability isn’t all about the eyes. Let’s not neglect hand comfort! Find yourself a pair of binoculars that you won’t mind holding for a long period of time.
The most comfortable binoculars to hold usually have divots for the fingers or some sort of padding. This will make it much easier to grip.
If there aren’t any finger divots, look for products with a rubberized coating, it’s the next best thing. This makes for a great anti-slip surface that’s no pain to hold.
Choose A Convenient Pair of Binoculars
Convenience is key when it comes to backpacking. The easier your equipment is to carry, access and handle, the better it is. This certainly applies to your backpacking binoculars.
Find yourself a product that doesn’t make your time outdoors any more difficult than it needs to be. Here are the best qualities to look out for:
Most binoculars can be adjusted with the help of a diopter. This is a ring that’s usually located in between the two barrels.
Make sure that the diopter on your binoculars is easy to reach while you’re holding it. In order to focus effectively, you need to be able to access this ring while simultaneously looking through the eyepieces.
You also want to make sure that your diopter isn’t in a location where it can easily be moved by accident. If this is the case, you may find yourself readjusting constantly.
Finding Compact Binoculars
If you’re looking for optimum convenience, the more compact your binoculars are, the better. The best compact binoculars for hiking should be able to fit into your backpack with no problem.
There are tons of products out there that balance small size with efficiency, such as the Hontry Compact Binoculars. These weigh less than a pound and they’re tiny enough to fit into most people’s pockets.
Ask yourself: Do you need a product that’s small enough to fit anywhere, or can you handle a bit more size and weight?
If your binoculars are on the larger side, make sure they come with a strap. This way, you can wear them around your neck when they’re not in use. Most backpacking binoculars also include a carry bag for safe transportation.
The Price of Your Backpacking Binoculars
Once you understand all the in’s and out’s of backpacking binoculars, it’s time that you take money into account.
Price may be the most important factor for you when choosing a pair of binoculars. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that! If you’re just looking for something to magnify your surroundings at a low price, then Hontry’s Compact Binoculars may be the best choice for you. If you’re going for a low-priced product, just make sure that it’s made with quality.
If money isn’t a concern to you at all, then you probably won’t have any problem spending a bit more for an A-list product such as the Nikon ProStaff.
Either way, I suggest you sit down and figure out a budget for yourself before making a final purchase.
For many people, choosing the best binoculars for hiking might seem like a daunting task. There are a lot of aspects to consider- from magnification power, to durability, to convenience, to price. Hopefully, my buyer’s guide has helped to make the selection process a bit easier for you.
I’ve found and reviewed some amazing pairs of backpacking binoculars, but there’s one that (in my opinion) stands out above the rest.
Our Top Pick Is….
The Vortex Optics Crossfire HD Binoculars!!
Everything about this product screams “top notch,” and it would be hard to deny these binoculars as my top pick. They’re durable enough to handle anything mother nature has to throw at them and they offer a crisp, clear image consistently. Plus, they come in a range of sizes, prices and magnification power. Not to mention that their simple, rugged look makes them the perfect backpacking accessory.
If the Vortex Crossfire seems a little too expensive for you, then consider going with the Hontry Compact Binoculars. When it comes to affordable lightweight binoculars, it doesn’t get much better than these.