CAMPING & HIKING

Best Compact Binoculars: Choosing a Pair for Your Needs and Budget

Best compact binoculars
Daniel Carraway
Written by Daniel Carraway

The thought of being able to quickly whip out compact binoculars from a pocket or waist pouch is the stuff of dreams for people on once-in-a-lifetime safari trips, adrenalin-drenched outdoor activities and action-packed sporting events. For those of you who couldn’t care to battle with the inconvenient size and weight of a full-frame binoculars, having the best compact binoculars is the way to go.

Generally, compact binoculars have objective lens smaller than 30 mm, which is also responsible for their small size and light weight. They are also foldable, making it easier to pack and take with you. Compact binoculars are usually used by amateur outdoor enthusiasts, or people who don’t want to carry their heavy and big binoculars with them all the time.

So you are probably asking yourself, how do I buy a pair of compact binocs? Shopping for one can be a little bit tricky especially if you’re just a beginner. No need to fret though because we have provided a quick guide that will help you pinpoint the best features to consider when shopping for a pair of compact binocs. On top of that, we have reviewed a number of pairs that we think you should check out.

Our Top Picks

Product NameWeightMagnificationBest UsePrice
Tasco Essentials0.4 lb8xBird watching and enjoying natureCheck price on Amazon
Bushnell Falcon 10x501.7 lb10xBird watching and scouting over longer distancesCheck price on Amazon
Beileshi 20x50 HD1.75 lb20xHiking, climbing, scouting, bird watchingCheck price on Amazon
Beileshi 8-24x50 HD Wide-Angle2.14 lb8-24xCamping hiking, night hunting, and scoutingCheck price on Amazon
Tasco Essentials 7×35 Zip1.41 lb7xHiking and bird watching tripsCheck price on Amazon
Nikon 7218 Action0.5 lb10xLonger range scouting, hiking, and bird watchingCheck price on Amazon
Beileshi 50x50 Surveillance Powerview2.1 lb50xSurveillance, camping, bird watchingCheck price on Amazon

Features to Consider When Buying

Binoculars are extremely intricate and getting the right one is not necessarily easy when you do not know what to look for. We have looked at some of the Specific features to consider when shopping for your pair of compact binoculars.

Porro Vs. Roof Prism

Be it compact binoculars or a full-frame one, they’re usually classified into two types: Porro prism and roof prism. These affect the binoculars’ shape and handling ease.

While Porro prism designs are usually cheaper, as they don’t need some of those hefty-priced coatings to achieve the same kind of optical quality as a roof prism design, it usually sports a rounded shape which may come across less compact than a streamlined roof prism design. However, if your jacket pockets or carry pouch is big enough, the more affordable Porro prism compact binoculars may not be a bad choice after all.

Less Is More for Magnification

While having a small size and being lightweight could be some of the main reasons that you’re looking for compact binoculars, one common complaint with compact binoculars is that it can be tricky to stabilize, due to the very same factors which prompted you to buy it in the first place.

Man looking through binocs

Unless you can always find a tree or a solid wall to brace yourself against for more stability, it’s recommended that getting a compact that offers 8x magnification is good enough for all-round general purposes and something you can easily hold steadily.

However, why is 8x magnification deemed easier to stabilize? Why not higher magnifications since those enable you to look further? How about zoom compacts that seem to offer more usage flexibility? For a start, at higher magnifications, say 10x, your every subtle movement will also be magnified, thus affecting your viewing experience.

Moreover, an 8x binoculars offer a wide enough field of view that makes it easier for you to spot that elusive elephant or bird. When it comes to zoom compact binoculars, they tend to present severe optical issues at higher magnifications which are a great damper on your viewing experience.

Ease of Focusing

You should be able to easily turn and adjust focusing with just one finger on a thoughtfully-designed compact binoculars. If you’re planning to use your compact binoculars outdoors or in extreme climates, this ease of one-finger operation on a sizable focusing button is all the more important if you think about it.

Woman looking through binocs

While a tiny, dainty focusing button may be a unique design feature on some compact binoculars, these are best suited for use indoors, say at the opera theater.

Field of View and Eye Relief

This refers to the width of the view when you peep through your binoculars. Due to space constraints that don’t allow for sophisticated eyepiece designs within a small body, compact binoculars seldom list ‘wide angle views’ among its features. However, most compact binoculars are designed with plenty of field of view. Make sure you check the field of view specifications on your desired compact model.

Eye relief means the distance of your eyes from the eyepieces of the binoculars that allows you to see a complete field of view. This is especially important if you’re wearing spectacles. As your spectacles will prevent your eyes from getting as close to the binoculars eyepiece as a non-spectacles wearer, it’s important that you check the specifications of your potential buy for enough eye relief. Sure, you can always remove your spectacles before peeping into your binoculars.

However, isn’t that a bit of a hassle? Compact binoculars are meant to be a breeze to use, not another hassle while you’re trying to spot fleeting signs of a wild rhino. So look out for binoculars with enough eye relief, especially if you’re extremely myopic. Generally, most spectacles-wearing folks need a minimum of 14mm of eye relief to see enough field of view with their spectacles on. However, the amount of eye relief may vary from one individual to another.

Built To Last, Waterproof and With Armoring

Think about how you’ll be using your compact binoculars. It’ll usually be during action-packed outdoor activities such as dirt biking, cross-country cycling, and kayaking, among others. You’ll also love to have your compact binoculars in hand at hot, sweaty sporting events or dusty safari trips, bush walks or bird watching expeditions. So your pair of second eyes should be able to withstand a few bumps, falls, dust, sweaty palms and be waterproof.

Durable binocs

Being waterproof not only guards against moisture and changes in temperature, the binoculars will also usually be better protected against dust and dirt. If the compact binoculars have the waterproof feature, retailers will usually highlight it. Look for the word “waterproof” in binoculars specifications. Bear in mind that other labels such as rain proof, weather proof or climate proof may mean very different things from being waterproof.

If the advertisement of your desired compact binoculars says “with armoring”, that means it’s outfitted with certain features that make it more comfortable to use in extreme temperatures or easier to have a better grip. Note that armoring doesn’t make binoculars waterproof as that has got to do with internal seals and not an outer covering.

Best Products on Today’s Market

Now that you have the knowledge to find the perfect compact binoculars, we have selected a few to simplify the process for you. Here is our selection of the top compact binoculars that you could find on the market today.

Tasco Essentials 8x21mm BinocularsTasco Essentials Binocular

Price: $25-$50

Weight: 0.4 lb

Magnification: 8x

Specific features: Sturdy construction, rubber armor protection, lightweight body, sleek roof prism design with 8x magnification, 21 mm objective lens and 383 ft field of view, fully coated optics

Best use: Bird watching and sightseeing

Description: The Tasco Essentials 8x21mm Binoculars are designed for the beginners and feature an extremely durable, yet lightweight body. The rubber armor protection is sure to give you the added ruggedness and durability for accidental drops as well.

Some first-time binoculars users love the Tasco Essentials Binoculars’ 8x magnification which many think is ideal for untrained optics user. Bespectacled users like the fold-down rubber eyecups as they don’t have to remove their spectacles to look through the Essentials.

People marvel at the crisp images and easy-to-use focusing button. Other users are also pleased with the neck strap which is long enough for any neck size and sturdy enough for the rough-and-tumble outdoors.

Some people who wanted to spend some time watching out for birds complain that the Essentials binoculars don’t let them watch for any time longer than a few minutes before their eyes start to hurt. Others say that they have a tough time trying to get the binoculars to focus and there are severe image degradation and distortion off-center.

Others are a little disappointed to realize that there’s a lot of degrading in image quality in low-light situations. A couple of users are unhappy that the glue on the adjustable eyepieces isn’t strong enough to hold the eyepieces securely in place.

PROS:

  • Excellent durability
  • 8x magnification
  • Easy to use focus button
  • Includes a comfortable neck strap
  • Lightweight

CONS:

  • Eyes get a little tired after prolonged use

Related: The Tasco 10×25 Compact Roof Prism Monocular is a little smaller and still gives you up to 288 feet of range. The design is durable and compact, which means it easily fits into your pocket.

Check the price on Amazon

Bushnell Falcon 10×50 BinocularsBushnell Falcon 10x50 Wide Angle Binoculars

Price: Approx. $40

Weight: 1.7 lb

Magnification: 10x

Specific features: High-quality optics rubber, abrasion-resistant armor, Porro prism design, 10x magnification, 50 mm lens, 9 mm eye relief, 25 ft close focusing distance

Best use: Bird watching and scouting over longer distances

Description: The Bushnell Falcon 10×50 Wide Angle Binoculars is a heavier, yet still durable binocular which has been made from durable materials and coated with an abrasion and shock resistant rubber coating.

The 10x magnification is really good for bringing smaller objects nearer and it also features InstaFocus technology for zooming in and getting great clarity at shorter ranges.

Some users are pleasantly surprised at how clearly the stars appear when they used it on clear, starry nights. Others used it for bird-watching and are happy with the clarity, brilliant colors and ease of adjusting focus. Some give it to their kids and the little ones found it so lightweight and easy to use. Of course, there are several thumbs-up for the reasonable price tag as well.

The warranty on Bushnell Falcon 10×50 Wide Angle Binoculars isn’t inclusive of shipping costs which can be easily half the cost of the binoculars. Some users are upset that their binoculars are poorly made and most metal edges have rough edges due to shoddy milling. The lens caps are loose and have the tendency to fall off too.

PROS:

  • Durable and rugged design
  • Really affordable
  • Good clarity
  • Abrasion and shock resistant

CONS:

  • The lens cap is often times loose and tends to fall off

Related: Even though the binoculars are rugged and durable, the Voodoo Tactical Binocular Case will certainly come in handy and this will ensure that your binoculars are secured when they are not in use. The bag is really affordable and easy to carry along.

Check the price on Amazon

Beileshi 20×50 HD BinocularsBEILESHI 20X50 HD

Price: $50-$70

Weight: 1.75 lb

Magnification: 20x

Specific features: Sturdy Porro prism design with rubber, abrasion-resistant armor, night vision feature, 20x magnification with 50 mm objective lens and swift auto-focusing, diopter adjustment

Best use: Hiking, climbing, scouting, bird watching

Description: The Beileshi 20×50 HD Binoculars offer balance between optical performance and quality construction, at an affordable price. They are for pro-users of binoculars, featuring 20x magnification, fast focusing, and more much-relished features. Some active bikers are very happy that the rubber exterior offers a fantastic grip even with sweaty palms.

The binoculars also include a rubber abrasion resistant armor that should improve the overall durability and the diopter can easily be adjusted for users of all ages. This set of binoculars will be really effective for scouting and use when traveling as it is also completely waterproof. They also have night vision, although they cannot see anything in total darkness.

One of the downsides is the problem to focus in on close distances. This does hinder the use for zooming in on closer objects. The binoculars are also quite expensive, but they view is crystal clear when looking at a longer distance.

PROS:

  • Durable and waterproof
  • Good 20x magnification
  • Great gripping
  • Easy diopter adjustment

CONS:

  • Quite expensive
  • Focus is bad at close ranges

Related: The Miluo Tech 16×52 Dual Focus Monocular Telescope is complete with 16x magnification. The focus is also much better for shorter ranges and this will be a great addition to your bigger binoculars.

Check the price on Amazon

Beileshi 8-24×50 HD Wide-Angle Zoom Binoculars8-24X50 HD Wide-Angle

Price: Approx. $50

Weight: 2.14 lb

Magnification: 8-24x

Specific features: Quality Porro prism design with 8-24x magnification, 50 mm lens, rubber, abrasion-resistant finish, auto zoom mode, night vision feature

Best use: Camping hiking, night hunting, and scouting

Description: The Beileshi 8-24×50 HD Wide-Angle Zoom Binoculars is one of the best-sellers in this category. The binocs are very user-friendly and suitable for many purposes, from spectator sports, sky lines to indoor concerts. It’s suitable for both beginners and expert users as it has an adjustable bridge shape.

The Porro prism offers great auto-focus, and the addition of night vision should be perfect for hunting and scouting at night and the perfect clarity in low light conditions makes it perfect for use in virtually any weather conditions. Rubber has also been added to the finish and this does make it abrasion resistant and much more durable.

The center cover in the middle keeps falling out and frustrated a few users. Some female users are not too happy with the rather hefty weight of the binoculars as their arms start to feel a little tired after holding it for some time.

PROS:

  • Excellent durability
  • Includes night vision
  • Really affordable

CONS:

  • Can be quite heavy

Related: Since they are quite heavy, you will probably need a really comfortable neck strap when using the binocs. We recommend buying the OP/TECH USA E-Z Comfort Strap, which is fully adjustable and pretty much universal for most binocs and cameras.

Check the price on Amazon

Tasco Essentials 7×35 Zip BinocularTasco Essentials 7x35 Zip Binocular

Price: Approx. $23

Weight: 1.41 lb

Magnification: 7x

Specific features: HD clarity, durable Porro prism design, rubber armor, 500 ft field of view

Best use: Hiking and bird watching trips

Description: The Tasco Essentials 7×35 Zip Binocular is a versatile, all purpose binocular, coming at an affordable price. It’s constructed of quality materials that have been extensively tested, guaranteeing that the product can take a beating. It features a durable Porro prism for perfect vision and it has been covered in a rubber casing for added durability.

The Zip focus system allows you to move through the entire focus range in less than a half-turn. Some users brought along the Tasco Essentials 7×35 Zip Binocular (Black) on hiking and bird-watching trips and they love the ease of focusing and how light it is. The binoculars are also really easy to use and focus for people wearing specialist spectacles.

One of the only complaints is the fact that the field of view is very narrow and you will need to spend a lot of time looking through the binoculars when scouting or excavating a larger area. The binocular is also really affordable for the avid hiker to use.

PROS:

  • Great durability
  • Decent zooming
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Reasonably priced

CONS:

  • Narrow field of view

Related: All glassy areas should be frequently cleaned, especially the ones meant for looking though. We recommend buying the Carson Stuff-It Microfiber Lens Cloth for cleaning your binocs, glasses, phone screens etc.

Check the price on Amazon

Nikon 7218 Action 10×50 BinocularsNikon 7218 Action 10x50

Price: Approx. $150

Weight: 0.5 lb

Magnification: 10x

Specific features: Multicoated, aspherical lens and BaK4 prisms, large exit pupils, rubber protective armor, made with arsenic and lead-free Eco-Glass

Best use: Longer range scouting, hiking, and bird watching

Description: The Nikon 7218 Action 10×50 Binoculars are known for the ultra-sharp clarity and versatility for general use without breaking the bank. People love using these binoculars at dusk, dawn and for leisure backyard astronomy as it offers stunning details every time.

The multicoated, aspherical eyepiece lenses and BaK4 prisms deliver bright, high-resolution images under all lighting conditions. They are waterproof, so you don’t have to worry about little rain, or if you accidently drop them on a wet surface.

They also feature Eco-Glass Optics, which are manufactured of lead and arsenic-free glass, and armored body, making them extremely durable. The fact that they are extremely well-made at an affordable price from a reputable name in optical technology makes the binoculars a worthy buy.

Some users are unhappy that the binoculars are not fog-proof and would even fog up while using it in the living room or back porch. People also mentioned that the optics sometimes become misaligned and produce blurry images.

PROS:

  • Longer range zoom
  • Excellent versatility
  • Great for low light conditions
  • All-weather resistant

CONS:

  • Misaligned optics often gives blurry images

Related: Maybe you will want to mount the binocs on a tripod, so for that we recommend the Nikon Binocular Tripod Adapter. It offers simple and secure attachment.

Check the price on Amazon

Beileshi 50×50 Surveillance Powerview BinocularsBeileshi 50x50 Surveillance Powerview Binoculars

Price: Approx. $50

Weight: 2.1 lb

Magnification: 50x

Specific features: Hi-resolution 50 mm objective lens, Porro prism, auto-focus, diopter adjustment

Best use: Surveillance, camping, bird watching

Description: The Beileshi 50×50 Surveillance Powerview Binoculars are designed from rubberized armor which makes for a steady and comfortable grip and its abrasion-resistant quality. People with poor eyesight are glad that they’re able to tweak the focusing easily.

The 50x magnification is also really good for getting up close and personal with what you are looking at and fine focusing is easily achievable with the easy to adjust diopter. The Porro prism is designed with auto-focusing function for convenience, and fine focusing is achievable with diopter adjustment. They offer superior optical quality and sturdy construction at an unbeatable price, and they come with protective carrying pouch and quality lens cloth.

This binocular isn’t as lightweight as it’s thought to be and some users said that they feel tired after holding the binoculars for a little while.

Some people, especially first-time binoculars users regretted their choice of a 50x binoculars as they find it tough to get steady images as their own little movements are magnified to a great extent as well.

PROS:

  • Decent durability
  • Impressive 50x magnification
  • Easy to adjust diopter for focusing
  • Good price

CONS:

  • Really heavy

Related: The Steiner 2212 Safari UltraSharp Binocular is a little more expensive, but it is also more durable and compact. It might not have the same magnification, but this will be ideal for safari and hunting trips.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap Up

While there may not be a pair of “perfect binoculars”, it’s possible to choose a pair that suits your needs and budget. So it’s important that you determine what you need from a pair of compact binoculars first before hoping to find the ones that you can use for your outdoor activities.

What do you think of our selection of binocs? Are there any compact binoculars we might have missed? The comment section is down below!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Daniel Carraway

Daniel Carraway

Daniel Carraway joined our team last year. He is a gear freak when it comes to hiking, climbing and camping. He went to REI Outdoor School to meet new people and learn best practices. Don’t even try to argue with him about the latest backpack or ice axe, he tried most of them. Daniel’s dream is to climb Mount Everest.