Wondering which are the best binoculars for travelling? This is a simple guide that sheds light on the basics you need to be privy to, along with a few recommendations of the best travelling binoculars on the market.
Binoculars are one of those things every man, or household rather, needs to have.
It’s like that toolbox that comes with a set of tools – screwdrivers, pliers, a hammer, tape measure etc. You just never know when you will need it, but you can bet it will come in handy at some point.
In the case of binoculars, matters not whether you think you’ll need them in your lifetime or not. But you can bank on the fact that once you own a pair, you will not be short of opportunities to flash it out.
And no, you don’t need to be a traveller. Or travel writer. Or survivalist. Although it’s an essential carry if you are either.
Truth is, binoculars are fun. But you never really get to appreciate them until you own a set. It’s like a nice pair of sunglasses in the scorching summer heat.
More importantly, though, they are one of the most essential (and practical) gadgets for every outdoor lover. Whether you are into birding, horse racing, game viewing, hunting, stargazing or simply an old school traveller, you will find binoculars extremely useful as they get you closer to the action.
Sure, you can obviously watch things without binoculars, but the benefit of magnification is that you see those minute details that you otherwise wouldn’t with the naked eye. Think the eye markings of a bird perched some distance away, the little hairs on an elephant’s body or the impressive views of meteor showers.
It’s the small things that matter, heard the phrase?
As avid travellers ourselves, the question of the best binoculars for travelling always comes up at some point.
Do we really need binoculars?
What type of binoculars would you recommend?
How can I determine the best binoculars for me?
These are questions we often hear on a regular basis.
So we thought this would be a good subject to talk about for anyone who might be deliberating on what to look for in a good pair of binoculars or those curious as to which models are the best binoculars in the market.
Binocular Basics you need to be Aware of
When choosing the best binoculars for travelling, there are several important features you need to consider.
Magnification, for instance.
Every bino comes with a two-number designation. For example, 8x32mm, or 10x50mm.
The first number is the magnification. The second is the lens diameter or field of view and is usually in millimetres. In photography circles, you will hear this number being referred to as the aperture of the lens.
A good rule of thumb when considering these two aspects is to divide the field of view by the magnification. The bigger the number, the brighter your view since more light is getting in. To avoid disappointment, this figure should be at least 4, although this applies more to lower quality devices.
For example, using our two examples above, 8×32 and 10×50 – divide 32 by 8 (you get 4, which is good) while 10×50 gives you 5 (50 by 10) which is also good.
You will likely come across many marketing gimmicks such as stabilizers, zoom etc. In truth, these things are likely to compromise the quality of the optics, unless the binocular is extremely high quality. So avoid getting carried away by all the marketing speak.
Size also matters when choosing the best binoculars for travelling. Little, cute pairs can be tempting because they fit so well into the pocket. But they won’t be much use. Sure, there are some top-notch pairs of small binoculars, but this is the exception rather than the norm.
Prism type, which influences the design, is another consideration.
Binoculars generally come in two types: we have the porro prism and then there is the roof prism.
Porro prism binoculars have a ‘dog-leg’ type of appearance (more traditional) because their objective lenses are more spaced out than the eyepiece lens. These two sets of lenses are more in line with each other in roof prism devices, which makes them more streamlined and compact.
The type of glass used to manufacture the instrument has an effect on image quality. Two glass types to give priority to are fluoride (FL) glass and extra-low dispersion (ED) glass. Reason is because they provide clearer and sharper colours with less blurring (fringing).
Speaking of quality, one of the notable differences between cheap binoculars and high-quality ones has to do with lens coating. A binoculars worth your money has at least one coat over the lenses. This not only protects the lenses from scratches, but also helps improve clarity.
Other things to think about include night viewing, waterproofing, rubber eyecups, weight, ease of use, brand and price, all of which are more of a personal decision.
If you intend to use your binoculars for viewing images up-close (such as observing insects), consider the close focus feature – the smaller the better.
Those who wear glasses should opt for instruments with longer eye relief. Eye relief refers to the maximum distance you can position the eye and view the object without the image darkening around the edges (vignetting).
Our 5 Best Binoculars for Traveling 2019
Nikon 16030 Prostaff 3S
- 8X magnification binocular
- 42 mm objective lens diameter
- Roof prism optical path design
- Lead and arsenic-free Eco-glass
- High-reflectivity silver-alloy mirror coating prism
Nikon is one of the biggest names in the digital camera segment, but their forays into the binoculars niche have not gone unnoticed either. The Japanese multinational has been serving travellers with outstanding binoculars through the years, and one of their standout gadgets recently has been the Nikon 16030 Prostaff 3S.
The Prostaff line of optics from Nikon has long provided travellers with affordable and reliable binoculars. Released in 2016, this magnificent roof prism bino has gone on to become a bestseller in many stores.
Available in two versions – 8×42 and 10×42 – the Prostaff 3S comes with 42mm objective lenses, yet the body has managed to remain noticeably lightweight and compact. This means it is highly portable.
Its wide field of view means you can easily spot the subject, making sure you never miss a thing. Nikon went out of its way to provide plenty of eye relief on the Prostaff 3S design, ensuring the device is friendly for everyone, including those who wear eyeglasses.
This is accentuated by the fact that the binocular features rubber eyecups that are turn-and-slide with multi-click adjustments, although it could be said these are not of the highest quality.
But it is not all about comfort. The binocular has a dielectric high-reflective mirror with multi-coated lenses which guarantees sharp and vivid picture quality.
The Nikon Prostaff 3S is waterproof up to three feet or so for ten minutes and the nitrogen gas and O-ring seals ensure it stays fog-free.
The company has a No-Fault Repair/Replacement Policy for its binoculars. This means you can send your pair for repair or replacement even when it succumbs to a repair or service issue not covered by the company’s Limited Lifetime Warranty.
You really couldn’t ask for more in terms of guarantee of quality.
Amazingly, the Nikon 16030 Prostaff 3S goes for under $120 and you could say this is one of those gadgets which vastly outperform their price point.
- Compact and lightweight
- All-purpose and fully weatherproof
- Wide field of view
- Extended eye relief
- Poor quality eye covers
Bushnell Legend L-Series 8x42mm Compact Travel Binoculars
Bushnell is a big shot in the United States when it comes to imaging products. They manufacture everything from first-rate rifle scopes, telescopes, microscopes, and of course, binoculars.
The Bushnell L line of binoculars is one in a three-series offering that the company differentiates based on performance and price.
The E Series is the starting point and what you could term mid-range devices. It is followed by the L Series (the category our pick falls in) which adds a plethora of higher-end features and known for offering amazing bang for buck.
And then there is the M Series, designed with an emphasis on outright performance with less focus on the financial aspect.
Now, the Bushnell Legend L-Series 8x42mm Binocular is a newer version of a set that was voted Binocular of the Year by binoculars.com when it was released: the famed Bushnell Legend Ultra HD.
As with all Legend Series binos, the L-Series 8x42mm model features a high-quality magnesium alloy chassis. It is sealed and 100% waterproof, and the company made sure the internal glass would not fog up by adding dry gas (nitrogen) to the interior.
There is also a special hydrophobic lens coating which keeps water (and water stains) from settling on the glass when it rains.
It has a large wheel for adjusting the focus that is positioned at the instrument’s centre. It also comes with that diopter that has become a regular on the right eyepiece of all Legend models, only that in this case, it is also lockable. Its purpose is to help you calibrate the device to match your particular eyesight.
The L-Series 8x42mm has an impressive 426-ft field of view, an improvement on the Legend Ultra HD which boasted a 340-ft field of view, with an also improved eye relief of 18mm.
It makes use of ED glass which minimises blur and serves to sharpen and make already clear images clearer.
There is little not to love about the Bushnell Legend L-Series 8x42mm Binocular Black, save for issues with edge sharpness.
- High performing optics
- Good field of view
- Firm grip and design
- Comfortable viewing
- Edge sharpness
NIKON 7278 Travelite VI Binoculars
- Multicoated, Eco-Glass optics made without lead and arsenic reduce glare and improve light transmission, color rendition and contrast
- BaK4 high index prisms for extra-high resolution images
- Compact 25mm diameter objective lenses help to maintain a small form factor for easier handling and packing
- Aspherical lens design minimizes field curvature, especially at the edges, and enhances sharpness
- Durable and protective, rubber-armored coating
The Nikon 7278 Travelite VI binoculars is one of the most cost-effective Nikon binos on the market. Sometimes, though, like in this case, price tags can be fooling. In fact, in the case of entry-level Nikons, you always get what is outlined in the sales brochure. And then some.
If you are on the market for a reasonably-priced, good-looking, multi-purpose pair of binoculars that serves your family needs sufficiently, then look no further.
One of the first things that will strike you about this Nikon model is that it is highly compact. Boasting a pretty cool design, the Nikon Travelite VI is very portable and will not be a burden for those not used to, say, long hiking expeditions.
As far as clarity goes, the 7278 Travelite VI 10x25mm has multicoated optics that ensure you enjoy colourful rendering, crisp images and vivid sensations, revealing even the smallest details of your object of focus.
The clarity of these images is emphasised by the BAK4 high index prism (arguably the best material for prisms) and the presence of a click-type diopter adjustment ring.
The binocular also has a large focusing knob located at the centre, which somehow comes across as very convenient especially if you want to use the equipment at a moment’s notice.
This handy little device also offers a surprisingly stable view, with a rubber coating that allows for a perfect grip so you don’t have to worry about the little thing slipping from your hands.
Overall, the Nikon 10x25mm Travelite punches well above its weight and is certain to exceed your expectations.
As far as downsides go, we don’t have a lot against this little power puncher, bar the low power. For the average traveller, though, the bino should serve just fine.
A good alternative for those who fancy a beefier objective lens is the Nikon 7548 Monarch 7 8x42mm Binocular, but it comes with a steeper price tag.
- Cool, compact design
- Highly portable
- Great value for money
- Some users might need a more powerful objective lens
Zeiss 8×25 Terra ED Compact Travel Binocular
- TECHNICAL DATA: 8x magnification for delivering quality enlarged images; field of view at 1000m - 119 m; apparent field of view - 52°
- WEATHERPROOF: the operating temperature range of -4 to 145°F and the waterproof body, these outdoor binoculars are a reliable companion even under extreme conditions; water resistance - 100 mbar
- EASY TO USE thanks to the smooth, exact focus in any situation. The index finger automatically positions itself on the focus wheel. You no longer have to think about how best to hold the binoculars if an exciting scene appears right in front of you
- INTENDED USE: suitable for birdwatching, nature observation, events, travelling and outdoor activities. Less suitable for hunting. The TERRA ED Pocket 8x25 is not suitable for marine and astronomy
- COMPACT: extremely compact and can be easily transported thanks to the folding design and the low weight of just 310 grams - for everyone who wants to see every detail without dragging around extra weight
In the world of binoculars, the Zeiss brand is the motor equivalent of Porsche. Power. Finesse. Perfection.
And it shows in the price.
European binocular brands boast the best optics, and Carl Zeiss happens to be one of the most reputable optics and imaging companies not just in Europe, but the world over. Like Porsche, it has its roots in Germany where it was established in 1846, making it one of the oldest optics firms around.
Zeiss binoculars are some of the best and most expensive, so if you plan on splashing out on a pair of good binos, this is one of the brands you should be looking at.
One particular model that is sure to appeal to travellers is the Zeiss Terra ED Compact binocular, a professional level set suitable for any use.
It is available in a range of objective lenses, but the 8x25mm model should comfortably meet the needs of the ordinary traveller.
The Terra ED Compact Binocular promises crystal clear images and immaculate performance even in low light conditions. This has a lot to do with its hydrophobic lenses (fully multi-coated) which are meant to deliver clarity as well as precision, even in foggy or wet weather conditions.
The Terra ED Compact is also shockproof and features a sturdy, beautiful design with a body reinforced in fiberglass. It has an adjustment wheel for smooth focusing which is designed with ease of use in mind, allowing you find and hone in on objects fast and easily.
Looking at these features, it is hard to fathom how Zeiss managed to package this product into a small package that weighs just 10.9 ounces.
But that’s just what the Zeiss Terra ED bino is meant to be: a feature-rich but lightweight instrument in a compact design capable of withstanding extreme conditions while offering best-in-class performance irrespective of weather.
For all the good, the cost of the Terra ED locks out many travellers who just want an affordable device under $300 (it’s current asking price) to capture the best moments of their travels in real time.
But if extra optical quality matters a lot to you, you can never go wrong with this model.
- Impeccable clarity
- Compact design
- Ease of use
Celestron 71330 Nature DX 8×32 Travel Binoculars
- Designed with the outdoor enthusiast in mind, waterproof and fully rubber armored.
- Phase coated BaK-4 prisms for increased contrast and resolution.
- Fully multi-coated optics provide brighter images by increasing light transmission through the entire optical path.
- Close focus of 6.5 feet for viewing nearby subjects.
- Sturdy, twist-up eyecups with multiple stops. Eyeglass friendly with 17.5 mm of eye relief.
If you are on the hunt for a quality budget-priced binocular that promises superior viewing and boasts many high-end features, few instruments manage to strike this balance as well as the Celestron 71330 Nature DX Binocular.
Fetching at less than $100, there is a reason this pair stacks up well against many others in a price range that is notoriously competitive.
It features a fully-coated optics that delivers a bright viewing experience devoid of glare. It is important to note that at this price point, the level of image quality you get with this binocular is highly unusual.
With a total weight of just 18 ounces, they are delightfully lightweight and compact. They have a rubber coating that makes them waterproof so they don’t get ruined when you find yourself caught up in the inevitable rain in the course of your many travels.
The Celestron 71330 Nature DX is also fog-proof, a feature you don’t come across often on devices in this price range. The twist-up eyecups are sure to appeal to eyeglass wearers as they allow for comfortable viewing while also guaranteeing plenty of eye relief (17.5mm).
This particular model has a power magnification of 8x, but Celestron has them available in a wide range that stretches all the way to 12x56mm.
So, what’s not to love about the Nature DX’s?
Well, looking at extras such as neck strap and carry case, it could be said that they don’t match the quality of the binocular itself.
On the upside, though, it can be argued that it is better when the inevitable compromises you’re likely to encounter with such a price tag are not made on the actual instrument itself but rather, somewhere else.
Moreover, these extras are just comparable to those of other devices in this class.
- Crisp images
- Good sturdy product
- Accessories don’t reflect quality level of binocular
- Small eye relief can make it slightly less comfortable