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Whether you are hiking long distances to hunt, backpacking for multiple days on end, or just traveling, finding a pair of binoculars that deliver high-quality optics in a lightweight, compact, and durable package is critical. The big challenge when creating a compact binocular is making sure that full-sized features are not lost when converting to a smaller size. While things like loss of light transmission are inevitable with the shrinking objective lens diameters, good optics can still deliver quality images in bright light situations. Most compact binoculars range in the 8x20 to 10x25 sizes, while a few get away with somewhat larger lens openings while remaining pocket-friendly. Here are our favorite compact binoculars for use in a variety of situations.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Swarovski CL Companion 8x30
The CL Companion binoculars are compact, lightweight (17.3 ounces) binoculars that make an excellent companion for those on the move. The multi-coated lenses deliver high-contrast images with accurate true-to-life color. The lower 8x magnification and 30 mm objective lens diameter produce a wide 396-foot field of view that immerses you in the scene and cuts down on hand-shake. The thin bridge construction enables the binoculars to fold up small, while thumb depressions on the underside of the barrels provide for a steady and comfortable viewing experience.
A center wheel enables you to easily dial in the focus, while full rubber armoring adds shock resistance and a no-slip grip. Nitrogen purged, the binoculars are both fogproof and waterproof, submersible to 13 feet. The binoculars come with a field bag, shoulder strap, and wrist strap, plus two objective lens covers and an eyepiece rain guard.
Best Budget: Bushnell H20 8x25
Although they're designed to be used in the elements (thanks to their 100 percent waterproof nature), the Bushnell H2O make a great all-around binocular for a variety of situations and can be transported easily in a pack or your pocket. The 8x magnification delivers a shake-free image even on unstable ground. The non-slip rubber armor protects the binoculars should you drop them while also adding good grip in damp environments.
Multi-coated lenses increase light transmission and image brightness for clear viewing, while the 341-foot field of view lets you take in a lot of the scenery at once. Constructed to be 100 percent waterproof, the binoculars are O-ring sealed and nitrogen purged for fog-free performance. The twist-up eyecups let you adjust the generous 13.5 mm eye relief, while the large center focus knob lets you quickly dial in on your target.
Best for Sporting Events: Levenhuk Rainbow 8x25
Fall means football season so whether you are rooting for the local high school team or warming the nosebleed seats at Lambeau Field, the Levenhuk Rainbow binoculars will bring you closer to the action. With a foldable body, the binoculars easy stow in your jacket or hoodie pocket. The 8x magnification puts you in the middle of the action, while the 25 mm objective lens diameter delivers a wide, 436-foot field of view to quickly scan the field or follow that winning throw.
A central focus wheel enables you to quickly dial in the action, while the diopter adjustment allows you to fine-tune the binoculars to your own vision. Twist-up eyecups can be used to adjust the 10.1 mm eye relief. Waterproof and fogproof, the binoculars will perform even when it starts to snow during the game. Each pair comes with a convenient case for storage and transportation, a neck strap, and a cleaning wipe.
Best for Hiking: Zeiss Victory Pocket 8x25
When you are walking long distances, the last thing you want is extra weight in your pack. Weighing just 10.9 ounces, the lightweight Victory Pocket binoculars from Zeiss fold up to save space and are designed to be used with just one hand. The 8x magnification and 25 mm objective lens diameter create a generous 357-foot field of view.
The multi-coated lenses deliver a bright and clear image, while each lens and eyepiece is further treated with Zeiss’ LotuTec coating that causes water and dirt to simply roll off the surface. Waterproof and filled with nitrogen, the lenses will not fog up even with extreme temperature changes. The rubber armor adds protection from the occasional dings and scrapes.
Best for Safari: Leica Ultravid 10x32 HD-PLUS
If you are headed to Africa on safari, you’ll want to bring the lightweight and compact Ultravid binoculars from Leica along for the trip. With unrivaled optics, thanks to the multi-coated lenses and phase-coated roof prisms, you’ll be sure to never miss the chance to spot all of the Big Five. The 32 mm objective lens diameter delivers bright, clear images during the day and will even see you through those dusk animal rides.
While you get a slightly smaller field of view than the 8x magnification, the 10x magnification lets you see greater details on animals, even at long distances. The 352-foot field of view is nothing to scoff at, however, and will let you quickly scan the horizon for lions or cheetahs. The binoculars come with a contoured neoprene carrying strap, front lens caps, eyepiece caps, and a cordura case for easy transport.
Best for Hunting: NIKON 8218 TRAILBLAZER 10×25
A central focus knob lets you quickly dial in a clear image of your target. Multiple layers of anti-reflective compounds offer excellent brightness and resolution. Waterproof and fogproof, these binoculars will stand up to the harshest of hunting environments. Weighing just 9.9 ounces, these binoculars won’t weigh down your pack if you are hiking for some distance following your prey. The 342-foot field of view lets you quickly scan the horizon for animals, while the 10x magnification ensures you can correctly identify your target — whether its counting horns or making sure it really is a deer in the thick undergrowth.
Best for Birdwatching: Vortex Diamondback 8X28
With 8x magnification and 28 mm objective lens diameter, these Vortex Diamondback binoculars offer an impressive 332-foot field of view, one of the largest for this size compact. Fully multi-coated lenses deliver bright, clear images. The comfortable 18 mm eye relief can be adjusted via the twisting, multi-position eyecups. A center dial lets you focus both barrels simultaneously, while a right eye diopter accommodates the focal difference in your eyes. Waterproof and fogproof, these binoculars will continue to perform in extreme weather conditions. Rubber armor adds durability and a no-slip grip.
Best for Marine: The Navigator Pro C 7x30
Whether you are a recreational boater, sailor, or deep-sea angler, the Steiner 7x30 Navigator Pro C binoculars will be your best mate. The 7x magnification is marine standard and coupled with the 30 objective lens diameter creates a wide, 371-foot field of view and stable image for tracking other boats, buoys, and bridge numbers even in rough water. As an added bonus in marine environments, the binoculars feature an illuminated compass to help with navigation. There’s no need to constantly focus as the sports-auto focus system lets you focus each eyepiece to your vision once, then keeps the image sharp from 20 yards to infinity. The rubber armoring adds durability and provides a non-slip grip in wet environments. Waterproof (submersible to two meters) and fogproof, these 18-ounce binoculars will stand up to extreme conditions at sea.