The 13 Best Binoculars of 2021

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TRIPSAVVY-13-best-binoculars

TripSavvy / Chloe Jeong

The Rundown

Best Overall: Gosky EagleView 10x42 Binoculars at Amazon

"Offers optimum magnification, at 10x42, while the premium extra-low dispersion (ED) glass helps to minimize glare."

Best Budget: Carson VP-842 – 8x42mm Prism Binocular at Walmart

"These trusty binoculars are built to last, with rubber armoring that provides a secure, comfy grip, plus added shock resistance."

Best for Hunting: Celestron TrailSeeker ED 10x42 Binoculars at Amazon

"The twist-up eyecups are fully padded for comfort and compatible with eyeglasses."

Best Compact: Vortex Vanquish 8x26 at Walmart

"The binoculars deliver crystal-clear, bright images and a wide field of view."

Best for Birdwatching: Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 at Best Buy

"Extremely clear optics and predictable focusing allow you to target and see birds in a variety of lighting conditions."

Best for Stargazing: Celestron SkyMaster Pro 20x80 Binoculars at Amazon

"The brand’s proprietary XLT coating technology and BaK-4 prisms deliver crisp, high-contrast images with incredible resolution."

Best for Safaris: Canon 10x30 IS II Binoculars at Amazon

"Portable and lightweight, at 21.16 ounces, these binoculars are the perfect pick for your safari outing."

Best Lightweight: Leica Trinovid 10x25 BCA with Case at Amazon

"The central focusing dial also allows for fast, easy, precise internal focusing."

Best for Hiking: Nikon PROSTAFF 7S 10x30 at Amazon

"The turn-and-slide rubber eyecups help ensure a full field of view."

Best Waterproof: Bushnell H20 8x42 Binoculars at Walmart

"These binoculars are fully sealed, which prevents moisture and dust particles from entering the body."

Best for Kids: Opticron Savanna WP 6x30 at Amazon

"Boasts a fully multi-coated optical system and rugged, nitrogen waterproof construction."

Best Style: Nocs Provision Standard Issue 8x25 Waterproof Binoculars at Backcountry

"Equipped with premium optics that are housed in a weatherproof case."

Best Eye Relief: Maven B.5 at Amazon

"These binoculars are specifically designed to extend your range if you require increased magnification."

Once you invest in a good-quality pair of binoculars, you’ll wonder what took you so long. A great pair of binoculars opens up the world around you, forcing you to slow down and meditate on the sights and sounds of the natural world.

Whether you’re a birder, a hiker, a budding astronomer, or you just want to be able to look at nature in greater detail, these are the best binoculars to choose from.

Best Overall: Gosky EagleView 10x42 Binoculars

What We Like
  • Great magnification

  • Minimizes glare

  • Durable

  • Has water and fog protection

What We Don't Like
  • Tripod adaptor sold separately

Whether you’re hiking, birding, stargazing, or out in nature in any capacity, the Gosky Eagle View Binoculars bring clarity to your outdoor experience. They offer optimum magnification, at 10x42, while the premium extra-low dispersion (ED) glass helps to minimize glare and ghostly images. These binoculars are also more durable than most, offering full waterproof and fog proof protection with a rubber-armored body. It’s also easy to focus no matter what you’re trying to look at or where it is.

Best Budget: Carson VP-842 – 8x42mm Prism Binocular

Carson 8x42 VP Series Binoculars

Courtesy of Carson

What We Like
  • Durable

  • Has water and fog protection

  • Reduces eye strain

What We Don't Like
  • Tripod adaptor sold separately

For quality craftsmanship at a relatively low price, look no further than the Carson VP-842 – 8x42mm Prism Binocular. These trusty binoculars are built to last, with rubber armoring that provides a secure, comfy grip, plus added shock resistance. They’re both O-ring sealed and nitrogen-filled, which means true waterproof and fog proof protection. And the fully multi-coated optics provide multiple layers on all air to glass surfaces for a bright, crisp image with less eye strain.

Best for Hunting: Celestron TrailSeeker ED 10x42 Binoculars

What We Like
  • Has water and fog protection

  • Compatible with eyeglasses

  • Comes in various magnification sizes

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

A favorite among wildlife-watchers and hunters, the Celestron TrailSeeker ED 10x42 Binoculars have fully multi-coated lenses made of ED glass to produce exceptional clarity and color. These are also waterproof and nitrogen-filled for fog proofing, so they’ll withstand the elements while you’re scouting. Plus, the twist-up eyecups are fully padded for comfort and compatible with eyeglasses.  

Best Compact: Vortex Vanquish 8x26

Vortex Vanquish Binoculars

Courtesy of REI

What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Wide field of view

  • Easy to focus

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Cannot mount to tripod

Sleek, lightweight, and easy to carry anywhere, the Vortex Vanquish 8x26 binoculars deliver crystal-clear, bright images and a wide field of view, despite only weighing in at 12.7 ounces. We love how reliably and smoothly the focus dial adjusts, as well as how comfy the eyecups are. These binoculars are great for hiking and backpacking, too, considering their portability and waterproof O-ring that prevents moisture and dust from penetrating.

Best for Birdwatching: Nikon Monarch 5 8x42

Nikon Monarch 5 Binoculars, 8 x 42 mm

Courtesy of L.L. Bean

What We Like
  • Easy to focus

  • Eyecups have multiple settings

  • Tripod compatible

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Gain a deep appreciation for the natural world with the Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 binoculars, which are beloved among birders for their extremely clear optics and predictable focusing, allowing you to target and see birds in a variety of lighting conditions (even low light). The streamlined focus wheel adjusts effortlessly, and the eyecups have multiple settings for correct eye positioning. 

According to Cameron Kirkpatrick at The Texas Birder, “In my opinion, the best binoculars for birding are a rugged pair of 8x42s. This combo offers the best field of view and light collecting capabilities while still being small enough to walk around with all day. It might be tempting to step up to a 10x magnification, but this could lead to less stable viewing and a smaller field of view. Look for a pair that are weatherproof, fog-proof, and rubber-coated. I currently use a pair of Nikon Prostaff 3S 8x42s, and I love them.”

Best for Stargazing: Celestron SkyMaster Pro 20x80 Binoculars

What We Like
  • Great for low-light conditions

  • Durable

  • Waterproof

  • Tripod compatible

What We Don't Like
  • Tripod adaptor sold separately

Gaze up at the night sky with a pair of Celestron SkyMaster Pro 20x80 Binoculars, and you’ll marvel at how magnified and clear the stars and planets look—we’ll go on record saying that these are the next best thing to a professional telescope. They have especially large objective lenses, at 80 millimeters, for awesome light gathering in low-light conditions. Crucially, the brand’s proprietary XLT coating technology and BaK-4 prisms deliver crisp, high-contrast images with incredible resolution, so you can see the depths of space in great detail. 

Best for Safaris: Canon 10x30 IS II Binoculars

Nikon Monarch HG 8x30

 Courtesy of B&H Photo Video

What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Great magnification

  • Compatible with eyeglasses

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Excellent for wildlife-viewing, the Canon 10x30 IS II Binoculars provide an impressive sharpness to the image, and the color is outstanding. Portable and lightweight, at 21.16 ounces, these binoculars are the perfect pick for your safari outing. Bring the action closer with 10x magnification and super-bright 30 millimeters objective lenses—plus, thanks to the brand’s image stabilization technology, you’ll enjoy smooth, extended viewing without the need for a tripod.   

Best Lightweight: Leica Trinovid 10x25 BCA with Case

Leica Ultravid BR 10x25

Courtesy of Leica USA

What We Like
  • Durable

  • Great for low-light conditions

  • Easy to focus

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Toss the Leica Trinovid 10x25 BCA binoculars in your pack without adding the hefty weight of other, similar-quality binoculars—at 14.4 ounces, these are blessedly lightweight and compact. There’s no sacrificing on performance, though. The durable lens coating and high-quality optics of these binoculars ensure that you’ll get high contrast and awesome color fidelity, even in dim light. The central focusing dial also allows for fast, easy, precise internal focusing.

Best for Hiking: Nikon PROSTAFF 7S 10x30

What We Like
  • Durable

  • Wide field of view

  • Comes in various magnification sizes

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note lens caps are low quality

Hikers of all stripes love the Nikon PROSTAFF 7S 10x30 binoculars for the gorgeous color and clarity they produce with their multilayer-coated lenses and phase correction-coated roof prisms. These babies are designed to endure the challenges of the outdoors, be it water, dust, or other debris, and they’re comfy to hold (even in wet conditions). Also, the turn-and-slide rubber eyecups help ensure a full field of view.

Best Waterproof: Bushnell H20 8x42 Binoculars

Bushnell H20 Waterproof/Fog proof Binoculars

Courtesy of Bushnell

What We Like
  • Durable

  • Comes in various magnification sizes

  • Has water and fog protection

What We Don't Like
  • Tripod adaptor sold separately

If you’ll be exposed to the elements, even rain or snow, the Bushnell H20 Binoculars are your best bet. These binoculars (which are available in 8x42 and 10x42) are fully sealed, which prevents moisture and dust particles from entering the body and potentially ruining your view (and the binoculars). Not to mention, the BaK-4 prisms and multi-coated optics offer stunningly clear images with improved light transmission. 

Best for Kids: Opticron Savanna WP 6x30

What We Like
  • Durable

  • Affordable

  • Compatible with eyeglasses

  • Comes in various magnification sizes

What We Don't Like
  • Tripod adaptor sold separately

Young amateur birders and wildlife fans will delight in using the Opticron Savanna WP 6x30 binoculars, which are suitable for kids ages 7 and up. Your little one will love scoping out birds, deer, nests, and other natural wonders using these binoculars, which boast a fully multi-coated optical system and rugged, nitrogen waterproof construction (so, crucially, they’re hard to destroy). It’s never too early to encourage a spirit of curiosity and exploration.

Best Style: Nocs Provision Standard Issue 8x25 Waterproof Binoculars

Nocs Provision Standard Issue 8x25 Binoculars

Courtesy of Huckberry

What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Has water and fog protection

  • Lifetime warranty

  • Comes in various colors

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note it can be difficult to focus

Adorable, compact, and available in an eye-catching shade of deep turquoise, the Nocs Provision Standard Issue 8x25 Waterproof Binoculars are a cut above the rest when it comes to stylish design. They’re also equipped with premium optics that are housed in a weatherproof case, all wrapped up in a textured non-slip grip. Beauty and function for the win.

Best Eye Relief: Maven B.5

What We Like
  • Great for low-light conditions

  • Comes in various magnification sizes

  • Compatible with eyeglasses

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Eye defects can make looking through binoculars a bit of a challenge, which is where the Maven B.5 binoculars come in. Powerful and purpose-built, these binoculars are specifically designed to extend your range if you require increased magnification, even in low-light settings. And we love that, aside from considerable eye relief, you also get sharp edge-to-edge clarity with the 56 millimeters fluorite objective lenses. 

Final Verdict

When it comes to sheer performance, versatility, and relative affordability (given how well they work), the Gosky Eagle View 10x42 ED Binoculars (view at Amazon) is the best of the group. They’re great for a wide variety of uses, from birding to hiking to night sky-watching, and they offer superior optics without the glare of some other, similar models. And these are exceptionally durable binoculars, thanks to the rubber-armored body and waterproof protective coating—you can bring them along on virtually any outdoor journey without worrying about damaging them.

What to Look for in Binoculars

Lighting Conditions

The amount of light you have when looking through a pair of binoculars will determine how much they help you see and if you plan to use your binoculars at night—for stargazing, for example—you’re going to want to get a pair that’s made for low-lighting conditions.

Price

Factors like the precision of the lenses, the zoom, and the durability of a pair of binoculars will all affect how much you spend. Some come with carrying cases, harnesses, and lens cleaners, too. So decide what you need for your preferred activities and how often you'll be using them before splurging on a pair. If you are buying binoculars for a child or will only use them occasionally, there are several budget options available.

Activity

Chances are you won’t want to use the same binoculars for hunting as you would for identifying the warbler outside your window. Different pairs are made for different activities, and the purpose-built pairs—say, for hunting—usually offer unique features like rangefinders and fog-proofing.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What do the numbers (specs) on binoculars mean?

    The first number tells you how powerful the magnification is, and the second number is the diameter of the objective lenses (the big end). The larger the objective lens, the more light it will let in, and the brighter the image will be. So with 10x42 binoculars, for example, the number 10 represents the magnification power, and the number 42 gives you an understanding of how much light the objective lens can gather. 

    Keep in mind, though, that the larger the objective lenses are, the heavier your binoculars will be. Lenses that are 40 millimeters or higher will be on the heavy side (so maybe not ideal for birding or hiking). 

  • What are the most important features to consider (other than specs)?

    It’s crucial to choose your binoculars based on what you’ll primarily be using them for. Weight is important—high-magnification, large-lens binoculars may provide the brightest, clearest image, but they’ll also be the heaviest. So these are best for stationary activities like stargazing. If you’ll be using your binoculars for hiking or backpacking, size and weight are top concerns, so choose more compact binoculars (8x25 or 10x25 are great options). Going birding or wildlife viewing? Opt for a midsize model that’s either 8x32 or 8x52.

    Aside from specs, water resistance is key for most outdoor activities. Look for binoculars that have waterproof and fog proof construction, along with protective rubber coating.   

  • How should the lenses be cleaned?

    Remove any loose dust and debris with a moistened Q-tip. Then wipe the lenses with a soft microfiber or cotton cloth (do not use paper towels to do this).  

  • How do you focus binoculars?

    First, adjust the width of your binoculars by moving both parts closer or farther apart until you find the perfect fit. To adjust the focus on your binoculars, use the central control to focus both barrels at the same time. You can also use the “diopter” (the wheel on the eyepiece) adjustment ring to focus one barrel and then the other (this is crucial to do if you have differences in vision between your eyes).

Why Trust TripSavvy

Justine Harrington is a freelance writer whose topics include travel, food & drink, the outdoors, and more. Her travels have brought her all over the world from France to Mexico City and more. She has been contributing to TripSavvy since 2018.

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