The 6 Best Binoculars to Buy in 2018

See the sights up close with these top picks

Hand of man holding binoculars outdoors

Aleksander Rubtsov/Getty Images

What are you missing with the naked eye? Detail, color or clarity? The right binoculars can let you see your adventures in a whole new way, whether you're tracking a lion in the Serengeti, spotting eagles or watching the Cincinnati Bengals game from the bleachers. When you look at binocular specifications you’ll always see a set of two numbers: 8 X 42, 10 X 32, or 7 X 35, for instance. That first number indicates magnification. The last number indicates the diameter of the objective lens. More magnification gives you eagle eyes, but can diminish field of view; larger, objective lenses let in more light, but add heft to your specs. How do you strike the right balance? Read on to find the best binoculars to improve the view on your next trip.

  • 01 of 06

    Birds are light, fast and reactive. For the best birding experience, buy binoculars that mimic these avian qualities. Birders flock to Nikon’s Monarch line of binoculars, and the new, 23-ounce Monarch 7 ATB 8 X 42 is the top of the flock. These specs are built with the same Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass Nikon uses in its world-class camera lenses. The ED glass enhances transmission across the entire visible light spectrum for a wide, crisp, field of view — up to 351 feet at 1,000 yards. Combined with advanced dielectric roof-prism coatings, these specs beam light at brightness levels similar to those perceived by the naked eye, so you can track your bird from a distance and admire its plumage in focus as close as 8.2 feet. The ATB stands for All-Terrain Binoculars, and these new Monarch 7’s are waterproof and fogproof, and the brand’s rubber-armored coating is designed to handle any ecosystem, from the Amazon to the Adirondacks.

  • 02 of 06

    The average person might not need a big pair of binoculars to look at concerts, birds in the backyard or more and that is when a compact pair like this from Sky Genius comes in hand. It has 8 times magnification of up to 369 ft. at 1,000 yeards with a 21 MM objective lens. It folds up which makes it super portable to keep in your car for when you need to get a better look at the world.

    This is an Amazon best-seller with reviewers noting it gives a clear quality image at a bargain price. 

  • 03 of 06

    Get your kids in on all the nature watching around them with this specially crafted pair of binoculars that are made for little hands. They can hold this pair for a long time due to its lightweight construction and compact design. They'll be able to view woodpeckers and hummingbirds alike with 10 times magnification with a lens diameter of 25 mm at a range of 380 feet at 1000 yards.

    Parents love these because they are made with quality, come at an affordable price and have gotten their children really interested in the outdoors. 

  • 04 of 06

    With the right binoculars, you can count the points on a buck’s rack before you even pull the trigger. But getting the shot requires more than magnification—the best hunting binoculars must present wide fields of view for tracking animals in addition to brilliant contrast and color for spotting potential trophies. Bushnell binoculars and scopes have long been popular in treestands and blinds, and the brand’s Legend M Series 8 X 42 bins build on the acclaim with a slew of new tech. The Legend grows with ED Prime Extra-Low Dispersion fluorite glass engineered to eliminate chromatic aberrations and draw out contrast and color even in low-light morning and evening hunts. Dielectric roof-prism coatings have been found to allow 92 percent light transmission, and Bushnell’s Ultra Wide Band Coating transmits that full color spectrum all the way to the ocular lens. They’re waterproof, fogproof and treated with new Rainguard HD coatings, ensuring you see your prey clearly in rain, sleet or snow.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Pentax is a brand known primarily for its cameras, but the new Papilio binoculars are one of the most unique on the market today. Papilio literally translates to butterfly in Latin, and these compact, reverse porro-prism binoculars would be an excellent companion for exploring Mexico’s monarch butterfly reserves because they double as a long distance microscope. You can focus on fluttering wings as close as 18 inches away through multi-coat lenses that coax out every diminutive detail. Reverse porro prism engineering reveals rich depth of field up to 357 feet at 1,000 yards and also allows for the unique uni-body design: the objective lens is set in a single housing to synchronize the eyepiece movement, making it easier to focus on those extreme close-ups. As the name would suggest, the Papilio is light—a hair over 16 ounces—making it ideal for wildflower hikes and backcountry birding.

  • 06 of 06

    Turn your eyes to the sky with the Celestron SkyMaster, a set of massive binoculars engineered for astounding astronomical viewing. To achieve 25 times magnification and clear views of the heavens, the SkyMaster beefs up with big 100 mm objective lenses that let in every twinkle. Advanced BaK-4 prisms reflect starlight to the optical lenses and eyepieces have individual focus for maximum clarity across the field of view. The SkyMaster weighs over 9.5 pounds, making it impossible to hold steady solo, so a rigid tripod adapter allows it to mount on most camera tripods or Celestron’s Regal Premium Tripod. Unlike a telescope, these specs can be used during daylight for long-distance viewing of jagged mountains or calving glaciers—just be sure you're a full 80 feet away from the closest object on which you’ll be focusing. Unlike most field glasses, these eyes in the sky are water resistant, not waterproof, so keep them covered up in wet weather.

At TripSavvy, our expert writers are committed to researching and writing thoughtful and editorially independent reviews of the best products for your trip. If you like what we do, you can support us through our chosen links, which earn us a commission. Learn more about our review process.