Best Hunting Binoculars Reviewed and Rated
Venturing out into the wilderness is best done knowing you are in possession of the right equipment. Hunting is no different. Being confident that you have the equipment that will get the job done is paramount. From clothing and footwear to a flashlight and GPS, failing to furnish the best equipment for the task will determine the success of your adventure. Having the best hunting binoculars is no different and ranks up in importance alongside the quality of rifle you are armed with.
Top 3 Picks
- Tasco Essentials
- Optical performance and quality at an affordable price
- Nikon 8218
- Multiple layers of anti-reflective compounds offer sharp viewing
- Bushnell Powerview
- Fold-down eyecups and center focus system
Areas to consider when selecting your next pair of binoculars for hunting include:
- Size/Portability: What you pack in, you must pack out. How much additional weight can you safely take with you and utilize? Adding additional weight, no matter how small, over a long period of trekking and hiking can become burdensome and increase fatigue. Exposing yourself to more fatigue will begin to sacrifice your success throughout the remainder of the hunt.
- Field of View: How far away from your target are you most likely to be? A narrow field of view can be catastrophic for tracking far away game. If your magnification is high, you may be required to use a tripod support system to effectively use your hunting binoculars. As even the slightest of shakiness is magnified through the binocular system.
- Objective Lens Size: What is your light availability going to be? Low light requires a larger lens for best results. A larger lens and more light transmission will likely come with increased weight. Deciding what bulk you can effectively carry with meeting the needed light availability will be key when determining which lens size you will choose.
- Waterproof: What climate will your binoculars be prominently used it? Sporting hunting equipment not made to function in certain circumstances can be costly. If you are planning to use your hunting binoculars in wet climates, you may be restricted to getting only those binoculars that are waterproof. In addition to the damage potential for non-waterproof equipment being used in wet environments, their performance may leave you less than satisfied.
10 Best Hunting Binoculars
1. Tasco Essentials
Shock absorbing rubber case
Five different color options
2. Nikon 8218
Fogproof & waterproof
Hunters who wear glasses might find the eye relief too short
3. Bushnell Powerview
Easy to adjust
No-slip rubber armour
The optics fog easily
5. G4Free Waterproof
12x HD magnification
The night vision is too dark
6. Aurosports Night Vision
7. MagnifyLabs ars
These binoculars can be hand-held while in in the field or mounted for tripod use.
A bit big and heavy
8. Vortex Optics Diamondback
Multi-coated optics for increased light transmission
Suitable for use in all weather conditions
Not as lightweight as other binoculars on the list
9. Bushnell Surveillance
Multi-coated optics for greater light transmission
Super easy setup
Not very durable
10. Bushnell Legend
In addition, the RainGuard HD water-repellent lens coating will allow for use in all types of weather conditions without affecting performance.
High quality optics with HD sharpness
Extra long eye relief
Wide field of view
100% fogproof and waterproof
Bad customer service
Criteria For Evaluation
Hunting binoculars cover a lot of categories, so the point system that we used to rank them is a little different than most. There was about 4-8 things we looked at in total, and rather than weighing them separately, we weighed them equally. So the best overall in all categories is at the top of the list, and should be a safe bet for any user. Things we didn’t factor in were design, price and colors. The prices are too close to one another to call, and design and color had minimal effect on the enjoyment of the hunting binoculars.
With any optical product, you want to start with the clarity at which you see the image. The type of prism used is how we measured quality, which made things a lot easier from the start. Superior prisms always meant great optical quality, and from there we were able to find which product made the most out of the sum of its parts. In minor cases it took some fiddling with the settings in order to ensure the hunting binoculars were operating at max capacity- tuning those settings didn’t count against the clarity grade. However, it did count against the grade we used to determine how easy to use the product was. Fiddling with multiple settings isn’t an issue if they’re laid out well. In some cases these great settings were marred by bizarre button placement, something that can be an absolute pain to get around when you’re in a rush. Products that were easy for the average user were given a high grade, as there is no benefit in making simple controls that are hard to reach. This primarily covered hunting binoculars with difficult zooming functions and mechanics.
Weight came up as an issue with some of the models, so we made it a point to look for hunting binoculars that were light, but not compact. Not every user will put their binoculars around their neck with a lanyard. Some like to have it attached by the hip, which is a lot more comfortable if it doesn’t have a lot of weight. A couple of ounces made a difference in how we scored this category, and separating the heavy products from the light ones took no time at all. We ran into no ties while doing weight, but was also prepared to use dimensions in place of weight if that happened. Out of the package, hunting binoculars are expected to be durable. They can take a moderate amount of damage to the non-optical parts and still have years of life left in them. Weather and water resistance was important for the long-term life of the product, so we tried to only give points to the products that emphasized this point with superior protection. Points were assigned to hunting binoculars that had a great track record, with proven all-weather materials that didn’t crack from daily use. That also includes the optical portions, which could be damaged if the binoculars didn’t include some kind of protection.
Brand notoriety was part of our grading system based on the influence a particular brand had in the industry. The more popular the brand, the more online guides and references there were for the hunting binoculars. This was useful in narrowing down well-hidden quirks of some of the binoculars that made the list. Points were given out if those quirks were positive, and taken away if they were negative. Nothing too earth shattering came from this research, and none of the binoculars on the list were part of the current recall. Having lots of accessories to add to your new binoculars is a good way to drive consumer interest, and it all starts with brands like Nikon and Bushnell. Nikon in particular had a lot more accessories than the other companies, but Bushnell had the highest quality choices. It is a matter of quality over quantity, and one of the driving forces that helped Bushnell to score so high in this category. They also ranked high for having the best cleaning materials, either included in the original packaging or as an additional purchase from a retailer.
For hunting binoculars that used batteries, we rated them based on power usage. The difference between the top and the bottom in this category was like night and day, since features that use batteries in hunting binoculars are still being perfected. Remember, this is a test of power usage efficiency. So even the worst choice in this category is good on batteries, it just lacks the polish of the first. On average, you can expect the batteries on these devices to easily go over a year under normal use. They don’t use a lot of power, so leave the worrying to buyers that have multimedia binoculars. This would also be a good time to point out that none of the models on the list are upgradeable to a ‘multimedia’ binocular through accessories. There are no add-ons that will be able to take advantage of the battery your binoculars come with. If you’re looking to extend the use of your product beyond the normal hunting binoculars, then you’ll have to purchase a product that does everything out of the box.
Magnification quality is the last thing we looked at, and gave points out for hunting binoculars that both hade a wide field of view and didn’t lose a lot when zoomed in. Customers should be able to find a target and then zoom in on it while it’s in full speed. None of the binoculars on the list suffer from any kind of hitch that would make this function useless. Image quality was also measured at great distance when it was zoomed in the farthest, so the rating with the magnification did not favor which product zoomed in the furthest. Binoculars that maintained the best image quality when at their max zoom were given the highest points, and would be considered the most useful to a wider buying audience.
How to make the right choice
Determining the best binoculars for you involves evaluating a wide variety of circumstances. Selecting the hunting binocular that best meets your needs involves taking the follow into consideration:
- Compact or Non-Compact: Consider whether you have the resources and skill to carry a non-compact hunting binocular set. Do you have room to store them? Will fatigue result in the inability to properly use your equipment as intended? Maintaining and manipulating your equipment is also necessary to be considered when choosing the best binoculars for you. Consider how your hand size will affect use, whether you will be wearing gloves, the expected temperatures and how that will affect your dexterity.
- Objective Lens Size: Whether you are hunting at dusk or in broad daylight, the lens size of your next hunting binocular set is very important. The lens size determines the quality of image obtained based upon the availability of light. If you plan on using your binoculars in lower light situations, it is imperative that you look for a larger lens size. However, if light will be abundant, a smaller lens size will suffice.
- Magnification: Too much magnification can result in poor moving target retention. Any slight movement from a highly magnified object will result in larger variation of your sight picture. This can result in the inability, or poor, tracking of game. Too little magnification and you may fail at determining important details of your target
- Durability: If the elements are going to be hard on your hunting binoculars, you will need to invest in pair that is guaranteed and designed to withstand the conditions you will be using them in. Consider what the terrain will expose your binoculars to. Is there an increased likelihood of moisture, sand, dirt, or tree branches? Anything that can cause damage to your equipment should be taken into consideration when choosing which model you will use.
- Cost: Hunting binoculars can range from a couple dollars to a couple thousand dollars. Which options provide you the best hunting binoculars for the money you have available? If cost is a factor, you will need to determine which features are of the most value to you, while opting to forgo the features that would be nice to have, but are not mandatory.
- Fog Proof: Exposing your binoculars to varying temperature, or between extremes, will result in the inconvenience of foggy lenses. In addition to the inconvenience and annoyance, moisture inside your lenses can damage your optics. When choosing your new pair of binoculars, it is important to keep this in mind.
First Step First
As you search for the best option for you and your needs, start with this. Create a checklist of the items we have discussed in this hunting binocular review. Determine if the considerations mentioned above apply to you. Are the mandatory? Optional? Irrelevant? Simply answering these questions will make your search for the best hunting binoculars much easier.
Narrow down the makes and models that do not meet your “REQUIRED” criteria. Once you have established that list, you can continue to cut down on the options by eliminating those models that do not have your “DESIRED” functions. This will leave you with a more filtered and clean list of choices to choose from. From this list, you will know that you are getting what you need, and what you want, without having to sort through all the available options trying to decipher which ones are best for you.
Whether you have paid the highest amount for your pair of hunting binoculars, you looked for the lowest price in the market because your pocket is not so deep, or you got your pair from a loved one as a gift, this is still an investment you want to use for a long time. The only way you can hope to keep your hunting binoculars giving you the service you expect is through maintaining them properly. In this article, we look at some hunting binoculars maintenance tips that will ensure your prized possession continues to maintain its optical capabilities for longer.
Why It In Important To Maintain Your Binoculars
Your pair of binoculars is manufactured for a particular job and will only be able to do that job if properly looked after. With regards to your hunting binoculars, you will need to ensure that the lens does not scratch and the body does not get damaged in any way.
If you are buying your brand new pair from a reputable supplier you get a generous warranty. However, these warranties are usually honored on the condition that you looked after the product according to the maintenance specifications of the manufacturer. As a value-added service, some manufacturers will offer you an opportunity to send your pair of binoculars back for maintenance at regular intervals.
Read the Owner’s Manual
Owner’s manuals are created for a reason; to give you instructions on how to use your new pair of binoculars. This is the reason why you should not throw yours into the dustbin the moment your pair is delivered. Apart from giving you maintenance tips, the owner’s manual can explain to you what to do if any of the common problems associated with hunting binoculars strikes.
Reading those manuals is not one of the most exciting things to do, but if you take some time to, you can gain invaluable information that will help you with maintenance tips offered by those who have manufactured the product. While it is a good idea to read articles such as this one, you will need to accept the fact that the owner’s manual gives instructions specific to the product you have in your hands.
Store the Binoculars Correctly
There is a general misconception among many people that maintaining an instrument only happens at the point where you use it. It actually starts with the way you store it. Your pair of binoculars will come in its casing. This is the casing that the manufacturer has determined, through research, is the right one for your pair. It is advisable that your store your binoculars inside this case when not being used.
It is important to always ensure that your binoculars is kept in an area that is dry. Depending on what is used to purge the inner parts of your binoculars, fog may form on the inner side as a result of vapor condensation. One tip you can use to ensure that the area around which you keep your binoculars is dry is to put pockets of silica jelly around them, they are designed to absorb moisture.
Apart from ensuring that the area is dry, you will also need to ensure that the place is not one where the temperature fluctuates widely; this is a major cause of fog. Even though the good more expensive binoculars are now designed to be fog proof, there is always a possibility that fog may form when the binoculars are placed in an area where there are fluctuations in temperature.
Protect Your Binoculars on the Move
Your pair of binoculars is most vulnerable when you are traveling with and using them during your hunting trip. There is a possibility that your binoculars may collide with things that could result in scratches on the body. While scratches may just have the effect of making your binoculars look ugly, any scratches on the lens could damage the binocular and render them unusable. The more expensive brands will probably come with scratch proof lenses.
A popular method used by hunters to ensure that their binoculars does not bump against stuff when they are walking around is to use a binocular harness as opposed to the use of the straps that hang from the neck. The reason why damaging your pair of binoculars when held on a harness is a lot more difficult is that they remain close to your body.
Clean the Lens But Not Too Often
It could easily be said that the most important part is the lens. The main question among users is how often the lens needs to be cleaned. Many argue that it is after all possible to still see through them even if they are dirty, so, why bother cleaning them.
Hunters need to appreciate a few things about the way the binoculars work in order to understand why they need to clean them. Even though you can still see through them when they are dirty, a layer of dust compromises the transmission of light and adds veiling glare. If you paid more money because your binoculars are multi-coated, using them when they have a layer of dust on the lens means that you are negating the advantage.
Fingerprints and the stuff that makes then visible such as body fat are an enemy to the lens coatings. For this reason, you need to keep the lens clean all the time. How often? It is generally not advisable for you to clean the lenses every time you use then as this can lead to scratching of the lens. There is no specific period but it will depend on how often you use them. Clean the lens when you start seeing fingerprints or other dirt on them.
Use Skilled People to Repair Your Binoculars
A pair of binoculars is not one of those instruments that can be repaired by anyone. If your pair is still under warranty, if you try to do the repairs at home, you risk voiding the warranty. Even if the period of your warranty has lapsed, it is still a good idea to speak to the manufacturer in order to get the best advice for your pair. The manufacturer would usually know the people in your area that are approved to repair the type of binoculars you own.
How Long Do Binoculars Last?
Hunting binoculars that are properly taken care of should last a lifetime. That isn’t an exaggeration and just goes to show how much care companies put into the design of their products. The life of hunting binoculars are shortened when their caps aren’t used properly, the hinges get filled with dirt and when consumers don’t regularly clean them. As long as regular maintenance steps are followed, you should be able to use your binoculars on a regular basis. The warranty will run out long before you ever need to replace them, so don’t put too much stock into warranty length.
Which Brands Make The Best Binoculars?
Nikon, Bushnell and Tasco are at the top of the list for hunting binoculars. Nikon is a no brainer, and Bushnell is the classic hunting company that knows what the customers want. Tasco is sneaky good, and provides features that the other two might not have. The company has managed to squeeze out a lot of useful features over the years while redesigning their lineup, leading to some really cool innovations with their in-house technology. Tasco is a great choice if you want to try new things in the industry that haven’t yet caught on to the mainstream public.
Is Low Light Performance Important?
For hunting binoculars, yes. In fact that is one of the most important features to consider when purchasing one. Low light performance is also tied to overall optical performance, with low light capable hunting binoculars having better light gathering methods. So even in the daytime you’ll get a much crisper image with a model that has been proven to have superior low light performance. Even if you only plan on using your binoculars in the daytime, this is an important performance effect that shouldn’t be ignored when you make a purchase. Anything less than good low light performance means the product has low quality optics.
Can You See In The Dark With Them?
Only with hunting binoculars that specifically say they have night or thermal vision technology. This is important to mention since it can be a little confusing when a company mentions that their binoculars work well in the dark but don’t mention a specific technology. Don’t let clever world play lure you into a bad purchase, and always check to see if it specifically says night or thermal vision is supported. And even in cases where it is, don’t expect too much from that feature with hunting binoculars. Only the high end of the high end models have night vision that’s worth investing in.
Do They Use Batteries?
Some binoculars do, others don’t. The inclusion of batteries with hunting binoculars has to do with the a feature that is depend on power, like night or thermal vision and an LCD display. Yes, they make binoculars with LCD displays built into them. They also make binoculars with camera functions built in, so the use of batteries with hunting binoculars is nothing new. For the average user, their set will most likely not use batteries or have an LCD display. On the plus side the batteries are standard, and easy enough to find in any store.
Are Compact Binoculars Underpowered?
Yes. Compact hunting binoculars are good if you want to save space, but are very much underpowered when compared head to head with full sized models. They will also have less features while still running around the same price as regular sized hunting binoculars. If you only need specific things from your product, then compact hunting binoculars are a good buy. They even make perfect backups in case your main pair of hunting binoculars break. But expecting full sized performance from a compact casing is something that is a couple of years away from being completed.
What Is Considered The Average Magnification?
There is no industry standard where one size fits all hunters. Many variables will determine what you’re looking for in hunting binoculars. Even the terrain you plan on using them in could influence the buying decision, so try not to get too wrapped up in power. Hunters that have wide open areas they need to monitor will want to look at binoculars that have a wide field of view first. The second important thing they want is distance with magnification, but without losing too much of the wide view when getting close. When the hunting circumstances change, so does the type of equipment needed to make it a good experience.
Why Are Tripods Important?
Tripods steady your binoculars so that you can scan an area in a stationary position. This is beneficial for hunters that will be in a single spot while hunting or for users that have set up several lookout spots. For health reasons, tripods can also help users that have shoulder injuries or problems with arthritis. Hunting binoculars don’t require this add on, but it certainly helps to have one ready in cases where it’ll be useful. The price of the accessories aren’t high, so even if you’re looking for a top flight tripod, you’ll still get a good deal.
Are The Hinges In Binoculars A Weak Point?
Yes, for those that have them. Not all binoculars fold, and there are many that come in a one piece design. That doesn’t mean foldable binoculars are prone to breaking. It just further illustrates that if a part of your hunting binoculars were to fail, then the hinges or the lens would be the most likely culprit. Regular maintenance of your product will keep this from even being an issue, so unless you’re mishandling the binoculars daily then they won’t break at the hinges. Keeping dirt out of the spaces between the hinges will keep your purchase in the best shape possible.
How Do They Hold Up In Harsh Weather?
Hunting binoculars are naturally more durable than regular models on the market. They are built for tough weather, drops and even above average wear and tear. If you buy an item that has a special design like camo, then look forward to that look holding up even after years of use. Most of the designs used with hunting binoculars are not cheap plastic add-ons, so they tend to last longer. On the actual day it does start to chip a bit, it’ll only be after you’ve owned them for several years.
What Is The Meaning Of The Numbers In The Feature List?
When you see two numbers separated by an x in the features list, the first number is the magnification while the second number is the objective size. This would refer to the lenses at the end of your hunting binoculars. These are the numbers you’re going to pay the most attention to when shopping for hunting binoculars. A great way to test out your current binoculars (if you have a pair) is to zoom out and in as far as possible. By doing that test and knowing your current specifications, you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for in a new pair of hunting binoculars.
What’s The Difference Between The Two Most Popular Prisms?
BAK4 and BK-7 prisms are the two most commonly used in the industry, and the ones you’ll see the most when looking for hunting binoculars. The one with the highest quality is BAK4, which stands for barium crown glass. They have supreme brightness and light handling abilities, and their inclusion in your binocular purchase guarantees the rest of the product is solid. BK-7 is great in its own right, and is made of borosilicate glass. The only downside to this prism is that it doesn’t handle brightness as well as BAK4 when put to the task.
Is Coating Important?
The two coatings you will run across is multi-coated and fully multi-coated. Without proper coating, your binoculars won’t handle light transmission properly. You’ll also get issues with reflection, so hunting binoculars with the proper coating is a must. Fully multi-coated is the best, but will run you more money as a result. Regular multi-coated is just fine, and can be seen on a lot of choices, even the top tier models. Customers that are looking for the best light handling possible will want to skip straight to fully multi-coated since anything else will be less than what they want.
Will Eyeglass Wearers Have A Hard Time With Binoculars?
This is where customers will find hunting binoculars with long eye relief the best choice. When you are wearing sunglasses or prescription eyeglasses, the longer the eye relief the more comfortable it becomes. At the very least you want binoculars to provide 15mm of eye relief so that they’re comfortable in hunting situations. Newer technologies made for binoculars for eyeglass wears can be applied as an add-on, like eyecups and other attachments. There’s really nothing extra you need to do to make it more comfortable other than shopping for an accommodating brand. Buyers that are having a hard time deciding can always default to Bushnell or Nikon if they need hunting binoculars that have great eye relief.