The 8 Best Compact Binoculars Reviewed in 2019 ( Hiking, Travelling etc )

Man looking through compact binoculars

Every outdoor enthusiast needs a pair of binoculars.

Whether you’re hiking, hunting, bird watching, or traveling through a new land, a good pair of glass will let you see far-away objects with ease.

However, binocular lenses are heavy. Even modern prisms can weigh you down.

Small, compact binoculars are a good solution when weight is at a premium. Though not as powerful as larger binoculars, they will still let you clearly see that bird or deer as if they were mere yards away.

Thankfully, today’s binoculars are smaller and lighter than the ones of yesteryear. You can get a good magnification and field of view in a device that weighs less than a pound!

So, if you’re looking for binoculars small enough to always keep with you, you’ve come to the right place.

Here are some pocket binoculars to meet every budget!

 

The 8 Best Small Binoculars of 2018: Outdoor Empire Reviews

  1. Best cheap: Bushnell H20
  2. Best under $100: Wingspan Optics Feather ED
  3. Best for the money: Steiner Safari UltraSharp
  4. Best for the money #2: Vortex Optics Vanquish
  5. Best overall: Swarovski CL Pocket
  6. Best overall #2: Zeiss Terra ED
  7. Most lightweight: Bushnell Legend Ultra HD
  8. Best for travel and hiking: Wingspan Optic TrailBreaker

 

CategoryBest under $100
Best for the money

Best overall
ProductWingspan Optics Feather ED
Wingspan Optics Feather ED

Steiner Safari UltraSharp
Steiner Safari UltraSharp

Swarovski CL Pocket
Swarovski CL Pocket

Magnification8x10x10x
Objective Lens Diameter25 mm26 mm25 mm
Field of View at 1000 Yards356 ft302 ft294 ft
Close Focus Range6.5 ft18.5 ft8.2 ft
Eye Relief13 mm11 mm17 mm
Weight12 oz10.5 oz12.3 oz
CostCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck Price

 

1. Best Cheap Compact Binoculars – Bushnell H20 Compact 8×25

 

Bushnell H20 Compact 8×25

Specs

Magnification: 8x
Objective Lens Diameter: 25 mm
Prism: Roof BaK-4
Field of View at 1000 Yards: 341 ft.
Close Focus Range: 15 ft.
Eye Relief: 12 mm
Lens Coating: Multi-coated
Weight: 10 oz.
Misc: Waterproof, rubber-coated, and nitrogen-purged for fog-proofing

Overview

Bushnell markets their H2O 8×25 binoculars for watersports, but do not let that fool you. They are great all-around, compact binoculars.

The Bushnell H20 uses high-quality BaK-4 roof prisms and multi-coated 25 mm objective lenses for a compact viewing experience.

The use of BaK-4 prisms allows these binoculars to punch above their price class. Most other binoculars this inexpensive have lower-quality prisms.

Those prisms are why the H2O is on this list and the others aren’t.

Another good reason to get the Bushnell H2O is its durability.

The whole binocular has been covered in a rugged non-slip rubber coating. This both protects the body and keeps it from slipping out of your hands.

The optics have been nitrogen purged for clarity and fog-proofing. O-rings provide waterproofing as well.

Though it comes with a case, the Bushnell H2O can easily fit in larger cargo pockets.

Pros

  • BaK-4 prisms
  • Cheapest binoculars on this list
  • Fully waterproof
  • Non-slip rubber armor

Cons

  • Difficult diopter adjustment
  • Some users reported occasional chromatic aberration around the edge

Recommendation

If you need good compact binoculars without breaking the bank, then Bushnell H2O 8×25 binoculars will work great for you.

 

 

2. Best Compact Binoculars Under $100 – Wingspan Optics Feather ED 8×25

Wingspan Optics Feather ED 8×25

Specs

Magnification: 8x
Objective Lens Diameter: 25 mm
Prism:  Roof BaK-4
Field of View at 1000 Yards: 356 ft.
Close Focus Range: 6.5 ft.
Eye Relief: 13mm
Lens Coating: Phase Coated ED Glass
Weight: 12 oz.
Misc: Waterproof, fog-proof, and nitrogen-purged

Overview

Quality optics often demand a large price. You get what you pay for with binoculars and other optics, moreso than many products.

Wingspan Optics is a budget binocular manufacturer, but unlike other inexpensive binoculars, you get optics worth using.

The Feather ED 8×25 uses roof-style BaK-4 prisms along with extra-low dispersion (ED) glass and a phase-corrected coating to get you optimal optical clarity.

The inside has been nitrogen purged and is fog-proof and waterproof. Though, there are no internal anti-reflective coatings, so gazing at the moon will result in ghosting.

A long eye-relief of 13 mm allows you to use the binoculars with glasses, and extendable eyecups let you look through the binoculars without having to hold them away from your face.

Wingspan Optics did have to cut corners somewhere, though, to provide this clarity at such a low price. The construction is not as high-quality as other offerings.

Pros

  • Extendable eyecups
  • Extreme clarity for the price
  • Lifetime guarantee

Cons

  • Images may ghost during nighttime
  • Occasional, non-vital construction issues
  • Some users report chromatic aberration

Recommendation

The Wingspan Optics Feather ED 8×25 has surprisingly clear optics and a good price but is not suitable for nighttime use.

 

 

3. Best Compact Binoculars for the Money – Steiner Safari UltraSharp 10×26

Steiner Safari UltraSharp 10×26

Specs

Magnification: 10
Objective Lens Diameter: 26 mm
Prism: Roof
Field of View at 1000 Yards: 302 ft.
Close Focus Range: 18.5 ft.
Eye Relief: 11 mm
Lens Coating: High-contrast UV coating
Weight: 10.5
Misc: Ergonomic eyecups, rugged armor, and waterproof

Overview

Steiner has an excellent reputation for optics. Their Safari UltraSharp is a good blend of quality and value that makes it an excellent choice when you don’t want to spend a lot of money for only a little more quality.

Notably, Steiner does not advertise BaK-4 prisms. Despite this, they still get excellent clarity in a compact form factor. The optics have high-contrast coatings which also keep out UV light.

The lenses also provide an impressive field of view of 302 feet at 1,000 yards, which is well above average for 10x magnification.

Rugged rubber armor provides grip and protects the body without adding much weight.

Once you have the diopter dialed in, focusing is extremely fast, though not automatic-fast.

The Safari UltraSharp falters in close-range use. Some sources say the minimum distance is 11 feet, while others say 18.5 feet.

Also, the eyecups are very comfortable for some people but do not work at all for other people’s faces. Thankfully, you can fold them out of the way.

Pros

  • Fast focusing
  • Impressive field of view for a 10x binocular

Cons

  • Eyecups do not fit everyone
  • Long minimum focus range

Recommendation

The Steiner Safari UltraSharp 10×2 provides the best bang for your buck.

 

Safari UltraSharp is also available at:

Cabelas

 

4. Best Compact Binoculars for the Money #2 – Vortex Optics Vanquish 10×26

Vortex Optics Vanquish 10×26

Specs

Magnification: 10x
Objective Lens Diameter: 26 mm
Prism: Porro
Field of View at 1000 Yards: 294 ft.
Close Focus Range: 7.6 ft.
Eye Relief: 16 mm
Lens Coating: Fully multi-coated
Weight: 12.7 oz.
Misc: Nitrogen-purged, locking eyecups, rubber armor, fog-proof, and waterproof

Overview

A departure from other binoculars on this list, the Vortex Optics Vanquish has a reverse Porro prism design.

This puts the ocular lenses closer together. It’s not as compact as the roof prism design used by other binoculars on this list, but this particular binocular is lightweight and compact enough to go anywhere you need it to.

Rubber armor protects the aluminum body and enhances grip.

The glass is high quality and the lenses are fully multi-coated for good light transmission and a crisp view. The field of view is rather wide as well, though not as wide as the Steiner model.

If you need to observe something up close, then you’re in luck because the minimum focus distance is 7.6 feet.

Some users have noticed some slop in the focus adjustment. However, Vortex Optics is known for having one of the best warranties in the business. If you’re not happy with your Vanquish, they’ll make it right.

Pros

  • Excellent warranty
  • Long eye relief

Cons

  • Porro prism design isn’t as compact or lightweight as roof prism binoculars
  • Some slop in the focus

Recommendation

Vortex Optics’ Vanquish is a compact and clear Porro-style binocular, good for distances near and far.

 

Vortex Optics Vanquish is also available at:

Walmart

 

5. Best Overall Compact Binoculars –Swarovski CL Pocket 10×25

Swarovski CL Pocket 10×25

Specs

Magnification: 10x
Objective Lens Diameter: 25 mm
Prism: Roof
Field of View at 1000 Yards: 294 ft.
Close Focus Range: 8.2 feet
Eye Relief: 17 mm
Lens Coating: Swarobright fully multi-coated
Weight: 12.3

Overview

The Austrian-made Swarovski CL Pocket 10×25 binoculars will give you the best viewing experience of any of the binoculars on this list, bar-none.

Though, you wouldn’t be able to tell just by looking at it.

Available in black or black and green, the Swarovski CL Pocket 10×25 looks unassuming and simplistic.

Under the aluminum housing, however, is an optical path coated in Swarobright, which is one of the best multi-coatings in the business. You get excellent light and color transmission, day or night.

The roof prism design and folding bridge keep this binocular compact. At 12.3 ounces, it’s not the lightest in the world, and it has a field of view 6 feet shy of 300 feet wide at 1,000 yards, but there is no chromatic aberration to be found.

The minimum focusing distance is 8.2 feet. The diopter adjustment is an impressive plus or minus 5, whereas most binoculars only adjust plus or minus 3.

You also get a 10-year limited manufacturer’s warranty when buying the Swarovski CL Pocket 10×25.

Pros

  • Utmost clarity
  • Very long eye relief
  • Wide dioptric correction

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Lacks a non-slip grip
  • Relatively heavy

Recommendation

If you want a small binocular with the best clarity possible, then the Swarovski CL Pocket 10×25 is the best choice for you.

 

Swarovski CL Pocket is also available at:

Basspro

Cabelas

Walmart

 

6. Best Overall Compact Binoculars #2 –Zeiss Terra ED 8×25

Zeiss Terra ED 8×25

Specs

Magnification: 8x
Objective Lens Diameter: 25 mm
Prism: Roof
Field of View at 1000 Yards: 357 feet
Close Focus Range: 1.9m
Eye Relief: 16 mm
Lens Coating: Hydrophobic multi-coating
Weight: 11 oz.
Misc: ED glass, fog-proof, and waterproof

Overview

Zeiss is another big name in the optics field. The Terra ED 8×25 is lightweight and ergonomic.

The body is reinforced with glass fibers and has a rubber grip on the sides. The focus wheel is large and easy to use.

As for the optics, they use a proprietary roof prism design with a hydrophobic Zeiss multi-coating for excellent light transmission and water-repellent properties.

The field of view is 119 meters at 1,000 meters, which is approximately 357 feet at 1,000 yards. The view stays clear up to the edge of that field of view, too.

You can safely use these binoculars in a wide temperature range, from -4 to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s also waterproof to a depth of 3 feet.

Finally, while most binoculars come with a case and lens covers, this one doesn’t. You’ll have to find your own lens covers. Also, the neck strap is rather thin and uncomfortable.

Pros

  • Ergonomic design
  • Excellent clarity and light transmission
  • Wide field of view

Cons

  • Lacks accessories

Recommendation

If you are willing to pay for quality but don’t want to see diminishing returns, the Zeiss Terra ED 8×25 binocular is an overall excellent choice.

 

Zeiss Terra ED is also available at:

Walmart

 

7. Most Lightweight Binoculars – Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 10×25

Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 10×25

Specs

Magnification: 10x
Objective Lens Diameter: 25 mm
Prism: Roof BaK-4
Field of View at 1000 Yards: 285 ft.
Close Focus Range: 6 ft.
Eye Relief: 15.5 mm
Lens Coating: Fully-multicoated with RainGuard HD
Weight: 8.1 ounces
Misc: ED prime glass, PC-3 phase coating, magnesium chassis, waterproof, and fog-proof

Overview

The Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 10×25 binoculars may have a 10x magnification, but they weigh a scant 8.1 ounces.

How?

The body is made from a super-light magnesium alloy, even lighter than aluminum!

Weight is the enemy of long-distance outdoor travel, and every ounce feels like a pound after long journey.

So, this binocular is excellent for ultralight backpackers and other people who need to shave off every ounce.

Thankfully, you don’t sacrifice clarity. The lenses are made from ED fluorite glass, and the BaK-4 prisms are phase coated.

The interior has been nitrogen purged to be fog-proof and O-rings keep it waterproof.

The optical path has anti-reflection coatings and an ultra-wide band coating.

Lastly, the outer lenses have been coated with RainGuard HD, so water beads up and flows off without sticking!

The biggest downside is that these binoculars can be difficult to adjust so you don’t see the inner blackness.

Pros

  • Extremely lightweight
  • Locking diopter
  • Water-repellent lens coating

Cons

  • Can be difficult to adjust the diopters and avoid blackout

Recommendation

When every ounce matters, Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 10×25 binoculars won’t weigh you down.

 

Bushnell Legend Ultra HD is also available at:

Walmart

 

8. Best Travel & Hiking Binoculars – Wingspan Optics TrailBreaker 8×32

Wingspan Optics TrailBreaker 8×32

Specs

Magnification: 8x
Objective Lens Diameter: 32 mm
Prism: Roof BaK-4
Field of View at 1000 Yards: 362 ft.
Close Focus Range: 10 ft.
Eye Relief: 14.8 mm
Lens Coating: Fully multi-coated
Weight: 15 oz.
Misc: Waterproof and fog-proof

Overview

If you want travel binoculars, then you want some that will pack well. They should be durable. They should also allow you to see the sights clearly.

And losing them shouldn’t make you cry!

The Wingspan Optic TrailBreaker 8×32 binoculars are perfect for this.

Though marketed as bird watching binoculars, the TrailBreaker is great for traveling anywhere in the world.

The 8x magnification is good enough for bird watching and using to track fast-moving objects, making these binoculars good for sports games as well.

The clarity is also better than expected for the price. BaK-4 roof prisms and the good coating ensure adequate clarity, contrast, and light transmission under most conditions.

The focus wheel is large and easily accessed, so you can track moving objects easily.

There is a limited lifetime warranty, but it does not cover some potential cases which are covered by the warranties of other companies, such as Vortex Optics.

Pros

  • Durable
  • Good clarity
  • Wide field of view

Cons

  • Heavier than expected
  • The “lifetime” warranty is more limited than others

Recommendation

The Wingspan Optics TrailBreaker 8×32 travels well with you but is no big loss if you accidentally leave it behind.

 

 

How to Choose which Compact Binoculars to Buy?

Even if you own high-quality, high-magnification binoculars, it’s still a good idea to buy some compact binoculars.

They’re useful little things and more versatile than the larger models.

Larger glass feels heavier more quickly than expected, so small binoculars are an excellent way to save weight if you don’t need a large amount of magnification.

However, it can be difficult to choose which binoculars to buy. After all, the most expensive binoculars on this list are 22 times as expensive as the cheapest!

 

Can it be really worth that added expense?

cash in man's hand

To some people, yes.

If you’re not sure how or why, then continue reading.

You’ll learn what makes certain binoculars worth their price tag and how to decide what’s worthwhile for you.

 

Size and Weight

compact binocs hand-held

If you’re looking at compact binoculars, then chances are you want a small, lightweight binocular.

Sometimes they’re called pocket binoculars, though you’ll have a hard time fitting them in your average jean pocket.

Still, compactness makes this type of binoculars particularly easy to pack and carry. Most of them are about hand-sized and can fold down to an even smaller size.

As for weight, all of these binoculars weigh less than a pound.

When you’re out there in the woods, taking step after step, every ounce matters. Picking equipment that’s an ounce or two lighter ends up saving pounds, which saves your back and feet in the long run.

 

Field of View and Magnification

senior man looking at the view

How much magnification and field of view do you need, anyway?

Often, we get trapped into thinking that more magnification and field of view is always better.

But when you need to travel a long distance on foot and have the choice to lose a little magnification to save a pound in weight, do you really need 12×50 binoculars?

Magnification is easy: 8x means that the object appears eight times larger than it really is, while 10x means ten times, and so on.

More magnification does not have that much effect on weight. Field of view, however, does.

That’s because you typically need a larger objective lens to have a wider field of view. As mentioned before, glass is heavy.

Field of view is often given in the angle which you can see through the binocular. More easily understood is the number of feet you can see, from one edge of the view to the other, at 1,000 yards.

A wider field of view is better for tracking objects in motion or for finding a potential target. But you’ll pay for it in ounces.

Magnification does have an effect on the field of view, however. The higher magnification you have with a certain objective lens width, the less field of view.

So, the question is, do you want to see things closer or see more things at once?

 

Optics

The term optics refers to the lenses and prisms in the binoculars, the parts through which light travels to reach your eye.

Every time light passes through a lens or prism, it gets distorted slightly. Brightness is lost, and colors separate, like a rainbow.

Coatings help to counteract this and make the optics transfer the image more accurately. Phase-correction coatings join light waves back together. Anti-reflection coatings help prevent the image from bouncing around inside the binocular, which results in a ghost of what you’re trying to see.

Fully-coated means that all of the optics have some sort of coating. Multi-coated means that multiple coatings have been used to improve image quality and light transmission.

Light can also disperse, or scatter, after it hits the glass. ED glass, or extra-low dispersion glass, is designed to reduce this scattering effect. ED glass means you don’t need phase correction later.

The prisms themselves are often made from BaK-4, a barium crown glass made by Schott AG in Germany. BaK-4 prisms are known to be highly reflective and produce a good image, though some companies, such as Zeiss and Swarovski, produce their own prisms.

 

Fog-proofing and Waterproofing

Binoculars are often used out of doors, away from AC and dehumidifiers and where the weather tests your equipment.

A temperature differential can cause fog to build up on glass. I’m sure you’ve experienced it with your car’s windshield. The same thing can easily happen with cheap binoculars, rendering them unusable.

Fog-proof binoculars are designed to not fog inside the optics. Often this is accomplished by removing all of the air inside and replacing it with nitrogen gas, which doesn’t produce fog.

Waterproofing via the use of O-rings can keep that nitrogen in and, well, keep water out.

Water doesn’t transmit light nearly as well as prisms or nitrogen, so you don’t want any to get inside your binoculars!

 

Conclusion

woman viewing with Steiner Safari

While large binoculars are good for seeing far-away objects up close, they are bulky and heavy. Compact binoculars weigh less than a pound and are small enough to go almost anywhere, sometimes even inside your pocket.

This makes small binoculars a good choice, either as a backup to larger binoculars or as your primary glass when traveling light.

The Steiner Safari UltraSharp 10×25 gets my overall top recommendation as a compact binocular. Wingspan Optics has several good choices if you need to save some money. However, if you can afford the best, then Swarovski’s CL Pocket 10×25 is the best compact binocular around.

Whether you need to save money or splurge, any of the binoculars on this list will do you well and save you weight!

 

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Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson learned to walk in the mountains and has spent much of his life exploring the outdoors. He is equally at home in the woods, at the range, or on the gunsmithing bench, and loves to build guns almost as much as he enjoys shooting them. His travels have taken him to the four corners of the United States. Though his favorite hunting spot is in Alaska, Kansas deer taste better.

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