A monocular is basically a small personal pocket telescope. Often associated with pirates, monoculars are the perfect option for activities where binoculars would be too bulky and cumbersome. Perfect for hunting, hiking, birdwatching, and other outdoor sports that require distance viewing, the best monoculars are lightweight, compact, and pocket friendly.
Not sure what to look for in a quality monocular? No worries. We’ve done the homework for you by gathering the necessary information to help you make an informed choice.
We’ve also compiled a list of our top monocular picks to get you started.
If you don't have time for the details, check out the list below for the best rated monoculars:
- 1Leica Monovid 8x20 - Best for Under $500
- 2Vortex Optics Solo Recon/Tactical 8 x 36 - Best for Hunting
- 3ROXANT Grip Scope - Best for Backpacking
- 4Bushnell Legend Ultra HD - Best for Bird Watching
- 5Zeiss MiniQuick 5x10 - Best Pocket Monocular
- 6GoSky Titan 12 x 50 - Best for Cell Phone
- 7Night Owl iGEN 20/20 Day/Night Vision - Best Night Vision Monocular
- 8ATN OTS Thermal Smart HD 640 - Best Thermal Monocular
- 9BARSKA Blueline 8 x 22 Waterproof Golf Scope - Best for Golf
- 10Celestron Oceana 8 x 42 - Best for Boating
Table of Contents
- What to Look For?
- Best Monocular on the Market Review
- 1 Leica Monovid 8x20 - Best for Under $500
- 2 Vortex Optics Solo Recon/Tactical 8 x 36 - Best for Hunting
- 3 ROXANT Grip Scope - Best for Backpacking
- 4 Bushnell Legend Ultra HD - Best for Bird Watching
- 5 Zeiss MiniQuick 5x10 - Best Pocket Monocular
- 6 GoSky Titan 12 x 50 - Best for Cell Phone
- 7 Night Owl iGEN 20/20 Day/Night Vision - Best Night Vision Monocular
- 8 ATN OTS Thermal Smart HD 640 - Best Thermal Monocular
- 9 BARSKA Blueline 8 x 22 Waterproof Golf Scope - Best for Golf
- 10 Celestron Oceana 8 x 42 - Best for Boating
- Summing It Up
What to Look For?
Not all monoculars are created equal. Here are a few fundamental things to consider when shopping for your next outdoor optic.
Magnification and Objective Lens
Most monoculars will have a numeric designation that vaguely resembles a math problem. These numbers are measurements of magnification (the number or numbers that precede the x) and the size of the objective lens (the number that follows the x).
For example, a mono with the specification 8 x 20 has an objective lens that measures 20 mm and lets you see objects 8 times larger than you would with the naked eye.
Although magnification is often a mono’s biggest selling point, don’t forget to pay attention to the size of the objective lens. A monocular with a larger objective lens will generally offer a brighter image, especially in low light. However, that larger size makes for a larger and heavier optic, which could be a burden for some outdoor activities.
The lenses on your monocular will have some type of coating. These special coatings help repel moisture, but also help with light transmission and image clarity. For the best image results, look for a monocular with fully multi-coated glass. This means all glass surfaces have several coatings. The result is 90 to 95 percent light transmission and sharp color contrast.
Field of View
Field of view (FOV) refers to how wide an area you can view through your monocular. Sometimes FOV is expressed as the degrees of an angle. However, it is more commonly expressed in feet (or yards) visible at 1000 yards.
Inert Gas Filled Optics
The best quality monos will be o-ring sealed and filled with inert gas (usually nitrogen). This helps prevent your optic from fogging up when the temperature changes. It also helps keep dirt, debris, and water out of your device. But more importantly, the inert gas prevents light distortion, providing you a true, clear viewing image.
Best Monocular on the Market Review
From authoritative brands to unknown underdogs, these optics run the gamut from high end expensive to highly affordable. You’re sure to find something on our list to enhance your favorite outdoor hobby.
1 Leica Monovid 8x20 - Best for Under $500
Leica is best known for their premium high-quality camera equipment. They bring the same hand-crafted quality and elegance to their other optics, including this Monovid monocular.
The Monovid is made with a strong, yet lightweight aluminum housing. It features an AquaDura lens coating that repels dirt and moisture, and it is nitrogen filled to prevent internal fogging.
You get 8x magnification with an excellent close focus distance of 1.8 meters. If you really want to get up close and personal, the included close focus lens allows you to see intricate detail in complete clarity at 25-30 cm.
Light and stylish, this high end mono is perfect for a night at the theater or opera. You can also use it for concerts and sporting events, although it is durable enough for rugged outdoor pursuits like hiking, camping, and hunting. It would even make a great addition to your EDC gear.
2 Vortex Optics Solo Recon/Tactical 8 x 36 - Best for Hunting
Vortex Optics is one of the most popular optics brands on the market and a particular favorite of big game hunters. Don’t be fooled by the Recon/Tactical label, this monocular is the perfect compliment to your hunting equipment. And with a price tag under $200, it should easily fit within your hunting budget.
This quality monocular features 10x magnification and impressive glass quality with fully multi-coated lenses with anti-reflective coatings. However, the feature hunters will most appreciate is the hash-marked ranging reticle. This Mil-Dot reticle makes it easy to calculate ranges and make basic holdover and windage corrections.
Perfect for rugged outdoor use, the Solo R/T is o-ring sealed and nitrogen-purged, making it fully waterproof and fog proof. It also has a textured rubber armor that helps protect the optic from bumps and thumps, but also makes it easy to grip in even the worst of Mother Nature’s conditions.
3 ROXANT Grip Scope - Best for Backpacking
This compact, lightweight mono is perfect for slipping into the front pocket of your backpack. It also slides easily into a jacket or pants pocket for easy accessibility on the trail.
We like the ROXANT Grip Scope for plenty of reasons, including its high-quality, fully multi-coated optical glass and BAK4 prism. However, we LOVE this one for backpacking. It is small, yet solidly built, and offers 6x magnification and an impressive field of view (180 m at 1000 m). It is also priced well under $100, so if you accidentally lose it on the trail, it’s no big deal.
We also love the twist-up eyecup that helps you get the perfect amount of eye relief, whether you’re wearing glasses or not.
4 Bushnell Legend Ultra HD - Best for Bird Watching
Bushnell has a whole host of optics suitable for every outdoor activity you can imagine. With impressive contrast and clarity, Bushnell’s Legend Ultra HD monocular is perfect for birding, even in low light conditions.
Surprisingly affordable for a mono with such impressive optics, the Legend Ultra HD features a roof prism assembly with BAK4, PC-3 Phase Coated prisms, and fully multi-coated ED Prime glass. It also comes with comfortable twist-up eyecups, making this a great option for eyeglass wearers.
The Bushnell Legend Ultra HD is a perfect option for outdoor use. It is 100 percent waterproof, fogproof, and has a rubber-armored body that is easy to hold onto, even in rainy or snowy weather.
It offers an ample 10x magnification and a large 42 mm objective. For extra stability, you can easily attach the Legend Ultra HD to a tripod using the included Picatinny rail and carry clip.
5 Zeiss MiniQuick 5x10 - Best Pocket Monocular
Bigger isn’t always better, especially when it comes to monoculars. Roughly the size of a fountain pen, the Zeiss MiniQuick is super easy to slip into your front pocket. (It even has a handy pocket clip to help keep it in place.) However, this mini optic delivers big when it comes to image quality.
Like other, more expensive, Zeiss optics, the MiniQuick features a special Zeiss T Anti-Reflective glass coating and an achromatic lens design. This high-quality coating is designed to reduce surface reflections, remove light flares, and eliminate ghost images. The result is crystal clear, crisp images at 5x magnification.
6 GoSky Titan 12 x 50 - Best for Cell Phone
The GoSky Titan is designed with smartphone photography in mind. If you want to use your phone for outdoor photography, this is the gadget for you.
Every Titan monocular comes with a special holder that easily attaches to your iPhone, Samsung, LG, Sony, or other standard cell phone, instantly turning you into a digital photographer.
The Titan maxes out at 12x magnification, so you can zoom in on delicate close-ups or use it for long-range wildlife. It features a large BAK4 prism and fully multi-coated lenses that deliver impressive light transmission for bright, clear images, even in low light conditions.
This optic is nitrogen-filled and O-ring sealed, making it waterproof, dustproof, and shockproof. Plus, it has a shock-absorbing rubber armor that helps protect it from impact damage, but also makes it easy to hold onto, even in wet weather.
7 Night Owl iGEN 20/20 Day/Night Vision - Best Night Vision Monocular
Whether you need a night vision monocular for hunting hogs or for tactical maneuvers, this digital optic helps you spot your targets day or night. Priced well under most night vision optics, this digital mono offers great value for the money.
Night Owl uses their proprietary iGen technology to help you see in the dark. More reliable and easier to use than Gen 2 or Gen 3 night vision, iGen delivers superior image quality and edge-to-edge clarity. It also offers better ambient light magnification than traditional night vision.
The Night Owl iGen also features an undistorted intelligent infrared emitter that automatically self-adjusts to optimize image quality.
Not only does this digital monocular help you see at night, it also allows you to record video to an external device like your smartphone or iPad, so you can share your nighttime adventures with all your friends and hunting buddies.
8 ATN OTS Thermal Smart HD 640 - Best Thermal Monocular
Thermal monoculars help hunters and tactical shooters view heat signatures, even on the darkest night. In our opinion, the ATN OTS is the best thermal monocular on the market. It definitely comes with a ton of high-tech features. However, it also comes with a hefty price tag. Although, if you’re in the market for a quality thermal monocular, this one is well worth the investment.
The ATN OTS comes with a built-in rangefinder, a 3D gyroscope for handy image stabilization, and an E compass to help you navigate in the dark. It also offers 2.5 to 25 magnification that is easy to control with a sensitive push-button zoom feature.
Hunters will particularly appreciate the device’s high-resolution video recording and Wi-Fi streaming. With this feature, you can instantly record and stream video or share pictures of all the hunting excitement.
For those who looking for the best thermal scope, read this article.
9 BARSKA Blueline 8 x 22 Waterproof Golf Scope - Best for Golf
The perfect mono for golfers, the BARSKA Blueline Golf Scope has built-in range estimation. With a unique etched rangefinding reticle marked with both yards and meters, it’s super easy to estimate the distance to the pin. All you need to do is align the base of the flag with the bottom of the reticle, then read the distance on the reticle that lines up with the top of the flag. It works for ranges from 50 to 200 yards.
The compact, lightweight Blueline Golf Scope also has an easy-to-grasp ergonomic design, so it easily slips into the pocket of your golf shirt or your golf bag. However, you may opt to carry it in the attractive leatherette case that just happens to include a convenient wrist strap.
This affordable golf mono is o-ring sealed to resist wet weather, and features ruby coated optics to reduce glare on the golf course.
10 Celestron Oceana 8 x 42 - Best for Boating
If you often take to the water, even if it isn’t for pirating, a monocular is a great way to enhance your boating experience. The Celestron Oceana was built for the open seas. It has a wide field of view that helps you keep objects in sight, even when your boat is being tossed about on the waves.
Other handy boating features include a built-in compass that helps you set a course and stick to it, and an integrated reticle to help determine distance to objects on the horizon.
The Oceana offers 8x magnification and crisp, clear viewing thanks to the BAK4 prism and fully multi-coated lenses. It’s also waterproof and fogproof, allowing it to handle harsh boating conditions.
Summing It Up
There are a ton of things to consider when choosing a mono for your outdoor adventures. While size, appearance, and magnification are important, they are not the only things you should examine.
Some monoculars are better suited for certain activities than others. If you’re a hunter, you will probably want a mono with a mil-dot reticle or one with night vision capability. Birders will want an optic with a wide field of view and powerful magnification. If you’re a golfer, you may need a mono with features that help you estimate range.
No matter what activity you pursue, the best monoculars are those that bring great imagery and practical functionality to your outdoor adventures.