A good pair of binoculars can make outdoor adventures much more exciting. However, full-size binoculars can weigh you down when you’re trying to travel light. The best compact binoculars are the perfect solution for travelers, hikers, hunters, and birders who need to keep their gear manageable when covering ground.
Nearly every major optics company produces at least one set of compact binoculars. With so many options on the market, it can be hard to know which are worth the investment and which are a waste of money.
If you’re searching for a great pair of compact binoculars for your next vacation or outdoor adventure, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve compiled this quick guide to help you narrow the field. We’ve even included reviews of our favorite models to help point you in the right direction.
If you don’t have time for the details, check out the list below for the best rated compact binoculars:
- Bushnell H2O 10×25
- ZEISS TERRA ED 8x42mm
- Celestron Trailseeker ED 8×42
- Leica Ultravid BR 8×20
- Steiner Safari UltraSharp 10×26
- Vortex Optics Vanquish 8×26
- Swarovski CL Pocket 10×25
- Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 10×25
- Celestron 71330 Nature DX 8×32
- Carson 3D Series 8×32
Table of Contents
- Things to Consider Before Buying Compact Binocular
- Best Compact Binoculars on the Market Review
- Summing It Up
Things to Consider Before Buying Compact Binocular
Even if you already own full size binoculars, you may still want a compact set to use as backup.
Compact binos are smaller, lighter, and more portable than standard binoculars. Because you can easily slip a pair of compact binoculars into a pocket, backpack, or purse, you can always have access to them. Their size and portability makes them a great option for traveling, hiking, or other situations where heavier binos would be a hindrance.
Here are a few primary factors to consider when shopping for your new compact binoculars.
Size and Weight
Obviously, if you’re in the market for compact binoculars, you are looking for models that are small and lightweight. Many great compact binoculars are foldable, making them even easier to pack.
The weight of your binoculars is also important to consider, especially if you’ll be carrying them for extended periods or over longer distances. All of the binoculars on our list weigh approximately one pound or less.
Magnification and Objective Lens
The numbers used to categorize binoculars look like a math problem, but those numbers actually convey important information.
The first number in the sequence indicates the level of magnification. Binoculars that are labeled 10x will magnify objects ten times their actual size.
The number that comes after the x indicates the size of the objective lenses in millimeters. Objective lenses allow light to enter the binoculars. Large objective lenses result in brighter images, especially in low light conditions. However, binoculars with large objective lenses are bulky and heavy.
Compact binos will have smaller objective lenses, which helps keep them small and lightweight. For this reason, many compact models don’t perform well in low light situations.
It isn’t hard to make compact binoculars. However, it is hard to make compact binoculars with high-quality optics. Binos with superb image clarity, resolution, and color fidelity are not cheap. If you want to see distant objects, wildlife, or landscapes with sharp clarity, you’ll need to spend a little more cash to do it.
Best Compact Binoculars on the Market Review
Not sure where to start? Check out our top compact binocular picks.
1 Bushnell H2O 10×25
Weighing in at under a pound, these compact binoculars from Bushnell slip conveniently into your backpack, hunting vest, or even your pants pocket.
Featuring BaK-4 prisms and multi-coated lenses, these budget priced field glasses produce surprisingly bright, clear images for optics in this price range.
O-ring sealed and nitrogen purged, the Bushnell H2O binos are 100 percent waterproof. They also feature a durable design that makes them perfect for rugged outdoor use. The housing is covered in a non-slip rubber armor that helps protect the delicate optics inside from bumps and drops. The exterior is covered in Bushnell’s proprietary Soft Texture Grip that makes these glasses easy to hold onto, even in the wettest conditions. As the name implies, the Bushnell H2O is perfect for duck hunting, boating, or just enjoying the view at the beach. These are definitely some of the best binoculars you’ll find under $100.
2 ZEISS TERRA ED 8x42mm
Zeiss is a well-known German manufacturer of quality optics. The Zeiss Terra is the company’s compact mid range binos. However, these reasonably priced binos perform more like a high end model. In fact, it’s hard for us to believe that binoculars of this quality are priced under $500.
Terra binos feature some of the best quality glass in the industry. Made with ED (extra-low dispersion) glass from the famous Schott Glass Manufacturers, these binos also feature a patented hydrophobic multi-coating that ensures crisp, clear optical precision in every viewing condition. Zeiss Terra binos have a sleek, compact look and an ergonomic design with a large, smooth, easy-to-grip focus wheel. They also have a large lens diameter and a large FOV, making them a great option for taking on an exotic safari or for simple backyard bird watching.
3 Celestron Trailseeker ED 8×42
You can probably tell by the name that the Celestron Trailseeker binoculars are designed for hiking. However, these durable lightweight binos are also a great option for travel, golf, and general use.
Delivering outstanding image quality, the Trailseeker field glasses feature fully multi-coated optics and phase and dielectric coated BaK-4 prisms. The result is bright, crisp, high-resolution image clarity. You can also enjoy vivid, true-to-life colors you would only expect to see through more expensive binoculars.
Glasses wearers will also appreciate the twist-up eyecups that make them comfortable and easy to use, whether you’re wearing your eyeglasses or not.
The fully waterproof chassis is o-ring sealed and nitrogen purged for true fogproof performance in all weather. They also feature a durable, protective full-body armoring that not only protects the internal components, but also makes these binos easy to hold, even during wet weather.
4 Leica Ultravid BR 8×20
Weighing in at around a half pound, the Leica Ultravid BR are some of the lightest binoculars on our list. Like most optics from Leica, the Ultravid features superb optics. In fact, Leica took all the elements of their larger Ultravid models and reduced them to fit in a seriously compact package. These are some of the tiniest, yet best performing compact binos on our list.
Despite their tiny size, the Ultravid compact binoculars offer the same resolution and sharpness as larger models in the line. This is thanks to their high-quality roof prism with a special phase correcting coating. The outer lenses also feature HDC multi coating and AquaDura coating for sharp, crystal-clear images.
While the field of view (FOV) is noticeably smaller than what you would expect from larger models, it is still capable of scanning for birds or other wildlife across open landscape. Although you certainly shouldn’t expect these mini binos to perform like a full-size model, they are perfect for occasions where portability is the priority.
5 Steiner Safari UltraSharp 10×26
Steiner has one of the finest reputations in the optics industry. Across the board, their products offer top-notch image clarity, resolution, and color fidelity. Their compact lightweight Safari UltraSharp binoculars definitely live up to the Steiner brand name.
This model fits right in your pack, pocket, or purse, yet still delivers amazing optical quality. Steiner has included their proprietary High-Contrast lens coatings, as well as a special UV coating to ensure crisp clarity, accurate color, and impressive low light viewing capabilities.
These compact binos are also surprisingly rugged. With waterproof construction and a durable external armoring to absorb bumps, drops, and abuse, these great-all-around binoculars make the perfect travel companion.
6 Vortex Optics Vanquish 8×26
While most binoculars that fall into the “compact” category feature roof prisms, the Vanquish binoculars from Vortex Optics use a reverse Porro prism. Because Porro prism binos have objective lens tubes that are offset from the eyepieces, they aren’t as compact as models that use a roof prism. However, Porro prism binoculars typically have much better image quality, so the trade-off may be worth it.
While the Vortex Vanquish is a bit wider than some of the other binos on our list, they are still lightweight and small enough to be easily portable. At less than 5 inches long and weighing just under 13 ounces, we definitely think these binoculars qualify for the “compact” category.
The high-quality lenses on the Vanquish are fully multi-coated to produce images that are crisp and bright, and they have a wide field of view.
Vortex Vanquish binoculars are also rugged enough for rough outdoor use. They are o-ring sealed and nitrogen purged for reliable waterproof, fogproof performance. They are also fully rubber-armored for a comfortable non-slip grip, even if your hands get wet or sweaty.
7 Swarovski CL Pocket 10×25
Austrian-made Swarovski optics are some of the finest on the face of the planet. The company’s CL Pocket binoculars will definitely provide the best image quality of any of the binoculars on this list.
Featuring Swarovski’s patented SWAROVISION fully multi-coated optics, these compact binos let you view images in natural colors with razor-sharp detail. The images you’ll see through these top-of-the-line compact binos will be sharper and brighter than anything you’ll ever see with your naked eye.
Some compact binoculars can be difficult to use and cause serious eye fatigue due to their small dimensions. However, Swarovski’s Pocket binos are pleasantly comfortable to use, even during extended observation periods.
8 Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 10×25
These ultra-lightweight binoculars from industry leader Bushnell tip the scales at a mere 8.1 ounces. Despite their diminutive size, they still offer powerful 10x magnification, and incredible optical quality.
Legend Ultra HD binos are made with prime ED (extra low dispersion) glass and premium BaK-4 roof prisms. The lenses feature an Ultra Wide-Band anti-reflective coating designed to harness and optimize light transmission for some of the brightest image quality you’ll find in this price range.
Surprisingly durable for optics this size, these binos feature a rugged magnesium chassis. They are also 100 percent waterproof and fogproof, so they are prepared to handle rough treatment and whatever weather condition Mother Nature tries to throw your way.
If you’re looking for quality pocket binos for tactical applications, these are a fantastic option. Priced well under $200, the Bushnell Legend Ultra HD binoculars provide the best value for the money.
9 Celestron 71330 Nature DX 8×32
Celestron is best-known for designing and manufacturing telescopes. It should come as no surprise that they would also apply their optics technology to produce high-quality binoculars for viewing the night sky.
Although these compact binos fall in the budget price range, they have some impressive specs. Featuring fully multi-coated optics, phase-coated BaK-4 roof prisms, 8x magnification, and a 6.5-foot close focus, these binoculars perform well above their class.
Designed to withstand whatever Nature has to offer, these binos are o-ring sealed and nitrogen, making them 100 percent fogproof and waterproof.
The optics are contained in a rubber-armored, polycarbonate housing that is extra durable. They also feature twist up eyecups for increased comfort, particularly for those who rely on eyeglasses.
10 Carson 3D Series 8×32
These compact binoculars from Carson have several impressive high end features. Perhaps the most striking feature is the incredible optical quality. These mid-range binos are made with extra low dispersion glass, fully multi-coated lenses, and phase-corrected Bak-4 roof prisms. You can expect bright, crystal clear images with amazing resolution, contrast, and color fidelity.
These binos are fully waterproof. They also have a comfortable ergonomic design with precisely placed thumb grooves, a textured covering, and the perfect balance. These qualities make the 3D Series binos a joy to hold onto.
A great option for birding and wildlife viewing, the Carson 3D Series binos are tripod mountable and have extra long eye relief that you’ll really appreciate if you wear glasses.
Summing It Up
Compact binoculars are small enough to go with you anywhere. Usually weighing less than a pound, they easily fit in your pocket or bag. They can also be comfortably worn around your neck.
Whether you use them as a backup to your larger binos or as your primary field glasses when hiking or traveling, the best compact binoculars are super convenient when you’re trying to travel light.