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Best Compact Binoculars for Hiking & Backpacking

Binoculars are a great addition to gear for the avid outdoorsmen/ woman, whether it’s for birding, animal viewing, hunting, or just admiring the view. If you are looking to step up your game in the outdoors, a good set of binoculars should be your next purchase! 

Compact binoculars are smaller, lighter, and more convenient than full or even some of the bulkier mid-size binoculars. They are great for backpacking and hiking, when you don’t want to be weighed down but still want to get as much as you can out of your experience. I take my compact binoculars everywhere I go. 

They are small enough that I can leave them in my backpack all the time and still powerful enough to spot birds or wildlife from a long distance.

Best Compact Binoculars for Hiking & Backpacking

While we have mostly mentioned below our top picks for “compact” binoculars, we have also listed a few “waterproof and mid-range” choices. 

Let’s get to it.

Leica Ultravid BR 10 x 25 Compact Bino

best compact binoculars for hiking
  • Magnification: 10x
  • Lens: 25mm
  • Weight: 9.4oz / 265g

The Leica 10×25 Ultravid Binoculars are bright, sharp, compact, functional, and robust! At a high(er) price tag, they should be!

Almost all the Ultravid-elements that the bino engineers could miniaturize found their way into these mini-binoculars, which fit comfortably into almost any pocket or pouch. The use of aspherical lenses offers the observer a sharp image in full scale without color altering. Because of this, the short close-up distance this little Ultravid brings close up things even closer.

These binoculars live up to the name – Ultravid – in the case of “robust” because a newly developed vulcanization (process of hardening rubber materials) method ensures that the rubber engineering is inseparable from the metal housing even in the harshest conditions. 

Their robustness is further evidenced by being guaranteed watertight up to 16.5 feet to prevent fogging. The shock-absorbing black rubber coating offers a fantastic grip.

These are a great find if you are looking to step up your game out there!

PROS

  • High magnification
  • Small compact size
  • Unique single knob diopter correction
  • Waterproof to 16.5 feet

CONS

  • Higher price tag $$
  • Case not included

Zeiss 8 x 25 Terra ED Compact Pocket Grey-Black Binocular

  • Magnification: 8x
  • Lens: 25mm
  • Weight: 310G / .683lb

The Zeiss Terra ED Compact Pocket 10×25 are a great pair of binos to start with for your first purchase! They deliver breathtaking images enlarging them at 10x magnification and are easy to use with smooth, exact focusing in any situation. They are great for the novice as well, looking to get a better view. 

Thanks to their operating temperature range of -4 to +145F and the waterproof casing, these binoculars are a reliable companion even in extreme conditions. This is especially useful if you are backpacking or birding. 

With its folding design and the low weight of just 310 g, the Terra ED Bino is exceptionally compact and easy to transport. These binoculars are for anyone who wants to see every detail without dragging around extra weight. They conveniently fit in your pack, jacket pouch, or hanging inside your shirt for easy access

PROS

  • Extremely compact
  • Outstanding images
  • Functional handling
  • Weatherproof (-4 to +145F)
  • Hydrophobic ZEISS MC coating

CONS

  • Case not included

Vortex Optics Diamondback 8 x 28 Binoculars

vortex optics diamndback binoculars
  • Magnification: 8x
  • Lens: 28mm
  • Weight: 1.6 lbs

The Vortex Diamondback HD 8×28 Binoculars bring life to optical performance, outstanding contrast, and resolution. Their lightweight, rugged, and compact design helps bridge the gap of the average outdoor lover who is looking for premium optics at an affordable price. 

The Vortex Optics Diamondback features HD optics – an excellent value for money. Backed by Vortex’s VIP Lifetime Warranty, you will be sure that these binos will last!

They have great optics and even smaller designs. The fully-waterproof and fog-proof Vortex Diamondback HD 8×28 features an 8x magnification and 28mm lens with HD optical system and phase correction.  

These are the perfect companion for general use, travelers, birders, hunters, and more while delivering outstanding optical performance at an affordable price.

PROS

  • HD Optics
  • Dielectric coating for bright, clear views
  • ArmorTek Coatings PLUS Rubber Armour to protect the binoculars from life’s bumps, scratches, and drops
  • Sleek, robust design
  • Fully fog proof

CONS

  • No tripod attachment

Celestron 71330 Nature DX 8 x 32

best binoculars for backpacking
  • Magnification: 8x 
  • Lens: 32mm
  • Weight: 1.75lbs

The Celestron 71330 Nature DX binoculars are a substantial addition to take with you on your outdoor activities. They’re durable enough even to take on some of the more extreme outdoor activities, especially with inclement weather. 

You’ll probably notice the super affordable price tag, but make no mistake, you still get a top-quality product with light management coupled with crystal clear focus.

While there’s no color distortion, it does give you vibrant, undimmed color at any time of day. That said, astronomy fans get a bonus with this pair, as you can use them for night sky viewing. This feature is not included on all binoculars, so it’s a total score! 

The Celestron binoculars are durable, dynamic (yes, you really can use them at night and dusk), and overall a great value. These affordable binoculars work for just about anyone with any kind of hobby or outdoor activity.

PROS

  • Ideal for birdwatching
  • Included carry case, lens cloth, strap and lens cover
  • Waterproof and fog proof
  • Can be aligned easily
  • Tripod mountable

CONS

  • Hard eyecups can be uncomfortable for some
  • Some shadowing at edges of frames

Wingspan Optics 8 x 32 Compact Binoculars

  • Magnification: 8x
  • Lens: 32mm
  • Weight: .95lbs

The Wingspan Optics is a high-quality set of binoculars that won’t stretch your budget. They’re super easy to use and focus, not to mention to carry around thanks to their lightweight. 

If you’re a bird watcher, these are a great product and value for money. The other great thing is that you get a clear picture at a wide range of distances and focus. Other binoculars may struggle at specific depths. They’ve also come with a convenient carrying case, lens cover, lens cloth, and ergonomic neck strap.

Every level of bird watcher, hunter, and outdoor lover can enjoy these binoculars, thanks to the quality views and ease of use they offer. You can comfortably carry these around for hours, whether you’re mostly holding them or carrying them around on the neck strap.

PROS

  • Power - 8x times closer
  • Close Focus - 3m
  • Tripod adaptable
  • Water Resistant/ Fog Proof
  • Carry case, lens cover, lens cloth and strap included

CONS

  • Have more weight when compared to their counterparts
  • Though said to be “waterproof,” users cannot submerge it in water. However, the binoculars can withstand splashes of water.

Carsen RD Series Open-Bridge Compact Binoculars

best compact binoculars for hiking
  • Magnification: 8x
  • Lens: 26mm
  • Weight: .6lbs

Carson optics has a series of binoculars covering a wide range of prices ($75-$175) and quality. Among them, these RD series binoculars fall in the mid-price category. However, in terms of the quality and features, they will certainly beat many other upper mid-range binoculars.

The Carsen RD Open-Bridge Binoculars have an ideal magnification power of 8X. In addition to that, it has an objective lens of 26mm, too. According to peer-reviewed articles, most experts agree that 8X magnification is the best for anyone who needs a smoother watching experience. This is excellent advice for any of the binoculars we have reviewed! 

Carson RD Series 8×26 has an open bridge body design, which I liked on these. The open bridge design makes the barrels open to hold more easily and comfortably. It’s an excellent feature for people with larger hands.

The body is made of a polycarbonate frame and covered by the finely textured rubber coating. The polycarbonate frame makes these binoculars a little more affordable. The twist-up eyecups on these binoculars rotate smoothly, but can also be a little finicky if handled wrong.

O-ring Technology is great for preventing internal condensation in damp/dewy conditions – and ultimately, the reason these binos are fog proof. With this technology, the binoculars will enjoy a high-end waterproof touch. Overall, this is a great binocular for the novice outdoorsman looking to see things a bit clearer!

PROS

  • Price
  • Open bridge
  • Lightweight/compact
  • Wide field of view
  • Excellent optics
  • Included case, lens cover, lens cloth, and strap

CONS

  • Not fully multi-coated (air-to-glass surfaces have been coated to improve light transmission and reduce glare)

Kavenz 8 x 32 Compact Binocular

  • Magnification: 8x
  • Lens: 32mm
  • Weight: 1.06 lbs

The Kavenz 8×32 is at the lowest price point of our reviews and is extremely compact. They fit neatly in the palm of your hand, making them an excellent feature if you are backpacking or hunting, as you will reduce the space and weight to save it for other gear. 

Despite their small structure, they’re super powerful! They have a wide field of view, letting you spot nearby animals, birds, and landscapes from afar. They have a BAK-4 prism and FMC lens and eyepiece, providing you with a vibrant and clear view. 

These are a great “starter” binocular for someone looking to get a better view of the outdoors without breaking the bank!

PROS

  • Non-slip grips
  • 7.2-degree viewing angle
  • Carry case included
  • Very compact
  • Fog proof/damp proof
  • Durable and solid
  • Price

CONS

  • Made primarily of plastic
  • Few accessories provided

Maven C2 10 x 28 Compact Binoculars

  • Magnification: 10x
  • Lens: 28mm
  • Weight: 1.25lbs

Maven has many binocular variations, the latest version being the C2 – the high specification compact series. While these are on the higher mid-high price range, they perform to high standards. The C2 Binoculars Series comes with ED glass lenses. This is very rare when it comes to compact binos. However, it works better since it comes with fully multi-coated optics.

The C2 Binoculars Series from Maven used the phase-corrected prisms and, more surprisingly, the dielectric coatings. The dielectric coatings are best for maximum reflectivity and will provide the highest possible performances while focusing in on your point of interest.

In addition, the Maven C2 Compacts also use the protective coatings that are added to their exterior lenses for additional durability. They are fully fog and waterproof. They will work efficiently under extreme weather conditions and use the lightweight polycarbonate shell.

The C2 binoculars from Maven are great, they have a super-wide field of view. It also has a large exit pupil for better performances in low lit areas.

PROS

  • Has a sturdy and robust frame
  • The ED glass lens enhances color transmission and image brightness
  • It is light in weight and compact
  • Price

CONS

  • Made primarily of plastic
  • Few accessories provided

Bushnell H20 8 x 42 Waterproof Binoculars

  • Magnification: 8x
  • Lens: 42mm
  • Weight: 1.56 lbs

The Bushnell H2O 8×42 Waterproof Binoculars are your ultimate on-the-water viewing companions. These H2O binoculars are O-ring sealed and nitrogen reduced to be an entirely waterproof and fog proof design. All of these features ensure clear and stunning views, no matter how wet it gets. 

These binos include multi-coated optics and premium quality BAK-4 Porro prism glass to maximize light transmission and clarity. From mountain landscapes to ocean views – everything looks better through these binoculars.

This compact and waterproof binocular by Bushnell is ready for incredible viewing. It features an 8x magnification in a 42mm objective lens for an incredibly long reach. Fully multi-coated optics mean superior light transmission and brightness. The highest quality optics and optical equipment have been within reach of Bushnell for 65 years.

An enhanced soft texture grip keeps them in your hands no matter the weather conditions. These binoculars are 100% waterproof and fog proof (which many can’t say) thanks to the O-rings sealed and nitrogen construction. 

These are foldable, all while not having to worry about immersion in water – staying dry inside. The interior optical surfaces won’t fog due to rapid temperature change or humidity either.

A large center-focus knob for easy adjustments and twist-up eyecups with longer eye relief is another great feature. 

This binocular was built with non-slip blue rubber armor. The armor protects against bumps and shock, prevents sliding, and provides a firm grip when wet. The binoculars have been further enhanced with a Soft Texture Grip to keep them on board and in your hands in the most challenging conditions.

These are a great addition to any outdoorsman looking to step up their binocular game!

PROS

  • Powerful aquatic binoculars by Bushnell
  • Fully waterproof and fog proof for improved maritime performance
  • Compact but effective BaK-4 roof prism system
  • Multi-coated optics improve light transmission rates
  • Non-slip rubber armor with grip improving Soft Texture Grip
  • Twist-up eyecups accommodate all face shapes, even glasses wearers

CONS

  • A bit bulky
  • Case and accessories not included can be added on for extra)

Nikon Trailblazer 8 x 25 ATB Waterproof Black Binoculars

  • Magnification: 8x
  • Lens: 25mm
  • Weight: .75lbs

The Nikon Trailblazer 8×25 ATB Binoculars are rounding out our reviews. They are compact with a sleek body designed for birdwatching, travel, sport, and especially hunting. The Trailblazer 25mm’s are one of the best binoculars for hunting in the low-price range. 

Optically, these binoculars use 25mm Objective Lens, made from Eco-glass without the use of lead and coated with multiple anti-reflective layers, provide crisp, sharp viewing, and improve low-light performance.

The BAK4 high index prisms give extra-high resolution images. This allows them to work well in poor light conditions, so you won’t have to worry if you’re watching birds, hunting at dawn and dusk, or even a night out at the theater.

The body is made from rubber-armored (rather than metal), providing a solid and firm grip, whether wet or dry. The bridge in the middle is hollow plastic, but it feels very sturdy. However, a non-slip exterior layer exterior always feels better in your hand.

The eye relief is 10mm, pretty good for compact binoculars. It’s enough for those who wear glasses to see the most field of vision. The large and central focus wheel and adjustable diopter make focusing easy, even while wearing thin gloves. The lightweight also makes it easy to change focus while still maintaining the view of interest.

These Nikon Trailblazers are a great addition to your outdoor adventure, especially if you head into inclement weather.

PROS

  • Eco-glass without the use of arsenic or lead
  • Multiple anti-reflective layers
  • BaK4 high index prisms
  • Good close focus distance
  • Extremely light and compact
  • 100 waterproof and fog proof

CONS

  • Case and accessories not included (can be added for an extra price)

How to Choose Binoculars for Hiking and Backpacking

Having binoculars can make any trip more fun, memorable, and let’s be honest – clear! 

Binoculars are easy to find online or shopping, but sifting through all of the technical mumbo jumbo and figuring out which pair is best for you can be intimidating and time consuming no matter your experience level. 

To make things easier, here’s a comprehensive buying guide that discusses the specifications and factors you need to consider before buying binoculars. Most importantly — your own particular needs all deserve careful thought when choosing binoculars.

Additionally, here’s some help from our friends at REI to further narrow your searches if you need just a little more guidance. 

Magnification

When shopping for a pair of binoculars, you’ll often see a two numbers, seperated with a “X”, such as 8 X 32. 
 
The first number, is the magnification, which we’l discuss now. The second number represents diameter of the objective lens (in mm). The objectlive lens size is more of an indication of the binoculars overall weight, which we’ll discuss in a second.
 

With that in mind, the higher the number, the higher the magnification. More magnification results in larger objects in the view and more ability to distinguish detail. It also means that the binoculars will be harder to hold steady, a narrower field of view, and less apparent depth of focus. 

There are tricks to make it easier to hold binoculars steady (like a tripod), but even 10x may be too difficult for some people to steady with a still hand. It may take some practice, and in the end you’ll find a magnification that works for you. 

Weight & Size

Before we completely confuse you by talking about weight and size, let’s narrow it down. What we’re really talking about is mass. 

It takes more force (heading downwards), and therefore more energy to lift a heavier binocular. This will lead you to feel more strained during the day. A heavier binocular will also resist moving, so it should be easier to hold steady.

If you have made it this far in the article, you have taken the time to do the research. You will also find a wide range of weight specifications for binoculars in the same size class. One manufacturer has a line with a 10×42 that weighs 25 ounces and a 10×50 that weighs 29. Often the objective lens size contributes to the weight of a binocular, but it’s usually only a small factor. A lot depends on the design and material specs. 

If you want the extra light gathering capability, you can find binoculars within a reasonable weight range.

Unless you are very experienced or are counting every little ounce you have on you (for long-haul backpackers), you would have a hard time picking up a binocular and telling whether it weighed 28 ounces or 32.

The real concern should be balance rather than weight. A well-balanced binocular should put very little stress on your arms, wrists, and hands. A poorly balanced pair, even if it is lighter, will strain your muscles by forcing them to work against the unnatural torque.

Field of View

The field of view is the width of the scene in view (measured in feet). A wide field of view makes it easier to find birds when looking through the binoculars. 

The trade-off is in loss of the ability to resolve detail. Too wide a field of view will often result in fuzziness at the edges of the image.

What you use your binoculars for will determine how wide a field of view you really want or need. Like other aspects of the binoculars, you may need to do some trial and error to find the particular field of view you prefer. 

Durability

Binoculars are usually made of synthetic rubber, protecting the body of the binocular from physical harm due to bangs, bumps, and other elements. Looking out for a good “armour” or “coating” on your binoculars will be a good indicator of how durable and the conditions you can take them in. 

The more you pay for your binoculars, the better the outer coating is usually. 

If you’re using them consistently for hiking and backpacking, you will need a pair of binoculars that can hold up to the elements as well as being carried around. You may find yourself setting your binoculars on a rock while you dig through your pack, or maybe you tripped while scanning for birds and dropping them. Whatever it may be, your binoculars should be durable enough to be used outdoors.

Waterproof / Fog Proof

Weatherproofing ranges from none, to “splashes,” to waterproof, to nitrogen purged. Once again, your intended use and climate will drastically influence the need for waterproofing and fog proofing. 

Waterproof sealing is done with rubber “O” rings. Active birders and animal spectators should get nitrogen purged waterproofing, whether they live in a humid climate or not. Nitrogen purging can also keep out dust, sand, or anything else that can get inside the binoculars. 

Additionally, this guideline helps with fog, especially in humid climates.

Eye Relief

The eyepiece should be at a comfortable distance from your eyes while viewing. The distance of the eyepiece from your eyes when viewing is called ‘eye relief’. 

For example:

  1. 5-15mm distance from eyes is comfortable for normal viewing
  2. 12-15mm eye relief if wearing glasses

Price

Price is a personal decision, but it’s true what they say: You get what you pay for. If you are looking at making a long term investment, upping your budget will give you a long-lasting, quality product, usually with a great warranty.

While you can get a good pair for under $100, they fancier pairs with more “bells and whistles” usually range from $150-$750. 

Final Thoughts

We hope our list of top-rated compact binoculars for hiking and backpacking helped in your search. I know it was a lot to take in, but knowing your frequency of use and activity will certainly help narrow down the list.

Without a good base of knowledge about binoculars, choosing a pair that will hold up to the elements and perform well in the field can be really hit or miss. 

A good piece of gear (regardless of what it is) is always a smart investment in the outdoors, so try and remember that. I’ve always sworn by the term “pay now or pay later.” The good news is that you can still get a decent pair of binoculars without breaking the bank! 

Then, when you’re ready to upgrade and have more knowledge under your belt about what you want in your binoculars, then you can choose to pay a bit more for a higher-quality compact pair of binoculars.

Sources

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