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11 Best Compact Binoculars for Travel (2023 Guide)

A list of 11 best compact binoculars for travel, perfect for hiking, backpacking, sightseeing, waterproof, lightweight, and more!

best compact binoculars for travel

During your travels, you may want to stop and admire the landscape around you. The many different places in the world have some amazing things to see, and some of them are very easy to miss if you are too far away.

Some views can only be appreciated from far, and making out the details can be difficult without a travel binocular set. Watching wildlife is something that almost requires binoculars, and is impossible to bird watch without.

But carrying regular binoculars around is ideal for a traveler, they are too cumbersome, large, and heavy. Regular binoculars may not fit in your backpack with all of your other stuff.

travel binoculars for hiking
Me looking at the peak of the mountain

For that reason, compact binoculars exist. In this article, we will explore the best compact binoculars for travel in2023, so that you may choose the best ocular equipment for your needs.

Compact binoculars come in various differing sizes, from the most mini to the almost not compact. They also range a lot in material quality, magnification and price. Also, each activity you may be doing on your travels has the best companion compact binoculars.

Quick Buying Guide


Best compact binoculars for hiking: Nikon Trailblazer 8×25 ATB Binoculars
Best budget compact binoculars: Celestron UpClose G2 8 x 21 Roof Binoculars
Best lightweight binoculars for travel: Nikon ACULON A30 10X25mm
Best all-around binoculars: Nikon Monarch M7 8×42
Best backpacking binoculars: Occer 12×25 Compact Binoculars
Best waterproof binoculars: Bushnell H2O Roof Prism Binoculars
Best binoculars for sightseeing: Vortex Optics Diamondback Binoculars 10×42


How do I choose Compact Travel Binoculars?

travel compact binoculars

The easiest way to decide on travel binoculars is by detailing exactly what it is you’ll be using them for. You can then decide on the below components to suit your needs.

Magnification

The best place to start is with magnification. Magnification is the process of enlarging the apparent size of the object you’re looking at.

If you’d like to view at a very long distance a higher magnification is for you, but bear in mind the view will be more shaky and unstable.

A shorter view is a lot steadier but of course, does not provide the same detail. A good middle-ground for travel binoculars is around 10x.

Prism

To accompany this, you also need to work out which prism material to go for. You can choose from either a prism or a porro.

A roof prism is streamlined and modern, although more expensive. Porro prisms have a wide field of view but are heavier, with a lower magnification.

Lens size

Lens size should also be considered, especially when looking into compact binoculars for travel.

Bigger lenses mean a brighter image, however, the binoculars will be heavier and bulkier. If you’re traveling light and do not require much power, a more compact pair would suit you.

For the same reasons, weight matters too. Anywhere between 200g and 500g are considered a good, light option.

Weather conditions

If you’re planning to use good binoculars in inclement weather, it may be beneficial to contemplate a waterproof or fog-proof pair.

Some specialist binoculars come ‘fully sealed’, with a rubber ring in place to stop water and molecules leaking into the chassis.

Similarly, lens coating is also important. These increase transmission of the view and offer a much crisper image.

The higher quality you purchase the better, although this could add a significant cost to your purchase.

When deciding which binoculars to purchase, it’s best to work out your priorities first. This will then significantly help you choose the perfect pair to fit your purpose.

What are the Best Compact Binoculars for Travel?

11Nikon Trailblazer 8×25 ATB Waterproof Black Binoculars

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Nikon Trailblazer
Nikon Trailblazer 8x25 ATB Waterproof Black Binoculars

Nikon Trailblazer 8×25 ATB, is one of the best compact binoculars for hiking as is lightweight and rugged, and it feels like it was made with hiking in mind. It has an 8x magnification, which is good enough for hikers.

The great thing about this compact binocular set is that it’s made from high-quality materials, and it feels very durable. The image is crisp and the optical quality has the Nikon name behind it, with excellent anti-fog and waterproof lenses.

Those are not very expensive for what you get, being a good pair of binoculars overall, a rugged companion for hiking or even mountain climbing.

The only two downsides to the Nikon Trailblazer are the lens caps, which are only for the eyepiece lenses with no front caps, and they are not sized right and tend to slip out of the binoculars.

The other downside to this set is that the focus knob is small and slow, so watching birds or fast-moving objects can be difficult, but that is of no concern if you are just hiking.

Pros

Cons

  • Great quality
  • Waterproof and anti-fog lenses
  • Very rugged and sturdy
  • Cap lenses could be better
  • Focus knob is small and slow

10Celestron UpClose G2 8 x 21 Roof Binoculars

Celestron UpClose G2
Celestron UpClose G2 8 x 21 Roof Binoculars

The Celestron UpClose is probably the best budget compact binoculars option, and you can find them on Amazon selling for $20-25 USD, sometimes even cheaper.

The great thing about this compact binocular set is that you are getting a lot of bang for your buck: the frame is made of rubber-covered aluminum, the lenses are multi-coated, and it comes with a carrying case and straps.

The overall quality of the set is good, the rubber and aluminum combo will prevent it from breaking apart in the first fall, but bear in mind that this is a budget option. You will not get the very best materials or lenses.

It has an 8x magnification, but sometimes the image quality may not be the best. For 20 bucks or so, those are the best compact binoculars available.

Pros

Cons

  • Price – $20 USD on Amazon
  • Rubber and aluminum frame
  • Decent lenses
  • Case and straps included
  • Not the best lenses available
  • Image may not be clear sometimes

9Nikon ACULON A30 10X25mm

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Nikon ACULON
Nikon ACULON A30 10X25mm

Another Nikon, and definitely the best lightweight binoculars for travel. We say this because of three things: cost-benefit, quality materials, and the lenses.

This compact binocular set has a 10x magnification, the central focus knob is smooth and responsive, and good field of vision. The ergonomic feature in the eyepieces is set up so you can use it for prolonged periods without hurting your face or straining your eyes.

It comes in a decent size, and can easily fit in a pocket. The lenses are made from ecological crystals, which means the lenses do not contain arsenic or lead in their composition.

It’s in a good price range, and it comes with the Nikon brand name, so you know it’s a durable piece.

The only downside is that it doesn’t have a lot of accessories, so you will need to find some of your own.

If you are just a traveler, and you don’t know what kinds of activities you will be doing at your destination and need a good compact binocular set, consider this one: our choice for the best travel binoculars.

Pros

Cons

  • Ergonomic features
  • Eco materials
  • Durable and well-made components
  • Great lenses
  • Accessories were an afterthought

8Nikon Monarch M7 8×42

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Nikon Monarch M7
Nikon Monarch M7 8x42

For our best all-around binoculars choice, we have the Nikon Monarch M7: with an 8x magnification, excellent light transmission, clear and sharp images, great ergonomics, made from the best materials, with the best Nikon lenses.

The quality of this option is very good, and so far it’s the most high-end compact binoculars on the market. It has a very rugged design, with its anti-fog and waterproof technology.

The Monarch line of binoculars has a good reputation in the market, and the compact option in the line is no exception, being one of the highest-rated binoculars on Amazon.

The accessories are great too, done with the same attention to detail and high-quality materials as the binoculars.

The one and only downside to this option is the salty price. It can get up to $400 American, sometimes more (after all, you are paying for the very best compact binoculars).

However, the price of those binoculars may not be the best thing for a traveler, as they draw a lot of attention. 

Pros

Cons

  • Excellent high-quality materials
  • Best ergonomics
  • Best lenses
  • Rugged, waterproof and anti-fog
  • Great accessories
  • Very expensive

7Occer 12×25 Compact Binoculars

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Occer 12x25 Compact Binoculars
occer 12x25 Compact Binoculars with Clear Low Light Vision, Large Eyepiece Waterproof Binocular for Adults Kids,High Power Easy Focus Binoculars for Bird Watching,Outdoor Hunting,Travel,Sightseeing

The design makes all the difference here: it can fit in most backpack pockets, and you can adjust all of the functions with only one hand.

These binoculars have a 12x magnification, with FMC broadband coating technology on the lenses, and can be used for most activities with ease. Occer 12×25 are excellent compact binoculars for birding too, as the knobs are responsive and of good quality.

It has weak light vision too, which allows the user to see in low light conditions (not in the dark, but in the very early morning or late afternoon, for example).

The price point is also a good thing for backpackers: it’s a good budget option too, with a price of around $35 American on Amazon.

It’s waterproof and anti-fog and made from durable materials. These are the best all-around binoculars for backpacking.

However, the focus nob has been reported as being difficult to adjust in some sets, and so the image may not be as clear as in some of the more expensive ones.

Pros

Cons

  • Great budget option for backpacking
  • Innovative design
  • Low light vision
  • Decent quality materials
  • Focus adjustment is not the best

6Vortex Optics Diamondback Roof Prism Binoculars 10×42

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Vortex Optics Diamondback
Vortex Optics Diamondback Roof Prism Binoculars 10x42

This is our pick for the best binoculars for sightseeing – Vortex Optics Diamondback Roof Prism Binoculars. It’s listed on Amazon as a hunting binocular set, but people are purchasing this for sightseeing and observing nature, because of the superior quality of the optics.

So, the images are very sharp, bright, and clear, and the magnification is 10x, superior to the other options on our list so far. The materials are very durable and rugged. The set is made for hunting, after all.

A downside here is the price. It’s not a cheap set, but also not the most expensive. It’s also not the most compact, so keep that in mind if you want to have it in your backpack.

Pros

Cons

  • Very good quality
  • Image is great
  • Rugged design, made for hunters
  • 10x zoom
  • Pricey
  • Larger than other options for a compact binocular set

5Ade Advanced Optics 4x10mm

Ade Advanced Optics 4x10mm
Ade Advanced Optics 4x10mm Ultra Compact Binocular for Concert

If you are a traveler going after art performances, historical sites, concerts, and operas, then you should consider Ade Advance. These are mini binoculars that will fit in your jacket’s pocket, and you can use them indoors in museums and art galleries and have a better view of what is being exposed.

It’s fit for its purpose: don’t expect to be able to bird watch or take it with you on a boat trip, but they are elegant and do not feel strange in an urban setting.

They are great for watching live sports events too. It’s extremely lightweight, strong, and functional. They have 4x magnification and come with a carry case and neck strap.

Pros

Cons

  • Good quality
  • Ultra-compact and lightweight
  • Elegant
  • Not much use outdoors

4Carson 3D Series Binoculars

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Carson 3D Series
Carson 3D Series High Definition Waterproof Binoculars with ED Glass

It’s one of the best-rated binoculars on Amazon, perfect for bird-watching. The lenses are made from ED glass, for a brighter and sharper image, with a field of view of 392 ft at 1000 m.

It comes with a carry case, neck strap, and shoulder harness in the package, and it all feels very durable. The materials on the binoculars themselves are high quality, and the binoculars are small enough to fit in almost any backpack pocket.

It has an extra-long eye relief and can be mounted on a tripod. The protective caps are very strong and they fit perfectly.

It has an 8x magnification, and the lenses use the Dielectric Coated Prisms technology to make the image sharper. The knobs are smooth and precise, and the binoculars are waterproof and anti-fog. The only downside is the price.

Pros

Cons

  • Good quality
  • Responsive focus knob
  • Rugged and durable
  • Good zoom for its size
  • Price is higher than other options

3ATN BinoX 4K 4-16X Smart Day/Night Binoculars

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ATN BinoX 4K 4-16X
ATN BinoX 4K 4-16X Smart Day/Night Binoculars with Laser Range Finder, Full HD Video rec, WiFi, Smooth Zoom and Smartphone Controlling Thru iOS or Android Apps

This is the most expensive set on our list so far, with prices starting at $750 American, but that has a reason: it is a very smart tool, with night vision and a laser range finder.

It’s almost a gadget and not a compact binocular, as you can control the zoom and focus with an app for your iOS or Android phone.

The battery has a capacity of almost 16 hours of continuous use, and it can take pictures and videos too. These are the best small binoculars for technology enthusiasts, but also for bird and nature watchers wanting to record the wildlife they see.

It’s not waterproof, as it’s an electronic device, but it has decent durability.

Pros

Cons

  • Great electronically enhanced images
  • Take pictures and videos
  • Use it with your phone
  • Good battery life
  • Price is very high
  • Has a battery that needs recharging
  • Delicate components inside

2Bushnell PowerView 2 Binoculars

Bushnell PowerView 2 Binoculars
ABushnell PowerView 2 Binoculars

Bushnell PowerView 2 Binoculars are maybe the best alternative for pocket-size binoculars. This is a jack of all trades, but master of none: it’s a good sports event and urban binocular, and a good sightseeing outdoor binocular too.

If what you want is a simple binocular set, with OK quality and low price, this is it. It has an 8x magnification, with a folding roof prism. The folding aspect of it is what is most attractive here: it can fit in your pants back pocket.

The knobs are of good quality, the lenses are multi-coated and the images are surprisingly great, and the exterior is made of anti-shock rubber. The downside is that they are not anti-fog or waterproof. Basically, they are what they are for the small price and small size.

Pros

Cons

  • Good overall 
  • Pocket binoculars
  • Affordable
  • Good image
  • Anti-shock durability
  • Not the best at anything
  • No anti-fog or waterproofing

1Bushnell H2O Roof Prism Binoculars

Bushnell H2O
Bushnell H2O Roof Prism Binoculars

With a blue finish instead of the black norm, and with the excellent non-slip rubber exterior, we can say that these compact binoculars were made to be the best waterproof binoculars.

They are also fog-proof and could fall into a pool and not be damaged. It uses multi-coated optics and a BAK4 prism which allows the user to have extra sharp images and high-quality images through the lenses.

These are the ideal binoculars for traveling when you travel to places where the environment can quickly change, having it on a boat trip, or on the beach.

They make great hunting binoculars, too: the clear images and the rugged waterproof design, being one of the most powerful compact binoculars on our list.

Also, it is IPX7 rated, meaning they will be submerged in 1 meter of water for half an hour and not be damaged. The one downside is that the knobs are a little too loose, so you may need to be patient when trying to be precise about the zoom or focus.

Pros

Cons

  • IPX7 rated
  • Fog-proof
  • Very durable
  • Great image quality
  • Loose knobs, precise control is difficult

Each binocular set is unique and varies in use, size, and price, and with this list, you can now make a good decision on which is the best compact binoculars for travel.

Compact Binoculars Frequently Asked Questions

Are compact binoculars worth it?

Regular binoculars are unwieldy and sometimes too heavy to make the best traveling companion. In purchasing a compact pair you’re giving yourself a lesser load, without dropping the standards of your view. What’s compact is the objective lens, so as long as you choose a mid-range magnification you’ll be fine. 

What do binocular numbers mean?

Model numbers (for example, 12×25) refer to the strength or magnification x size of the objective lens. The magnification number is simply how many times objects will appear closer than they are. The objective lens size, or aperture, is measured in millimeters and refers to how much light is gathered through the lens. 

What does eye relief mean in binoculars?

Eye relief refers to the distance between your eye and the outer surface of the eyepiece lens. Eye relief is typically between 10mm and 20mm. If you wear glasses you will require longer eye relief. Before purchasing, try some binoculars to ascertain the right distance for you.

What does 10×50 mean in binoculars?

Objects will appear 10 times closer than they are, which is a mid-range magnification. The objective lens size here is 50mm which is quite substantial. The binoculars will be heavier due to the lens. As this lens lets in a lot more light, it’s perfect for nighttime viewing. 

What are the most powerful mini binoculars?

Sunagor 25-110x30Compact Super Zoom is probably the best travel mini binoculars that offer a huge 110x magnification at 25 times high power. Super high magnification does mean you’ll almost certainly require a tripod for steady viewing. Also, spend some time adjusting the zoom to perfectly fit your requirements.

What is a good binocular magnification?

This really does depend on usage. An 8x is a good place to start for beginners. The 8x or 10x range is perfect for nonspecialist use or a hobby such as birdwatching. If you don’t wish to use a tripod, you’d be best off not going above a 12x. Either 20x or 25x is the range for astronomy.

Which is better, binocular or monocular?

Monoculars are lighter, less expensive, and far better for night vision, due to the fact you’re only using one eye. Binoculars have a greater field of view and are better for observing long-term. They have been tailored for human eyes, so there’s less chance of eye fatigue. They also feel a lot more natural. 

How far can you see with 10x binoculars?

Quite simply, you’ll be viewing an object 100 yards away as though it was 10 yards. The object will also appear ten times larger. The precision and brightness of the object depend on the size of the objective lens, but typically you’ll be able to see for 12 miles uninterrupted. 

Can binoculars see through windows?

They can but there’s a good chance the image will be a lot poorer. Windows are simply not made for optical viewing. Binoculars have optical glasses, which have been made for crisp and crystal clear viewing. When trained with this, the window glass can distort your view and produce a poor-quality view.

Can binoculars see 10 miles?

The average human with 20×20 vision can view up to 30 miles uninterrupted. So using a 10x magnification, for example, technically you’ll be able to view 300 miles. However, this is not a linear measure as the range varies depending on lighting conditions and weather, eye health, and lens aperture.

Last update on 2024-06-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API